Mickey’s Christmas Carol was my favorite Disney short cartoon as a kid. While I loved Lonesome Ghosts and Clockcleaners quite a bit, I absolute fell in love with the Disney retelling of the Dickens classic. It came on TV once with a Making Of feature that we recorded, and I remember almost wearing that tape out, watching how the cartoon was made, the voices in different countries and interviews with the cast.
That was also my introduction to Scrooge McDuck, and the incomparable work of Alan Young, who passed away Thursday.
I never knew Alan Young played Wilbur on Mr. Ed. I have memories of watching the show as a kid, when reruns came out either the local channels or Nickelodeon, but I’ve not seen it in decades. But just a glance down Mr. Young’s IMDB listing shows a remarkable body of work that spanned eight different decades. His first credit was in 1946, and he was still voicing Scrooge McDuck for the new Mickey Mouse shorts in 2016, at the age of 96.
He showed up frequently in the cartoons I watched as a kid, as everything from Keyop and 7-Zark-7 in Battle of the Planets to Haggis MacHaggis in The Ren and Stimpy Show. But it was his voice work as Uncle Scrooge that would endear him to our generation, starting with Mickey’s Chirstmas Carol and then reprising the role for Duck Tales.
The thing is, as a character Scrooge McDuck shouldn’t work. He’s a miser, a character who pinched pennies so hard Abe Lincoln was crying on them. Even though Carl Banks created Scrooge one year after Mr. Young’s first screen credit in 1947 and over time transitioned him from an antagonist to Donald Duck to a kinder, gentler character, you wouldn’t have pegged him as the leader for a light hearted kids action series.
But Scrooge McDuck would still be popular even in the age of the one percenters, and a lot of that is owed to Mr. Young’s wonderful performance, which gave the character his heart. I can’t remember the last time I saw Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but I can still remember the way he delivered many of the lines, and it’s still affecting.
Duck Tales could similarly pull at your heart strings, and somehow protecting the Money Bin became an admirable goal, and maybe a few people who grew up with the series still have a Number One Dime. The show eventually led to a movie and an incredible game by Capcom that starred Scrooge, leading to a remastered game released in 2013. Of course, it featured Mr. Young’s voice work as well.
Duck Tales was such an enormous success that it spawned the popular Disney Afternoon line up, with Rescue Rangers, Tale Spin and my beloved Darkwing Duck among others. I don’t think any of that happens without Alan Young’s fantastic performance. I truly believe the Disney Afternoon played as much a part in creating new Disney fans in the late 80s and early 90s as the new animated features.
Mr. Young was also responsible for one of my all time favorite video game memories, when he played Haggis McMutton in The Curse of Monkey Island(yes, every Scottish character must be named Haggis), and was part of an unforgettable pirate shanty.
A new Duck Tales will launch in 2017, and while it’s not yet known if Alan Young was set to reprise his role or perhaps even already recorded his part, it will be another part of his enduring legacy. Mr. Young left us at 96, which still feels too soon, but he will always be remembered for making us care about the unlikeliest of heroes.