When the children leave the playroom, the toys come alive. They discuss the meaning of Christmas and how they will welcome the new toys to their community. Nope, I am not talking about Toy Story. The Muppets did it first way back in 1986 in The Christmas Toy! Rugby Tiger (Dave Goelz) was Jamie’s (Marsha Moreau) favorite Christmas toy last year, but he thinks the Christmas tradition is Jamie unwrapping a gift and finding Rugby. Apple the Doll (Kathryn Mullen) was Jamie’s favorite Christmas toy the before she got Rugby and tries to explain to him that Jamie gets a new favorite toy each year. Rugby is too tenacious to listen. Instead of staying in the play room with the other toys, Rugby heads downstairs to the living room in order to position himself in a box for Christmas morning. If Rugby is spotted out of place by any of the humans, though, he will be frozen forever and for some reason, Jamie’s parents are busy doing laundry this Christmas Eve while the kids are in bed. It is up to Apple the Doll, a meek cat toy named Mew Mouse (Steve Whitmire), Belmont the Horse (Richard Hunt), and Cruiser (Brian Henson) to save Rugby. As if the constant threat of the parents popping in and out of the hallway while doing laundry was not enough, when Rugby opens the wrapped box marked “Jamie,” he unleashes her new toy, Meteora Queen of the Asteroids (Camille Bonora)! Meteora does not understand the concept of being a toy at first and attempts to battle the other toys, making plenty of noise that may summon the parents down to the living room! Despite being nominated for an Emmy and inspiring the 1994 spin-off series The Secret Life of Toys, The Christmas Toy is often overlooked and forgotten, but it is one of the best Muppet Christmas specials. It combines all of the best qualities of the Muppets and is solidly written. First of all, most of the establish core group of Muppet performers lend their talents to this special. Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson…the gang’s all there! Noticeably missing is Frank Oz, but it was a busy time for him with Labyrinth, Little Shop of Horrors, and multiple Sesame Street videos all being released this same year which would have put them in pre-production around the same time along with other projects. Jim Henson performs Kermit the Frog and Jack-in-the-Box, but his characters appear very briefly. It is kind of neat to see the core performers featured more prominently without the magical influence of Henson and the playful dynamic of the Henson/Oz partnership. Just as he did in Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Frog Prince, and Muppet Musicians of Bremen, and Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, Kermit appears at the beginning of the special to introduce us to the Jones family and the toys in the playroom. Because the Jim Henson Company owns the rights to this show and Disney owns the rights to Kermit, he has been edited out of copies of The Christmas Toy that were released after 2006. The writing is superb. Fraggle Rock writer Laura Phillips provides a nice balance of sentimentality and humor. The pacing of the show is impressive. It does not get bogged down with a preachy message or vies for cheap laughs. The humor is smart. The toys possess a slight tongue in cheek awareness that is fun, but they also have an innocence about them that keeps things light. They know they are toys, but Jamie and the playroom are their universe. The story does take a bit of a dark turn for a Muppets Christmas special. A toy can sing, dance, and move as long as humans are not around. If a person starts to enter the playroom, the toys all return to wherever they were last placed. Any toy caught moving or out of place, is frozen forever. Being frozen serves as a metaphor for death. Rugby points out that toys cannot feel physical pain, but the threat of being frozen is really the only danger that the toys experience. Ditz the Clown (Dave Goelz) instantly goes after Rugby and is caught in the hallway and freezes. It is pretty upsetting and dark to see the mother grab his lifeless body and toss him into the floor of the playroom. The toys place him on a toy train which leads the funeral procession through the room and he is placed in a corner with a pile of other frozen toys. It makes me shudder just to think about that image even now! Like any other good Muppet special, the music is great and will get stuck in your head for hours! The music and lyrics were written by Jeff Moss, the man behind countless Sesame Street favorites such as “Rubber Duckie,” “The People in Your Neighborhood,” and “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.” He also helped create Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and Guy Smiley. He also wrote many of the songs from Muppets Take Manhattan like “He’ll Make Me Happy” and “I’m Gonna Always Love You.” One of my favorite Muppet Christmas songs “Together at Christmas” (often referred to as “Old Friends, New Friends”) was written for this special. It recurs throughout the special as an instrumental piece and then is performed by the toys on Christmas morning. Another version of the song is performed by the casts of Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and The Muppet Show in another Christmas special A Muppet Family Christmas. The characters of this special are memorable and fun. Some were based on traditional, timeless toys like baby dolls, stuffed animals, and even Barbie. Other toys were based off toys that were popular at the time like Fisher Price Little People and She-Ra. Jim Henson believed that children responded to puppets because they looked like stuffed animals. By building puppets in the style of toys that children play with and own caused the characters of this special to be even more appealing to the children in all of us and caused a closer relationship and connection between the viewer and these characters. The Christmas Toy was released on DVD in 2008. It has aired on cable channel The Hub and has been available for streaming in previous years on Netflix. I give it 4.5 out of 5 rubber chickens and urge you to check it out this Christmas season! See larger image The Christmas Toy New From: 0 Out of Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.