The Muppet Christmas Carol
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|The Muppet Christmas Carol|
Theatrical release poster
by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Brian Henson|
|Produced by||Brian Henson
Martin G. Baker
|Screenplay by||Jerry Juhl|
|Based on||A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
|Starring||Kermit the Frog
The Great Gonzo
Rizzo the Rat
|Music by||Miles Goodman|
|Edited by||Michael Jablow|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a 1992 American musical fantasy-comedy film and an adaptation of Charles Dickens's 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. It is the fourth in a series of live-action musical films featuring The Muppets, with Michael Caine starring as Ebenezer Scrooge. Although it is a comedic film with contemporary songs, The Muppet Christmas Carol otherwise follows Dickens's original story closely. The film was produced and directed by Brian Henson for Jim Henson Productions, and released by Walt Disney Pictures.
The Muppet Christmas Carol was dedicated to Muppets creator Jim Henson and fellow puppeteer Richard Hunt, who died in 1990 and 1992, respectively. Principal photography began two years after Henson's death.
In this adaptation of the Christmas story narrated by Charles Dickens himself (played by Gonzo the Great) with the occasional commentary of Rizzo the Rat, it is Christmas Eve in 19th century London. The merriment is not shared by Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a surly money-lender who is more interested in profit than celebration. So cold to the season of giving is he that his bookkeeping staff, including loyal employee Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), have to plead with him just to have a day off work for Christmas by pointing out that Scrooge would have no customers on the holiday and that it would waste coal to sit alone in the office. Scrooge's nephew Fred (Steven Mackintosh) arrives to invite his uncle to Christmas dinner with him and two gentlemen (Bunsen and Beaker) also come to Scrooge's offices collecting money in the spirit of the season to provide a Christmas dinner for the poor. Scrooge rebuffs his nephew and complains that it is not worth looking after the poor, as their deaths will decrease the surplus population. Fred is shocked at his uncle's uncharitable and cold nature, but repeats his invitation, makes his own donation, and departs. Bean Bunny shows up asking for a penny to hear his song, but Scrooge throws a wreath at him.
Later that evening, Scrooge finds himself face to face with the still mean-spirited ghosts of his former business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf) who have been condemned to shackles in the afterlife as punishment for the horrible deeds they committed in life. However, they warn him that he will share the same fate, only worse, if he does not change his ways, and foretell the arrival of three spirits throughout the night.
Scrooge is first visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (voiced by Jessica Fox), a childlike specter who takes Scrooge on a journey back through time to his youth. He recalls his early school days, during which he focused on his studies under the Schoolmaster (Sam Eagle). At a later life working at a rubber chicken factory called Fozziwig and Ma Ltd. owned by Fozziwig (Fozzie Bear) where he attends Fozziwig's party (with music provided by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem). Then Scrooge meets a young woman named Belle (Meredith Braun), with whom he would later fall in love and become engaged to. Eventually, Belle ends their relationship as she knows, despite Scrooge's protests that he would marry her as soon as he feels he has enough money to provide for them, he will most likely never have enough.
Scrooge then meets the Ghost of Christmas Present a large, festive spirit with a booming voice who lives only for the here and now. He gives Scrooge a glimpse into the holiday celebration of others. The Spirit shows Scrooge his nephew Fred's party where he, his wife Clara (Robin Weaver), and their guests (consisting of Dr. Julius Strangepork, Lyle the Dog, a female pig, and Brool the Minstrel and Wander McMooch from Fraggle Rock) are not above cracking jokes at Scrooge's expense. Then Scrooge is taken to the house of Bob Cratchit and his family, who, although poor, are enjoying Christmas together and reveling in the anticipation of the Christmas goose. He even sees young Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog) who has an illness. When Scrooge asks if Tiny Tim will live, the Ghost of Christmas Present states that he won't survive to next Christmas as the Ghost of Christmas Present begins to expire.
Finally, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (which causes the narrators to leave the audience for this part of the film in fear), a silent entity who reveals the chilling revelation that Tiny Tim will not survive the coming year, thanks in no small part to the impoverished existence of the Cratchit family. Furthermore, it is revealed that when Scrooge's own time has passed, others will certainly delight in his absence from the world where four local pig businessmen are planning to attend his funeral if lunch is provided, Scrooge's charwoman Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's laundress, and the local undertaker steal the very possessions that Scrooge had owned and selling them to a spider fence named Old Joe (voiced by David Shaw Parker). Upon seeing his headstone in the cemetery, it is the final epiphany that convinces Scrooge to change his ways, and makes him vow to celebrate with his fellow man.
He returns to his bedroom on Christmas Day (the narrators have also returned as well), and goes about the town spreading good deeds and charity. He enlists the help of Bean Bunny and the two travel around the town gathering items for a Christmas feast and giving gifts to characters who had previously been wronged by Scrooge, as well as gifts to Fred and a visit to the retirement home where Fozziwig and the Schoolmaster currently reside. Arriving finally at the Cratchits' home, Scrooge makes a false show of his old meanness, pretending to reprimand Bob for not being at work that morning, despite having reluctantly granted him leave the previous day. To the amazement and delight of Bob and his family, Scrooge then jovially announces that he is going to raise Bob's salary and pay for their house's mortgage. He also plans a feast for the family, and learns to adopt the spirit of Christmas throughout the year as he and the Cratchits are joined in the feast with the rest of the town.
- Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge
- Steven Mackintosh as Fred, Ebeneezer Scrooge's nephew.
- Meredith Braun as Belle, Scrooge's neglected fiancée.
- Robin Weaver as Clara, Ebeneezer Scrooge's niece-in-law and Fred's wife.
- Jessica Fox as Ghost of Christmas Past (voice)
- David Shaw Parker as Old Joe (voice)
- Edward Sanders, Theo Sanders, Kristopher Milnes, Russell Martin, and Ray Coulthard as Young Scrooge
- Anthony Hamblin as Boy #1
- Fergus Brazier as Boy #2
- Dave Goelz as:
- Steve Whitmire as:
- Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit
- Rizzo the Rat as Himself
- Bean Bunny
- Belinda Crachit, the daughter of Bob and Emily Cratchit and twin sister of Betina.
- Sprocket from Fraggle Rock
- Inkspots from Fraggle Rock
- Murray the Minstrel from Fraggle Rock
- Pig Businessmen
- Rat Bookkeepers
- Jerry Nelson as:
- Frank Oz as:
- David Rudman as:
- The Swedish Chef
- Peter Cratchit, the son of Bob and Emily Cratchit.
- Old Joe (puppeteer)
- Wander McMooch from Fraggle Rock
- Louise Gold as:
- Robert Tygner as:
- Don Austen as:
The Muppet Christmas Carol was one of the ideas by Jim Henson shortly after the Muppets joined Disney and was directed by Jim Henson's son Brian. Taking over the puppeteering role of Kermit, originally performed by Jim Henson before his death in 1990, was Steve Whitmire (Whitmire had already first performed Kermit in the 1990 CBS special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, aired six months after Henson's death). It was shot in Shepperton Studios, England and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Despite the use of Muppets throughout filming and a humorous spin on much of the story, this film is a fairly close adaptation of the original story. The story proper is interspersed with scenes of a narrator (Gonzo playing Dickens), who, along with the characters, recites many of Dickens's original words. One notable difference from the original story is the addition of Jacob Marley's brother, Robert, who was not present in Dickens' story, to allow the use of both Statler and Waldorf. It is suggested this name was chosen as an oblique reference to musician Bob Marley. Also, Scrooge's sister Fan, isn't shown in the film. Another alteration involved changing the name of the character Fezziwig to Fozziwig, as Fozzie Bear played the role. Another difference is that whilst in the film, the Ghost of Christmas Present is perpetually jolly and cheerful, the novel counterpart was regularly grim and stern to Scrooge. In contrast, this adaptation is unusual in that it presents the Ghost of Christmas Present as aging during the course of his visit, as he does in Dickens' novel. The human forms of Ignorance and Want, shown as hideous, animalistic children in the novel, are absent from the film (as is also the case with several other adaptations). Richard Hunt could not perform any of the Muppets because he had contracted AIDS. He passed away 12 months before the film's release.
This is the first Muppet film in which the story revolves around characters played by human beings, specifically Ebenezer Scrooge as played by Michael Caine. The rest of the cast consisted of mostly Muppet performers. Several pivotal roles—in particular, the three Christmas Spirits—were portrayed by specially-created Muppet characters. It was at one time considered that well-known Muppets would be cast in these roles (Miss Piggy, Scooter, and Gonzo, specifically) before it was decided that it would detract from the ominous effect the spirits would need to convey. Only the Ghost of Christmas Present is clearly a Muppet (albeit a giant one), while the Ghost of Christmas Past is an ethereal childlike spirit and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a hooded robed and terrifying wraith as per tradition. The Ghost of Christmas Past effects were created by making a special puppet that was operated in a tank of water and then green-screened into the film, to make it look like it was floating.
It is also the first Muppet film to exclude Sesame Street Muppet characters in its production (not counting Kermit).
Disney appeared to have high expectations for the film, being their widest-released film of the holiday season and the second widest release under the Walt Disney Pictures banner that year. Yet despite being a modest box office success, The Muppet Christmas Carol did not make much of an impact during its theatrical release, having to face competition from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Disney's Aladdin. The film grossed a total of $27,281,507 domestically. Critical reception, however, was mostly favorable. It currently has a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus being, "It may not be the finest version of Charles Dickens' tale to grace the screen, but The Muppet Christmas Carol is funny and heartwarming, and serves as a good introduction to the story for young viewers."
This is the first Muppet film co-produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures—and the rights to the Muppets featured in the film would later be purchased by the studio's parent company. Other than the film's theatrical releases, the film has also been made available on home video formats. It was released on VHS in the US on November 5, 1993, in the UK on November 19 and twice on DVD in Region 1. The first DVD release on October 8, 2002 was in a fullscreen-only format. Walt Disney Home Entertainment re-released the film on DVD on November 29, 2005 in conjunction with Kermit the Frog's 50th anniversary celebration; this time the DVD contained both full-screen and widescreen presentations. The film was also released in Region 2.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released a "20th Anniversary Collector's Edition" on Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy on November 6, 2012. The release did not include the film's extended cut or "When Love is Gone".
The film's original score was composed by Miles Goodman with songs written by Paul Williams. Williams previously worked with the Muppets on the soundtrack to The Muppet Movie in which he and Kenneth Ascher were nominated for an Academy Award for writing "Rainbow Connection". Goodman previously scored several films that were directed by Muppet performer Frank Oz.
|The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by The Muppets|
Walt Disney (Re-release)
|The Muppets chronology|
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack contains all of the songs from the movie, with performances by the Muppet characters as well as Caine, including the songs "Room in Your Heart" and "Chairman of the Board" that were recorded but never filmed. As with all Muppet movies (except Muppets from Space), The Muppet Christmas Carol was filmed as a musical. The soundtrack album peaked at #189 on the Billboard 200 chart. The soundtrack also became available to purchase at the iTunes Store the same day as the film's Blu-ray release.
- Track listing
- "Overture" – Miles Goodman
- "Scrooge" – Cast
- "Room in Your Heart" – Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker
- "Good King Wenceslas" – Muppet Brass Buskers
- "One More Sleep 'til Christmas" – Kermit
- "Marley and Marley" – Statler and Waldorf
- "Christmas Past" – Miles Goodman
- "Chairman of the Board" – Sam the Eagle
- "Fozziwig's Party" – Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
- "When Love is Gone" – Belle (Meredith Braun)
- "It Feels Like Christmas" – Ghost of Christmas Present
- "Christmas Scat" – Kermit and Tiny Tim
- "Bless Us All" – Tiny Tim and Family
- "Christmas Future" – Miles Goodman
- "Christmas Morning" – Miles Goodman
- "Thankful Heart" – Scrooge and Cast
- "Finale: When Love Is Found/It Feels Like Christmas" – Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Cast
- "When Love Is Gone" – Martina McBride
"When Love Is Gone"
"When Love Is Gone" was a song performed by the character Belle (Meredith Braun) as she laments that Scrooge's love for money has replaced his love for her. The song was cut from the original 1992 theatrical release by Jeffrey Katzenberg of Walt Disney Studios, who believed that the scene would not appeal to young children. The movie plays with an obvious, jarring edit when the film is played with the song missing. Brian Henson objected to their decision, believing that the song was integral to the plot (the concluding song, "When Love is Found", is a direct counterpoint to it), and the song was subsequently restored to the fullscreen VHS and Letterboxed Laserdisc editions. This song was also cut from the 20th Anniversary Edition of the film released on DVD (widescreen only; however, the fullscreen version has the song). The song was also not included on the Blu-ray, or the DVD disc that is packaged with the Blu-ray combo pack released in 2012, and this version of the film on the HD release features new and different music editing to disguise the jarring edit. The song is also absent from the edition of the film featured on Netflix.
- "The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- King, Susan (1996-03-10). "The Muppets Take On Dickens' 'Carol'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- Heckman, Don (December 13, 1992). "Ghosts of Music Past: 'The Muppet Christmas Carol' songwriter Paul Williams undergoes a metamorphosis no less powerful than Scrooge's". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- Fox, David J. (1992-12-15). "Weekend Box Office : 'Home Alone' Passes $100 Million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Maslin, Janet (1992-12-11). "The Muppet Christmas Carol – Review/Film; Kermit, Etc. Do Dickens Up Green". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- "The Muppet Christmas Carol :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Haflidason, Almar (December 14, 2000). "Films – review – The Muppet Christmas Carol". BBC. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Variety Staff (December 31, 1991). "Review: 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'". Variety. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- "'The Muppet Christmas Carol: 20th Anniversary Edition' Dated for Blu-ray". High-Def Digest. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- Brown, Kenneth (6 November 2012). "The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray Review". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
- Plume, Kenneth (10 February 2000). "INTERVIEW WITH FRANK OZ". IGN. Retrieved 12 March 2015.
- Official website
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at the Internet Movie Database
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at AllMovie
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at Box Office Mojo
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at Rotten Tomatoes