25 July 2009

Rudolph Day, July 2009

The purpose of Rudolph Day is to keep the Christmas spirit all year long. One can prepare Christmas gifts or crafts, watch a Christmas movie, play Christmas music, or read a Christmas book.

For our July edition, it's time for "Christmas in July"! Cool down with these:

Hey! Remember Glass Wax stencils? I used to do this every year with our front window, including reusing the reindeer stencil four times to get all eight tiny reindeer and the camel and wise man stencils to get all three of them. The stencils would get soaked and limp if you used them more than once, so you did one reindeer pair, then did other stencils, then another reindeer pair once the stencil had dried a little, and so on.

Read a 92-year-old book by George McKnight about St. Nicholas: His Legend and His Role in the Christmas Celebration and Other Popular Customs (here's a flip book version, too).

Remember the first animated Christmas special ever made for television? Nope, it wasn't A Charlie Brown Christmas, or even the stop-motion animation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It was, in fact, the 1962 Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, which was scored by two Broadway veteran songwriters, and adapted directly from Dickens' tale, with a delightful framing sequence that has the nearsighted Magoo as an egotistical actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge in a Broadway play (with a great song about Broadway to boot). Now there's a book about the making of this special by Darrell Van Citters that's a delight as well, telling how the idea of the special came about, how it was made almost "in tandem" with UPA's Gay Purr-ee, and of the changes that were made to the story to fit it into a 52-minute timeslot. So if you've ever wondered if the scenes with Scrooge's nephew Fred, with Ignorance and Want, and with Belle and her husband were ever included in the original teleplay, you'll find out here. (The one mystery about the story that everyone asks about, why the Spirit of Christmas Present came first, is sadly not solved; in the original script the ghosts were in the proper order.) There are also nice tidbits about the actors—I didn't know Paul Frees' death was actually a suicide!—and the production (the original sponsor was Timex, and the minute the author mentioned the commercials I could remember them). If you are as big a fan of the story as I am, you will want to order it directly from the Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol site. If you are interested, but not fanatic, it is supposed to be available for general release, i.e. Amazon.com and the like, in the fall.

This site about producer Abe Levitow also has a page and some clips from the Carol.

13 July 2009

A Favorite Chronicled

I have already ordered one. I remember watching the original broadcast on our old black and white television; didn't see it in color until the late 1970s.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol: A Book By Darrell Van Citters