12 Days of Christmas #5
As a hardcore Muppets fan and all the felt, fuzzy feelings they’ve given me over the past 30+ years, I’m going to take a moment to rank the Henson company’s varied holiday movies/specials. Spoiler: For me, it’s hard to go wrong with The Muppets and Christmas joy. They go hand-in-hand, really.
Note: Most of these are available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
7. Lady Gaga and the Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular (2013)
I love Lady Gaga. I think she’s all the right kinds of weird with a heart of gold and a phenomenal voice. So, her + the Muppets should be a fantastical thing, right? Eh, not so much. This special was basically a Lady Gaga promotional piece for Artpop with Muppetational bits thrown in for good measure. It’s not the worst, but it’s certainly not the best — and could honestly have been better if it was just a Lady Gaga concert special. Because then it wouldn’t be veiled as anything else.
6. The Christmas Toy (1986)
The one I’ve seen the least, The Christmas Toy is Toy Story before there was Toy Story. If you’re new to this 80s Henson flick, just read this — it’s all you need to know.
7. A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa (2008)
This ditty is a cute story surrounding Gonzo’s unintentional mishap of not mailing some letters (to Santa) — one of which belongs to his adorable little neighbor. So, Gonzo and Kermit (and others) are on a mission to deliver said letters. It’s predictable, but sweet, and Nathan Lane shares great chemistry with Bobo the Bear. Plus, Muppet musical mastermind Paul Williams makes a cameo (as an elf).
4. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas (2002)
This take on It’s a Wonderful Life just doesn’t get enough love. And let’s be real, it’s pretty much a holiday version of The Muppets (2011) where, you know, there’s a threat of The Muppets losing their theater/brand to a big baddie. And in this case, the villain is a devilish Joan Cusack. Points awarded for original songs, Pepe’s absurd crush on Cusack’s character, and a weird what-could-have-been goth bar scene with Scooter. Points deducted for Whoopi Goldberg playing God.
3. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1978)
Confession: I did not see this one until about 8-10 years ago. So, I sadly have no nostalgia for it. With that said, it’s absolute adorable magic. And much of that is due to the intricate set pieces — Frogtown Hollow is its own little world. And it’s one that I would have loved to play in as a kid (and an adult). The DVD special features are neat-o, too, including a making-of featurette, and bloopers. Seriously, there’s something amazing about Muppet bloopers and this one does not disappoint.
And, to be honest, I’d say this song is in my top 10 (maybe 5) Muppet songs ever:
2. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Here is an obvious favorite — and it’s well-deserved. It’s the first movie following the deaths of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, and while at first the voices (Kermit in particular) are a little jarring, the end product is just lovely. Every song is memorable. It makes you laugh and cry (the mere thought of a dead Robin/Tiny Tim gets me blubbery). Frankly, it’s the best retelling of the Dickens tale (just inching out the immortal classic Scrooged).
Fun fact: I grew up with a VHS of the movie that included the song “When Love is Gone,” sung by young Scrooge’s lost love, Belle. While watching the movie in recent years on DVD, the song is absent and I’ve often second-guessed that it even existed — was it a weird, detailed dream? In truth, it wasn’t included in the theatrical release or the widescreen version of the DVD. It is included in the full-screen version, but then it’s once again omitted on the blu-ray and Netflix versions. Apparently, it was initially dropped (against Brian Henson’s wishes) because it was deemed too sad for kids. You be the judge:
1. A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
And here we go. Number one, without a doubt, is A Muppet Family Christmas. First and foremost, it’s like a Muppet Show holiday special that vacations in the country. Plain and simple. Songs, snow, single vignettes, with running gags (the turkey) and an overall story arc (will Piggy make it back in time for Christmas?!). It’s jam-packed with holiday cheer. And second, it brings together the big three in one special: The Muppets, the Sesame Street gang, and the Fraggles. Also, the whole darn thing is on You Tube. But I still watch my recorded-from-TV-VHS-to-DVD copy … because, you know, nostalgia.
Fun fact: My good friend, Cory, once gifted me a Fraggle pebble — a rock he hand-painted orange — because he knew how special it would be to me. I never did pass it on though.. I’m selfish like that.
Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978). It’s Sesame Street, so technically I couldn’t include it on my list. But any chance I get to promote Bob singing/signing “Keep Christmas with You” is a chance I’m going to take…
Turkey Hollow (2015). This Thanksgiving-set movie quietly premiered on Lifetime last year. Give it a chance. It’s cute and features an adorable quartet with Labyrinth-style creatures.
Out of the mix:
I couldn’t fairly assess John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979) or The Great Santa Claus Switch (1970) because–gulp–I haven’t seen them. However, I’ve been listening to Denver’s romp with the Muppets for years, and was just recently gifted the DVD. So, that’s going to happen soon.