Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An appeal to Disney and The Henson Company

We spent this Christmas season blogging about Muppets holiday programming.  Tonight is Twelth Night, so we bid farewell to Christmas with an appeal to the owners of the Muppets to release some other specials that are not currently available on dvd.  In fact, they've never been officially released domestically on home video in any format.

The ownership of the Muppets and the various Muppet specials, movies and series is complicated.  For example, Kermit and the other characters from The Muppet Show are owned by Disney, but the Jim Henson Company owns other characters, such as the fraggles.  Song rights are also preventing some specials from being released in their original form, without major edits.  There are unauthorized copies of these specials floating around and clips on the internet.  But it would be nice to see them officially released.  

The Great Santa Claus Switch features a great assortment of Muppet monsters and elves, with Art Carney playing both Santa and the villain Cosmo Scam.  It was hosted by Ed Sullivan and is considered an episode of Sullivan's classic variety show.

Art Carney as Santa Claus.
The Ed Sullivan Show is owned by SOFA Entertainment, which adds yet another wrinkle to why we haven't seen it released on home video.  But it's a very good Christmas special, you can see Henson trying out ideas that would be used in later Muppet productions.

Cosmo Scam (Art Carney again) plots with his monster minions.
John Denver And The Muppets:A Christmas Together is also unavailable due to music rights. This is covered in detail in an excellent post at Christmas TV History.

John Denver leads the Muppets in a performance of "Silent Night."
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree aired in 1995 and is an adaptation of a book by Robert Barry.  In addition to Muppets, it features a great cast of humans, with Robert Downey Jr., Stockard Channing and Leslie Nielsen in starring roles.

Mr. Willowby and friends.
Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire) hosts and narrates the special, which features both Mr. Willowby (Downey) and a family of mice seeking the perfect Christmas tree.  It's a short but nice story, with new Christmas songs.  Downey gets to sing here, something you don't see him do in recent films like Iron Man 3.  There are also some beautiful and intricate puppets created by the Henson Workshop,  the owls are especially stunning.

We know it's unlikely that these specials will get a legitimate release.  But that's what they used to say about the 1960s Batman series. That show was produced by Fox, with characters owned by Warner Bros..  But Batman was finally released in 2014, so why not these rarely seen Muppet specials?  These shows are part of TV history as well as the legacy of one of our greatest performing artists, Jim Henson.  They deserve to be available to a wider audience.

J.A. & RigbyMel


bga said...

Your points are well made. I think the companies involved should work together to make these treasures available to the public.

RigbyMel said...

Thanks, bga.
We will have to see what the companies involved can agree on, I guess.