Thursday, December 13, 2012
'Merry Christmas, Uncle!' | Scrooge McDuck (1983)
In Mickey's Christmas Carol, Fred doesn't enter abruptly (he's announced by the clanging of Scrooge's bell on the door), but he does enter boisterously. He's played by Donald Duck, after all, who's never been known for having a subdued personality. He enters with wreath in hand and shouts, "Merry Christmas!"
Donald's an interesting choice for Fred. Of course, he is Scrooge McDuck's nephew, so the casting is a no-brainer on that level, but Donald's famously short temper doesn't fit with how Fred is usually portrayed. That's why we see none of it in this short film. Here, Donald is all about enthusiasm for the Day and he makes a delightful, if somewhat dim Fred.
Most of Dickens' dialogue is right out the window in this version, replaced with jokes that still manage to get across the point of the scene. Fred loves Christmas; Scrooge doesn't see the point. In a variation on Dickens, Scrooge declares that Christmas is "just another workday and any jackanapes who thinks else should be boiled in his own pudding." As with the other short versions of the story, Scrooge and Fred's bad relationship is centered entirely around Christmas, with no mention of Fred's marriage.
I mentioned before that Donald's Fred is a bit dim. That fits with Donald's personality, but it does mean that someone else will have to do the heavy lifting in expressing the true meaning of Christmas to Scrooge. As you might expect, that's Mickey's job. He bravely inserts himself into Scrooge and Fred's conversation a couple of times, good-naturedly defending Christmas to his boss. There's no fear of his being fired here, but that's to be expected too. An integral part of Mickey's personality is his pluckiness and optimism, so his Cratchit can't be timid and afraid of Scrooge. Especially not when Scrooge is already being played for laughs. Scrooge's grumpiness is comical, not frightening, and Cratchit reacts accordingly.
He does show a little timidity though when there's a laugh to be had from it. For instance, he quickly explains his applause at Fred's "speech" (actually just Donald's shouting "Merry Christmas!" some more) as an attempt to keep his hands warm.
Scrooge ultimately kicks Fred out of the office, so there's no time for Fred and Cratchit to exchange Christmas greetings at the end of the scene. They did a little of that when Fred came in though, and once he's gone we also hear Cratchit remark that Fred is "always so full of kindness."
"Aye," Scrooge says. "He always was a little peculiar."