Few brands are as immensely popular as Disney, which is why it’s a bit surprising that the company’s presence in the world of action figures has always felt a little lacking. It’s thought (and maybe even confirmed by the company) that Disney’s interest in properties like Marvel and Star Wars stemmed from them being unable to internally develop IPs that better aligned with what boys enjoy. Disney has never had trouble selling princess dolls to little girls, but action figures? It’s always been a tougher sell. They’ve tried and managed to craft a wonderful IP in Gargoyles, but apparently it didn’t have the sort of commercial success that Disney was looking for. Even so, it’s a shame their classic characters haven’t always been well-represented in plastic. Maybe they just think kids don’t want a Mickey figure? With the collector market amongst adults really exploding over the last decade or so I suppose it’s no surprise that we’re finally seeing some change in this area.
It was a little over a year ago that I took a look at the Hero Cross HMF Donald Duck. At the time, that figure was one of the few collector grade figures of Donald Duck out there. Since then, we’ve seen other companies show interest in Disney figures like Super7, McFarlane, and now Beast Kingdom. Beast Kingdom has actually been at it for a little while doing some collectible statues and also dipping its toe into the action figure game with it’s line Dynamic 8ction Heroes. The first figure I saw from Beast Kingdom and had interest in was a Jack Skellington. Since there isn’t a review of that figure on this blog I obviously didn’t buy it, but I sure was tempted. Beast Kingdom has since released a Mickey, Darkwing Duck, and Scrooge McDuck, but it was Donald Duck that I decided would be my entry point into the world of Beast Kingdom. And today, on Donald Duck’s 88th birthday, I’m going to tell you all about it!
Donald Duck has long been one of, if not my absolute, favorite cartoon characters so when a new product featuring him comes along I immediately take notice. I liked the figure from Hero Cross last year, but the cost of that line left me content to just make Donald my one and only. Beast Kingdom has a similar issue in that these figures are not cheap. And like everything the past year, the price seems to only be going up. I paid just over 70 bucks for this guy at Big Bad Toy Store and that’s certainly a lot for an action figure. It’s a hard price to live up to, but if I was going to have any interest in adding to my collection beyond Donald, I needed this figure to win me over.
Donald Duck arrives in a pretty hefty package. It’s a square box and the top slides off like the box to a board game would. There’s an insert featuring Donald’s shirt pattern over a plastic tray which contains the actual figure. There’s a transparent plastic overlay on that tray, but otherwise everything is loose with no tie-downs or anything. It’s also worth pointing out that this seems designed for internet sales because you can’t see the figure at all without opening the box which is taped closed. There are some product renders on the rear of the box, none of which showcase the entire figure’s body. It’s a bit odd, but again, this isn’t the type of product destined to sit on a shelf at a brick and mortar location.
Donald stands at approximately 6.3″ per Beast Kingdom’s product solicitation. He’s quite big and might catch some folks off-guard as a result. He’s bigger than even the Hero Cross Donald and if there’s a scale to this line I’m not sure what it is. Donald obviously doesn’t exist in the real world, but when animated into live-action he looks like he could be around 3.5′ tall which would make this something close to 1/6th scale. Either way, he’s likely not going to scale with anything else out there except for other Beast Kingdom figures from this line. And by “line” I mean the Disney ducks, and maybe Mickey, because the Jack figure from Beast Kingdom is 8″ tall. As I said before though, I don’t have any other figures from this line to compare him to, but I’m assuming he shares some parts with the likes of Scrooge and Darkwing and they’re probably all comparable in size.
Donald is presented in his licensing art attire. That means he has a light blue hat and shirt with yellow trim on the shirt and a red bowtie. It’s not my preferred Donald, but it’s not unexpected. Since Beast Kingdom lists him as “Classic” Donald maybe they intend to do other versions later. Out of the box, Donald has a fairly neutral expression with gripping hands. The white areas of his body are appropriately white and the only other color really is the orange of his bill and legs. There’s very little paint on this guy, especially because his eyes are a separate piece of very light blue plastic. The only paint you’ll find on him really are the black pupils of his eyes, which are printed I’m guessing, and his inner mouth on the alternate portrait. The white plastic has a nice matte appearance, while the orange is a bit more glossy and “plasticy” in nature. It stands in contrast to the more saturated and richer presentation of the Hero Cross figure and I wish they had painted those parts. This is a figure meant to represent a classic cartoon character and that saturated look would serve it better in replicating the ink and paint origins. The bill looks okay, but the feet have a cheap look to them as a result that I wish wasn’t present in a $70 figure.
Also contributing to the figure’s appearance is the use of soft goods for the shirt. It’s a design choice by Beast Kingdom probably to differentiate their product from others out there, and as far as I can tell, all of the figures in this line come with soft goods attire. The quality of the shirt seems okay. It has the thickness of a Barbie shirt and the printing of the yellow parts looks nice. I like how the rear “flap” is sewn into the collar and the bowtie is also handled well. The issues I have it with though are that mine is fairly wrinkled out of the box and I’m not sure there’s much I can do about that. I wouldn’t dare iron it, and if I wanted to I’d have to figure out how to get it off to do so which would likely require me to remove the figure’s arms. I suppose I could hit it with some wrinkle release spray and see if that helps. I also find the fit of the shirt just looks a little off. It sits very high on Donald’s shoulders and basically erases his neck. I find myself tugging on it a lot to try to bring it as low as possible, even though it isn’t accomplishing much. I think there’s just not enough weight to the material which is often the issue of soft goods and why some people hate them. I don’t think it looks terrible by any means, but it’s easy to see why Hero Cross went with a vinyl body instead of soft goods.
Beast Kingdom does refer to this line as its Dynamic 8tion line. Why they use an “8” I don’t know, but nitpick aside you would expect some dynamic posing out of a line with such a name. That’s going to be a challenge for a duck, but Beast Kingdom does list 12 points of articulation for this figure. Donald’s head sits on a double ball-peg with another ball-peg at the base of the neck. This means he has no trouble looking in basically all directions. The shoulders are on standard ball-hinges and he gets good rotation there even with the soft goods shirt. At the elbow is a single hinge with a swivel and the sleeve of the shirt slides up past the elbow pretty effortlessly to facilitate movement of the joint. The wrists are on ball-hinges so he gets a full range of motion at that point as well. In the torso, we have what feels like a ball joint of some kind. It mostly allows Donald to rotate as trying to use it as an ab crunch causes the figure to just snap back into place when released. The legs are where things are most limited as he has a ball and socket joint at the hips and ball joints at the ankle. There’s no knee joint which is odd so Donald’s knees are permanently bent. His shape being what it is, there isn’t a lot one can do with the legs and the plastic for them is too light to handle one-legged poses and some walking positions, but I suppose that’s why there is a stand included. He moves about as well as I expected and the only knock I’d give the figure are the lack of knee joints and it’s worth pointing out that Beast Kingdom’s Darkwing has knee joints, while Scrooge does not. Most of the articulation is well-hidden at least which is a nice bonus.
In terms of accessories, Donald has a lot and a little. All of his accessories are just optional display parts so there’s no props or anything. Given he’s a generic Donald Duck, there isn’t exactly a prop that jumps to mind so I suppose it’s not a big deal, it’s just odd to have gripping hands on a figure that has nothing to grip. Donald also has a set of relaxed, open, hands and a set of waving hands. No fists is a bummer so you can’t even really try to replicate his classic hopping mad pose. Donald also comes with a second head, but I think it’s just included either as an extra or to help pack the other faceplate because it’s not needed. Donald’s face system works in that there’s a plate that comes off and behind that you have a plate for the eyes which are removable. The back of his head works with both faceplates, which is good because when I tried popping the head off the neck came with it and I could not get that off. And thankfully I don’t need to because I can just swap the faceplates. Donald’s other expression is an open mouth with frowning eyes which required a different shape for the eyes. You get four sets of eyes for each faceplate: straight-ahead, looking up, left, and right. Swapping them is fairly painless, and swapping the hands out is also easy, which is great considering I had issues with my Hero Cross Donald. Lastly, the hat is removable and attaches via a magnet. Beast Kingdom also includes a stand which is made of translucent, blue, plastic and features a black arm that is designed to grab the figure around the neck. It’s a bit unusual, but it works and it looks okay since it has Donald’s name printed on the front. I just wish it wasn’t hollow and had more weight to it so I felt like it was really anchoring the figure down, but he doesn’t have issues standing so I likely won’t even utilize the stand.
Beast Kingdom’s take on Donald Duck arrived largely as expected. The product shots online paint an accurate picture of what you’re getting, so if you’re a Donald fan and you’re okay with the price, then you should be satisfied. I have some nitpicks with the soft goods, but they look as advertised so it’s not like Beast Kingdom delivered a product that was misleading. My only real issue is with those legs as a digital render isn’t going to reveal just how cheap they look in person. If I’m paying a premium for a collectible, cheap is the last thing I want to enter my mind when I look at it. And the lack of fist hands too kind of sucks as I find the options I have in posing the figure aren’t “wowing” me. It would have also have been nice if the beaks were removable. I like the angry expression quite a bit, but the neutral one is almost too plain. It looks like Donald, but when am I ever going to choose to display Donald with an expressionless face? This is a character that’s usually displaying some pretty extreme emotions be they happy, mad, frustrated, scared, etc. I definitely don’t picture Donald Duck in my head with a blank expression on his face.
Ultimately, your perception of value is going to define how you feel about this figure. It mostly looks the part, the articulation is acceptable, and there’s some options available for display purposes. It just all comes at a pretty steep cost and I don’t know if it truly earns it. There’s no feeling of “extra” with this guy: no reference items or just fun add-ons like you might see from other companies or even from Beast Kingdom as they included Scrooge’s number one dime in his set (among other things, and to be fair, he’s being sold for $85). I’m fine with this figure though and I’m happy to add it to my Donald display, but it didn’t leave me wanting more figures from the line. I feel pretty comfortable now in passing on Scrooge and the nephews. Maybe Beast Kingdom can convince me to buy another Donald down the road if an update comes along based on a favorite short or something, but for now, I’m content to let this be it and I enjoy it for what it is. And on a personal note, I’m also happy to devote this blog’s 900th entry to a Donald Duck toy! Now I have 99 entries to think of an appropriate 1000th one. Will it be Donald? Will it be a toy? Check back, I suppose, in a year and half or so.
Well, here’s something different. Bronx, the good gargoyle dog, is NECA’s fourth entry in its relatively young line of action figures based on the beloved Disney Afternoon series Gargoyles. And not only is Bronx here all on his own, he’s also got something for his buddy Goliath that collectors of this line have been begging for. Unfortunately, he also arrives as part of NECA’s Haulathon event, a gimmicky collector event taking place at Target that should be over by now. Unlike his line-mate, Demona, Bronx appears to have shipped in rather large numbers. Also unlike Demona, he was never put up for order on Target’s website so those who want him have been forced to trek to the store in hopes of catching him on a shelf. Or, you get a friend like I did in @JoePoppingOn who came through for me again with a Bronx! That’s three figures he helped me acquire so a very, hearty, “Thanks” are in order for him. Give him a follow on Twitter, especially if you’re located in the US north east.
Bronx comes in NECA’s standard Ultimates styled packaging with artwork on the front and product shots throughout. The front flap opens to reveal the figure inside and showcase the accessories, with one accessory displayed about as prominently as the actual figure. We’ll get to that, but first we need to talk about Bronx. Bronx, being more like a dog than human, is a quadruped who gets around on all fours. He’s also wingless, so at last he’s a release in this line that’s relatively easy to fit onto a shelf. He scales well with Goliath and the others when placed beside them, and because his form doesn’t showcase giant pectorals, he’s probably the most on-model release when compared with the show. NECA is obviously not going for a true on-model look with this line, so for Bronx, it’s more like a bonus for those out there who wish the company was aiming to do just that.
The sculpt for Bronx is essentially what one would expect of NECA where the character is concerned. He’s a lovely shade of blue with a pale gray on his underside reserved for his lower jaw and belly. His eyes are all white and always displayed in that fashion, unlike the other gargoyles who only go all-white when trying to intimidate others. I like how the paint is applied to give them an almost glowing appearance as the white is soft on the edges and more stark in the center. His body has the usual gargoyle anatomy with spikes here and there. Not only does Bronx lack wings, he also features a far shorter tail giving him a really compact appearance. He’s all front end too with a smaller backside. He looks awesome, and even though the Bronx design from the show was never a particular favorite of mine, I find myself really liking the look of this figure because NECA just plain nailed it.
Even though Bronx stands on all fours, he’s articulated in a very similar manner to his line-mates in some ways, but he’s also different in others. For one, Bronx has articulation at the jaw so he can open and close his mouth and look a bit more fearsome, if need be. His head is on a double ball-peg and it’s reinforced with another ball peg at the base of his massive neck so he gets terrific range looking to the side as well as up and down. He also has plenty of tilt and he’s very expressive in that area. His front legs are joined to the body via ball-hinges and he has “elbow” joints, ankle joints, and toe joints. His legs can spread out wide and kick forward and back. The torso has a rubbery overlay, indicating that NECA intends to do more figures in this style down the road, which does kill whatever torso articulation is hidden underneath that. His rear legs are affixed via ball joints just like the other gargoyles and he has knee joints that move very little as they’re always intended to be bent. Past that, his feet are done in the same fashion as the front ones with ankle hinges, rockers, and toe hinge and rocker. Because of his design, Bronx isn’t going to be super dynamic, but I think NECA did a good job here of getting articulation into this figure without sacrificing really any of the aesthetic. And I wish they’d add neck articulation to the other figures.
Bronx doesn’t fly, or use weapons, or even have hands, so he doesn’t have much in the way of accessories. For Bronx, there’s really just two: a second head and a hunk of meat. The second head features a wide open mouth and is a touch more fearsome looking than the standard one. It would still feel a bit unnecessary if not for the big slab of meat he also comes with. I don’t know that I’ll really incorporate it into my own display, but the meat can fit into the mouth of the second head so he can hold it, or it can be placed at his feet. The meat looks fine and it’s painted, but at the end of the day it’s just a piece of meat.
What collectors are really intrigued by is the last accessory: Goliath’s closed wings. Also referred to as caped wings by the fandom, these are for the Goliath figure and are posed as the character often did in the show by hooking them below his chin like a cape. This is a casual, walking around, look for Goliath and has the bonus of reducing the amount of space he takes up on a shelf. To put them on, you need to pop off the head and wings from the Goliath figure and then just drape it over the shoulders. They’re a soft, flexible, material, but still feature the same paint and detailing as the open wings. There are two pegs on the rear to slot into the figure and these basically just keep things together. Once the head is replaced, the look is complete and it’s…okay. Goliath’s body was sculpted to be in attack mode, so his head isn’t really positioned in a casual manner making it look a bit awkward. If he had a joint at the base of the neck, this could be worked with, but alas he does not. The head is also even more locked-down than before as his hair keeps him from really being able to turn his head. He can look down a little, but that’s it. Still, now that the display is four figures, the extra room is welcomed so I’m probably going to stick with this look, but what I really want are just relaxed wings.
Bronx is a terrific entry in this young line, and he might be my favorite. I’ve mentioned how the other figures are so cumbersome that they’re not very fun to mess around with, but Bronx doesn’t suffer from that at all. He’s a joy to play with and pose, and while his accessories do nothing for me, the actual figure is great. The caped wings for Goliath are certainly a welcomed addition, but I am lukewarm on the end result. It’s okay, and maybe I’ll like the look more with an Elisa to pair him with, but it seems clear to me that the figure wasn’t really sculpted with this look in mind. I think NECA is generally very good at balancing aesthetic with articulation and function, but with this line I don’t think they’ve been as successful. Hopefully we see some improvement going forward and that these extra wings which are sorely needed aren’t few and far between.
As mentioned before, Bronx was part of Haulathon at Target. He was up briefly on the Haulathon website, but I literally know of no one actually receiving the figure via that site as seemingly all, or most, of the orders ended up cancelled. He seems to still be shipping, so check your local stores if you’re after this one. He has since gone up for pre-order in the usual places with an expected June delivery, so while you may have to wait, you shouldn’t have to go to the secondary market to add to the clan.
When NECA launched it’s line of action figures based on Disney’s Gargoyles, it seemed to imply that Demona would be figure number 2. She was not. That honor went to Thailog, the Goliath clone, and that might have had something to do with the many factory delays and shipping woes that were impacting the entire industry. It’s a lot easier to pivot from Goliath to a figure like Thailog at the factory when almost all of the molds are the same. The other promise from NECA was that none of the Gargoyles figures were slated to be sold as exclusives. They were all general release and collectors could expect to be able to preorder them from their preferred retailer. Well, that went out the window with NECA’s Haulathon event which was split between a website for Halloween costumes and Target stores. And as you could probably have guessed at this point, Demona ended up falling into that event.
Demona is the rogue gargoyle from the show. Goliath’s former lover, she’s basically the Magneto of the series as she has a justifiable distrust of humans, but turns that mistrust into all-out hatred. She doesn’t want to live alongside humanity, she wants to crush it. Armed with advanced weaponry, magic, and a wealth of knowledge given her extreme lifespan, she’s a formidable foe for Goliath and company and a worthy third figure in the line. Since she’s not a Goliath repaint, she’s also just the second, unique, sculpt we get to experience. With Goliath and Thailog, I had some nitpicks, but was generally satisfied with the finished product. With Demona, that’s pretty much still true, but she does introduce a new problem that I really hope isn’t one going forward.
Demona is sold in the standard NECA Ultimates five-panel window box. It’s a bit smaller than Goliath’s since Demona is a smaller character. Not only is she shorter than her former beau, she’s more slender as she has a very feminine physique that mixes with the gargoyle anatomy. She has a big tuft of red hair that looks quite nice and the pale blue-gray of her skin lines up well with her appearance in the cartoon. Like Goliath, she’s inspired by the cartoon, but has added detail to make her look a bit more “alive.” It’s a bit less pronounced as she doesn’t need giant, rippling, muscles and it’s mostly seen in the texture added to her clothing. She basically just has a top and loincloth with the bottom piece being separate while the top appears to be part of the mold. Either that, or the torso is cut-out to fit it so it can be glued down. It’s interesting as I suspect NECA will want to reuse much of this mold for Angela at some point, but her top is different. Maybe Disney just didn’t want people sneaking a peek under Demona’s top? Which does raise the question: why do female gargoyles have breasts? They’re an egg-laying species, most of which don’t nurse their young, but they are fantastic beasts so I guess they can follow different rules.
Demona has a very striking appearance, and one thing I rather like is that NECA used actual metal hoops for her earrings and her anklet. This could potentially make her more fragile, but they seem secure and fine. Her proportions look nice, and like Goliath, her wings are painted in a two-tone fashion with a purple shade used for the membrane. Also like Goliath, the wings are huge and made of ABS so there’s no give to them. They’re going to take up a lot space, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Aside from that general complaint, my only other issue with her is that her face looks just a little off. I feel like her face should be longer and more narrow. Instead, it starts off rather wide and quickly comes to a point at her chin giving her a slightly scrunched appearance. It’s not terrible or anything, but I think she could look a little better.
Demona comes with more stuff than we’re used to, and she even has a new feature that I wish Goliath had. And that feature is she uses faceplates instead of swapping an entire head. Bandai has been doing this for years with its figures, and I’m surprised it took NECA this long as it would have been easy to do with Goliath. Her face pops off easily and she has a screaming, red-eyed, face to go in its place. It’s appropriately unsettling, so much so that I almost don’t like looking at it, but it definitely works. Demona also has various hands including open, clawing hands, fists, a trigger-finger right hand, and a modified gripping left hand for her book or gun. She has two, giant, guns. One is a bazooka while the other is some kind of laser canon. The bazooka has a trigger and a more conventional design that’s easy to get the character to grip, while the other gun is more cumbersome with no actual trigger. I’m assuming it appeared that way in the show so I’m not faulting the toy here, just pointing it out for review. She also has her Grimorum Arcanorum which is really cool. It’s well-sculpted and the paint looks awesome as it has this distressed look to it and it can even open. It’s also sculpted to have a page torn out and that missing page will come with a future figure – a nice attention to detail.
The accessories are certainly appropriate, and the only thing missing is what’s missing from all of the figures so far and that’s a flight stand and additional wings. The wide open wings are essentially gliding wings so a flight stand is almost a necessity, but obviously would add cost to the figure. I’d happily take an increased cost if it meant alternate wings though. I know I sound like a broken record, but these things are too much to manage now that we have three figures.
Demona may be smaller than Goliath, but she essentially articulates the same. The head is on a double ball-peg, but her hair keeps her from being able to look up which is unfortunate for flying poses. NECA could have fixed that with either a second hairpiece or with a hinge in it, but chose not to. She can look down, tilt, and swivel. There’s no lower neck joint and her shoulders are ball-hinges. She can raise her arms out to the side without much trouble and has a biceps swivel, double elbows, and wrists that swivel and hinge. All of the hinges are horizontal, which is unfortunate for the trigger hand. Demona has a ball joint in the torso below her bust and a waist twist below that. Her hips are the standard ball joints and she can kick forward and back, since she doesn’t technically have an ass. There’s a twist there as well and she has single-jointed knees since the gargoyle anatomy only requires that much. The ankles are hinged and can rock a bit with another hinge at the toe that also has a rocker. The tail pegs into the rear of the figure and is bendy plus there’s a hinge at the peg. At the wings, she has hinges and they’re on pegs so they can rotate up and down and also swing out.
It’s with the wings that a new problem emerges for Demona. In many respects, I think she articulates better than Goliath as there’s less bulk to maneuver around, but what kills her is the tolerance of the wing joints. They are far too loose and are downright floppy. Her wings immediately slump to the table and posing them on their own is impossible. I’ve had to prop them up on Goliath and Thailog or just let them hit the shelf to pose her. She’s a challenge to stand, so I guess the wings help in that regard, but it’s a problem and it seems to be rather widespread. I’m going to have to try to remedy this somehow, either with super glue, tape, or something that can be added to that peg to tighten things up. It’s a problem that the figure really can’t have since the wings are so huge and it’s something NECA needs to tighten up now. I’ve refrained on trying to remedy it for the time being so that my images with this review are true to what the figure is out of the box.
Demona is a figure that is largely as expected. She looks the part well enough and has essentially the same articulation as Goliath, just with a new problem in the form of the wings. If not for that, I think I’d find her a little more entertaining than Goliath, but instead I find this figure to be rather frustrating as I try to pose it on my shelf. That’s also true of the other releases in this line as they’re so cumbersome that they’re really not a lot of fun to handle. They look pretty great when placed in a pose that looks nice, but they make you work to get there. NECA plans to include extra wings with the non-winged characters in the line, but that’s not going to do it. We really need options right out of the box, or else I think a lot of people will drop this line after a figure or two. Maybe I’m wrong, but despite this figure being overall a solid release, I’m finding my enthusiasm for this line waning which is hard to believe given how excited I was a year ago when the line was announced.
Demona was part of the Haulathon event and some stores are still receiving stock of her and she should set you back around $36. The distribution appeared poor to start, with some stores only getting one unit or none at all, but Target did make her available online so hopefully those who wanted her got her. I never found this figure in stores, so a special shout-out to @JoePoppingOn who helped me in tracking her down and the next figure in the line. The figure is also now up at various online retailers, some with a mark-up so it pays to shop around. Those figures are presently slated for a June release so hopefully that holds true and everyone who wants it can get one.
The first figure from this line of Super7 action figures based on characters from Disney’s treasure trove of animated characters was Pinocchio. In that review, I mentioned how Disney wanted to outdo itself with Pinocchio and sunk a lot of money into that film’s production. Well, the only other film from that era that might compare is 1940’s other feature: Fantasia. Fantasia was Walt’s passion project as he saw the marriage of animation with classical compositions as high art. I think he was mostly happy with how it turned out, but not happy with the reception as audiences didn’t seem to appreciate it the way the company figurehead did.
Even so, there’s no denying that at least one segment from Fantasia has impressed and delighted movie goers for generations and that’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That segment starred Mickey, who was still a pretty big deal in 1940. He was voiceless in the film, but was arguably never as expressive as he is in the short segment because no Mickey cartoon before (or likely since) had the budget of Fantasia. It truly is a delight and one of the best cartoons of all time and it’s no surprise that Super7 turned to Fantasia, and Mickey, with its first wave of Disney Ultimates!
The direction of Super7 founder Brain Flynn with this Disney line is to not simply do characters from Disney in their most recognizable forms. For Mickey, that would be classic red trunks and yellow shoes. The thinking from Flynn is that you can get that Mickey anywhere so Super7 should do something else. Now, doing Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t exactly breaking new ground either, but it’s apparently enough for Flynn who basically conceded that they needed to do something a bit more expected and generic for this first wave as Disney collectors are probably pretty new to Super7. And since the figure did sort of coincide with Fantasia’s 80th anniversary (curiously, so did Pinocchio but that one didn’t get a fancy sticker on the box), it makes perfect sense to have this Mickey in Wave One.
Being a 7″ scale line, Mickey comes in on the small side for an action figure. He is not, however, as small as Pinocchio and I think most collectors are likely going to be pretty happy with the sizing of the mouse. To the top of where his head would be he’s nearly 4″, and once you factor in the hat he’s basically a 5″ figure. His proportions are fairly small, though more substantial than Pinocchio, and he does feature the trademarked oversized gloves and shoes. This is a figure that largely features no paint. There’s the blue on the hat with the painted silver runes, Mickey’s eyes and mouth, and the black lines on the back of his gloves. Under the robe, he does have blue trunks which are a mix of colored pieces and painted ones and the brown boots are colored plastic. It’s largely fine, as his entire body is covered by the robe, but where paint is sorely needed is on his face. The flesh-tone plastic is just not saturated or warm enough for the character and it has a glossy characteristic that is off-putting. Some have gone so far as to say it ruins the look of the figure, but I’m not willing to go there. Instead, it’s just an unfortunate shortcoming. Simply painting that area of the face would do wonders for the look of this guy.
I mentioned in the Pinocchio review that one of Super7’s goals with this line is to incorporate soft goods into each release. For Pinocchio, the inclusion was a minor one, but for Mickey the soft goods needed to be something special and I’m happy to say Super7 pulled it off. Mickey’s robe is a touch darker than it is onscreen, but it has a shimmery quality to it that really imparts a sense of quality into the release. It’s cinched with a simply knotted rope, and it’s appropriately sized for the figure. It doesn’t look overly baggy, and the roominess of the design allows Mickey’s articulation to function as intended. Like a lot of collectors out there, I’m not often partial to soft goods, but here they work and they work well.
As for that articulation, I’m happy to say it’s better than what we got with Pinocchio, though it’s still hardly a strong point. Mickey’s head sits on the same ball peg design as Pinocchio so there’s no neck articulation and what you get out of his head just depends on the amount of range on that single ball. It’s sufficient as Mickey can look up an okay amount, but there’s really no reason why they couldn’t a double ball peg. The shoulders are ball-hinged and Mickey can raise his arms out to the side just fine and he can even rotate around with the robe on. He has single-hinged elbows with swivel and his hands rotate and feature horizontal hinges. Once again though, we have no torso articulation. Not even a waist cut, which is a shame because, again, the robe would hide everything! Maybe it’s a size issue – I don’t know, but NECA’s done figures at this size with more articulation so I’m not willing to allow that as an excuse. At the hips, we have the usual Super7 ball-peg hips and they’re fine. The knees hinge and swivel and Mickey can at least bend 90 degrees. The ankles are, once again, rather floppy and the oversized shoe means the ankle rocker isn’t as useful as it could be. The right ankle on mine isn’t as bad, but the hinge is pretty tight. I actually have a hard time getting both legs to appear the same length as the knee hinge is loose on the left leg. There’s also a ball-hinge at his tail giving that some movement. He can hold a pose at least, and hasn’t fallen down like my Pinocchio, but there’s room for improvement.
On the accessory front, we pretty much get all that we need. The default head is an open mouthed smile and Mickey can swap to an angry head or a standard smile. Both extra heads feature a bend in the cap which is nice for a little added personality. I probably could do without the smile though in favor of a scared expression because it feels redundant with the open smile. All of the heads also feature the ears sculpted into the hat, and I feel like Super7 missed an opportunity to change the ear position so we could have a screen accurate way to present Mickey from the side as he is on the back of his box or as he was in the often seen tag before every Walt Disney VHS release in the 80s and early 90s. A scared expression would have been really nice for the giant book accessory that Mickey floats on towards the end of the segment. The book is just a big slab of plastic, and it’s cool, but without a scared head I really don’t know what to do with it. There’s also a single, animated, broom with a pair of water buckets it can hold. There’s no articulation on the broom, but both it and the buckets are very well-painted. And for when Mickey gets angry with said broom, he has an axe to chop it up. To go along with all of that, are numerous hands. Mickey has open hands in the package to go with fists, gripping hands, pointing hands, and a more relaxed open set of hands. With the hands, the only criticism I can make is the hinge on the gripping hands isn’t going the right way, but otherwise this is a fine set of expressions.
Objectively, and subjectively, Mickey succeeds far more than Pinocchio did at making the jump to plastic. The articulation could be better, but that’s often true of every Super7 release. My main critique is in the lack of paint on the face, and if not for that, I’d consider this a homerun. As released, it’s a solid line drive for a double and I think it will please both action figure fans and Disney collectors. It’s very on-model, and the soft goods robe adds a touch of class. Plus, it’s an iconic version of an iconic character. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Super7 roll with The Band Concert or The Brave Little Tailor version of Mickey, but at least we’re getting that with the ReAction line and I can’t fault them for doing this version. It’s both safe and pleasing for the audience and an easy recommend for Disney enthusiasts.
It seems I keep setting personal records this year for longest duration of a preorder and the new champion is Super7’s first wave of Disney Ultimates! These figures went up for preorder in August of 2020 likely closing sometime in September. At the time, the expected release was somewhere around June 2021, but a lot happened in-between. Super7’s relationship with Disney was just starting so perhaps there was a feeling out process between the two. I know for a fact that Disney had some revisions in mind for the packaging (they wanted the three figures to be unique in that regard) and it’s clear the figures underwent changes between the initial renders and final release. And then, of course, there were the shipping delays and factory closures to deal with all stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like a perfect storm struck and thus the figures were delayed all the way until April of 2022! The wait is over though, and the first one we’re going to take a look at is Pinocchio!
Ask me what I think the highwater mark for Disney animation is and I won’t hesitate to say it’s 1940’s Pinocchio. Disney was riding high following the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and seemingly in a bid to top that picture, a lot of money was sunk into Pinocchio and it shows. Every scene looks like it was meticulously crafted to be the best it can be and for a medium such as hand drawn animation, it’s possible we’ve never seen that kind of dedication since. In terms of plot and performance, other animated films from Disney certainly compare and likely exceed what Pinocchio, but visually? It would take a convincing argument from someone to make me change my mind.
For that reason, it probably comes as no surprise that I pretty much adore Pinocchio, and when Super7 made the title character part of its first wave I was over the moon! A collector line of Disney animated characters was a grail line for me, and to see Super7 embarking on that path and kicking things off with a beloved character was almost too good to be true. The initial renders did leave something to be desired (look these figures up on most retail sites and you can still see them) as Pinocchio’s head looked off-model, but I preordered with the hope that it would turn out better in person and it’s nice to see my faith has been rewarded.
Pinocchio comes in the standard Ultimates! box Super7 is known for, only the outer box is very glossy depicting a starry night with a silhouette of Jiminy Cricket descending from the clouds. The inner box is themed to fit the film and reminds me of the Pinocchio restaurant in Disney World in terms of color palette. There’s a write-up on the back with character art and the figure and all of the accessories can be seen through the window. Pinocchio comes with a quite a bit of stuff, but in a first for me with an Ultimates! release, he only requires one insert to properly store everything. And there’s a pretty obvious reason for that: Pinocchio is small!
Super7’s Ultimates! are a seven inch scale line, but it tends to be rather fungible across lines. They seem to prioritize certain lines to fit that scale, lines that collectors might display together or in close proximity of one another. Other, more stand-alone lines, seem to inhabit their own scale which is the case with Super7’s Ren and Stimpy. For Disney, they appear to be in the 7″ scale, though since we’re dealing with characters from different movies, there is a subjective element at play. Pinocchio himself is barely 3.5″, and since he’s a little, wooden, kid, I suppose that’s fine. It’s still odd to see him so much smaller than Mickey, and the third figure in the wave, Prince John, towers over him. And it’s not just the height, everything about him is just small. His arms, in particular, feel almost delicate as a result. And to Super7’s credit, he seems to scale well with the contents of his box. Should the company ever return to the film to produce a Geppetto or Honest John then I suppose we’d be able to evaluate the size further, but on his own I think he’s fine. Some will likely balk at the concept of paying $45 before tax and shipping for such a tiny figure, but if the scale is fine then I’m okay with it on principle. Especially since there’s still a lot of unique tooling here that likely will never benefit Super7 again and that’s where the biggest costs lay.
Aside from the diminutive nature of the figure, the overall look is pretty good. His default expression is a smile, and Super7 did a great job of translating the head into 3D. It would be easy to go overboard on the cheeks as Pinocchio is often drawn to get wider in that area, but as we saw with the original renders, that can just make him look like a fat head. Most of the features on his head are painted like the hat and the inside of his mouth and the only criticism I have is the shape of his nose seems off. It could be straighter and a touch more elongated, but he looks pleasant enough. The rest of the figure is mostly colored plastic. We have red on the torso with a big, blue, bowtie and red-brown down on the shoes. His hands are cast in white with sculpted lines on the back that Super7 declined to paint black. Part of the goal with this line is to incorporate soft goods into the figures and for Pinocchio that takes on the form of his black vest. It looks nice and it doesn’t hinder anything, though the faux velvet texture is sure to accumulate dust. It’s also not removable by nature. If one were to pop off the arms then it could come off, but I’m not willing to try. I do wish Super7 did something with the bare portions of the arms and legs to give them a less plastic look. It’s a bit tricky since the film didn’t exactly go for wood grain, but some shading might have done the trick. They did paint little, silver, nail heads into the joints which is a nice touch, but took it no further.
Where Pinocchio is not likely to impress at all is with his articulation. We know Super7 prioritizes neutral posing with its figures and shuns complicated joints, but even this is pretty underwhelming for a Super7 release. Pinocchio’s head just sits on a rounded ball peg. There’s no hinge or secondary ball below it so the head just kind of rotates there and can tilt a little. There’s very little range looking up or down, and given that the bowtie provided an easy way to hide a double ball peg, it’s a shame Super7 didn’t go for it. The shoulders are ball-hinged, but he can barely raise his arms out to the side. Inside the sleeve is an elbow joint that can swivel, but the plastic is thin and kind of gummy so bending the elbow really seems to stress it. The first time I tried to work the joint I couldn’t tell if it was working as intended or if the plastic was just bending. The fact that little, rough, pieces of plastic started to protrude from it gives me little confidence in utilizing it for much. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges. There’s no torso articulation, and the hip joints just rotate a little so that his legs can go out a bit, but not really forward or back. They feel pretty useless. Because of the odd shape of his knees, Pinocchio gets very little range there, maybe 45 degrees, and the ankles are very loose. I think if not for the fact that his shoes are rather large I’d have a hard time standing him. He’s really only good for the most basic posing. I’m assuming his small size is partly to blame, but other aspects just feel poorly engineered. With Super7, I always get the impression that when they run into a tricky spot they just choose to not address it rather than figure out a more creative solution.
In terms of stuff, Pinocchio comes with a lot, but also a little. He has two additional heads he can swap to: elongated nose, and super elongated nose with bird’s nest and birds. Neither head is a surprise, though he doesn’t have the cage to be placed in to truly do the iconic scene justice, but at least they look nice. He has a shocked expression on his face, and there is a subtle difference between the two so Super7 didn’t just sculpt one head and two noses (though that might have been a better approach). He also has one set of extra hands. He comes with gripping hands attached and can swap to open ones. He also has a trio of mini figures: Figaro, Jiminy, and Cleo the goldfish. Of the three, Jiminy is the most on-model, but being a tiny figure, Super7 had to use a lot of paint on him and it’s pretty messy. They also positioned him with his umbrella poking out below his feet so he’s pretty much impossible to stand on his own. He’s a soft plastic, so I found I have to hook that umbrella onto something in order for him to stand. Cleo is placed in her fish bowl and Super7 filled it with transparent plastic. I do wish they added a touch of blue to the water somewhere, but she looks fine. Figaro is the most off-model as his head is just too big. It’s the one thing I wanted to see changed from the prototype that didn’t happen. His head can rotate and he looks okay, but he could be better. Pinocchio also comes with his school book and an apple for his teacher and both look fine. Lastly, there’s an axe, which I initially thought was Stromboli’s, but it’s actually the axe Pinocchio is seen holding for all of 3 seconds on Pleasure Island. Are people really going to pose Pinocchio wielding an axe? It’s also just plain, brown, plastic for the handle with no sculpted wood grain. I could definitely do without.
That’s a fair amount of stuff, but it feels like Super7 just could have done better. Why not more hand options? Fists, or maybe a pointing finger on fire and the candle to go with it? That would have been nice to have and I definitely would have traded that axe for such. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t let them do a smoking head or a drunk one, which is too bad as both would have been visually amusing. What I think most though are surprised to not see included is a donkey head. Pinocchio with big donkey ears and an optional tail would make sense and even encourage a second purchase. Maybe Super7 will do Lampwick and figure out a way to get those accessories for Pinocchio into the release, but he lacks a hole for the tail to go into so that would certainly be a challenge. Also, it’s highly unlikely that Disney lets Super7 do a proper Lampwick as he definitely needs a cigar and a mug of beer. I also would have loved a second Jiminy that featured a frowning face so he could admonish Pinocchio. The hand waving and smiling one we got feels more like licensing art Jiminy as opposed to the character from the film.
I do have a lot of nitpicks with Super7’s Pinocchio and part of that is certainly coming from a place where I’ve seen this movie a lot, I love it, and I have a lot of opinions on what the best scenes are for the character in it. It’s likely that Super7 could not have totally satisfied me with the accessories, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have done better. The issues with the articulation are less nitpicky though as this figure is pretty poor from that aspect. There aren’t a lot of points of articulation here, and what is here isn’t of the best quality as we have floppy joints or joints that don’t seem to work as intended. As a result, I don’t know that I can give this figure as strong of a recommendation as my heart wants to. As a Pinocchio lover, I am happy to have this, but if I allow myself to be objective I have to acknowledge that this figure does have problems and it doesn’t feel like a premium, collector, figure. The quality doesn’t feel far removed from a Jakks figure you can find at Target for 10-12 bucks, except this one costs $45. The soft goods vest is nice, and the packaging is flashy, but the figure doesn’t really measure up. Only get this one if you’re a big fan of Pinocchio and are willing to accept its flaws.
One of last year’s biggest announcements in the world of action figures was NECA’s acquisition of the Gargoyles license. It had been decades since Gargoyles figures occupied real estate at the toy and hobby shops of America and fans of the series were eager to see what NECA had cooking. It being 2021 though, collectors were forced to be patient as delays seemed to impact the roll out of product. NECA had indicated they had multiple figures sculpted and ready to go, and a teaser video following the Goliath announcement depicted the nefarious Demona. It was later in the year that NECA would show off Thailog, the villainous Goliath clone, which seemed to suggest he would follow Demona. Instead, he leap-frogged her, sneaking out to some stores in December with a wider release following in 2022.
I don’t know what NECA’s original slot for Thailog was in the grand scheme, but I don’t think he was supposed to be the line’s second release. Being a Goliath clone, Thailog is essentially the same figure as Goliath with only minor differences. That’s not an issue as why should NECA do anything different with the sculpt for a character that is a literal duplicate of another? It’s just that most companies don’t like to dip into repaints right away with a new line, but if the factory was running behind, it may have made sense to go right from Goliath to Thailog since the same molds are in use, nothing needs to be tested, and the machines don’t need to be refitted with the molds of another. That’s what I think happened, but I have no inside information, it’s just a theory that makes sense. Either way, Demona is still coming (along with a bunch of others) and right now we have two figures released that look pretty similar to each other.
Since Thailog is basically the same as Goliath, there’s not going to be a lot to talk about here. The sculpt is identical excepting the face. Goliath came with two portraits: stern and angry. Thailog has just the one and it’s a mischievous, sinister, grin. Aside from that, he comes in the same window box with character specific artwork and product shots on it. The massive wings that came with Goliath are here as well, along with the bendy tail. Even the loincloth is the same.
Where Thailog is different from Goliath is primarily in the deco. His skin is a dark blue-gray that almost looks black under certain lighting conditions. The hair is a silver-white with some black dry-brushing added for effect. Portions of the body are shaded with black as well and the loincloth he wears is a light blue. The wings are basically all one color as opposed to Goliath who has black membranes with a purple bone structure. His eyes are also red, which just makes it all the more obvious that he’s a bad guy. He’s a cool looking character and if you like the sculpt for Goliath you’ll like it here as well.
The good news, all of the good details Goliath embodied are captured here, but that also means the not-so-good aspects of Goliath are also still present. The biggest criticism that has arisen from this line definitely concerns the wings. They’re huge and they’re a hard plastic so there’s not much that can be done with them. Either they take up a ton of real estate going out to the side, or you can angle them back and distribute some of that behind the figure. Either way, it’s a lot, and it’s a position that really only works for gliding poses. Standing on a shelf is not really what they’re made to do, but NECA doesn’t include a flight stand so you’ll have to buy your own or try to hang these suckers from the ceiling. I don’t know what the solution is, NECA is planning on including caped wings for Goliath with Bronx, but we need some more options. At least a more casual, standing, pose for the wings. My assumption is they looked at articulated wings during the development stage and either ruled them out for aesthetic reasons or cost ones, but it’s something that should be considered, at least. The other drawback to these wings is they peg in under Thailog’s hair which restricts the movement of the head. His head is tilted down a bit and he can’t just look straight ahead, which is kind of annoying. Turn his head too far and you’ll probably knock a wing out of the socket. The hair either needs to have room for the wing joint sculpted into it, or it needs a hinge. It’s disappointing that this couldn’t be addressed following the release of Goliath.
The other area Thailog gets to differentiate himself from Goliath is with his accessories. He comes with a similar assortment of hands: open hands and fists. Like Goliath, he has a fifth hand and for Thailog it’s a traditional gripping hand as opposed to Goliath’s clawed grip. That’s because Thailog has two accessories he needs to be able to properly grip in the form of a briefcase and gun. The briefcase is rather cool as it’s a matte black with metallic accents. It snaps open and inside is a bunch of sculpted money and a set of keys. Nothing is removable, but it also doesn’t need to be. Thailog can either grip the handle with his gripping hand, or you can just dangle it off of a claw on the open hands which you will probably want to do because his other accessory needs to be gripped.
Thailog comes with his own sidearm. It’s a smallish handgun, but it fires a cannister or missile. I assume it’s from the show, but I haven’t seen the episode featuring Thailog in awhile. It’s simple, but it looks fine, and NECA has a little something up its sleeve with it. The cannister at the end actually pegs in and can be removed and replaced with a blast effect. It’s pretty big stretching to nearly ten inches and pegs into the barrel of the gun. There’s a sculpted plume of smoke at the barrel with some sharp blasts behind it. When the cloud ends there’s just a long cylinder with another smoke trail wrapping around it before it ends in another blast. It’s there the cannister can be reattached to complete the illusion of the gun firing. It’s very well painted and looks fantastic. It’s also a rigid plastic that is somewhat light, but it’s still a lot for the figure to handle. I find his wrist and elbow need to be positioned carefully or else the gun will start to droop. NECA didn’t include a little stand with this one like it did the Turtles in Time Baxter to help support the blast effect, but so far it’s holding up all right. I do worry that overtime his arm will start to droop, but I guess that’s tomorrow’s problem. It is an impressive display piece though, and it’s one I expect to see NECA make use of again either in this line or another.
That’s basically it though. I don’t feel the need to rundown the articulation on this guy since it’s the same as it was with Goliath. I will say there are no stuck joints with this figure and most of them feel fine. There is some looseness in the right arm and right foot so I’m finding it hard to get Thailog into the proper standing pose for his breed as the right foot tends to want to drop all the way to the surface. Stands and his tail can help, but I might have to go with a flying pose to mitigate this, which I don’t really want to do as I think the gun effect works better with a standing pose, and I definitely want to make use of that. I will add his articulation isn’t great for a gun wielding character. He doesn’t have a butterfly joint in the shoulder and his pectorals prevent him from bringing the gun out in front of him where I’d like to position it. And the wings interfere with the head so I can’t get him to hold the gun out to the side while looking down his arm. Again, this stems from this figure being Goliath who has no need for guns so such poses didn’t have to be considered, but hopefully Demona is better equipped to wield a firearm than Thailog.
This is a bit of a short review, but it’s also the type of release that most know what they’re in for. If you’re all-in on this line, you’re getting Thailog. If you liked the Goliath figure, then you’re probably getting Thailog. Some more casual fans will probably pass on this one as Thailog wasn’t a huge character in the show and there will also be some hoping for an armored version from NECA that they’d rather have. I liked Goliath when he came out, so naturally, I like Thailog, but some of the issues with Goliath I was willing to overlook due to excitement for a new license are a bit harder to overlook here. There’s room for improvement and it starts with those wings so hopefully NECA is listening to the fans and has something up its sleeve. Currently, Thailog is shipping to Target stores and should be available at specialty as well. Demona and Bronx are tentatively scheduled to release sometime in March, but no solicitations have gone up as of this writing so take that news with a grain of salt. 2022 should be a pretty big year for Gargoyles, and I’m definitely eager to see more!
We made it! Another year in the books, and another Christmas has come. Indulge in it. Bask in it, for it only comes once a year, and not to get too dramatic, but you never know how many you’re going to get. And we’re ending this year’s edition of The Christmas Spot with another throwback to a terrific holiday classic: Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
When it comes to Christmas specials, there’s no shortage of A Christmas Carol adaptations. It’s the most frequently utilized framing device for a holiday special, be it animated or live-action, and there’s no shortage of just straight retellings too. Even Disney has released multiple theatrical versions of the Charles Dickens classic, and for my money, the best version of A Christmas Carol is the one released in 1983 starring a duck and mouse.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol is basically a trimmed down version of the Dickens tale faithfully retold through animation. The familiar Disney characters we all know and love are essentially actors in this story as Mickey Mouse isn’t referred to as Mickey by the characters in the story, he’s Bob Cratchit. It’s essentially what the Muppets would do a decade later, only this isn’t really a comedy as it basically plays it straight. When it released to theaters in 1983 it was a pretty big deal for the simple fact that it was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in 30 years to be released in theaters. It unfortunately didn’t lead to a new era in theatrical short-form animation, but the following decade was certainly better than the preceding ones as far as quantity goes.
Being that this was the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in 30 years, it marked an era of new beginnings and ends. This was the directorial debut for writer/artist Burny Mattinson. Mattinson would go on to co-direct The Great Mouse Detective, but after that basically returned to his role as a writer for the remainder of his career. For many, this was the first time people were hearing Wayne Allwine as Mickey and Alan Young as Scrooge McDuck. Allwine, who worked in the sound department under his Mickey predecessor Jimmy MacDonald, had started voicing the mouse in some uncredited appearances on The New Mickey Mouse Club, but this theatrical short (which was essentially designed to go right to television given its running time) offered more exposure and a true credit, too. For Young, this was actually his second time voicing Scrooge in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge as he first took on the role for an LP release titled An Adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, Performed by The Walt Disney Players in the 1970s. He even voiced Mickey on that release. This cartoon was obviously more far reaching than what was essentially an audio play and Young would retain ownership of the role into DuckTales later in the decade and really for the rest of his life. As for ends, this would be the final credited appearance of Clarence “Ducky” Nash as Donald Duck. He had been the sole voice of the character since creation, but would turn it over to animator Tony Anselmo (who was an uncredited assistant on this production) in 1985.
Other notable performances include Hal Smith voicing Goofy for the second to last time. He didn’t voice the character a ton, but Goofy is still a character with a fairly exclusive list of actors credited as performing his voice. This was also the first time Will Ryan would voice Willie the Giant and that’s a role he filled until his death earlier this year (RIP). For actor Eddie Carroll, this was arguably his most exposure as Jiminy Cricket since taking over the seldom used character in 1947. He would voice the character in his other appearances following this pretty much right up until his passing in 2007. Lastly, this is seemingly the first, and only, time Patricia Parris voiced Daisy Duck. Daisy was somewhat of a seldom used character in the 80s and 90s who had multiple voice actors playing the role until Disney seemed to settle on Tress MacNeille as the one and only Daisy sometime around the year 2000. The only credit missing is one for Minnie Mouse, but that’s because her role is silent in this one. Yeah, it wasn’t the best look to see Minnie reduced to a silent cameo, but this was during her silent era which had been going on for decades. Russi Taylor would eventually be cast as Minnie later in the decade finally putting an end to the madness, but we were denied such a performance in this one.
After it’s theatrical release alongside a re-release of The Rescuers, Mickey’s Christmas Carol would go on to have a long run as a prime time television special around the holidays. That was how I first encountered it and also how I fell in love with it. Even though the special seems to be purposefully crafted to fit into a half hour broadcast, it would actually be aired as an hour long special with some Christmas or winter themed shorts attached. The version I am most familiar with aired on NBC and was preempted by the following classic shorts: Donald’s Snow Fight, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and The Art of Skiing. In between the shorts, there would be narration from Mickey describing the favorite Christmas memory of his friends, which would lead into that character introducing their own short (including Pluto who can be heard barking at Mickey). They would also show clips from other shorts like Toy Tinkers and Mickey’s Good Deed before eventually getting to Mickey’s favorite Christmas memory, the year they all got together to tell the story of A Christmas Carol. “Ha ha, we called it Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” he adds a bit sheepishly, almost like he’s a little embarrassed that his name went on this thing. Especially since Scrooge McDuck is the real star!
This one begins with some rousing horns and the classic Mickey head logo only it’s been dressed up with a hat and scarf. From there, we go into a lovely little opening title sequence. Still images in a monochrome, sepia, style from the cartoon to come are displayed along with the credits. It’s set to the song “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day” by Irwin Kostal (lyrics by Fredrick Searles), who conducted all of the music for the cartoon. The song really is quite nice and I think it’s been underserved by Disney ever since it was released. This should be their Christmas song, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it outside of this cartoon. The final image of the sequence eventually dissolves into some scenery that is just gorgeous. This one seems to be set in the same era as the original story, 1843, as we get a little multi-plane camera action that zooms into a street setting where the sidewalks are populated by beggars and busy bodies and the streets by horse drawn carriages. It’s important to note that all characters in this cartoon are personified animals from past Disney films and shorts. You’ll probably immediately see the three little pigs and the big, bad, wolf as well as many faces from Robin Hood and The Wind in the Willows.
Ebenezer Scrooge is strolling down the street looking rather unapproachable. A beggar (Young) asks him if he has a penny for the poor and Scrooge just scoffs at him. He eventually comes to the front door of his counting house, and before entering he knocks the snow off of his sign which reads Scrooge & Marley, only Marley’s name has been scratched out. It’s then Scrooge informs us (I’m not sure if we’re to read this as him breaking the fourth wall or him just talking to himself) that his old partner, Jacob Marley, died seven years ago today. He boasts the man left him enough money in his will to pay for a tombstone, but he had him buried at sea! Not said, is that Scrooge is so cheap he’d rather just cross his name off of the sign than get a new one. I also wonder if he’d bother to knock the snow off of the sign if it was covering Marley’s name instead of his own.
When Scrooge enters the counting house, he finds his lone employee, Bob Cratchit, up to something over by the fireplace. He demands to know what he’s doing, and Cratchit indicates he’s just trying to thaw out the ink for his quill which is coated with ice. Scrooge is apoplectic that Cratchit would dare to use two pieces of coal in the span of a week and demands he get back to his work. Cratchit takes it in stride and hops up onto a tall chair and appears to make do with the frozen quill as Scrooge begins to remove his coat and hat. Cratchit then brings up the topic of Christmas, very gingerly as Scrooge bristles at the mere mention of the holiday. Cratchit meekly requests a half day off for the holiday, which is tomorrow, and Scrooge reluctantly obliges. Only it’s on the condition that he only receive half a day’s pay. He then tries to recall what he even pays his one, and only, employee and Cratchit has to correct him that he’s up to two shillings and a ha’penny per day on account of a raise he got three years ago when he agreed to start doing Scrooge’s laundry. Scrooge smiles to himself at the confirmation, likely quite satisfied to have such cheap help, before his scowl returns as it reminds him the sack he’s had slung over his shoulder is a bundle of shirts for Bob to wash.
Scrooge heads over to his desk and starts making entries in his log. He starts tallying up interest payments (he’s nailing one guy for 80%) and basically playing with the coins on his desk laughing to himself. He goes so far as to embrace a pile of coins remarking “Money, money, money,” to himself in a sequence that would be adorable if it wasn’t so illustrative of his excessive greed.
A bell attached to the door, I suppose that makes it a doorbell, rings with the opening of the door. It’s Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, played by the character Scrooge McDuck also calls a nephew, Donald Duck. Fred arrives by shouting “Merry Christmas!” which his uncle responds to by shouting “Bah! Humbug!” Fred refuses to let his sour uncle get him down and he has Cratchit cheering him on. When Scrooge demands to know what Bob is doing by clapping for Fred he suggests he’s just trying to keep his hands warm. Scrooge demands to know why his nephew is there to bother him and Fred tells him that he came to bring him a wreath and to invite him to Christmas dinner. Scrooge seems actually delighted at the invitation and starts asking Fred about the menu. As Scrooge inquires about each dish, Fred enthusiastically confirms that he’s serving it as his excitement builds up until he finally asks “Are you coming?!” Scrooge then reveals he’s just been toying with the lad by saying he can’t eat that stuff. Fred is clearly hurt, but Scrooge feels he’s wasted enough of his time as shoves the wreath over Fred’s head and literally kicks him out the door. We hear the unmistakable quacks of anger from Fred as he apparently soars off of Srooge’s stoop, only he quickly returns to open the door to shout, once more, “Merry Christmas!” and slip the wreath over the doorknob. Scrooge angrily shoots back, “And a bah humbug to you!”
Cratchit reflects on how kind Fred is, but Scrooge suggests he’s always been a little peculiar. The bell by the door rings again as Scrooge angrily adds that his nephew is quite stubborn, but his mood does a total 180 when he sees that two potential customers have entered. It’s the most personable we’ve seen of Scrooge yet, but unfortunately for him the two gentlemen who just entered are not looking to secure a loan with unfavorable rates. They’re two solicitors for the poor and they’re played by Ratty and Moley (voiced by Smith and Ryan) from The Wind in the Willows. Scrooge sort of recoils at the mere suggestion he just donate money to the needy, but seeing as how he has a business to run, he doesn’t toss the two out like he did his nephew. Instead, he uses some rather twisted logic to indicate that the job of these men are dependent on there being poor, and if Scrooge gives money to the poor, well then they won’t be poor anymore! He then practically begs them not to ask him to put them out of a job, especially not on Christmas Eve! The two completely fall for it as Scrooge gently nudges them outside, but just before closing the door, the real Scrooge emerges as he tells them “I suggest you give this to the poor and be gone,” and tosses the wreath Fred gave him in their direction before slamming the door. We get one lingering shot of the two collectors looking shocked as the wreath swings back and forth on the nose of Moley.
An exasperated Scrooge slumps against the door as he asks his employee, “What’s this world coming to, Cratchit? You work all your life to get money, and people just want you to give it away!” Cratchit doesn’t respond as Scrooge heads to his desk and time passes. It’s dark in the counting house and the clock strikes 7, a long work day is apparently over. A very tired Bob Cratchit is able to smile a bit as the clock bells go off and he begins to head out. Scrooge, checking his pocket watch, then remarks the wall clock is two minutes fast. Cratchit says nothing and quickly jumps back into his chair and into his logs. Scrooge then tells him not to mind the two minutes, but adds that he better be here all the earlier the next day. The animation seems to suggest that Scrooge’s watch and the clock on the wall are in agreement. I wonder if that’s an animation goof or if Scrooge is so manipulative he’d make his employee think he’s leaving early to encourage him to arrive for work earlier in the future? Either way, Cratchit seems positively giddy to be getting out a whole two minutes early and tells his boss that he is so kind. This is clearly the nicest thing Scrooge has probably done for him since that raise three years ago. Cratchit bundles up in his tattered hat and scarf and nearly wishes his boss a “Bah! Humbug,” but corrects himself to “Merry Christmas!” before departing. Scrooge just scoffs and returns to his work.
When the clock strikes 9, Scrooge finally calls it a day. He puts on his coat and hat and heads out into the snowy, now deserted, streets for a lonely walk home. This walk cycle always floors me with how gorgeous it looks as the snow looks so authentic and the movement of Scrooge so accurate to how this character would move if he were real. He eventually reaches his home, a fairly large looking house with a gaudy, gold-colored, door knocker. As Scrooge goes to unlock it, the visage on the knocker changes to resemble what we, the audience, know to be the face of Goofy, but here he’s Jacob Marley. He calls out in a low, mournful, manner for Scrooge which certainly gets his attention. Scrooge just says “Jacob…Marley?!” at the sight, and when the knocker returns with another wail, Scrooge squeezes his nose which causes him to yell out in pain. This frightens Scrooge into the house while we’re left to see Goofy scrunch up his nose and remark in typical Goofy fashion, “Gwarsh!”
A shaken Scrooge enters his dark and cold house. Wide eyed, he jumps onto a tall staircase and peers through the darkness frantically, but seeing nothing, cautiously begins his ascent up the stairs. As he climbs, a shadow of Marley appears on the wall behind him. The shadow is loaded with heavy chains and makes quite the noise as it moves and Scrooge notices almost immediately. When he stops, the shadow stops, and when he spins around it disappears! Scrooge then resumes his climb and the shadow respawns, only now it’s feeling playful as it lifts Scrooge’s hat off of his head. Scrooge then carefully sticks his cane out behind him and basically tickles the shadow. As it laughs, Scrooge is able to spin around and catch sight of it. The shadow drops his hat while Scrooge yells and races up the stairs into his bed chambers.
Once inside, Scrooge engages numerous locks on his bedroom door (that’s kind of irregular) before retreating to a large chair. Shaking, he pulls his hat low as Marley’s haunting calls for Ebenezer Scrooge return. Scrooge barks back for him to go away, but the ghost enters. As he walks through the door, he fails to negotiate the cane Scrooge hastily left on the floor and trips over it coming to land right beside Scrooge’s chair. Marley pops up remarking it’s kind of slippery as Scrooge lights a candle in disbelief. The ghostly apparition confirms to Scrooge that he is indeed the ghost of Jacob Marley. Scrooge then softens a bit and starts recounting how Marley was a class act who bravely robbed the widows and swindled the poor. Marley seems rather proud of himself before something reminds him that basking in such praise is not what he came here for. He snaps out of his contented state to correct Scrooge. Declaring he was wrong to live his life in such a manner, he reveals he was punished for all eternity for his crimes against humanity as he flings his chains about. They’re his curse, but wrapped around one is a piggy bank that Scrooge takes interest in. When Marley, deep in his dramatic recounting of his cursed state, yanks on the chains they wrap around Scrooge’s neck drawing him closer to Marley and choking him in the process.
It’s at this point that Marley reveals to Scrooge that the same is in store for him when his time is up. Scrooge seems legitimately scared of such a fate and begs his old partner for help. It’s at this point Marley gives him the old “You will be visited by three spirts,” routine, only since this is Goofy he holds up just two fingers when saying “three.” He warns Scrooge that if he doesn’t heed the advice of these spirits that his chains will be even heavier! He then departs with a haunting “Farewell,” and as he vanishes through the door Scrooge calls outs out for him to “Watch out for that first,” before we hear the sound of Marley falling down the stairs with the familiar Goofy yell accompanying it. When the crashing sounds end, Scrooge finishes his warning, “…step.”
Scrooge, now dressed in a gown and cap for sleeping, is inspecting his room for spirits, it would seem. He flashes a candle in the fireplace and under the bed, but seeing nothing he climbs into bed scoffing at the notion of spirits as he blows out his candle. He quickly falls to sleep, and then the camera starts bouncing! We’re clearly seeing the point of view of another creature, which heads for Scrooge’s nightstand. It’s Jiminy Cricket, who rings the bell on Scrooge’s clock to wake him from his slumber. A groggy Scrooge turns to regard this individual who informs him that he’s the Ghost of Christmas Past. Jiminy even displays a fancy badge, like the one he receives at the end of Pinocchio, confirming his identity. Scrooge rather casually remarks he thought he’d be taller, then turns to go back to sleep. The cricket fires back that if men were measured by kindness, then Scrooge would be no bigger than a speck of dust! Scrooge tells him what he thinks of kindness and its usefulness, which Jiminy reminds him he didn’t always feel that way. Declaring it’s time to go, Scrooge encourages him to get out, but when the ghost opens the window Scrooge is suddenly out of bed.
Confused, Scrooge asks the ghost (which he always addresses as Spirit) what he’s doing. He tells him they’re going to visit his past, but Scrooge lets him know he can’t go out the window without falling. The ghost just tells him to hold on, and when he opens his tiny umbrella the two sail out of the window with a gust of wind! They fly through the night sky with Scrooge becoming ever frantic like a cat that accidentally wandered onto a motor boat or something. The spirit actually laughs at him, suggesting he thought Scrooge enjoyed looking down on the world.
Eventually, the two come to rest outside a tavern. It belongs to an individual named old Fezzywig, Scrooge’s former employer. Scrooge is excited to peer through the window and the sights are full of Disney cameos. Scrooge remarks that Fezzywig couldn’t have been a kinder person to work for, which is interesting since he doesn’t appear to find that trait useful for himself as an employer. He then gets excited when he spies a younger version of himself seated in the corner. The spirit points that this is the version of Scrooge that hasn’t yet become a miserable miser consumed by greed which doesn’t seem to offend Scrooge in the least as he casually responds “No one’s perfect.” Scrooge then narrows his focus on Isabelle, as played by Daisy Duck. He refers to her as “lovely Isabelle,” and we see her pull the young Scrooge out onto the dance floor. She rather unapologetically begs Scrooge for a kiss by pointing out she’s primed and ready and under the mistletoe, but Scrooge instead takes note that she’s standing on his foot. She doesn’t allow herself to be bothered as she takes Scrooge’s hands and the two dance. When the song ends, Belle plants a kiss on Scrooge which he rather clearly enjoys.
The present day Scrooge is left swooning too as he recalls how he was madly in love with her. The spirit then reminds him that in ten year’s time he came to love something else. Scrooge looks around and realizes they’re in his counting house on a dark, and rainy, evening. The young Scrooge is seated at his desk behind a mountain of money he’s counting out as Belle enters. She has to interrupt his counting to get him to acknowledge her, and he won’t even stand up to look at her from behind his wall of coins. She then delivers in rather unforceful terms an ultimatum. She’s been waiting for Scrooge to keep his promise to marry her as she’s been holding onto a cottage for the two of them for years. She asks if he’s come to a decision, and Scrooge rather angrily indicates he has. Belle’s last payment on the cottage, which she apparently financed through him, was an hour late allowing Scrooge to foreclose on the mortgage. As he waves the document in her face, Belle begins to sob and head for the door as broken hearts flutter about in the air – a little corny, but effective. She casts one, last, look in Scrooge’s direction and her face morphs from sadness to anger as she slams the door behind her causing all of the coins to scatter on Scrooge’s desk.
The spirit pushes the knife in deeper by pointing out that Scrooge loved his gold more than Belle causing him to lose her forever. Scrooge then begs the spirit to take him home declaring he can no longer bare these painful memories. The spirit adds that he fashioned them himself, as the scene shifts back to Scrooge’s bedroom. He’s in bed asking himself how he could have been so foolish when he’s roused from his thoughts by a loud, booming, voice. The voice shouts “Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!” and the being indicates it’s puzzled by the smell of something unpleasant. Scrooge peers out from behind his bed curtains to see a massive man (the only human looking denizen of this world) surrounded by food. He quickly shuts the curtains, before pulling them open carefully again and a giant eye fills the opening.
The titanic spirit (portrayed by Willy the Giant from Fun and Fancy Free) reaches into the bed to confirm that he has, indeed, smelled a stingy, little, Englishman. Scrooge emerges from the creature’s grasp and has it confirmed that he’s the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge then takes note of the delicious looking, giant-sized, food before him. He asks where it all came from and is informed that it’s “The food of generosity, which you have long denied your fellow man.” Scrooge scoffs at the notion as he passes through a bundle of grapes, getting one stuck on his foot. He suggests no one has ever shown him generosity, and the spirit is forced to correct him that, despite his not being deserving of it, there are still some out there who do indeed extend good tidings to him. Scrooge tries to assure the spirit that this is not the case, but he’s just told. “You’ll see.”
With Scrooge in the pocket his festive, green, robe, the spirit leaves Scrooge’s home. Since he is a literal giant, he has to lift the roof of the house off to step out. He then grabs a street lantern, which magically functions like a flashlight, as he goes on a search for a specific home. He checks one and the screams of a woman from inside alerts him that he’s not in the right place. He soon finds the home he’s looking for and dives onto his knees outside of it. One would assume a giant jumping around outside would get the attention of the whole neighborhood, but no one seems to notice.
The spirit removes Scrooge from his pocket and deposits him outside the home. Scrooge, rather angrily, demands to know why he brought him to this old shack. The spirit then tells him it’s the home of his overworked, underpaid, employee: Bob Cratchit. Scrooge looks inside and sees Mrs. Cratchit placing dinner on the table. He cracks a joke by asking if she’s cooking a canary, then, perhaps sensing the ire of the giant, says they must have more food than that and points out a pot boiling over a fire. The spirit corrects Scrooge by telling him that’s his laundry, and the two go quiet and just observe as Bob tells his two children they must wait for Tiny Tim (Dick Billingsly). The small boy tells his father he’s coming as he slowly descends the stairs with the aid of a cane. His father whisks him over to the table where the boy enthusiastically declares there’s a lot of wonderful things to eat. Then reminds his family that they must thank Mr. Scrooge. His mother can’t muster up a response except just to smile politely and avoid his gaze, she probably spends many hours of her day cursing that name. Bob sits down and begins cutting a single pea for himself. Seeing that this is apparently all his dad has to eat, Tiny Tim offers him the drumstick from his plate, but Bob, sort of sadly, just hugs the child refusing to take the offering.
Scrooge asks the spirit what’s wrong with Tim, and he responds, “Much, I’m afraid. For if these shadows remain unchanged, I see an empty chair where Tiny Tim once sat.” Scrooge can only respond with “Tim will…?!” but there’s no spirit to answer him. He looks around and the scenery grows foggy as Scrooge begs for the spirit to return through coughing. A shadowy figure appears smoking a cigar, the apparent source of all the smoke. Scrooge, clearly terrified of this new apparition, asks if he’s the Ghost of Christmas Future. The spirit only nods as Scrooge, rather carefully, begs to know what will happen to Tiny Tim.
The spirit simply raises an arm and gestures. A cemetery comes into view and a small headstone sits beneath a tree. Bob is beside it, clutching Tim’s can, as his wife and other two children lower their heads and walk away. The camera focuses on Bob as he sniffles a bit and a tear runs down his cheek. It’s a truly heartbreaking sight. He then lays the cane on the headstone and slowly walks away.
Scrooge can only wail “Oh no!” at the sight, before turning to the spirit. He declares he didn’t want this to happen and begs to know if these events can yet be changed. The spirit doesn’t respond as a raspy pair of voices fill the air. Two weasels (voiced by Allwine and Ryan) are laughing about a recent funeral they just witnessed. They’re grave diggers, and the person they’re digging a grave for apparently had a funeral with no mourners. One laughs and says they should take a break, since “He ain’t going no where,” as they laugh and walk away. Scrooge and the spirit approach the open grave and Scrooge, likely knowing the answer given how spooked he sounds, asks to know whose lonely grave this belongs to.
The spirit strikes a match and as he lights his cigar his hood falls away. It’s Peg Leg Pete (Ryan), and he lets him know that the grave belongs to him! He holds the match beside the headstone so Scrooge can see his own name. The spirit then slaps his back, knocking Scrooge into the grave, as he shouts, “The richest man in the cemetery!” and breaks out into laughter. As Scrooge cries out for help, the spirit only continues to laugh harder. Scrooge, holding onto a root, dangles above his own coffin which soon billows with smoke and an eerie red light shines from within. It begins to open, and as Scrooge falls towards it he shouts “I’ll change! I’ll change!”
Scrooge tumbles out of bed tangled in his own curtains. He’s shouting demands for the spirit to let him out before he realizes he’s back in his own room. He runs to the window declaring it’s Christmas morning! He shows his elation by hugging a pigeon that was on his window sill and declares the spirits have given him another chance. He frantically searches for his robe, accidentally stepping through his hat and ripping through the top, as he tosses on a scarf and runs out the door. He then runs back in and declares “I can’t go out like this!” Mind you, Scrooge is in his nightgown and slippers with a red coat, scarf, and busted hat. He then grabs his cane and declares “There!” in a bit of a fake out before running back outside.
Scrooge gleefully slides down a short, snow-covered, banister and crashes into the individuals who showed up at his counting house the prior day collecting funds for the poor. Scrooge is happy to see them, though they don’t appear to feel the same way about running into Scrooge again. He tells them he has something for them, but they try to deflect him as they likely assume it’s more insults or another wreath, but Scrooge surprises them with gold. He fills the mole’s hat and slaps it down on his head as the rat reacts with shock and punctuates it with an “Oh no!” in disbelief. Scrooge thinks, or acts like he thinks, that the rat thinks this isn’t enough and starts tossing more money. This schtick goes on until Scrooge literally fills the mole’s pants with money leaving them with 100 gold pieces. As Scrooge cheerfully heads to his next destination, the two call out a “Merry Christmas to you!”
Scrooge merrily dances through the streets greeting people who are clearly shocked to see this side of Scrooge until his nephew nearly runs him over while riding a horse. Scrooge, not bothered by this at all, simply calls out “Ah! Nephew!” Fred, like the other denizens of town, is shocked to see his uncle in an apparent good mood. He’s even more shocked when Scrooge tells him he’s looking forward to that wonderful meal he’s preparing. Fred, almost sweetly, shouts “You mean you’re coming?!” and Scrooge tells him he’ll be over promptly at 2 and to keep it piping hot as he balances his cane on his nose and scampers off. Fred, with a huge smile across his bill, assures his uncle that he will keep it hot and wishes him “…a very merry Christmas to you!”
Some kids scamper by, two of the three little wolves chased by one of the little pigs wielding a pop gun, as Scrooge emerges from a toy store with a huge sack over his shoulder. Declaring, “And now for Cratchit’s” he merrily makes his way down the street and to the home of Bob Cratchit. He giddily knocks on the door, but then forces himself to put on a serious face. Bob answers the door and is pretty shocked to see his boss standing there on Christmas morning (he probably shouldn’t be that shocked given how terrible his boss is). He somewhat sheepishly offers a “Merry Christmas” towards Scrooge, who snorts and brushes past him causing Bob to sort of whimper “Won’t you come in.”
Scrooge adds a “Merry Christmas, indeed,” in an angry tone. He tells Bob he has another bundle for him as he slams the sack on the ground. A teddy bear pops out, which Tiny Tim takes notice of. Scrooge scoops it up and stuffs it in the pocket of his jacket as he tugs the sack closer to himself trying to ignore the curious child. He then goes into a rant, declaring he’s had enough of this “half day off stuff” He then starts to act like he’s going to fire Cratchit, who looks pretty terrified. As he hollers, “You leave me, no alternative, but to give you,” the last part he can’t get out without a bit laughter as Tim finishes the sentence by exclaiming, “Toys!”
Scrooge confirms to a confused Bob that, yes, he is giving him toys. He also tells him that he’s giving him a raise, and making Bob his partner as he doffs his cap and puts an arm around him. Bob can only muster up a “Partner?!” as he clearly didn’t expect this. Scrooge basically just announced that he’s lifting his family out of poverty, for heaven’s sake. He can only respond by saying, “Thanks, Mr. Scrooge” as we see his wife lift a fully cooked turkey out of that same sack (those toys must be gross). Tiny Tim then goes in for his line, “And God bless us, every one!” as Scrooge embraces the kid. They tumble into a rocking chair as Scrooge places his hat on the kid’s head and the other two kids run in to join the fun. “Oh What a Merry Christmas Day” returns as the Cratchits look on as their children pile onto Scrooge and the cartoon comes to an end.
If that ending doesn’t leave you all warm and happy on Christmas Day, then I’m guessing nothing does. The way that Scrooge toys with Bob at the end doesn’t come across as cruel, though I can see some perhaps thinking that it does. It serves to draw out the suspense of the moment as Bob Cratchit discovers that his boss has made a truly life altering decision for him and his family. Did Disney intend for us to put it in such context? Maybe, I don’t know, but it’s how I’ve always approached that last scene. That family was starving to the point where their malnourished son was essentially a goner if things didn’t change, and fast. Now, assuming Scrooge keeps his word, the Cratchits will basically get half of every dollar Scrooge makes and presumably have a much easier life. And the adorable Tiny Tim gets to live.
It’s a very satisfying conclusion to a well-worn story. I, like probably many, do not care to see another version of A Christmas Carol come along ever gain. We have enough. This cartoon though was my first introduction to the story which is probably why I like it so much. I do think it has value beyond that and my affection isn’t solely attributed to nostalgia, but I do acknowledge it plays a role in just how much I adore this one. I just think it’s wonderfully paced, beautifully animated, and the cast is exceptional. I love how this one looks, even when I’m watching it on a 35 year old VHS my mother made for my sister and I. I especially love the backgrounds which are so detailed and almost weathered looking to reflect the setting. As a result, the special loses a little something in the HD transfer Disney did a few years ago that brightens everything up and dulls some of the linework. Not that it isn’t still worth watching, but I almost prefer my ancient tape or cheap DVD I bought more than a decade ago. The actual animation is also wonderful. The characters are so expressive and the animators did an amazing job of conveying emotion through them. You could watch this thing on mute and know what every character is feeling at every moment. And even though this re-telling plays it straight, there’s some exaggerated, animated, flourishes here and there like when Scrooge is terrified of Marley or when he kicks Fred out of the counting house. It feels like Disney had something to prove with the first Mickey cartoon in 30 years and it really nailed it here.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol is available to stream all year round on Disney+. It probably aired this month on cable too, but at this point those airings may be over. I wish it still got the broadcast network timeslot it occupied 30 years ago, especially with the added shorts (only two of which are on Disney’s streaming network), but that’s how it goes.
I hope you enjoyed this year’s edition of The Christmas Spot, whether you read one entry, or all 25. Or whether or not you’re reading this in 2021, or 2025. In December, or March. It doesn’t matter, it’s always nice to do a little Christmas reading and reflect on the specials that warmed our hearts as kids and adults. And it’s even fun to look at the not-so-good ones, and that’s why I do this every year. A lot can change in a year, but I plan on being back here next year so I hope to see you then. Merry Christmas, everyone!
One of my favorite modern Christmas specials is the DuckTales episode “Last Christmas.” I feel like anytime I talk DuckTales I have to specify which era, though in this case I really shouldn’t since the original DuckTales never did a Christmas episode. To make up for that, the 2017 edition of the show did two Christmas episodes! I’ll take as many as I can get and had the show continued I’d have welcomed a third one. Since 2021 marked the end of this second DuckTales era, it makes sense to welcome it back into the fold for The Christmas Spot for a final time.
In “Last Christmas,” we learned that Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) hates Santa Claus. It’s basically a throw-away line, as the episode begins with him raging at Christmas and storming off to his room only for us to find out it’s all an act. He just wants to be left alone at Christmas so he can pal around with some ghosts. Him telling his nephew, Dewey (Ben Schwartz), that he actually likes Christmas, but hates Santa, reads as a joke. Given that this show is rather lore heavy, I suppose we should not have been surprised to see the subject of Scrooge hating Santa Claus brought up again. And exploring that hatred is the subject of the show’s second, and final, Christmas episode “How Santa Stole Christmas.”
The episode begins with the customary cold open. The boys, Huey (Danny Pudi), Dewey, and Louie (Bobby Moynihan) are getting ready for bed on Christmas Eve while their mother, Della (Paget Brewster), tells them a story and Uncle Donald (Tony Anselmo) passes out cookies. And getting tangled in Christmas lights. Della is reciting “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” only the words have been changed to refer to Santa as a traitor and other unpleasantries. Dewey is the first to request that she just tell them the regular version of the poem with the nice Santa, but Della quickly responds that he is not welcome in their home! She explains by adding a “He knows what he did,” with narrowed eyes, but when the boys ask what he did it soon becomes apparent that Della hasn’t a clue.
A noise from the roof, a clatter if you will, interrupts the awkward moment between hen and ducklings. Della grabs her brother, now immobilized in Christmas lights, to lead the charge to battle while the boys head to the roof. They slide excitedly across the snow in hopes of catching a glimpse of the real Santa, only to find Scrooge. He’s decked out in what I assume is some sort of Scottish military uniform complete with beret and kilt. Webby (Kate Micucci) is there as well camouflaged to blend in with the background. She is quick to remind the boys that an enemy of Scrooge McDuck is an enemy to them all!
Scrooge is confused why the boy’s even care about Santa since he can provide anything they’d need. He then hands out their apparent Christmas present this year: boring, knit, hats. Louie questions if his great uncle could have found an itchier material while Scrooge prattles on about how they don’t need modern luxuries. A ring of the doorbell puts an end to the discussion as they try to peer down from the roof to see who’s there, but are unable to. Scrooge speculates it’s just some carolers and makes his way inside, though as he prepares to open the door he’s poised to strike!
When Scrooge does open the door a look of surprise crosses his face, which soon turns to one of anger as he says one word, “Claus.” The boys light up as the camera shows us Santa Claus from their perspective. What does the DuckTales Santa look like, you may be wondering? Well, he’s a polar bear! I honestly had not given it much thought until now, but I suppose it makes sense that he’d be a polar bear. Most everyone else in this universe appears to be some kind of bird or dog, though there is a cross-over with the TaleSpin crew. Santa (Hugh Bonneville) prepares to wish them all a “Merry Christmas,” but before he can get that second part out he lurches forward and collapses on the floor. The boys look devastated while Scrooge seems legitimately surprised as he sheaths his weapon. Webby still looks ready to pounce as Scrooge pulls on her left arm to lower her grapple gun. She quietly raises her right arm in response which brandishes a blade as we smash cut to the intro.
The credits are, once again, festively done with the same crooner version to the song that we saw in “Last Christmas.” I still cannot find a credit for who sings it, but for some reason I feel like I heard it was Chris Diamantopoulos, but don’t quote me on that. Following the intro, we return to the home of Scrooge McDuck and focus on a sleeping Santa as he’s waking from his slumber. He’s been propped up in a chair by the fire as the kids have gathered around him. The boys start peppering him the usual questions a kid might have for Santa should they meet while Webby just grumpily asks “When are you leaving?” as she finishes dressing a leg injury on the big bear. Santa seems amused by the children and produces presents for all! Huey gets a video game, Dewey a trampoline, Louie a new cell phone (he plans to sell his old one for cash when Scrooge points out he already has a cell phone) and Webby refuses to open hers. A nice detail on the gifts is they are the exact gifts Scrooge called out on the roof as things they don’t need (he pays attention enough to know what they want for Christmas, and refuses to accommodate their wishes). The boys are enjoying their presents until Scrooge starts barking at Santa to get out. He alludes to Santa stealing something from him in the past and he’s not about to let the big bear turn his nephews against him!
Santa insists that they not do this in front of the children while the boys seem surprised at this news. Webby, of course, is not and she demands to know what Santa stole from Scrooge. Scrooge fills her in: Christmas! Now it’s the children’s turn to gasp as the very notion of Santa stealing Christmas is a hard concept to wrap one’s head around. Scrooge goes on to say that he came up with the whole Christmas “racket” and this glory hound took all of the credit. Santa isn’t interested in rehashing any of this as he points out that he has a sack full of presents still to deliver and a busted leg that will prevent him from doing so. Scrooge is his only hope as he askes, “Scroogey, with your belt so tight, won’t you fly my sleigh tonight?”
Scrooge gives him the cold shoulder as the boys plead with him to reconsider. Santa starts turning on the guilt, even allowing a present to fall out of his sack that he has trouble reaching. Scrooge has seen enough and grabs the gift for him and tosses it back into the sack telling Santa they’re not interested in what he’s selling. Santa keeps up the routine and decides to make Scrooge an offer: if he helps him deliver toys this year, he’ll never show up at his home again. Scrooge seems unmoved until Santa adds that he’ll save a fortune on traps. Scrooge then rather reluctantly shakes the bear’s hand and scoops up the sack referring to him as a sanctimonious solstice swindler. Nice alliteration, which will be a thread throughout the episode. As he marches out the door the others look on in surprise, but when Scrooge mutters about not believing Santa roped him into this again they let out yet another audible gasp. This allows Santa to tell a little story about how he and Scrooge McDuck first met.
It was a long time ago, as Santa puts it, and the area was in the midst of a nasty blizzard. A young looking Scrooge knocks on the door of a home and when the door is opened by a young lady, he immediately starts ranting at her to buy some coal! He really needs to work on his delivery. She slams the door in his face and he tosses his sack of coal over his shoulder muttering to himself as he walks off. He then hears someone singing “Jingle Bells” nearby, but it also sounds like they’re struggling with something. Scrooge wanders over and sees a young Santa pulling a rather large sleigh. When he inquires with the bear about what he’s doing, Santa explains he’s trying to spread warmth to the region by giving people toys. Scrooge, ever practical, seems to think this is foolish, but tosses his sack of coal in the sleigh and offers to help pull the sleigh.
When the pair reach the house Scrooge was just shut out at, Santa strolls over to the door, despite Scrooge insisting the individuals who live there won’t be accommodating, and knocks on the door. The same lady from before answers and Santa explains he’s looking to trade a present or two for a few minutes of warmth. He hands over a wrapped box and the woman opens it to find a nutcracker. She smiles and lets him in without a word and prepares to shut the door in Scrooge’s face, but Santa insists he’s with him. She seems to agree to let Scrooge in, but narrows her eyes at him and gestures that she’ll be watching him closely.
Inside, we see the home is clearly inhabited by elves of some kind. They’re small, wear pointy hats with bells, and are dressed in various, bright, colors. Of course, this being the DuckTales universe, they’re also some kind of dog people. Santa is leading them all in a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells” until the fire goes out. The woman who answered the door, who appears taller than the rest, finally speaks (I’m not sure who voices her, but basically every member of the main cast is credited as voicing “Elves” in this one) to point out the obvious. Santa smiles and lets them know his companion, Scrooge, is in possession of something that will get their fire going once again. He grabs Scrooge’s sack of coal, much to the duck’s surprise, and dumps a few biscuits on the fire and it ignites instantly. The other elves start enthusiastically shoving money in Scrooge’s face insisting that any friend of Santa’s is a friends of theirs. They also inquire about getting coal delivered, and Santa starts boasting Scrooge can deliver anywhere! And by Christmas! Scrooge is rather shocked at this proclamation and tries to explain that Christmas is a mere 20 days away, but Santa insists he’ll help him adding a “What are friends for?” Scrooge tells him to scrap the friends talk and suggests they be partners instead. Santa asks “Why not both?!” as he scoops him up in a big bear hug. A literal one.
We jump back to the present where the kids are surprised to find out the two were friends with Webby insisting that Scrooge doesn’t have any friends. They head to the sleigh, which is parked outside, and the boys run excitedly to the reindeer. They start patting them and checking them out while Scrooge barks for them to get away from those “roof wreckers.” He then adds they’re not coming along as they’re too susceptible to Santa’s charms. Only Webby is welcome aboard the sleigh. The boys start to put up a fight, but Santa pulls out his nice list to check it twice and mentions he knows of some boys making their way up the list. As he explains, one of the reindeer is licking Dewey’s head the whole time and it’s adorable. Santa basically bribes them with more presents though so they run inside while Scrooge snaps the reigns sending the sleigh into the night sky. I love you, DuckTales, but I have to confess I can’t forgive you for giving Santa only six reindeer. A Christmas fail.
We then head into a musical montage set, once again, to “Jingle Bells.” I honestly didn’t realize how much mileage this one gets from that song until I started typing about it. Webby and Scrooge are shown delivering presents to the many side characters we’ve met throughout the show. They recoil in horror at the disgusting sock of Doofus, receive a fruit cake to the face from Gizmoduck’s defense mechanism, and leave a present for that Scrooge-horse abomination character.
Back in the sleigh, Webby is handling a present while insisting to Santa that she won’t fall for his charms like most do. As she says this, she shakes various gifts and mentions the contents as if such an offering could never work on her, until she gets to a box with a crossbow in it! She asks Santa who it’s for and he implores her to check the tag. Of course, the tag reads Webbigail Vanderquack and her eyes bulge with excitement! She squeals and hugs the gift while Santa remarks to Scrooge how there’s nothing like the happiness of a child on Christmas to warm the heart. Scrooge suggests Webby won’t fall for his tricks and the young girl pauses for a moment, but then resumes the present embrace.
The sleigh continues to soar through the sky and we see the background change to reflect a new part of the world. When it changes from Rome, to China, to Rome again Webby calls out this error in the montage only for Santa to inform her that he delivers the presents alphabetically. When Scrooge, in a rather incredulous manner, demands to know why he wouldn’t do it by country the old bear plays dumb and remarks that doing so would save him some time. Scrooge performs a facepalm as Webby becomes increasingly worried that they’re going to run out of time to save Christmas, then tries to save face by adding, “not that I care.” Santa tells her not to worry, then he produces the secret to his success: the Feliz Navidiamond!
The gem is hanging from Santa’s sleigh, and as the camera focuses on it and Scrooge speaks it’s name we’re transported back to the past. The image of the gem is replaced with a crudely drawn version as Scrooge and Santa look over a map. They’re after the diamond, but need to enter a dangerous looking cave in order to get it. Scrooge explains the diamond allows the holder to manipulate time, but it only works on one evening: Christmas Eve. Santa and Scrooge know that with this diamond they can deliver all of the coal on time, but they have to enter the rather mean looking cave in order to get it.
The two make their way towards the cave with Scrooge remarking that they just need to survive los renos voladores. Santa wonders what that could possibly translate to, but his question is soon answered when he looks up to the sky: flying reindeer. The two swoop down looking rather ferocious. As Scrooge tries to ward one off he looks over to see Santa petting the other. When he asks how he managed that, Santa produces some jingle bells. He instructs Scrooge to “jingle all the way” as he tosses him a set (and I groan). Scrooge jingles the set of bells in the face of his opponent, and the reindeer immediately starts to nuzzle his face. Santa saunters over and eagerly asks if they can keep the reindeer.
Webby interrupts the tale to say “Of course you kept the reindeer,” adding that they’ve got two horns worth of deadly efficiency. Santa agrees insisting they’re a Christmas staple while Scrooge grumbles about the whole business as he prepares to enter another home. When he asks why Webby would care she insists she doesn’t, but when one of the reindeer turns and snorts at her she whispers “It’s not true” to assuage him while Scrooge does his best to ignore her. The two then enter the chimney and the musical montage resumes with Webby and Scrooge delivering more presents to more familiar faces, including the apparent sole member of the Beagle Boys (Eric Bauza) on Santa’s nice list. As the two try to slip out of the junkyard, the one Beagle Boy wakes up excitedly and calls out to his brothers that Santa is here. They in turn wake up and seeing how they’re all on the naughty list, things aren’t looking so well for Scrooge and Webby. That is, until Santa and the reindeer swoop in! They cut through the Beagle Boys and Webby and Scrooge hop back in the sleigh. As they fly away, Santa remarks that since he now saved Scrooge they’re even. Scrooge scoffs at the idea and we return to the past to apparently find out how Scrooge saved Santa.
They’re in that rather formidable looking cave from before clearly looking to retrieve the Feliz Navidiamond. Santa is raring to go, while Scrooge warns of a guardian. As they look upon a frozen pedestal which the diamond sits upon, Santa prepares to go for it when a rather large snowball starts rolling in. More follow and soon a monstrous snowman is assembled! Santa still isn’t frightened and suggests they can beat him with kindness, despite Scrooge’s protesting. He heads over to the snowman and proposes a trade: one present for the Feliz Navidiamond. The snowman apparently does not think this is a fair trade for it snatches Santa and appears ready to devour the humble bear. The sound of jingling bells distracts the being as Scrooge comes riding in on a flying reindeer! He drops flaming coal on the snowman causing it to release Santa. As the creature’s tree-like arms go up in flames it turns its attention to Scrooge, allowing Santa to go for the diamond. The snowman knocks Scrooge from his reindeer and then turns back to Santa grabbing his foot. He’s too late though for Santa reaches the diamond and is able to freeze time! Or at least, he thinks he stopped time, but Scrooge corrects him and points out he’s actually slowed it down (for some reason, Scrooge and the reindeer are not affected, but the snowman is) so that its passage is almost imperceptible. Scrooge declares they’re running on Christmas time and the two embrace to celebrate.
We return to the present where Scrooge and Santa are laughing about their past experiences. Webby is surprised to see the two getting along so well, while Santa seems a bit disappointed they’ve arrived at the last house. Scrooge insists he can do this one alone leaving Webby to ask Santa what the deal is? When she pushes Santa to explain how these two red coat enthusiasts could have had a falling out, Santa replies it was the worst Christmas of his life.
Another flashback sees Santa sitting by a roaring fire. He’s in the elf home again, and a cheery Scrooge enters singing his own version of “Jingle Bells” swapping out “bells” for “coal.” It’s Christmas Eve and he takes a seat across from Santa and explains he has the whole route mapped out, plus carrots for the reindeer. When he says they leave at dawn, Santa sheepishly interrupts to suggest they leave tonight instead so that the people they deliver coal to can wake up to a surprise on Christmas morning. Scrooge playfully calls him an old softy and he reminds him that they can’t take payment for the coal if the customers are sleeping. Santa then, rather nervously, suggests they don’t take payment, but do it for free. Scrooge spits his coffee, or hot chocolate, in the bear’s face at the suggestion and angrily declares he will not participate in free handouts!
Santa tries to explain that they can’t charge people on Christmas. When he suggests that warming their hearts is enough, Scrooge returns that they’re warming their homes. He then calms himself down and tries to explain the plan to Santa in a way that he, Scrooge, understands it. They use Santa’s charms and “Christmas is magic,” routine to get people to let them in, then Scrooge sells them the coal. Santa insists that it’s not just a game to him, that Christmas IS magic. Scrooge clearly can’t reason with someone so selfless, so he resorts to an ultimatum. Either Santa do Christmas his way, or do it on his own. Santa looks sad, then we hard cut to Scrooge slamming the door behind him as he leaves the home insisting “It will never catch on!” Inside, Santa is upset and doubting himself, but the elves gather around him. They remove their hats and pointy ears pop up (yeah, we already figured that out) while the head elf adds “We can help.”
Santa is still sad about how things ended as we return to the present. Webby is despondent that Christmas is actually a sad story. Santa explains that this is why he was so happy to work with Scrooge again and then instructs Webby to look in the sack as there should be one last present inside: Scrooge’s. Only Webby does look inside the sack and finds it’s still full. Confused, she turns to Santa, but he seems to know what’s been going on, though he can scarcely believe it.
As Santa wails “No, no, no!” we’re taken back to McDuck Manor. Louie is sneaking up muttering to himself that Santa won’t mind if he takes a little peek. He makes his way down to the tree and finds a gift marked for him. He opens it and immediately is enraged to find a lump of coal and an invoice. We then cut to a rather sinister looking Scrooge as he places the final lump and invoice into a box and prepares to descend the last chimney.
Scrooge enters the house and monologues his reasoning here, which is sorely needed because he’s coming across as a true villain here. In his mind, kids don’t need trinkets that they play with for a day, they need something practical. Something like coal which can warm their home. And right on cue, he finds a cold house with a little pig girl (Abby Ryder Fortson) shivering on a nearby couch. He walks over to place her blanket back on her, but her eyes snap open and shouting “Stranger danger!” she nails Scrooge with a right hook. She then mistakes him for Santa and immediately starts apologizing. Scrooge takes it all in stride and hands over the present. As he goes on about the merits of warmth, she opens the box and finds the coal. She’s not particularly disappointed though as she takes the ribbon and wrapping paper and fashions a doll out of it with the lump of coal serving as the head. She cleverly names her new doll Colette and introduces herself as Jennifer. Scrooge, seemingly finding this whole routine absurd, suggests using the coal to warm the house, but Jennifer refuses insisting she loves her doll already!
Scrooge then walks over to a window trying to wrap his head around all of this. He claims when he was a kid he would have killed for a piece of coal at Christmas, even if it only warmed his home for one night. He then looks to Jennifer who no longer appears cold as she lovingly caresses her “doll.” He then finally gets it, remarking to himself that a warm heart can carry you through the coldest times. The mantra of Santa Claus. He returns to Jennifer’s side, who has fallen back to sleep, and is now able to place the blanket on her. He sits beside her and realizes that what he did this night was wrong. As he wonders aloud to himself how he can fix this, a pounding on the door causes it to fly open and a rather enraged Santa enters.
Santa looks ready to rumble as he shouts out Scrooge’s crimes against Christmas. Webby even enters accusing Scrooge of ruining Christmas! Jennifer also wakes up and Santa immediately goes back into the nice routine and even hands over the Eleanor Roostervelt doll she requested. The girl goes back to sleep so the others can resume their argument. Scrooge deftly turns the situation around pointing out that Santa’s injury is fake and accuses him of knowingly ruining Christmas by putting it in his hands! Santa then comes clean explaining that he came up with the whole thing because he felt if Scrooge saw the joy that Christmas brings to children he’d end their feud and they could be friends again. Webby then sums it up by saying “Santa Claus was willing to risk Christmas,” allowing Scrooge to finish, “because he wanted to spend it with me.”
Santa and Scrooge seem to be having a rather heartfelt moment, but Webby is forced to point out that they’re at risk of blowing Christmas. Santa remarks the Feliz Navidiamond is nearly out of power as we see the sun start to rise. Scrooge, seemingly unconcerned, informs Claus he just needs to think practically and suggests the strategy divide and conquer. We cut to the whole crew, Della, Donald, Launchpad, etc. all riding reindeer through the sky! It would seem Christmas has been saved as Dewey announces the last gift has been delivered. Santa and Scrooge are sharing a reindeer and he informs Scrooge there’s still one more gift with Scrooge insisting it better be in Duckburg because he’s freezing! Santa snaps back at him using his own alliterative expression for Scrooge as he refers to him as a greedy, Glaswegian, grinch! He hands a small gift over to Scrooge as the last one is his. Scrooge opens the gift and finds a set of bells with the inscription across them “McDuck & Claus Delivery.”
Scrooge remarks the sound of it doesn’t sound quite so annoying anymore. He then hands over the real last gift of Christmas: one for Santa. It looks like a key fob one would use with a car. Santa remarks it’s nice, but adds he doesn’t have a car. As the clouds part and Scrooge’s mansion comes into view, Scrooge instructs Claus to push the button. He does so, and Scrooge explains that all of the various Santa traps that adorn his mansion have been deactivated. Santa is welcome at his home anytime. Though he instructs him not to come down the chimney like some creep.
Santa can’t even muster a response other than to embrace Scrooge. Webby then enters the picture to narrate the end of the episode allowing Scrooge to take it home with a “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” Santa gets to add in some “Ho ho ho’s,” ending in a “Woah-oh!” as the reindeer all pass in front of the moon – the most appropriate way to end a Christmas special.
“How Santa Stole Christmas” is not as good a story as “Last Christmas,” but it is still a nice Christmas episode from DuckTales. It’s a little too maudlin at times, but the twist on the origins of Christmas as we know it are certainly fun. It makes sense that Scrooge would be philosophically opposed to doing business with someone whose business plan is to simply give everything away for free. The episode almost takes things too far though as the reveal that Scrooge has been delivering coal all night really paints the duck in a bad light. The episode is quick to explain Scrooge’s motivation as in his mind he’s doing the world a favor by gifting them something practical as opposed to trinkets, as he calls them. Though, there’s still the matter of the invoice. The Santa character is almost syrupy sweet, so it’s nice to see him get angry with Scrooge upon finding out what he’s been up to and the episode finds its emotional hook in the end.
Helping things along is Webby, who is always a standout character in this show. After giving Dewey the first Christmas episode to shine, it’s nice seeing one of the other kids step into the spotlight. The rest of the supporting cast is shoved aside in favor of the trio of Scrooge, Santa, and Webby. Della gets a couple of lines while Launchpad is allowed to ponder if he can crash a reindeer, but that’s largely it. Donald is present, but he doesn’t have a line. I suppose that’s fine considering he had a starring role in the prior special, though I always have to point out when Donald gets pushed to the side because, what can I say, I love that duck!
The episode is animated as well as any other episode of the show with plenty of holiday flourishes to be found. I love the look of Scrooge’s home all decorated for the holiday and the elf home is certainly cozy and evocative of old fashioned Christmases. The giant snowman battle is impressive, and the shot from inside the creature’s mouth adds a feeling of dread to a moment that really shouldn’t have any since it’s a flashback and all. I also like the simple design of Santa. Again, it makes sense for him to be a polar bear in this world, and I think he may have appeared as such in a prior episode as a decoration or something. Either way, I clearly forgot until I saw him here. He’s giant, but looks rather cuddly. He sort of reminds me of my grandmother, especially when he starts trying to lay the guilt on Scrooge early in the episode.
If one DuckTales Christmas episode just isn’t enough, well it’s good that you have this one too. It’s a decent little mystery that mostly gets by on the emotional hook found in the end. And it’s also extremely accessible! Disney is likely to air this one on its family of cable networks, along with “Last Christmas,” and it might even be available on the Disney Now app. And if you have Disney+ it’s right there waiting for you. Considering we’re just a few days away from Christmas, you should probably get to it while there’s still time! After all, you’re likely not in possession of a Feliz Navidiamond.
We’re rounding the corner to Christmas. With just five days left until the big day, that means we have time for just five more specials after this one! And since we’ve hit another multiple of five, it’s time to do another retro-lookback (or whatever I’m calling these things) at an all-time classic: Toy Tinkers.
Toy Tinkers is forever linked with the Mickey Mouse cartoon Pluto’s Christmas Tree, which we covered earlier in this countdown. The premise for both is nearly the same, it’s just that Pluto’s Christmas Tree subs out Donald Duck in favor of Mickey’s famous canine. In both cartoons, Chip and Dale serve as the antagonists as they enter a home at Christmas and cause some mayhem. In Pluto’s Christmas Tree, they’re almost fully in the wrong in that they begin the cartoon behaving like assholes towards Pluto and end up in the home of Mickey merely by accident. It’s different from how they enter the home of Donald Duck in their official, named, debut Chip an’ Dale when Donald chops down the tree they live in for firewood. In this one, they’re just going to enter Donald’s house because they want what he has. It kind of makes them jerks, but at the same time, this world the characters inhabit is a weird one in which chipmunks are expected to live outdoors while a duck is important enough to own a home. And for some reason, chipmunks apparently haven’t mutated like mice have into human-sized creatures.
Despite being a self-admitted Donald Duck fan, I’ve always been partial to Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but that’s almost wholly due to exposure. That cartoon was featured on television at Christmas time when I was a kid and I had a copy of it recorded on VHS. Even since then, the cartoon has been released on various Christmas compilations while Toy Tinkers has been less represented. It was included on a pair of VHS and DVD compilations and is featured on the 30th anniversary release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Where it’s not featured is on Disney+ and I think that has to do with the level of violence in the short. I think that is also what has kept it from seeing repeated television airings. The two cartoons are so similar that Disney and other networks probably saw little reason to air both, so why not go with the one that doesn’t feature a gun?
Whether you’re familiar with Pluto’s Christmas Tree or not, Toy Tinkers is absolutely worth watching and is one of the best Christmas anythings ever created, so let’s get to it. The short opens with the catchy Donald Duck theme song added midway through the character’s solo run and settles on a scene of a snowy woods. Chip (Jimmy MacDonald) and Dale (Dessie Flynn) are snoozing in a hollowed out log when the ground beneath them begins to shake. It’s shaking so much that Chip starts to hop involuntarily and finds himself outside of the log under a pile of snow. He looks and spies Donald (Clarence Nash) chopping down a nearby evergreen. Apparently, Donald is so strong that just the mere act of driving an axe into a small tree is enough to shake the entire woods.
Chip runs back inside to wake Dale and the two watch as Donald ties the tree to a sled (while singing “Jingle Bells”) and proceeds to ride it down a hill towards a cabin. Intrigued, the two slide down the hill after him utilizing the tracks left in the snow by Donald’s sled. They reach the cabin and peer through the window to see Donald in his bathrobe trimming a Christmas tree. It’s a wholesome sight, but what really catches the attention of the chipmunks are the various nuts and desserts strewn about. Donald clearly must be planning on having company for Christmas, though it’s worth pointing out there’s no sign of his nephews.
Dale immediately starts trying to open the window, but he’s much too small to do so. Chip, always the wiser of the two, and also the more abusive, kicks his partner in the butt causing him to land on his head. He motions for Dale to be quiet and heads to the edge of the structure they’re on while Dale follows by walking on his hands. The two collide and Chip finds himself beneath the ass of Dale and blows his tail out of his face to illustrate his frustration.
The two head for the front door and Chip indicates to Dale they can use the mail slot to enter the cabin. The two peer through and we see the shadow of Donald pass by indicating he’s no longer in the door’s vicinity. The two quickly sneak in and head for the walnuts. Chip fills Dale’s arms with nuts and sends him on his way. As the little chipmunk runs he collides with a teddy bear knocking it over and the top hat from its head. Dale quickly positions it as he found it, but then stops to regale the hat. It’s sized right for a chipmunk, so he puts it on and takes the cane from the bear for good measure.
Dale struts around like a big shot twirling his cane and mugging for the camera. His preening leads him between a doll and a clown, and as he bows to greet each they tumble over slightly as if they’re returning his bow. He continues strutting and twirling the cane, which accidentally strikes an elaborate music box causing it to turn on. Two figures move along the toy that also are dressed in fancy clothing. It’s clearly a duel scene, but Dale being an ignorant chipmunk, hops on the toy and returns their bows. The two toys then fire pop guns at each other knocking Dale’s head around. He tumbles away like a punch-drunk boxer and collides with Chip who literally slaps some sense into him.
In another room, Donald is getting more Christmas ornaments when he hears a peculiar sound. He looks into the living room and sees Chip using a toy to load walnuts into the back of a toy truck. Dale is driving the truck and he heads out with a full load. Donald seems amused by this, but he being Donald, he’s not about to make merry with some chipmunks. Instead, he heads over to a toy train set on the floor and lowers the gate before Dale reaches it. He pauses to let the train go by, while Donald sneaks behind him and empties the contents of the truck into a bowl. When the train passes, Dale resumes his travels and Donald has a laugh at his expense only for Chip to then come along on one of those hand-pump cars on the tracks. Before Donald can react to the sight of the chipmunk, Chip snatches the bowl, places it on the car behind him, and promptly thanks the duck before taking off.
Donald begins to throw one of his classic tantrums while Chip and Dale celebrate, but before he goes too far into his fit he appears to get an idea. He disappears for a moment only to then reappear as Santa Claus! Chip and Dale seem confused, but Santa Donald runs up to them bringing gifts so they let their guard down pretty quick. Donald produces a walnut for Dale wrapped with a red ribbon. He seems happy with the gift until Donald hands Chip his gift: a walnut the size of a football wrapped with a green ribbon. Dale looks at Chip’s nut, then his own, and tosses his own to try to steal Chip’s. As the two bicker, Donald has a laugh, but then things get serious.
This whole time, Donald’s hand has been in the giant nut he gifted Chip. When Chip swats Dale away and removes the green ribbon, Donald’s hand is revealed holding a revolver! Chip reacts in a comical manner by having his body go stiff and parallel to the ground. He then tries pointing the gun at Dale, who pushes it back towards Chip, and so on. Donald then discards the Santa guise and forces the two to put their hands up and marches them into the back of a toy paddy wagon. It’s self-driving, and as it speeds away with the chipmunks inside, Donald races out in front of it to cause it to crash into his foot.
We see the wagon spin, but we don’t see the actual impact as it crashes into the wall leaving the car wrecked and Chip and Dale looking a bit worse for ware. Donald, not satisfied, grabs a pop gun and taunts the pair by saying, “So you want some nuts?!” as he pours a bowl of them into the barrel of the gun. It basically turns into a machinegun as Donald blasts walnuts at Chip and Dale forcing them to seek cover as nuts and Christmas ornaments (I guess they were mixed in with the nuts?) rain down on them.
The two chipmunks take refuge behind some wrapped gifts. It turns out to be a great spot because a toy canon happens to be setup there as well. It even has a seat for Chip to sit in while he aims it. Donald soon creeps over to see what the two are up to and gets shot in the face with a tomato for his curiosity. I don’t know where the chipmunks got that tomato, but they apparently have more as they hit Donald again forcing the duck to flee.
Donald creates his own wall of presents and puts on a soldier’s helmet as he calls out, “Prepare to defend yourselves!” The battle is on as both parties appear to be armed with Christmas ornaments as ammo. While Chip gleefully blasts away, Dale grabs a telephone and carries it behind enemy lines. He returns to his shelter and calls Donald on the phone who just can’t help himself. He answers it with an excited “Hello?” only for Chip to blast the receiver on the other end ringing Donald’s head like a bell.
The battle resumes until the phone rings again. This time, Donald answers it, but holds the earpiece away from his head. When he hears the pleasant sound of a waltz coming through it, he places it against his ear and enjoys the music. Until he doesn’t, for Chip simply blasts the other end again. Donald throws the phone down in anger and shakes his whole body at it before racing off-camera. He returns with dynamite! He shoves a stick into the receiver on the phone and dials Chip and Dale. Once it starts ringing he lights the fuse of the dynamite which is just barely sticking out of the phone. When he doesn’t hear an explosion, he gets frustrated and hangs up. The phone then rings and Donald gets excited once again for a phone call. He answers it, only for the dynamite to finally go off leaving behind a charred duck waving a white flag beside a ruined Christmas tree.
With Donald’s surrender, Chip and Dale emerge from their hiding spot. Dale has a bandage wrapped around his head while he limps along playing a flute though Chip looks no worse for ware. They lead a line of toys all carrying nuts and other things while the camera moves outside of Donald’s house and back to the top of the hill where the cartoon began. From there, we can see the small army exiting the house as the ending title card comes into view.
Toy Tinkers is just a fun, slapstick, cartoon set at Christmas time. There are multiple instances of “Jingle Bells” utilized and Donald’s home is very much decorated for the holiday. No one is clearly in the right, and no one is clearly in the wrong, and no one learns a lesson. Chip and Dale wind up with a bunch of nuts and assorted junk food for the long winter ahead and I guess they also have some toys too. Donald, on the other hand, loses everything, sees his home ruined, and probably suffered some serious burns too. There was not a happy Christmas in the home of Donald Duck in 1949.
What makes this cartoon so enduring is it’s just fun. Donald and Chip and Dale work so well together which is why they starred in numerous shorts against each other. The cartoon is able to have a lot of fun with the setting by turning to toys as a framing device. The all-out war in the final act is probably what keeps it from Disney+. Is it offensive to see Dale act like a wounded soldier in the end? Perhaps for some, though not personally for me. Instead this is just an entertaining cartoon with terrific animation. The characters are so expressive and the gags are humorous. I love seeing Chip and Dale amongst the toys so much that I wish Disney had returned to it without Donald. Just Chip and Dale trapped in a toy store has a lot of potential.
Even today, I’m still partial to Pluto’s Christmas Tree, but recognize Toy Tinkers as being an indispensable Christmas classic as well. Toy Tinkers just brings the funny, while Pluto’s Christmas Tree has those enduring images from within the tree that just puts me in the proper mood for the holiday. What’s great is I don’t have to choose between the two, though Disney does make it slightly more challenging to watch this one. And that has everything to do with it not being on Disney+ like Pluto’s Christmas Tree and if they haven’t added it yet I’m not sure we can expect the company to anytime soon. Which is a shame, because this should be there. There’s plenty of cartoon violence already on the platform and if they need a disclaimer or something then so be it. The only positive about it not being there is it seems to mean the company is less protective of it so if you don’t have one of the out-of-print DVD releases this short is featured on then at least you can stream it on YouTube for free. And since Pluto’s Christmas Tree can also be found there, why not make it a double feature?!
Today we’re doing the second look-back to one of the best Christmas specials ever conceived, as chosen by yours truly, and it’s one of my all-time favorites: Pluto’s Christmas Tree. Despite being titled Pluto’s Christmas Tree, this Jack Hannah-directed cartoon short from 1952 is actually considered a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Mickey apparently had it written into his contract with The Walt Disney Company that anytime he had a speaking role in a short it was to be considered a Mickey Mouse cartoon, because this could have easily just been a Pluto cartoon. Also showing up in this one is the duo of Chip and Dale. The chipmunks seem to be mostly associated with Donald Duck, but the pair’s unofficial debut came in the short Private Pluto where the two agitate the canine. In that short, they looked more like generic chipmunks and they were identical, it wasn’t until the 1947 Donald Duck cartoon conveniently titled Chip an’ Dale that the pair was more developed.
Pluto’s Christmas Tree is also interesting for being the first Mickey Mouse short with the second, official, voice of Mickey, Jimmy MacDonald, doing the voice of the mouse. Walt Disney famously voiced that character to start, and over the years there was the occasional fill-in, but the role was never handed off to anyone else until Walt did so with MacDonald during the production of Fun and Fancy Free. Walt Disney was a pretty busy man with his hands in all kinds of projects and being the voice of Mickey just wasn’t a priority come the 1950s. MacDonald was already an accomplished sound effects engineer and provided voice work as well, in fact, he was the first voice of Chip.
Pluto’s Christmas Tree is the Disney short most likely to put the viewer in the Christmas mood. It opens on a softly lit title card with “Deck the Halls” playing over it. It then zooms in on a Christmas card featuring a home that just happens to be Mickey’s house all covered in snow. The mouse and his dog are about to set out to find a Christmas tree. These were simpler times when a man, or mouse, could just walk out the back door with an axe and find what he was looking for. Pluto (Pinto Colvig) is especially excited to go running through the woods in search of the perfect tree and Mickey lets him go out ahead.
It’s not long before the dog is spotted by some would-be agitators. Chip (MacDonald) and Dale (Dessie Miller) are foraging for nuts and they take interest in mocking the dog. One of them pegs Pluto in the butt with an acorn, and the two mock him by jumping around a twig that resembles a Christmas tree and barking. This, of course, gets Pluto’s attention and he chases after them with the two forcing him to smash into a snow drift. On the opposite side, a perfectly formed “snow Pluto” slides out with the real dog behind. Pluto is unnerved by his snow doppelganger and seemingly forgets about the chipmunks. Meanwhile, the pair have taken refuge in a tree. As they have a laugh at Pluto’s expense, the tree begins to shake! It soon falls down as we see the two happened to pick the tree Mickey also settled on. He calls for Pluto, still checking out the snow dog but quickly gets freaked out when it collapses, who is happy to follow Mickey back home. As the pair march along, Dale tries to sneak out of the tree, but upon seeing Pluto trotting along behind him, immediately jumps back into it.
At home, Mickey sets up the tree and he and Pluto get down to decorating it. He starts hanging candy canes and ornaments as Chip and Dale come out of hiding from deep within the tree to check out their new surroundings. The two stroll along in the tree with Dale remarking, “Well, what do ya know?” as he takes in all of the pretty lights and colors. He then sees the candy canes getting placed on the tree and gets excited. Grabbing a twig, he stick it out of the tree in hope that Mickey will hang a candy cane on it, but he instead places a glass, blue, ornament. Dale inspects it, and while he may have preferred the candy, he seems pretty impressed with the bauble (after momentarily getting freaked out by his own reflection) and retreats deeper into the tree to go show Chip. He finds his fellow chipmunk inspecting a tiny bell, and dangling the ornament over his head, he whistles for his attention. Chip pops up and his head smashes through the bottom of the ornament. Dale, embarrassed, pulls open a cracked portion of the ornament to check on Chip, only to get punched in the face! Chip collapses into a pile of broken glass and then runs over and punches Dale on the top of the head for good measure as Dale gives a sheepish shrug.
Mickey declares his work as done and leaves Pluto to admire the pretty tree. As he lays on a nearby rug, he then notices a light has started to blink. Apparently their lights are not the blinking kind, so Pluto goes over to the tree to check it out. There, we see Dale is twisting a light bulb to make it turn off and on. Pluto sticks his nose through the brush and Dale mistakes it for another bulb. He gives it a twist, causing Pluto to recoil from the tree with the chipmunk still attached. Dale spins around and finds himself eye-to-eye with the canine, and Pluto immediately starts to growl. Before he can snap his jaws shut on the rodent, Chip happens to walk by and uses a candy cane to snatch Dale from harm’s way.
Pluto and Dale then bark back and forth at each other before Dale gets an idea. Grabbing an ornament, and tapping on it first to make sure it’s as fragile as the last one, Dale hurls it towards the ground. Pluto, apparently quite fond of Christmas trees, refuses to let the ornaments hit the ground. He dives for it, but Dale quickly tosses another one, and then another, forcing Pluto to stand on one leg with an ornament in each foot. Mickey then comes strolling in with gifts to place under the tree. He takes one look at this awkward position Pluto has gotten himself into and gives a chuckle. Playfully telling the dog to “cut it out,” Mickey places the ornaments back on the tree, only he hung one from Dale’s nose. Pluto points and stammers at the tree hoping Mickey will turn and see the chipmunk, but of course by the time he does Dale has already ascended the tree and retreated inside. Mickey just brushes aside Pluto’s behavior with an “Ohh, Pluto,” and leaves.
Pluto is momentarily irritated, but he turns back to the tree and spots Dale once again. This time he’s left the tree in search of some nuts left out on a table. Pluto cuts him off, blocking his access to the tree, so Dale drops his nuts and runs ending up on the mantle above the fireplace. There, Mickey had set out some Santa candles and Dale positions himself among them and swipes the hat and beard from one in a bid to disguise himself. Pluto races over and finds that Dale’s disguise may have fooled the eyes, but they can’t fool his nose. He sniffs at Dale, causing the chipmunk to sneeze, and Pluto has him right where he wants him.
Mickey then comes strolling back in and finds Pluto gesturing towards the chipmunk candle. Mickey mistakes Pluto’s actions as him wanting the candles lit, so Mickey lights them. When he gets to Dale, the chipmunk blows out his match. Mickey just shrugs, picks up Dale as if he were a candle, and uses an already lit candle to light the Dale candle. Mickey then leaves and Pluto looks broken-hearted that his master failed to notice the disguised vermin. He then turns back to the mantle and brushes all of the candles onto the floor, which seems like a real fire hazard.
Chip takes notice of what’s going on by the fireplace and races over to his friend’s aid. He stands on Pluto’s tail and gives it a tug. It makes a bell sound and Pluto lifts his tail all the way up with a curious expression on his face. Chip salutes him, thanks him, then hops on the mantle to snuff out the flame and snatch his buddy from harm’s way.
Now the real chase is on as Pluto and the chipmunks race around the room. Pluto crashes into the presents Mickey had set out, his feet going through the boxes. As he tries to run with boxes on his feet, Chip and Dale get back into the tree. Pluto races up a ladder that Mickey had left out and starts barking at the tree, seemingly out of ideas. Dale hops out from the bottom of the tree while Chip pokes hi head out to release the tension on the middle brace of the ladder allowing Dale to push the bottom back together. Pluto tumbles over and crushes the remaining gifts he hadn’t already trampled while Chip drops the star from the top of the tree onto his tail.
Pluto, who has seemingly has had enough, emerges from the mess and dives into the tree. Mickey sees him and races over screaming for him to get out and gets pulled into the scrum. The tree shakes and contorts as if it were in an electric dryer. Soon everything falls off of the tree, Mickey and Pluto included, leaving just the skeletal remains of what was a pretty nice tree. Mickey calls Pluto a dumb mutt and then does something pretty shocking for him: he strangles Pluto! Mickey grabs his own dog, man’s best friend, by the throat and begins to shake! As he orders Pluto to take a look at the mess he made, he finally sees Chip and Dale who are holding each other and staring in bewilderment. Clearly, the two are just as shocked as I am to see Mickey strangle his pet.
Declaring, “Pluto! We have chipmunks in our tree!” Mickey scoops up Chip and Dale and presents them to Pluto, who slaps his own head in frustration. Mickey characterizes them as “cute little fellows,” but Pluto just barks in their face. Mickey pulls them back and scolds Pluto, reminding him that it is Christmas. The sounds of carols then fill the air and Pluto races over to the window. Outside, Goofy, Donald, and Minnie are singing “Deck the Halls” (Clarence Nash can clearly be heard in his Donald voice among the voices, but I don’t know if Minne or Goofy’s voice actors contributed) by a street light. Pluto and Mickey seem to enjoy the caroling, while Chip and Dale join in with a little dance and someone saw fit to have them sing the “Don we now our gay apparel,” line which feels like a hint about the nature of their relationship. Pluto decides to sing as well, only since he’s a dog, he just kind of howls. The chipmunks cover their ears and look at Pluto angrily, then slap a “Do Not Open Till X-Mas” sticker over his muzzle. The dog then looks at the camera in shock as the short comes to an end.
Pluto’s Christmas Tree is a gag-infused short that’s over in the blink of an eye, and usually leaves me wanting more, so I watch it again! What I appreciate most about it is that virtually all of the gags incorporate the holiday theme in some way. We have smashing ornaments, candy canes, Christmas candles, and more all contributing to poor Pluto’s misery. It’s a Chip and Dale vehicle in which the pair create mischief, and really don’t receive any sort of comeuppance. Oftentimes the two are wronged somehow, but on occasion they’re basically just jerks taking advantage of a situation. And in this case, they’re taking advantage of an animal they clearly possess intelligence over, which just raises further questions since a chipmunk and a mouse should be on relatively equal footing, but Mickey clearly towers over the pair. They also live like animals, despite possessing human intelligence, and the whole thing really stops making sense if you give it much thought.
This one does celebrate Christmas and it’s quite possibly the best Christmas short Disney ever produced. It might even be the best Christmas short ever! The only rival really is Toy Tinkers, which is very similar to this one only swap in Donald for Pluto. I prefer this one just a little bit more, despite my love of Donald Duck, because it’s a touch sweeter and the setup is a little better. And it is also just gorgeous. If I had an endless amount of money to throw at things that I love, I would absolutely track down a production cel of Chip and Dale inside the Christmas tree. It is just drawn and painted so beautifully. It makes me wish I could shrink myself down to the size of a chipmunk to experience Christmas from that perspective. No wonder why my cat always liked sitting under tree.
If you want to experience this fantastic holiday short this year, and you really should, then you have quite a few options. This being one of Disney’s best and most famous Christmas cartoons, it’s been released several times over on VHS, DVD, and Blu Ray as part of holiday collections. Most recently, it was included on the Blu Ray release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol. If you’re a subscriber to Disney+, it’s also available on there 365 days a year. Disney also still isn’t particularly protective of its theatrical shorts. It’s really surprising considering how litigious the company can be over the silliest things, but I suppose it’s a good thing that this short (and many others) can often be found streaming in various places on the web for free. In short, there’s no good reason to miss out on this one this year or any year.