Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (TV program)

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Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas.jpg
Genre
Based on Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
by Russell Hoban and Lillian Hoban
Written by Jerry Juhl
Directed by Jim Henson
Starring
Theme music composer Paul Williams
Country of origin USA
Production
Producer(s) Jim Henson
Running time 48 min.
Production company(s) The Jim Henson Company
Distributor The Jim Henson Company
Release
Original network HBO
Original release December 17, 1977 (1977-12-17)

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is a TV special that is based on the children's story of the same name and was produced by The Jim Henson Company.

Production[edit]

In 1977, Muppet creator Jim Henson produced a one-hour television adaptation of the story filmed in Toronto for HBO in the United States, and CBC in Canada. The special premiered on HBO on December 17, 1977.[1][2] The special later aired on ABC in 1990 and on Nickelodeon in the 2000s. The special features several original songs written by songwriter Paul Williams.

The special utilizes a number of different puppetry methods. The main puppets used are the usual Muppet hand puppets, but the characters are frequently represented by marionettes as well. It also utilizes the Bunraku and Black Theater techniques. This is also one of the first Muppet productions to use radio control puppet effects, designed by Faz Fazakas.

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas also featured extensively platformed-up sets, all created with great attention to detail. Jim Henson explained:

John J. O'Connor gave the special a very positive review in The New York Times on December 15, 1990 for its ABC airing: "Jim Henson and the Muppets are on a dazzling winning streak these days... Mr. Henson has produced and directed one of the most charming Christmas specials of the last several years... Once again, Mr. Henson's creations verge on the marvelous, perfectly capturing the Wind in the Willows aspects of Emmet Otter's story... These really are the nicest folk on the river – and on prime-time television."[4]

The original special was hosted by Kermit the Frog. However, later releases edited out the frog's narration due to legal issues. While The Jim Henson Company retained ownership of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, the company sold the rights to the Muppets (including Kermit) to The Walt Disney Company in 2014 (namely their branch in The Muppets Studio). When it aired on ABC Family (before it became Freeform) in 2015, they still used the parts with Kermit the Frog in it.

Plot[edit]

Following an introduction by Kermit the Frog, the story tells of Emmet Otter and his Ma, a widow who scrapes by on the small amount of money she gets from doing laundry and that Emmet gets from doing odd jobs around their home in the town of Frogtown Hollow despite both of them often being cheated. Some of the people who cheated them are Old Lady Possum and Gretchen Fox (the wife of Mayor Harrison Fox) of Waterville. As Christmas approaches, they hear of a talent contest in the nearby town of Waterville and separately decide to enter to buy nice presents for each other: a nice guitar for Emmet, or a piano for Ma. However, in a twist on The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, they must sacrifice each other's livelihood for the talent contest. Ma hocks Emmet's tools for dress fabric while Emmet turns Ma's washtub into a washtub bass for a jug band. Emmet assembles Wendell Badger, Harvey Beaver, and Charlie Muskrat as the Frogtown Hollow Jubilee Jug Band.

Emmet and Ma each do an excellent job (despite Emmet's jug band having to frantically change songs after another contestant performs their song, Bar-b-que), only to be defeated at the last minute by a rock and roll band called The Riverbottom Nightmare Band (most likely due to the nasty Gretchen Fox on the judging committee with James Badger and Doc Bullfrog), which comprises a hoodlum gang from the fairly distant town of River Bottom made up of Chuck Stoat, Fred Lizard, Howard Snake, "Pop-Eyed" Catfish, and Stanley Weasel. However, as the Frogtown Hollow Jubilee Jug Band sing a song together on the way home (more accurately, both of their talent show songs together after Ma realized they fit together), they are overheard by Doc Bullfrog (owner of a local restaurant called the Riverside Rest) who hires them to sing for his customers. This grants them the bigger prize.

Muppet performers[edit]

Songs[edit]

The special features several original songs written by songwriter Paul Williams. Paul Williams had previously worked with the Muppets on The Muppet Show and would go on to collaborate with the Muppets by writing all the songs for The Muppet Movie and The Muppet Christmas Carol. The song "Brothers In Our World" was later covered by My Morning Jacket for the special Muppets cover album Muppets: The Green Album.

List of songs
  • "The Bathing Suit That Grandma Otter Wore"
  • "There Ain't No Hole in the Washtub"
  • "When the River Meets the Sea"
  • "Bar-B-Que"
  • "Our World"
  • "Brothers"
  • "Riverbottom Nightmare Band"
  • "Brothers in Our World"

Releases[edit]

In 2013, Vivendi Entertainment released "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas: DVD Collector's Edition" featuring, a one-hour behind the scenes documentary and other all new bonus features. The 2005 Collector's Edition DVD also revealed a "lost" song that was recorded, but never actually used in the special. Called "I Was Born in the Trunk", the song was written for the talent show scene and was performed by the Waterville music store owner.

In 2017, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the special, musician Matt Surowiec produced an officially licensed "tribute" album featuring all-new covers of Paul Williams' original songs from the special.[5]

Awards[edit]

Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas was nominated for four Emmy Awards in 1981:

  • Outstanding Children's Program, David Lazer (executive producer) and Jim Henson (producer)
  • Outstanding Individual Achievement – Children's Programming, Calista Hendrickson (costume designer) and Sherry Ammott (costume designer)
  • Outstanding Individual Achievement – Children's Programming, Paul Williams (composer/lyricist) for the song "When The River Meets the Sea".
  • Outstanding Individual Achievement – Children's Programming, Tom Wright (lighting)

Later appearances[edit]

  • Chuck Stoat, Howard Snake, and Old Lady Possum made cameos in The Muppet Movie. They are seen in the Rainbow Connection Finale.
  • Some of the puppets made cameos in The Muppet Show:
    • Mayor Harrison Fox's puppet was reused in several episodes that included the Woodland Animals including the "Bob Hope" episode (where he was in the "For What It's Worth Number" with unclothed versions of Old Lady Possum, James Badger, Will Possum, George Rabbit, and Nat Muskrat alongside a deer, a mouse, a toothless beaver, and a weasel), the "Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge" episode (where he alongside James Badger, Nat Muskrat, and Will Possum were repurposed for the "We're All Alone" song that also featured Billy the Bear, a Deer, a Beaver, and a Weasel), and the "Leo Sayer" episode (where he was featured in the "When I Need You" number with Billy the Bear, Mickey Moose, Harold Woodpecker, a beaver, a weasel, James Badger, and Crazy Harry).
    • Fred Lizard was seen in the "Shields & Yarnell" and the "Dyan Cannon" episode.
  • Emmet Otter, Alice Otter, Mayor Harrison Fox, Gretchen Fox, and Wendell Porcupine appeared in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years.
  • Doc Bullfrog, Yancy Woodchuck, Old Lady Possum, George and Melissa Rabbit, and two squirrels appeared in the "Jim Henson's Musical World" concert at Carnegie Hall

References[edit]

  1. ^ December 1987 HBO Program Guide, page 13
  2. ^ HBO Soundtrack:The Muppets are coming! – November 1977 HBO Program Guide, page 22
  3. ^ Jim Henson: The Works, p. 199, 202
  4. ^ O'Connor, John J. The New York Times, December 15, 1980
  5. ^ Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Tribute Archived 2011-07-14 at the Wayback Machine., August 21, 2017

External links[edit]