Of course, the thing that caught my eye (besides the TV listing for I'm Dickens... He's Fenster) is the photo promoting the broadcast of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, one of my all-time favorite holiday specials.
What a lot of people may not know is that Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol was the very first animated holiday special produced for television. It first aired on NBC-TV in 1962, beating the perennial favorite Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) by two years, and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) by three.
Back in the 1960's, it was a big deal waiting for these specials to show up on the TV schedule. You had one chance to see them and if you missed them, too bad – you had to wait another year to see it again. That made them really special.
And Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol really was special. It's an excellent adaptation of the classic tale, complete with memorable characters and wonderful tunes.
The concept of the special was unique, with Mr. Magoo starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge in a Broadway stage presentation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." And I didn't know it at the time, but popular cartoon character Gerald McBoing-Boing – known to audiences from his big-screen animated adventures – played Tiny Tim.
For example, I remember being really scared when the ghost of Marley began to clomp and clank up the stairs before confronting Mr. Magoo. (For years after, I would race up the stairs from our basement, imagining Marley being right behind me.)
Other parts of the TV special also pack an emotional wallop. After watching Mr. Magoo's regular cartoons on TV (with his Chinese houseboy Charlie and funny talking pets), it was hard for me to watch him being sad while he visited himself as a lonely child in the boarding school scene.
It was even harder watching him be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, which was also pretty scary, with its bony fingers! And when the creepy, cloaked spirit leaves Mr. Magoo alone in the cemetery, I still get a lump in my throat. Fortunately for kids, several times during the show the camera pulls back to show an audience watching Mr. Magoo on stage, reminding kids it wasn't "really" happening.
|Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing|
While Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol hasn't had a major network broadcast for many years, it is enjoying renewed popularity due to its availability on DVD, as well as a recent book about the story of the making of the TV special by Darrell Van Citters.
To visit the official website of the book, click here. It's got a nice history of the special and some great images.
And for an interesting comparison of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol versus the Jim Carrey big screen version, click here to visit the Paley Center for Media website.