On November 4th 2009, Disney released a new animated film of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. I had seen the trailers and was pretty excited. I planned to go and see it, but then after reading bad reviews, in the end I gave it a miss.
The film later came out on DVD, but I did not buy it because it did not come under the title of a 'Disney Classic', which are the only ones I collect (I haven't enough shelf space to buy every Disney movie).
Although I was not going to buy the DVD, I was not going to turn down the opportunity to get it for free. Just recently I accumulated enough points with Disney Movie Rewards to get a free gift, and since it's near Christmas, I decided to choose A Christmas Carol.
As usual, the film critics led me down the wrong path. I hardly ever seem to agree with their verdict - at least when it comes to Disney films. They loved Disney Pixar's Up, and Brave, which I found disappointing. They poo-pooed A Christmas Carol, and I thought it was very good.
First off, I really liked how realistic the characters were. Instead of going for a cartoony appearance, the characters actually looked like real people. The reason for this is because they didn't just use standard animation. After watching the 'Behind The Scenes' special feature, I found out they used motion capture. Motion capture is when filmmakers film live actors performing the scenes as if it were going to be a live-action film. The difference is that the actors wear motion sensors that track their movement, and is then uploaded onto the computer. The CGI team then use the digital model of the actor to create an animated character.
The Ghost of Christmas Past looked very much like the illustration on the book.
Another thing I liked was how faithful Disney was to the book. I get pretty disgruntled when I find films have taken liberties with the original material, although in some cases I know it is necessary. I don't like most of Charles Dickens's work, but A Christmas Carol is the exception, and I was pleased to find how true to the story they stayed. Disney used several quotes from the book, and for the most part managed to keep a serious tone, rather than resorting to children's humour. That isn't to say the film isn't funny, but it does not go overboard.
After the death of his business partner, Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a bitter old man who hates Christmas. Seven years on Marley's spirit comes to warn Scrooge of the fate that awaits him beyond the grave if he does not change his ways. Scrooge is then visited by three ghosts. First is the Ghost of Christmas Past.
I loved most of the animation in the film, but the Ghost of Christmas Past was a let down. I like the idea of him appearing as a kind of votive candle, but the actual animation just looked peculiar. the Ghost of Christmas Present, however, was excellent. Apart from a change in hair colour, he looked just like the version on the front cover of my book. He was also very well acted by Jim Carrey, who also played several other characters in the film, including Scrooge himself.
The Ghost of Christmas Future appearing as a shadow was also very effective. They stayed clear of the traditional Death with a scythe caricature. Although I liked the depiction of the Ghost of Christmas Future, I did find the final few scenes disjointed and confusing. Up until now Disney had retained an atmospheric mood in the film, but for some reason, in the last few scenes they stumbled, and went down the comedy route. For reasons, I cannot understand they made Scrooge shrink down to the size of a Borrower, gave him a high, squeaky voice, and had him snowboard on an icicle. It did not seem to fit at all.
Still, it does not take long for the tension to build up again when Scrooge - back to his original size - ends up at the graveyard and sees his tombstone. He dramatically falls into the depths of hell and wakes up to find himself tangled up in bed. Now having learnt a valuable lesson, he goes out into the streets and spreads good will to all man kind.