A Christmas Carol—Richard Williams’s 1971 animated short film—is creepier than Rod Serling’s adaptation because it’s more loyal to Dickens’s familiar novella. For example, few movie adaptations of the story include the phantom carriage that Scrooge sees as he climbs up his stairs.
Later, one of the more effective jump scares happens when Scrooge is confronted by the ghost of his old partner, Marley. When Scrooge claims that the phantom is just a harmless hallucination, Marley loosens a handkerchief around his jaw (used to keep the mouths of Victorian era corpses from gaping) and screams horribly with his eyes fixed upward.
At the end of the Ghost of Christmas Present’s visit, he brings two sickly, deformed children named Ignorance and Want with him. At 25 minutes long, the film moves briskly enough that there’s not much downtime between horrors.
Despite being made on a television budget, the movie won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1972. Reportedly, a television upstart winning a prestigious prize angered the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. They changed their rules so that a movie couldn’t be shown on television and still be eligible for an Oscar. Not many horror cartoons are such literal game changers.
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