You know, if things had just gone a little bit differently, all us Disney dweebs would have had something truly spectacular to celebrate this holiday season.
You see, 2006 was supposed to be the year that Walt Disney Home Entertainment finally released "Song of the South" on DVD. This limited edition disc was originally supposed to hit store shelves early this past November. Just in time to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the world premiere of that Academy Award-winning feature (And -- not so-co-incidentally -- making this DVD available for purchase over the bulk of the 2006 holiday shopping season).
But then Bob Iger took a look at "Song of the South." And Disney's new CEO decided that -- as masterful as the animated portions of this motion picture may have been -- this are still aspects of "SOTS" that were sure to be controversial. So Iger nixed WDHE's plans to make this eagerily awaited title available for purchase this year. So back went "Song of the South" into the Disney vault. Hopefully to see the light of day again sometime in 2011 or 2016.
Which I know disappointed a lot of you weenies out there. So -- in honor of the film that we didn't get on DVD see this year -- I thought that I might write about a version of "A Christmas Carol" that actually featured a lot of the same characters that appear in Disney's "Song of the South," "Brer Rabbit's Christmas Carol."
Copyright 2002 Delta Entertainment
The gimmick of this particular holiday special is that it has Joel Chandler Harris' famous "Uncle Remus" characters "borrowing" many ideas & key concepts from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." All in an effort to try & get Brer Fox to reform.
You see, Brer Fox is up to his old tricks. He's just persuaded Brer Bear to sign over the deed to his cave. Which Brer Fox now plans to turn into a gold mine.
Well, Brer Rabbit gets wind of Brer Fox's plan. So he appeals to all the folks in the hollow that something has to be done. Or otherwise kindly old Brer Bear will wind up out in the cold of Christmas Eve.
Now -- not so-co-incidentally -- the town players are getting ready to hold a fundraiser for poor sick Timmy Mouse. And the play that they're planning on presenting at tomorrow night's benefit is (you guessed it) "A Christmas Carol."
So Brer Rabbit proposes that the townspeople use some of the sets & costumes from "A Christmas Carol" to throw a scare into Ol' Brer Fox. Since everyone in the hollow just loves Brer Bear, they quickly agree to Brer Rabbit's plan.
So these critters wait 'til Brer Fox has fallen asleep on Christmas Eve. And then -- after attaching a glowing jack-o-lantern to the top of a hat rack, and then throwing a sheet over this whole mess -- Brer Rabbit & friends sneak into Brer Fox's bedroom. They then rouse this villain from his rest and convince Brer Fox that he's in for a Dickens of a night. Since three different ghosts willl soon be showing up to show him the error of his ways.
Now what Brer Rabbit doesn't realize is that -- while he & the townspeople are running this con on Brer Fox -- Brer Bear has been peeking in the window. And this well-meaning bruin honestly believes that his good friend, Brer Fox, is being bedeviled by spirits. So Brer Bear rushes back out into the forest, hoping to find a big ol' stick that he can then use to whomp all of those ghosts.
Lucky for Brer Rabbit & associates, Brer Bear runs into Brer Owl while he's searching for that stick. And given that this wise old bird is in on this "Christmas Carol" -themed plan to reform Brer Fox, Brer Owl diverts Brer Bear. Insisting that a stick is no good for fighting ghosts. Since it will just pass right through their non corporeal bodies.
Brer Bear then asks "Well, what should I do?" The bird suggests that this bruin should go into the deepest, darkest part of the swamp and seek out Brer Gator. Who (Given that Brer Gator is rumored to be the most fearsome creature in the forest) should know something about spooking spooks.
Of course, what Brer Owl doesn't realize is that Brer Gator is actually a gentle old soul who wouldn't hurt a flea. Who -- as soon as he meets up with Brer Bear -- immediately offers this bruin to his home to sample some Christmas cookies & tea.
Now while all this is going on, Brer Rabbit & the Beaver Brothers have carried Brer Fox's bed into town (All the while convincing this villain to keep his head under the covers because ... Well, Brer Fox is evidently afraid of heights. And Brer Rabbit tricks this fox into thinking that his bed is being carried high across the sky by the holiday spirits).
Once they arrive at the playhouse, Brer Rabbit has the Beaver Brothers place Brer Fox's bed on stage. And then -- by making use of all of the sets & costumes that have been prepared for Timmy Mouse's benefit -- they stage an all-new version of "A Christmas Carol." One that's deliberately designed to get Brer Fox to change his ways.
At first it doesn't look as if Brer Rabbit's scheme will work. Brer Fox isn't all that impressed with the Ghost of Christmas Past, saying "That's an awfully small ghost." To which Brer Rabbit replies: "Well, that's because you don't have much of a past."
Then Brer Groundhog comes onstage dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Present. And Brer Fox immediately questions the authenticity of this particular holiday spirit. Since Brer Groundhog is still wearing his spectacles while in costume as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Brer Fox insists that ghosts don't need glasses. Hearing this, Brer Groundhog quickly tosses his spectacles away. And though he then has to grope his way through the rest of his scene, Brer Groundhog still convinces Brer Fox that he's been having a negative impact on the local community.
Then comes Ms. Possum as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be. Now throughout this animated holiday special, Ms. Possum has been itching for an excuse to whomp Brer Fox with her umbrella. And when the site of Brer Bear's grave (I.E. Brer Bear reportedly passed away because he was forced to sleep out in the cold after Brer Fox turned this bruin's cave into a gold mine) fails to move this villain to tears ... Ms. Possum knocks Brer Fox out by hammering him on the head with her umbrella.
The next morning, Brer Fox wakes up back in his own bedroom. At first, he wonders if it was all a dream. But then Brer Fox feels the crease that Ms. Possum's umbrella put in his skull and realizes that -- nope -- this wasn't a dream.
So Brer Fox goes down into the hollow and announces that he's reformed. He first tears up the deed to Brer Bear's cave. He then gives Brer Rabbit all of the money necessary to cover the cost of Timmy Mouse's operation.
As news of Brer Fox's change of heart sweeps through the town, a huge holiday party erupts. With even Brer Gator coming out of the swamp in his Santa suit to wish everyone in the hollow a Merry Christmas.
Doesn't that sound like a really cute holiday special? Well, here's the bad news. In the above description, I deliberately left out all of the bad parts in "Brer Rabbit's Christmas Carol." As in: The absymal animation & character design. This holiday special's amateurish script with its god-awful dialogue. And the actors that the production company hired to provide voices for Joel Chandler Harris' beloved characters were beyond embarassing.
In short, if I had to choose one film that featured the "Uncle Remus" characters that should be locked in a vault forever ... It sure as hell wouldn't be "Song of the South." But -- rather -- "Brer Rabbit's Christmas Carol."
So don't waste your time on this one, folks. While there was admittedly a cute concept at the very core of this holiday special, one that I hope someone with talent revisits someday. To see if it is actually possible to successfully mix the worlds of "A Christmas Carol" and "Uncle RemuS" ... But -- for now -- I suggest that you give "Brer Rabbit's Christmas Carol" a wide berth. For watching this holiday special (especially for an animation fan) is almost unbrer ... er ... almost unbearably painful.
Tomorrow ... Learn how a Tori Spelling holiday special led to William Shatner landing his Emmy Award-winning role on ABC's "Boston Legal" as we discuss "A Carol Christmas."
Honestly, it didn't even sound particularly good before the bad news. For one thing, we the readers did have the benefit of seeing the pictures as we read, revealing some pretty weak character design and drawing. But perhaps more importantly, the plot reads like a pretty cookie cutter adaptation of the "Christmas Carol" story to a low end animated show or special without a though being given to the character of Br'er Rabbit. Yes I know, Joel Chandler Harris' favorite son has gone through a lot of iterations over the years. But there is kind of an essence to his character that usually remains intact, and, as I remember it, did in the Disney version. Br'er Rabbit is the guy who by natural law should be on the bttom of the food chain, but avoids that fate time and time again through sheer smarts. To tun him into the village righter of wrongs and saddle him with such a lame and frequently uneffective scheme is to essentially take the concept "Generic Hero and Local Townsfolk save Hapless Dim Bulb from Mean Old Villian by tricking him with Christmas Carol ruse" and plug in the relevant Br'er Rabbit characters. I'm not so sure I'd want to see this concept revisited, even with a budget and some competent animators attatched.
Being the only other commenter here after 9 years, I will say it didn't surprise me someone in the early 90's tried to take a crack at this. I see the producer of this hailed from Canada where he worked on stuff like The Toothbrush Family and Captain Nemo.
If anyone's still curious to see, someone stuck this up on DailyMotion at present.