First of all, the movie is very well done when it comes to the animated side of things. It seriously amazes me just how advanced it all is getting. Gone are the days of Toy Story when animated movies were always cute, fun, and with some moral lesson usually built into them. These days animated movies seek to get as real as possibly and actually draw out truly suspenseful scenes. A Christmas Carol has some of the most tense/dramatic scenes I've seen from a animated movie yet.
I have not read the original book but have heard from several sources that this movie is the most true-to-the-book that has been made. The characters that are supposed to be scary are actually scary, to the point where your heart is racing a bit and you are sort of jumpy in some scenes. Since the animated movies I've seen are the likes of Shrek, Over the Hedge, and Ice Age, this was a surprise to me. Honestly, I'm not sure you want your 8 year old seeing the movie just yet... in my opinion, it really is that intense in some parts. However if it is true to the story then it does a great job brining out what Dickens likely wanted to be brought out.
There are several parts of the movie that Noelle and I chatted about on our way home. I don't know Dickens' spiritual state, whether or not he professed Christ or not. But the movie certainly had a spiritual element to it. the "ghost of Christmas present" was a jolly fellow, one you saw and just had to think "Jesus" when you saw him. He didn't necessarily say he was Jesus in the movie but did make reference to not being associated with certain "men of the cloth". The context, if I remember correctly, was the Scrooge was getting outraged as he saw the abuse of power from certain clergy in the visions he was shown (each ghost shows Scrooge scenes of either past, present, or future events that affect Scrooge's outlook on life). Also, the spiritual realm was closely associated with people being chained down in some form of punishment for not using their lives well. It was not a direct reference to Hell per se, but it was very intriguing to see some form of after-life punishment for people portrayed in the film.
Overall, I'm glad I went to see the movie. It ends with a good message (don't all Disney movies do that?), but takes you through the classic tale in phenomenal animated quality. I would suggest keeping an eye out for these spiritual parts of the movie because they are very intriguing. In th end, the Gospel message of Christ is not proclaimed in the slightest; in fact, Jesus Christ is not mentioned once so far as I can remember... and it is a Christmas movie! The message is a pretty moralistic one I suppose (do good and you will be blessed, don't do good and your spirit will suffer after you die), which sadly passes as a Christian message in many people's minds. The Gospel message of Jesus needs to be secured deep in our hearts - that we are sinners saved by grace, through faith, and this is a gift of God. We remember our Savior's coming at Christmas, remember his sacrifice and his resurrection, and can rejoice in the fact that we do not need to fear the afterlife, for the One who controls this life and the next lives in us and has secured eternity with himself.