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Legacy Review

A Christmas Carol (1971)

Richard Williams’ 1971 Oscar-winning short is an astonishing adaptation, animated with beautiful, pencil-drawn grace and showcasing the creepier side of the story.

Some of the moments here have never been depicted like this before. Marley’s jaw dangles, unhinged, with all the fright described in the text. The ghost-hearse races up the stairs. The Ghost of Christmas Past flickers and shapeshifts.

The sets are shadowy and starkly angled; the graves at the cemetery in Christmas Future spout like a horrid fungus from the ground. Expressionism-inspired buildings tower over everything, almost tilted, casting an oppressive blanket of darkness on the story.

Beyond the sketch-like texture, there’s some great innovative animation. One memorable shot shows a cityscape in disorienting, vertically-rotating, 360-degree perspective.

The downside: With only 25 minutes, this short is crippled by its narrative rush. While there’s some appeal to the pace and its editing — scenes morph into each other rapidly and almost impressionistically — the short length still mandates that narrative beats be hurried.

Richard Williams’ adaptation ranks as one of my favorite versions of the Dickens classic, but would likely catapult to the top if only it had another 20 minutes to let its story comfortably develop: its animation and haunting atmosphere are simply that compelling.

Is It Good?

Very Good (6/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.


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