Monday, December 22, 2014

A Muppet Family Christmas

Robin: We always come together at Christmas!
Kermit:  Yeah. Life would just pass in a blur if it weren't for times like this.

Note:we normally try to tell you cast members' names in our reviews.  But this special features just about every Muppet that existed at the time and they are voiced by a small group of puppeteers.  Naming all of them could get monotonous so please check the imdb page for A Muppet Family Christmas for more information about the cast.

Premiered December 16, 1987.

Kermit and friends traveling through the snow
Fozzie Bear has decided to spend Christmas at his mother Emily's farmhouse and is bringing along all his Muppet friends.  Kermit the frog thinks they should have called first, but Fozzie says she loves surprises.

Emily Bear is ready for surfing in Malibu! 

At the farmhouse, Emily Bear is packing up and getting ready to fly to California for Christmas. She's rented out a room to Doc (Gerry Parkes, the only human cast member in this special) and his dog Sprocket.  They have come to the farmhouse to spend a nice quiet Christmas by themselves.

Doc and Sprocket arrive at "Grizzly Farm"
When Fozzie and friends arrive, Emily isn't very happy, since she's been taking surfing lessons. Suddenly, she has dozens of house guests and not enough sleeping space for everyone.  Doc is also disappointed since he wanted a peaceful holiday.

One of the Muppets is absent.  Miss Piggy is running late, due to a modelling photo shoot gig.  She phones Kermit and says she will arrive as soon as possible.

Miss Piggy hams it up at her photo shoot
The house gets even more crowded when the Sesame Street gang shows up.  Big Bird, Bert, Ernie and their friends will also spend Christmas with the Muppets.  

MORE houseguests for Mrs. Bear! 
The Swedish Chef is planning to cook a turkey for their Christmas dinner.  But when the (still living) turkey arrives he has other ideas.  The turkey tells the chef that Big Bird would make a better dinner.

Is Big Bird in trouble?
Piggy's trip is  delayed by her last minute Christmas shopping.  It's later further complicated by a major blizzard.  Kermit and friends are worried about Miss Piggy's safety.

Plus, Kermit's nephew Robin discovers a Fraggle hole in Emily's basement, leading him and Kermit to Fraggle Rock!

Frogs meet Fraggles
J.A. Morris says:
I didn't see this special when it originally aired.  I was "too old" for Christmas specials at the time and didn't watch this until a few years ago.  This is a wonderful special.

Many Muppets! 
It was nice to combine all the Muppets' "universes" that existed at the time.  It feels like a love letter to the fans who grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock.   It's all the more special when you remember that Henson would be gone in less than three years and Richard Hunt (who performed Scooter, Beaker and Janice, among others) would die in 1992.  It sort of feels like a celebration of everything Henson and company had done.

The Fraggles, including Gobo's uncle Matt, climb up from underground to join the party.

Muppet Family Christmas doesn't have much of a story, other than Miss Piggy's trip through the snow (spoiler alert:she arrives unscathed).  It's really just a series of funny interactions between Muppets. Which is fine, it's fun and entertaining from start to finish.

There's a great scene where Kermit and his nephew Robin are talking about how special Christmas is to them, which leads to their duet of "Jingle Bells."  Then suddenly, the Electric Mayhem joins with with a revved-up version of "Jingle Bell Rock."  It's a nice reminder of how Henson's Muppets could go back and forth between sentimentality and subversion.

The Electric Mayhem rocks out!
Dressing the Muppets in Winter clothing was also a nice touch.
Grover and Scooter (in a Christmas sweater!) participate in the Christmas sing-a-long.

.A Muppet Family Christmas ends with a medley of holiday songs.  It's sweet and touching without being maudlin at all. 

This special is currently out of print, but you can still find copies at libraries all over the country.  It should be noted that the version that was released on DVD and VHS is different than the one that aired on TV, with some songs cut for copyright reasons.  But that version is better than nothing.

A Muppet Family Christmas is an overlooked classic that is absolutely must see for Muppets fans.  

J.A. Morris' review:

4 candy canes!

The Sesame Street gang's Christmas pageant features "The Night Before Christmas" - note how Grover is NOT stirring in his role as the mouse
RigbyMel says:

A Muppet Family Christmas was a recent discovery for me as well.   It really is a lovely treat to see all of the Muppets from different shows interacting with one another.    

Oscar the Grouch meets Rizzo the Rat
It also feels pleasantly like an old-school Christmas variety special what with all the random people showing up at Emily Bear's home.    (I must say that Mrs. Bear, Doc and Sprocket are exceptionally good sports seeing as their holiday plans get rather significantly altered by Fozzie and company dropping in unexpectedly!)

Fozzie meets a snowy friend
As with most Muppet specials, there are some delightful character moments. I particularly enjoyed seeing Fozzie find a new comedy partner in a talking snowman and the Swedish Chef's (ultimately unsuccessful) attempts to prepare a  Christmas turkey.   Kermit and Robin's brief visit to Fraggle Rock also yields a catchy song about giving (and re-gifting) called "Pass It On."

The Muppet Babies also show up in a "home movie" clip segment 
In light of the fact that the world would lose Jim Henson & Richard Hunt just a few years after A Muppet Family Christmas was produced, this special feels extra poignant in hindsight.

Henson's cameo appearance near the end of the special makes me farklempt. Every. Time.
In addition to all the more traditional Christmas songs presented, it's also nice to see callbacks to songs from other Muppet specials like "Together At Christmas" (re-used from 1986's The Christmas Toy)  and "It's In Every One Of Us" (which first appeared on the 1979 album A Christmas Togethefeaturing John Denver and the Muppets and also in the 1983 Rocky Mountain Holiday TV special).

Gonzo and Animal are okay with these sleeping arrangements in the crowded house
A Muppet Family Christmas is a classic and well worth seeking out.    I hope that one day we will see it re-released on DVD/Blu-Ray in an un-edited version.

RigbyMel's rating:

4 candy canes! 

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