Friday, December 29, 2017

Origins of Three Christmas Carols, Part 2

         A Christmas Carol is one of the most popular adaptions of all time, with dozens of direct adaptions and still many more alternate interpretations, such as set in present day or with a woman in the Scrooge role.   The simple story of one man's redemption set in the 1800s London continues to hold our fascination.  Here are the origin of three of those adaptions of A Christmas Carol.
        In 1938, Metro-Golden-Meyer (MGM) released A Christmas Carol, with Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge.  However, the Scrooge role was originally meant for Lionel Barrymore.  Barrymore, unfortunately, had to drop out due to arthritis.  Married couple Gene and Kathleen Lockhart played Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, would a young June Lockhart (known later for roles in Lassie, Lost in Space, and Petticoat Junction) made her debut as Belinda Crachit.  Some of the changes to the story, such as lessening the scarier aspects (for example, the appearance of the disturbing children "Want" and "Ignorance" do not appear in this version) made in this version continue onto other versions of A Christmas Carol.  These were made to keep the run-time down and to make the film more family friendly.  A Christmas Carol was released on December 16, 1938 and ran for 69 minutes.  

      In 1990, talent agent Bill Hader convinced Brian Henson, Jim Henson's son to make an adaption of A Christmas Carol starring the Muppets, with Charles Dickens as an onscreen narrator.  When the idea was presented to Disney executives, they convinced Muppet studios to make the production a feature film, instead of as a television special as originally envisioned.  Gonzo was chosen because he was actually seen as the least likely choice.  The original idea was for established Muppets portray the Christmas ghosts, with Robin the Frog or Scooter considered for Christmas Past, Miss Piggy considered for Christmas Present, and Gonzo or Animal for Christmas Future.  However, with the intention that the ominous (meaning: serious) nature of the ghosts to be shown in the film, new Puppets were made more in keeping with the original vision of the Christmas ghosts.  Michael Cane, who portrayed Scrooge in this version, approached the role in utter seriousness, as if he was preforming with humans.  The Muppet Christmas Carol was released on December 11, 1992 and had a run-time of 86 minutes.  

    Before Robert Zemeckis started on his motion-capture version of A Christmas Carol, he previously stated that his one of his favorite time travel stories was...A Christmas Carol.  Zemeckis partnered with Disney studios and star Jim Carrey to create a big-budget ($175-200 million) version of the famous story.  The CGI model for Scrooge was previously used in The Polar Express (there he was seen as a puppet), also directed by Zemeckis.  Jim Carrey played four different roles in the movie, including Scrooge throughout his life and all three Christmas ghosts.  For the Ghost of Christmas past, he used an Irish accent, and for the Ghost of Christmas Present, he used a Northern English accent.  Gary Oldman also played three roles himself:  Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim.  In fact, many of the voice cast played multiple roles.  A Christmas Carol was released on November 3, 2009 in London and November 6 in the US, and ran for a total of 95 minutes.  

     These three adaptions, from the very traditional live-action, to the silly mixed with serious Muppet version, to CGI motion-capture of today, show the different possibilities of how A Christmas Carol can be put to the screen.  As long as the core story of A Christmas Carol will continue to hold the audience's interest, new film versions will continue to inspire for generations to come. 

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