Mr. Dickens Goes to Disney

In December of 1843, Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol, In Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas.” Dickens wrote the story over the course of six weeks, but in that brief time, he composed a masterpiece. Immediately popular, the book sold out its first printing of 6000 copies by Christmas Eve, a mere two weeks after he’d finished writing. 

The story has become a beloved part of the holidays, earning countless adaptations in a variety of mediums, including movies, ballet, radio programs, and even comic strips. The role of the miserly curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge has been immortalized by the likes of Alastair Sim, Patrick Stewart, Bill Murray, and even Jim Backus (as the blind, bumbling Mr. Magoo). 

As an iconic work of art that has influenced pop culture, it isn’t surprising that the story has made its way into the world of Disney. Here’s a quick look at how Mr. Dickens’s immortal story of the Christmas spirit has found its way into Disney entertainment and Walt Disney World.  



Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Over a century later (140 years to be exact) Disney re-imagined his timeless classic in their 1983 animated feature “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” The short film starred Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse as Bob Crachit, and Goofy as the ghost of Jacob Marley.

The movie was the first Mickey Mouse theatrical cartoon in three decades, with his last appearance occurring in 1953’s “The Simple Things.” It also became the first Mickey cartoon nominated for an Acadamy Award since the 1948 short “Mickey and the Seal.”

Clarence Nash, who originated the role of Donald Duck, was the only “original” voice actor in the film and would mark one of the last times he would perform the role.   

Curiously, the movie was not the first time Disney told the Christmas Carol story with Uncle Scrooge in the lead role. In fact, the featurette was essentially an adaptation of a vinyl record released almost ten years earlier.



An Adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol

In 1974, Disneyland Records released “An Adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol – Presented by the Popular Repertory Company The Walt Disney Players.” Like the animated film that would be released almost a decade later, popular Disney characters performed the principal roles.

Actor Alan Young performed multiple roles, including that of Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey Mouse, and Merlin (as the Ghost of Christmas Past). As in the later film adaptation, the legendary Clarence Nash provided the voice of Donald Duck. Hal Smith performed as Goofy. 

The recording also featured four original songs:

  • The Only Thing That Counts with Me
  • The Way Christmas Ought to Be
  • They Won’t Know Me
  • What a Glorious Christmas Morning

These songs would not appear in the screen adaptation, and Merlin would be replaced by Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Present. The film would, however, include a lovely number called “Oh, What a Lovely Christmas Day” composed by Irwin Costal (who also worked on Disney films like “Mary Poppins” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”). 


A Bit of Holiday Magic

“Mickey’s Christmas Carol” debuted in the United Kingdom in October of 1983, and in the United States on December 16 as part of a Christmas re-issue of “The Rescuers.” As part of that year’s holiday celebrations at Walt Disney World, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Scrooge McDuck all appeared at the Magic Kingdom as the characters Bob Crachit, Mrs. Cratchit, Nephew Fred, and Ebenezer Scrooge respectively.



Down on Old Main Street…

Though Guests can no longer meet Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge strolling around the Magic Kingdom, they can still see scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol on Main Street. In the grand tradition of Christmas window displays made famous by companies like FAO Schwartz and Macy’s, the windows of the Emporium in Main Street USA are decorated with ornate holiday tableaus. 

Various scenes from Mickey’s Christmas Carol can be found, with the characters depicted by beautifully crafted statuary placed in detailed set pieces that look as though they were pulled straight from the film. 



Room for One More?

Holiday overlays on beloved attractions have a long history at Disney Parks. The first was the Country Bear Christmas Special, which debuted in 1984. 

The Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom does not have a holiday overlay, though Disneyland’s version adopts a Nightmare Before Christmas theme each year. At one point Imagineers were considering a holiday overlay that would have transformed the Grim Grinning Ghosts into characters from Dickens’ beloved novel. Just imagine sitting in your Doom Buggy and hearing the rattling of Marley’s chains!


Around the World

Another abandoned plan would have seen an Audio-Animatronic version of A Christmas Carol placed in the England pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. In fact, the plan appears to have been for the attraction to be part of the park as early as its opening day on October 1, 1982. While there are many attractions that were conceived and never executed, it would have been particularly special to see an animatronic Tiny Tim proclaim, “God bless us, everyone!”



On the Silver Screen

The animated Mickey cartoon is not the only treatment of the Dickens story produced by Disney. In 1992, they released “The Muppet Christmas Carol” in what is, inarguably, the greatest adaptation of the story ever created. The movie was the first Muppets film produced after Jim Henson’s passing but proved that his legacy was in good hands. Michael Caine starred as Ebenezer Scrooge, with Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Statler and Waldorf as the Marleys, and the Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens himself.

Seventeen years later, Disney would release another version of the story in the Robert Zemeckis film starring Jim Carrey in the roles of Scrooge, and all three ghosts of Christmas. 


We Wish You the Merriest

Though “The Muppets Christmas Carol” has no official representation in the parks (a problem which should be promptly fixed), Guests can hear one of the songs featured in the film during Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration, the castle stage show in Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

The song in question is “It Feels Like Christmas” penned by Paul Williams, and it’s a warm, loving celebration of the simple joys found in the holiday season. In fact, as the holiday season draws to a close, it seems the perfect lyric to share:

It is the season of the spirit
The message, if we hear it
Is make it last all year
It’s in the singing of a street corner choir
It’s going home and getting warm by the fire
It’s true, wherever you find love
It feels like Christmas

No matter how or what you celebrate during this holiday season, we hope it’s full of warmth, cheer, and a friendly light in the midst of winter’s dark. Happy holidays, from all of us to all of you!

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