12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
, September 30, 2009
This review is from: Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol: The Making of the First Animated Christmas Special (Hardcover)
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.
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