Growing up, we children of the '60s got quite used to badly dubbed import animation. Seems that the success of foreign cinema spelunkers like K. Gordon Murray and Sandy Frank inspired more than one mainstream studio to buy up other countries cartoons, saddle them with sorry Western cadences, and simply sit back, waiting to rake in the jack. Of course, for every decent example of the conceit (the original Speed Racer, for example), there were far too many failures. While foreign pen and ink still suffers from horrid translations and tacked on dialogue, fan demands have made the distributors far more faithful to the source. Of course, none of this applies to the depressingly dumb Scuff: A Christmas Tale. Taken from a supposedly popular Spanish kid's show, this wildly uneven take on the Charles Dickens classic A Chri...yes, another one of those...has our selfish little dog learning about the magic of sharing. Of course, there's a ghost involved (only one, oddly enough) and far too much local color to resonate with kids outside the continent.
The biggest problem here is the shrill and consistently stupid English translation. Scruff goes from being a semi-adorable dog to a cutesy pie American irritant with enough whiny aural quirks to make Alvin and the Chipmunks lime green Jell-O. His dialogue is delivered in a far too rapid manner, the words almost never matching his mouth movements. It's more or less the same all around. The human characters are rendered in outright stereotype, the other animals are strictly from a bargain basement Babe remake, and the single Ghost of Christmases whatever sounds stupider than the subjects he's supposed to convert. All along, plotpoints jump about like fleas on a festering cur, messages and metaphors get mixed up and misused, and an oddball combination of computer generated backdrops and standard cell action causes a kind of artform ADD. One moment, you're watching our scrappy little hero scamper around like he's dodging Disney executives, the next, an unusual overhead shot stops everything dead while poorly rendered bitmap trees and topographics take over.
But the worst part of Scruff's adventures is the lackluster adaptation of Dickens's original tale. No one is expecting biting social commentary from a mutt who moans incessantly about not wanting to share his snacks, but at least the writers could TRY to follow the classic fable. Instead, they invent their own "inspired" storyline. Their lack of consideration raises several confusing questions? If Scruff is the supposed bad guy Scrooge substitute, who is his Cratchit? If he doesn't have one, why is his clearly babyish behavior considered so horrible? If the rats are the real villains here (they destroy the Christmas items that Scruff is later accused of), why are they in and out of the story like expositional helpers? What does the main character and his failing farm have to do with anything? Better yet, what about the other agriculturalist who teams up with a rich corporate sponsor to basically run everyone else out of business? If one wasn't so accepting, you'd swear this was nothing more than a cobbled together combination of old episodes, tossed around a spectral entity and given an attempted Dickensonian sensibility. Whatever it is, it's dull, lifeless and flat.