Muppet fans were given one of their most beloved gifts with 1987’s A Muppet Family Christmas. This special marked one of the few productions that featured characters from all the major Muppet franchises: The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Muppet Babies (albeit in puppet form instead of as animated characters), and Fraggle Rock. Although it is widely regarded among fans as one of the best Muppet Christmas specials, its video release is one of the saddest and most disappointing examples of editing. Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie, and the whole gang from The Muppet Show, save for Miss Piggy, are headed to Grizzly Farm to spend Christmas with Fozzie’s lonely mother, Emily. Unbeknownst to Fozzie, Emily had planned to enjoy a sunny Christmas on the beach and had rented the farmhouse to Doc and Sprocket. Just as everyone is getting settled in, here comes the Muppet cast from Sesame Street. Next thing you know, instead of enjoying a quiet Christmas together, Doc and Sprocket are building bunk beds and enjoying some small talk with Bert and Ernie. The Christmas Turkey convinces Swedish Chef that Big Bird would be a much tastier Christmas dinner and the Sesame Street cast performs a play of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, but Kermit has trouble enjoying the holiday festivities as a mounting blizzard worsens and Miss Piggy is nowhere in sight. Just when Kermit starts to lose all hope, Miss Piggy makes a divine entrance as only she can complete with a dog sled and Doc dressed in complete Canadian Mounty regalia. The sense of family is keen with this special as it combines what most would consider the entire Muppet family at the time it aired. As you watch this show, you really feel like you are watching an entire family reunite for the holidays. This is one of the few Muppet productions that includes only one human in the cast. By only having one human character, the focus is solely on the Muppets. In some instances, such a large cast of characters would seem to overload the show with each character vying for the best lines and performance, but the Muppet characters complement each other because they were born out of the same thematic principles. The strange ratio of Muppet performer to Muppet character keeps this balance in check. Because most Muppet performers spanned across the different franchises, it was not uncommon in this special or other Muppet productions for a scene to include several characters, but only a couple performers. The performers were able to provide more evenly performed characters without competing for laughs or lines. The absence of dueling egos maintained the integrity of each scene. Fozzie really gets his time to shine in this special. Usually, he plays second banana to Kermit. He means well and adores Kermit, but usually Fozzie messes everything up. We get to see that he is a mama’s bear and we can tell where he gets some of his personality quirks from. For the first and probably only time in the Muppet universe, the other Muppets actually think Fozzie is funny! Fozzie is outside building a snowman that comes to life and turns out to be a wonderful comedy partner. The magical moment is short lived when the snowman comes into the farmhouse to warm up and perform with Fozzie in front of Kermit. Statler and Waldorf happen to be old friends of Emily’s and shoot down all of their jokes. Plus, the snowman starts to melt which does not help matters at all. Because the farmhouse and set are so cramped, Big Bird is the only large Muppet included in the cast. For some reason, Telly Monster seems to be missing as well as some other Sesame Street favorites. Elmo does make an appearance, but this was long before he was a main character. At this time, he only appeared as a background character on Sesame Street and Follow that Bird. We see him on the screen, but without the aid of Kevin Clash’s distinct falsetto, he is quiet. Grover, Big Bird, Bert, and Ernie shine in this special. After the Christmas pageant scene, we see that Grover truly missed his calling as a performance artist. Maybe that is why he makes such a terrible waiter! We also get a rare glimpse at Kermit’s feelings for Miss Piggy. Usually, Miss Piggy is chasing after Kermit or smothering him. In this show, Miss Piggy is busy with a last minute photo shoot and Christmas shopping. As the weather worsens, Kermit becomes more and more worried that Miss Piggy is in danger. At the end of the special, Miss Piggy and Kermit are snuggled on a couch together while the entire ensemble sings a medley of Christmas carols. It is nice to Kermit caring for a softer, calmer Miss Piggy instead of being bullied or tricked by her. The puppet versions of the Muppet Babies (from a sequence in Muppets Take Manhattan) make their second and final appearance in an old home movie in this special. This time, they sing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” If you thought the Muppets were cute, their baby counterparts are even cuter. Unfortunately this sequence reveals a glaring plot hole in the special. The home movie proves that Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Fozzie, Scooter, Gonzo, and Animal spent time together as babies and it is implied that the old home movie is found at Grizzly Farm, but Fozzie introduced his mom to Kermit earlier in the show as if it were their first meeting. Emily also said she recognized Fozzie’s weirdo friends from television. Another fun bit is when Kermit and Robin explore Fraggle hole and meet up with the main cast of Fraggle Rock. Kermit and Robin explain a little bit about Christmas and get to see the Fraggles exchange a Fraggle pebble that had been gifted over 37 times! This special is one of the most talked about Muppet productions among Muppet fans because it contains the different franchises in one show and it has been drastically edited over the years. This is one of the Muppet specials to have the least amount of original Muppet songs. “Pass It On,” “It’s in Every One of Us,” and “Together at Christmas” are the only original songs peppered among the traditional holiday music and all of these original songs are derived from other Muppet productions. When I was a kid, I loved the fact that contained tradition Christmas carols that my mother and I sang. I knew all of the words and could easily sing along. Sadly, the rights to the music was only secured for the television broadcast. The rights to the music for the video and DVD releases were either not available or deemed too pricey. As a result, the releases have cut two of the songs from the original airing. This show originally aired on ABC and then was re-edited and aired on NBC as part of The Magical World of Disney. The re-edited version was also used as the master for commercial releases and it contains other subtle differences and also removed four scenes from the originally aired version. Luckily, I still have my old VHS recording of the original airing which will always be the best version. Fearing my copy would eventually break or be eaten by my VCR, I broke down and ordered a copy of the 1996 VHS release a few years ago. I have seen the original so many times that I find it almost painful to watch the edited version. Although the edits do not take away from the story or cause any continuity issues, they are choppy and leave odd gaps. Most notably, the Muppet Babies singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is cut. The Muppets sit down to watch the home movie and Animal instantly bursts through the screen it was projected on. The comedy routine between Fozzie and the Snowman while singing “Sleigh Ride” is also cut. Even if the rights to the music were finally secured for a commercial release, the multiple Muppet franchises are now owned by different companies so we will never enjoy a commercially released, unedited edition of this masterpiece. Sigh. End rant. No matter which version you watch, the Christmas carol medley serves as a perfect grand finale. The Muppet characters fill two rooms and sing together in one giant group. Even the Fraggles sneak out into Outer Space to sing along. They sit next to Doc and Sprocket who are none the wiser which is a fun touch. It is always interesting to see how many Muppet characters you can spot in a large ensemble scene like this. Unlike like “The Rainbow Connection” scene from The Muppet Movie and the wedding scene from Muppets Take Manhattan, this scene is full of bloopers. Several characters will appear in one section of a room in one shot only to be in another section during another shot. Those Muppets are awfully quick and sneaky! During the medley, keep an eye out for a disappearing/reappearing Beaker and a seat changing Janice. [youtube http://youtu.be/jmzpc9CqK_E?t=1m36s] This special is one of the best examples of the magic and comedy of the Muppets. The jokes are sharp and the characters spit them out as smoothly as the rat tat tat of machine gun fire. From Bert and Ernie making jokes about the small talk on Sesame Street to Doc proclaiming that it is “cold enough to freeze your Winnebago” the comedic timing and writing is perfection. The great characters are all united like one giant family spending the holidays together. The icing on the Christmas cake is Jim Henson in a rare on screen cameo looking on as the Muppets sing. He is also sporting one of the oddest and coolest outfits I have ever seen. Henson punctuates the closing of the special by saying, “Well, they certainly seem to be having a good time out there […] Yep, I like it when they have a good time.” A Muppet Family Christmas gets 5 out of 5 rubber chickens! Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.