22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2009
Talk about a fun read! If you loved this first ever animated Christmas T.V special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, as much as my family of ten siblings and I did growing up in Salina, Kansas, then you will be blown away by this book. Darrell Van Citters has written about a film he obviously loves but never allows that to distort his critical eye or shrewd assessment along the way to uncovering the truly fascinating journey along it's serendipitous creation. Kismet in many ways and determined vision by producer Lee Orgel, in many others. From this book and it's super fast paced, gripping, clear and devotedly researched telling, you will read just how magical a special it truly was. So many talented superstar designers of the UPA led fifties were a vital part of the show's bold colorful look. The boatload of newly discovered bg paintings, cool retro prime fifties era layout drawings, and character development designs are all placed alongside the correlating text. So smart. I have never read a book with images placed so cleverly and so in keeping with the spirit of the subject matter. The book's design and layout is total immersion into the world and art of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. The book is divided into clear chunks of the film's evolution and production process. One of my favorites is the music section. The songs were unbelievably all recorded in one day. I loved reading how the recording day progressed and how the cast and crew's laughter was so loud during the recording of the horrible Despicable's song--or is it the despicable Horrible's song--- when they all started singing "LA.LA, LA la la la" the crew and cast laughed so much that they could barely continue. The heartfelt performance by JIm Backus singing the duet with teenager Marie Matthews as young Scrooge "I'm All Alone In The World" convinced the doubting producer and composer Jule Styne that he did have the chops to sing Magoo's role even though he was not a trained singer. All I can say is it a fascinating and inspiring journey into how magic in filmland is made. I have worked at Disney animation as director of Pocahontas, The Rescuers Down Under, the Oscar nominated short Lorenzo, and many disney films in many varied roles. I know when a film has a spark that ignites and leads you. You want that spark, and you know it when you have it, and you know it when you don't. This beautiful version of Dicken's classic special had it in spades. It just plain works. This animated masterpiece still touches and entertains as much as it ever did, and thanks to Darrell Van Citter's devoted and precise telling you can fully appreciate it in a brand new light. I have gone back and just listened to the music after reading the book. It gave me a whole new perspective that brought it right back to life as if it was recorded today. That is called smart, honest, insightful writing. It is one from the heart, but never lets the heart bias the mind.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2009
Darrell Van Citter's meticulously researched book about the making of the first prime-time animated network TV special is a fitting tribute to this ground-breaking yet almost forgotten television classic. None other than Walt Disney predicted that "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" would be appreciated by future generations of children.
At first glance, casting the bumbling, myopic Mister Magoo as Ebeneezer Scrooge must have seemed odd at best. Producer Lee Orgel's inspired decision to stage the show as a play within a play, casting Magoo as an actor playing Scrooge, makes the concept work. As an added wrinkle, it was done as a musical, with Bob Merrill and Jule Stein taking time off from "Funny Girl" to write the songs. Some of the most talented animators of the time, many of them veterans of Disney and Warner Brothers, were given considerable creative free reign under the watchful eye of director Abe Levitow. Jim Backus, who most remember as Thurston Howell III from "Gilligan's Island", was a talented actor with considerable experience in radio. His performance as the clueless Magoo and Scrooge at various stages of life included singing his role in character.
The alignment of all this creative talent resulted in an animation masterpiece. That it turned out so well despite severe time and budgetary constraints is quite a story, one that Van Citters tells as only a true scholar and fan of animation can. The author, an accomplished animator himself, interviewed nearly every surviving member of the production team, and sifted through the Orgel, Levitow and Styne family archives in the course of his research, carefully documenting every step in the production.
Anyone interested in the golden age of animation, Mister Magoo, or Dickens' classic story will enjoy this book. It is lushly illustrated with hundreds of images of production artwork, many never before seen.
I hope that this book sparks interest in this underappreciated TV classic, which is far superior to the better known but artistically lacking Rankin-Bass offerings that came in its wake.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2009
Magoo's Christmas Carol was something I tried never to miss. Not only is it a faithful retelling of the Dickens' story, it's also true to the character of Mr. Magoo. There are beautiful songs and moments of comedy and heart touching poignancy.
Let me tell you this is a great book full of beautiful production art and well researched information on who and how this classic show was made. After just reading the introduction I learned Walt Disney was so deeply moved by the show after its first airing that he made a personal call to the producer to congratulate him. The book is chucked full of stuff like that.
I will enjoy and consult this book for years. Thanks!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2009
This book is a must-have for anyone who knows and loves MR. MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL, Christmas TV Specials, Animation, and Christmas itself.
It's a beautiful presentation of a fascinating story. So well done, it can easily take its place among the best books of its kind. In fact, if you laid this book down with the ones about A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS and RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (both of which I love) this is the first one I would pick up.
Mr. Van Citters and Company deserve a candle in a jar of razzle berry dressing, a Christmas far more glorious than grand!
Buy this fast - for yourself, and everyone on your Christmas list - before it sells out!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2010
Like the first edition, this 2010 revised edition (with new material) is a simply splendid book about a splendid and glorious film. Thank you, thank you, Mr. Van Citters, for the painstaking and superb job you did of researching and writing this book. It is truly a labor of love. Its words are illuminating and wise, and its illustrations--mostly reproductions of the amazing original artwork created for the film--leap off the page in sparkling vividness and mesmerizing beauty.
As for the film itself--"Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" is simply the finest film realization ever, animated or live, of Charles Dickens' wonderful and wondrous tale. Sheer magic, astonishing beauty of story and song, deeply loving, profoundly moving. If you have a heart that has been shattered seemingly beyond hope, but somehow yet capable of hearing the most exquisite whisperings of that which makes life not just good but even mystical, not just sweet but even sacred, then this film is your film, this story is your story, and its songs sing beauty and comfort to you, even in your night of most inward darkness. And the song at the film's center and heart, "Winter Was Warm," sung by a woman with the voice of love itself, is perhaps the greatest song of lost and yearning love ever recorded. A thousand "Bravos" and profoundest gratitude to all who worked to create this magnificent masterpiece of the storyteller's art--this journey from bleakest tragedy to utter exaltation.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2009
I first saw Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol when I was 8 years old..I already loved the Magoo character and thought this special was perfect for him.
As for the book. Darrell Van Citters obviously shows his love for the special. He spent several years talking to people who were involved and gathering material..Lots of pictures are presented..Mostly drawings but also some rare photographs with producers and cast members..All put together in a very organized way..Lots of background on UPA before and after Christmas Carol,,This is Darrell's first book and it is an excellent job..It's hoped that people will remember the special and that it might show up on TV again..
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2009
Love this book! The art is inspiring and Darrell rounded up some incredible information in a perfect layout! No Christmas should be without this special and book! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2011
This is a great momento to remember the joy that is Magoo's Christmas Carol all year round. I saw it as a boy & own the DVD so was very excited to run across this detailed explanation of the production process. I never realized some of the details mentioned & enjoyed the full color pictures. My only wish was that a DVD of the show was included for those who don't have it or at least the sound track to accompany the beautiful illustrations. It's impossible to capture their magic without that.
The fascinating story of the making of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has recently been told, to the delight of all animation fans. But many don't know that "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol", appearing in 1962, actually preceded it. Now Darrell Van Citters has set the record straight, and the timing could not be better, as 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the special. A first impulse might be to shelve this 11 X 9, hardback, full-color coffee table book away with the ornaments and tinsel, but readers who can't wait that long will find not only footnotes to the TV special, but a treasure trove of anecdotes about the people and studio that created it.
Mr. Magoo first made his silver screen appearance in 1949 in Columbia Pictures' "Ragtime Bear". UPA (United Productions of America), the studio responsible, took Academy Awards for two Magoo shorts, "When Magoo Flew" (1954), and "Magoo's Puddle Jumper" (1956). It's almost crazy that the UPA/ Columbia shorts are only now coming out on DVD in 2012 The Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection (1949-1959) (note to anyone reading this early on: order in advance to be assured of Amazon's low advance price, which will almost assuredly be higher when the set is released mid- 2012, as happened with the Mr. Magoo TV collection, Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection, 1960-1977.
A word about this last set. There were three Mr. Magoo series for television: The first series has already been released, with the voice of Charlie unfortunately changed, and not very well overdubbed. In many of the cartoons, Charlie plays a Jeeves-like role, as the savvy houseboy (or, in Jeeve's case, gentleman's gentleman) who continually rescues his employer and brings about the Deus ex machina happy ending. I need hardly note that this is a deliberate attempt to play against type, the opposite of a stereotype. UPA did this in numerous cartoons, as seen in the UPA cartoon DVD set, at present only available from TCM, Turner Classic Movies, and not yet released on Amazon (but it likely will be). Also in this banner Magoo year, comes this book at last disclosing the rest of the story of UPA When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA. Finally, anyone interested in how the UPA modern look influenced animation is directed to the book I cannot rave enough about, Amid Amidi's fantastic Cartoon Modern, which any animation fan will find not only a riveting read but a dazzling panorama of amazing art Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in 1950s Animation.
With the exception of former Disney Designer Kevin Kidney, Van Citters is the only author to write the late Disney/ UPA animator Jacques Rupp back into animation history, which he does here, noting his role, along with Bob Inman, in the storyboarding and unigue design aesthetic in "The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo", the second of the TV cartoon series, and available for the first time on DVD in the above-mentioned set. Didier Ghez also has an interview with Jacques Rupp in his Walt's People's series, which profiles former and current Disney animators and designers, in volume eleven Walt's People - Volume 11: Talking Disney with the Artists who Knew Him.
Anyone reading Van Citters' engaging book may want to follow some of these threads, as many of these shows are appearing on DVD for the first time, and the UPA story is just beginning to be told. As with Disney, Jay Ward, and other studios, readers interested in the history of animation will find it endlessly fascinating. 35 million viewers watched the Mr. Magoo special when it first aired, and due to later return dates, many more than that remember it Mr Magoos Christmas Carol. Many more could right now sing the songs, especially, "The Lord's Bright Blessing" which appeared on the NickatNite CD collection, "A Classic Christmas Too" Nick At Nite: A Classic Cartoon Christmas, Too. One hopes we will soon be able to again view the other Mr. Magoo movie that we have long been waiting for, "1001 Arabian Nights". Van Citters has also promised a deluxe edition of this book to tie in with Mr. Magoo's anniversary, but most will find this pocketbook-pleasing edition plenty lavish, which at last, as Leonard Maltin says in the introduction, pays the show's creators "proper tribute".
on November 10, 2013
Wonderful book chock full of colorful pages that describe what has become my favorite Christmas special. This book takes you behind the scenes by inviting you to come closer by sharing notes about the musical productions and voice recordings involving the actors and actresses that made this simple cartoon a timeless holiday tradition.