Directed: Burny Mattinson
Voiced by Alan Young, Wayne Allwine, Hal Smith
26 mins, G
It shouldn’t be surprising that Mickey’s Christmas Carol is so disturbing. Obviously it’s based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which itself was based on an age old tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas and/or Yuletide. The stories are meant to be a mixture of festivity and spookiness. It’s also needless to say that Disney itself has a tendency towards dark and twisted plotlines. But neither of these customs lessens the blow of seeing Scrooge McDuck fall into Hell.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol starts off quite lovely, with singing set over Victorian era London, and the scenery is charming throughout the entire animated short. But the cute imagery actually makes it all a bit more depressing. Mickey and Minnie’s dinner for their children is the absolute worst. It’s Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush sad, and it’s made all the worse because it’s goddamn Mickey and his family starving.
Then you have Goofy cast as the ghost of Jacob Marley. Goofy. Loveable, loyal Goofy is “forced to carry these heavy chains for eternity! Maybe even longer.” Can you imagine hearing that as a kid? Even setting the possibility of a terrible afterlife aside, this introduces the concept of something lasting longer than time itself. It’s Lovecraftian. It’s horrible.
The visits from the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jiminy Cricket) and the Ghost of Christmas Present (Willie the Giant) offer a brief return to chipper, hopeful storytelling. And then there’s the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Black Pete). Scrooge McDuck, a guy that doesn’t really seem so bad in this version of the story, goes to the cemetery and overhears the gravediggers talking about what an asshole he was. Then the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come lights a match off the tombstone revealing that it’s Scrooge’s and throws him down into an open coffin. Which then ignites with the flames of Hell.
Then he wakes up from his dream, rushes to the Cratchit’s with a raise, a goose, and some presents, narrowly avoiding eternal damnation.
This is a classic Christmas ghost story made horrifying by making it a kid’s movie. And in that way, it became an amazing, odd mix of the sweet and the macabre.