Day seven of Nick’s Flixmas (nineteen more days to go!) takes us on a run through Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Over the next few days, I’ll be watching several films that take on the story in a unique way. What do I mean by unique? There just has to be an idea present that changes the foundation of the story, and surprisingly, quite a few of those have shown up over the years.
One film in particular made me rethink the story, but it comes from the oddest place. I honestly had no idea a cartoon would have me thinking twice about the structure of the story itself. Who would’ve guessed Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas would be so darn smartypants.
Bah Humduck is an animated take on A Christmas Carol starring your favorite Looney Tunes characters: Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, uh, Porky Pig’s now existent daughter…and the rest. Like most Christmas specials involving famous TV shows, rather than inventing a new character to be the “Scrooge,” Humduck just uses its already well known jerk, Daffy. In this modernized version of the story, Daffy runs a department store and forces his workers to labor like slaves for little pay. It’s pretty much what you’ve seen in the past, but the changes it makes question the original’s structure.
In the original, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts (Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come) in his dreams and wakes up an unselfish man on Christmas morning. The spirits in Humduck, however, seem incompetent. Daffy’s final transformation seems trivial and pandering to both the audience and himself. For example, Christmas Past (Tweety and Granny) takes Daffy to his childhood orphanage. They cry due to his sad story, and then proceed to call Daffy negative names rather than try to reinforce the similarities of his and another child’s upbringing. Christmas Present (Yosemite Sam), uses violence to enforce his lessons, while Christmas Yet to Come uses the fear of death.
Daffy’s change at the end of the film briefly satiates the ghosts in order to keep himself safe from them. Rather than change of his own will (and thus truly transforming into a selfless person), he succumbs to the will of an outside force temporarily. It’s something that’s always bothered me about Dickens’ story. Just how long will Scrooge’s revelations last? Since literary theory teaches us to only look toward the story for answers (and thus never using outside influences to fill in intentional blanks), it leads me to question the Scrooge character’s future. In the original story we’re led to believe Scrooge ends up spending Christmas Day a changed man, but in Bah Humduck we’re shown a little more.
For a brief moment during the finale, Daffy reverts to his old self after the initial haze of fear wears off. He starts thinking about how all of this newfound charity is going to ruin him before it’s abruptly pushed to the side because this short Christmas cartoon couldn’t possibly stop to contemplate stuff like that. But I can. And I will. It’s just a small step in a new direction, but it’s quite a big leap for Christmas cartoons.
Want to see Bah, Humduck! yourself? It’s on Netflix Instant right now! Tomorrow I’m hitting up another Christmas Carol story, Scrooged!