The Muppet Christmas Carol
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|The Muppet Christmas Carol|
Theatrical release poster
by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Brian Henson|
|Screenplay by||Jerry Juhl|
|Based on||A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
|Edited by||Michael Jablow|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$27.2 million (North America)|
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.
On Christmas Eve, in 19th Century London, Charles Dickens (played by Gonzo the Great) and his friend Rizzo act as narrators throughout the film. Ebenezer Scrooge, a surly money-lender, does not share the merriment of Christmas. Scrooge rejects his nephew Fred's invitation to Christmas dinner, dismisses two gentlemen's collecting money for charity, and tosses a wreath at a carol singing Bean Bunny. His loyal employee Bob Cratchit and the other bookkeepers request to have Christmas Day off, since there will be no business for Scrooge on the day, to which he reluctantly agrees. Scrooge leaves for home while the bookkeepers celebrate Christmas. In his house, Scrooge encounters the ghosts of his late business partners Jacob and Robert Marley, who warn him to repent his wicked ways or he will condemned in the afterlife like they were, informing him that three spirits will visit him during the night.
At one o'clock, Scrooge is visited by the childlike Ghost of Christmas Past who takes him back in time to his childhood and early adult life, Dickens and Rizzo hitching a ride too. They visit his lonely school days, and then his time as an employee under Fozziwig, who owned a rubber chicken factory. Fozziwig and his mother throw a Christmas party, Scrooge attends and meets a young woman named Belle, whom he falls in love with. However, the Ghost shows Scrooge how Belle left him when he chose money over her. A tearful Scrooge dismisses the Ghost as he returns to the present.
At two o'clock, Scrooge meets the gigantic, merry Ghost of Christmas Present who shows him the joys and wonder of Christmas Day. Scrooge and the Ghost visit Bob's house, learning his family is surprisingly content with their small dinner, Scrooge taking pity on Bob's ill son Tiny Tim. The Ghost of Christmas Present abruptly ages, commenting that Tiny Tim will likely not survive until next Christmas. Scrooge and the Ghost go to a cemetery, where the latter fades away, informing Scrooge that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come will arrive shortly. A fog fills the cemetery, revealing the third Ghost, who appears as a tall, silent cloaked figure. While Dickens and Rizzo abandon the audience to avoid being scared, the Ghost takes Scrooge into the future.
Scrooge and the Ghost witness a group of businessmen discussing the death of an unnamed colleague where they would only attend the funeral if lunch is provided. In a den, Scrooge recognizes his charwoman, his laundress, and the local undertaker trading several stolen possessions of the deceased to a fence named Old Joe. The Ghost transports Scrooge to Bob's house, discovering Tiny Tim has died. Scrooge is escorted back to the cemetery, where the Ghost points out his own grave, revealing Scrooge was the man who died. Realizing this, Scrooge decides to change his ways.
Awakening in his bedroom on Christmas Day, Scrooge decides to surprise Bob's family with a turkey dinner, and ventures out with Bean, Dickens, Rizzo, and the charity workers to spread happiness and joy around London. Scrooge goes to the Cratchit house, at first putting on a stern demeanor, but reveals he intends on raising Bob's salary and pay off his mortgage. Dickens narrates how Scrooge became a secondary father to Tiny Tim, who escaped death. Scrooge, the Cratchits, and the neighborhood celebrate Christmas.
- Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge
- Raymond Coulthard as Young Scrooge
- Steven Mackintosh as Fred, Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew.
- Meredith Braun as Belle, Scrooge's neglected fiancée.
- Robin Weaver as Clara, Ebenezer 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:
- Jerry Nelson as:
- Frank Oz as:
- David Rudman as:
- Peter Cratchit, the son of Bob and Emily Cratchit.
- Old Joe (puppeteer only)
- The Swedish Chef
- Karen Prell as:
- Ghost of Christmas Past (puppeteer only)
- Robert Tygner as:
- William Todd-Jones as:
- Ghost of Christmas Past (puppeteer only)
- Don Austen as:
Following Jim Henson's death in 1990, talent agent Bill Haber approached his son Brian with the idea of filming an adaptation. Haber told Henson that "Christmas Carol is the greatest story of all time, you should do that" and later informed Henson that he sold the idea to ABC as a television movie. Longtime Muppets writer Jerry Juhl was hired to write the script and decided to insert Charles Dickens as the stand-in narrator in order to remain faithful to the original prose of the written material. Henson stated that Gonzo was chosen because he was the least likely choice to play Charles Dickens, while Rizzo the Rat was added to inject some humor and serve as a Greek chorus. Established Muppet characters were initially written to portray with various accounts stating Robin the Frog or Scooter was to be the Ghost of Christmas Past, Miss Piggy to be the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Gonzo (before he was written to portray Dickens) or Animal as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. However, the idea was scrapped in favor of new Muppet characters that would better underline the ominous nature. After the script was submitted for approval to ABC, the executives of Walt Disney Pictures offered to purchase the script for a feature film instead of a television movie.
English actors David Hemmings, Ron Moody, and David Warner and comedian George Carlin were considered to portray Ebenezer Scrooge. Henson later offered the role to Michael Caine, who agreed to the role on condition that "I'm going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role and there are no puppets around me." Production took place at the Shepperton Studios, England and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. During filming, in order to accommodate for the Muppets and the human actors to be in the shot, floors had to be removed and re-inserted, as well as Michael Caine having to walk across narrow planks between the Muppets and their performers. Additionally, the buildings in the London street scenes were constructed by hand, but diminished in size in order to achieve the appearance that the streets were relatively longer. When the musical sequence "It Feels Like Christmas" ends with the crane shot, the short buildings became visibly seen in the background, in which Brian Henson explained on the DVD audio commentary that they were aware of the problem during shooting, but eventually decided that the closing shot was worth it as they believed not many people would notice the error.
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. However, the film opened in sixth place initially reported to have collected $5.9 million in box office estimates, which was later revised to have grossed $5 million. Ultimately, The Muppet Christmas Carol grossed a total of $27,281,507 domestically. 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 received mostly favorable reviews from critics. Janet Maslin, reviewing for The New York Times, summarized the film is not a "great show of wit or tunefulness here, and the ingenious cross-generational touches are fairly rare. But there is a lively kiddie version of the Dickens tale, one that very young viewers ought to understand." Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, who gave the film three stars out of four, praised the technical achievements, but felt it "could have done with a few more songs than it has, and the merrymaking at the end might have been carried on a little longer, just to offset the gloom of most of Scrooge's tour through his lifetime spent spreading misery." On the television program Siskel & Ebert, his partner Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel gave the film a Thumbs Down although he was favorable towards Michael Caine's performance. Also from The Chicago Tribune, Dave Kehr reviewed the film as "a talky, plodding film that seems likely to bore children and adults in equal measure." Nevertheless, Kehr praised Val Strazovec's production design and John Fenner's cinematography believing its "shadowy, naturalistic lighting creates a new look for a puppet film", but derided Paul Williams's songs as unmemorable. Likewise, Variety praised the production design and criticized Williams's songs, writing Muppets Christmas Carol is "not as enchanting or amusing as the previous entries in the Muppet series. But nothing can really diminish the late Jim Henson's irresistibly appealing characters. Giving the film three stars out of five, Almar Haflidason of BBC wrote the film is "liberal but fun adaptation of a classic" that "turns out to be quite touching as Muppet movies go. Less pleasing are the forgettable songs that offer both clumsy word construction and dire music that eats away at the aesthetic quality of the movie. But you'll be too busy looking out for the assorted Muppets to care much." On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Muppet Christmas Carol has a 69% approval rating, based on 36 reviews, with a rating average of 6.2 out of 10. The critical consensus states "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 doesn't 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 film, which were written by Paul Williams, as well several cues from the score by Miles Goodman. The performances are by the Muppet characters as well as Caine, and the album also includes the songs "Room in Your Heart" and "Chairman of the Board" that were recorded but never filmed. As with all Muppet films (except Muppets from Space), The Muppet Christmas Carol was shot as a musical. The soundtrack album peaked at #189 on the Billboard 200 chart. The soundtrack was digitally re-released by Walt Disney Records on November 6, 2012.
"When Love Is Gone"
"When Love Is Gone" was a song performed by the character Belle (voiced by 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 edition by Jeffrey Katzenberg of Walt Disney Studios, who believed that the scene would not appeal to young children, before being tacked into the end credits.
The film plays with an obvious, jarring edit when the film is played with the song missing. Henson objected to their decision, believing that the song itself would interfere with the plot. The concluding song, "The Love We Found", is a direct counterpoint to it, and the song was subsequently restored to the VHS edition, which contains the missing soundtrack to this day.
According to the movie's Director Brian Henson, he commented: ""When Love Is Gone" was not in the theatrical release, and is presently missing from the movie, which is a real shame. It was on the VHS release," and has explained that the reason the song has not been reinserted into future releases of the film is because "I just remastered the film. I remastered it 2 years ago, and Disney has lost the film... I think they will find it because I keep reminding them, "You’ve got to go find it.""
- "THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (U)". British Board of Film Classification. December 2, 1992. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- "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.
- Brian Henson, Steve Whitmire (21 December 2015). "How we made: The Muppet Christmas Carol". The Guardian (Interview). Interview with Ben Beaumont-Thomas. Retrieved 25 December 2015.
- Brian Henson (December 18, 2015). "The 'Rainbow Connection' Connection And Other 'Muppet Christmas Carol' Facts". Uproxx (Interview). Interview with Alyssa Fikse. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
- Brian Henson (December 23, 2015). "Brian Henson On What Makes 'A Muppet Christmas Carol' So Special And His Father's Legacy". Uproxx (Interview). Interview with Alyssa Fikse. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
- Puchko, Kristy (December 1, 2015). "14 Things You Might Not Know About 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'". Mental Floss.
- Heaney, Katie (December 12, 2013). "14 Things You Didn't Know About "The Muppet Christmas Carol"". BuzzFeed. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
- 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 December 18, 2010.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (Audio commentary). Brian Henson. Burbank, California: Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2002. B000065V41.
- Fox, David J. (1992-12-15). "Weekend Box Office : 'Home Alone' Passes $100 Million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Fox, David J. (December 14, 1992). "'Good Men' Salutes Its $16 Million". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for December 11-13, 2015". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- 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.
- Ebert, Roger (December 11, 1992). "The Muppet Christmas Carol Movie Review (1992)". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- "A Few Good Men / The Muppets Christmas Carol / Passion Fish (1992)". Siskel & Ebert. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- Kehr, Dave (December 11, 1992). "`Muppet Christmas Carol` Is Short On Holiday Spirit". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- Variety Staff (December 31, 1991). "Review: 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'". Variety. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Haflidason, Almar (December 14, 2000). "Films – review – The Muppet Christmas Carol". BBC. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- "The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- "'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.
- Grace, Willie (December 12, 2014). "Why The Muppet Christmas Carol's song Was cut, But Really Should Have Stayed". Houston Style Magazine. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
- "Brian Henson On What Makes 'A Muppet Christmas Carol' So Special And His Father's Legacy". UPROXX.
- Official website
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at the Internet Movie Database
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at Box Office Mojo
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at Rotten Tomatoes