As discussed in a previous post, Chris Hayward, staff writer at Jay Ward, in a letter to Abe Levitow in 1963, analyzed that change:
When the character first erupted on the screens, he was dug by kids but I think mostly by adults, appealing to that select group of connoisseurs who rapture joyously over the (John) Hubley and (Ernie) Pintoff offerings...The five minute cartoon TV series wiped out the avant garde fans, capitalizing instead on the tousled-haired set from five to fifteen.
It’s possible that Carling, NBC or even Lee Orgel realized that having a beer company sponsor a family special might not have been in anyone’s best interests. To give you an idea of what Christmas with a beer drinking Magoo looked like, here’s an ad for Stag Beer from 1958:
Another question, which I touch on in the second edition of the book, was why didn’t General Electric sponsor Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol? They had been using Magoo since 1959 to sell lightbulbs:
GE was the obvious, and most natural choice, to sponsor the special. I found nothing in my research on why they didn’t pick up the tab for the show although it’s quite possible they had already committed their ad budget for the year. In any event, it appears they realized their error after the success of the special and later tried to get back on board, offering to pay three-quarters of the sponsorship costs for only half of the show. Timex, the show’s final sponsor, wouldn’t budge. A couple of years later, GE did end up wholly sponsoring Rankin Bass’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to promote their small appliances.
As we all know, Timex was the eventual sponsor of the show. Here are some rare frames from the end bumpers of the special: