Sunday, December 14, 2014

Merry Christmas from the REAL Tiny Tim

Spot the Difference
Way back in 1971 my Dad's animation studio at no. 13 Soho Square in London took on their biggest project yet - a TV adaptation of Charles Dickens'  A Christmas Carol. The twenty-two minute TV special was produced by Chuck Jones and many scenes were animated by Ken Harris, one of Chuck's star animators from Road Runner days. Other animators included Grim Natwick and Emery Hawkins.

Poster for the 1971 Christmas Carol. Much worse than the film - and Scrooge is off-model.
Dickens' story was perfect for animation. Art Director Roy Naisbitt designed hugely complex background layouts, creating a sense of the grime, squalor and claustrophobia of 19th century London.
From left: Unknown, Ken Harris, Grim Natwick, Art Babbitt, Richard Purdum, Dick Williams

The style of the film was based on the illustrated Punch cartoons of the 19th century, similar to the animated interludes in The Charge of the Light Brigade which the studio had completed a few years earlier.
Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim
Voice talent was provided by - among others - Alastair Sim and Vanessa Redgrave. And I got to play Tiny Tim.  I don't really remember much about the experience at all, not even recording the lines. The only part I actually do remember (dimly) is the ice cream cone which was the reward for my labours.

Years later, as an annoying teenager,  to my discredit, I demanded further payment - which my father (to his much greater credit) indulgingly provided, giving me £100 to stop complaining.
"God bless us every one"
Tiny Tim isn't quite a caricature of me as a kid - but it's pretty close. 

The oddest thing about The Christmas Carol is how diffcult it is to get hold of a copy. When I was a child it was broadcast on the BBC every Christmas, but it has not been broadcast for years, and if you try to find a DVD copy today you are out of luck. Your only chance is the low-resolution YouTube clips below.

Some of the animation is a bit clunky - you can tell the bits that were handed to animators who were still learning their craft, and the parts where the studio just ran out of time. The style of the film demanded a high level of draughtsmanship, and it's obvious that not everyone was up to the task.

But the scene with Marley's ghost still sends shivers up my spine, and the scene where the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals his two ragged children - Ignorance and Want - is perfectly chilling.

I may be biased, but I don't think there is a version of the Chrismas Carol out there that does better justice to the atmosphere of the book.

---- Alex


  1. "I may be biased, but I don't think there is a version of the Chrismas Carol out there that does better justice to the atmosphere of the book."

    No, there isn't! This is pretty much it's own thing among a sea of other adaptations.

  2. An hour ago I saw a promotion on THIS TV for the film.
    I tried checking the schedule but the web page is behaving poorly.
    Google search did nothing for me but it is very early in the morning
    and I am not too sharp yet.
    You might check it out.
    Spence Morris

  3. My heartfelt apologies, the Christmas Carol here is from 2001,
    with Nicholas Cage.
    I have to pay more attention.
    Spence Morris