“A fuzzy blue Charles Dickens” | The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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In 1843 Christmas in England was undergoing a process of change and re-evaluation. Its core purpose as a Christian festival remained central, however it was rapidly developing a broader significance as a commercial and family-oriented holiday. The tradition of placing a Christmas tree had only just gained popularity in Great Britain, following its well-reported use by Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert. 1843 was also the first year in which Christmas cards were sold and distributed as a holiday tradition.

In the middle of this renewed period of interest for all things Christmas-related, London publisher Chapman & Hall released A Christmas Carol, a festive ghost story written by popular novelist Charles Dickens. The book was an immediate best-seller, selling out of its 60,000 copy print run in a single day. Its imagery and setting rapidly came to define the British ideal of the Christmas holiday.

A Christmas Carol has remained popular since publication, and has subsequently been adapted for theatre, opera, television and, of course, motion pictures.

The first film adaptation was Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost, a short film produced in London in 1901. It was followed by further short and feature treatments: at least 20 different direct adaptations between 1908 and 2009, not to mention further related films and parodies over the decades. Despite a wide variety of Christmas Carol films to choose from, one of the best – and surprisingly most accurate – is Brian Henson’s 1992 film The Muppet Christmas Carol, in which most of the cast are played by puppets.

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The Muppets should not need an introduction. The name was coined by puppeteer and creative artist Jim Henson, purely as a marketing device to distinguish his puppeteering efforts from those of his competitors. His anarchic, self-aware take and likeable characters – beginning with Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog before expanding through the likes of Sesame Street – became an American institution and international sensation.

It was The Muppet Show, produced in England by ITC and then syndicated on American television, that broke the Muppet characters through the pop culture stratosphere. Over five seasons the Muppet characters hosted their own variety show with a string of famous actors, singers and performers guest starring in each episode. While Kermit the Frog was already a household name via Sesame Street, he was joined by a raft of other popular characters including the volatile Miss Piggy, the struggling comedian Fozzie Bear and the blue furry performance artist Gonzo the Great.

With the Muppets’ popularity at their height, ITC head Lew Grade negotiated to launch the characters into their own movie franchise. The Muppet Movie was released in 1979; The Great Muppet Caper followed in 1981. Following a third film in 1984, The Muppets Take Manhattan, the Muppet characters slipped onto the back-burner in favour of other Henson projects including Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller and lavish fantasy films including Labyrinth and The Witches. They continued to appear in a number of TV specials, but the company’s focus – and Jim Henson’s own attention – were for the most part focused elsewhere.

Even during the late 1980s there were still plans developed for a fourth Muppet feature film, however none of those plans were fully developed. From 1985 Jim Henson and screenwriter Jerry Juhl developed The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made! in which Gonzo wastes an entire film’s budget in the first five minutes, leaving the remainder of the film to be shot in a cheaper and shoddier fashion as it went along. The project continued to develop throughout the 1980s, and was even considered for production by Walt Disney Pictures as recently as 2009.

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Then, in May 1990, Jim Henson unexpectedly died. A persistent bout of influenza resulted in bacterial pneumonia. He died in the early morning of 16 May 1990 from multiple organ failure; he was 53.

Jim Henson’s death came in the middle of a long negotiation for Walt Disney Pictures to buy out the Muppet franchise part-and-parcel. The initial impetus for the sale was to enable Jim Henson to focus on other film and television projects without spending all of his time shepherding the Muppet characters. With his death, that impetus was gone – and after further negotiations between the two companies Henson’s widow and children elected not to proceed with the sale.

‘In hindsight, there were all sorts of problems there,’ said Brian Henson, ‘The fact that we had an enormous legal firm representing the family and kind-of wanting to protect the family, in a weird way – and Disney had a huge team of lawyers. At a certain point, it almost felt like regardless of what the family and Michael Eisner [Disney’s CEO] wanted to have happen, it wasn’t going to happen with these armies of lawyers. By the time we were looking at a deal that was getting close to closable, it just wasn’t going to work anymore. Everyone thinks it must have been a very hard decision not to go forward with the merger, but in a lot of ways it was actually the easier decision.’[i]

While Walt Disney Pictures did not wind up purchasing the Muppets, they did retain a distribution deal for Muppet productions that the elder Henson had signed before his death. That led both Disney and the Jim Henson Company to collaborate on a new Muppet movie – the first in eight years. That new Muppet film was The Muppet Christmas Carol.

‘I needed to do something quite different with the Muppets,’ said Brian Henson, ‘because three movies with the Muppets playing themselves in the real world felt like a lot. And my dad was even thinking, “I’m not really sure what to do next.” So that’s why we thought, let’s take them in a whole new direction. I’d been working in London, and I wanted to do something that was richer and more fantastic than the traditional Muppet movies. And so [we had this idea of] Muppet Christmas Carol, wherein we could design the whole world and it was Dickensian and yet it was still Muppets.’[ii]

‘In previous films,’ explained Henson, ‘the Muppets played themselves. In this film, the Muppets play parts. The characters operate on two levels; first, they’re the recognisable Muppet characters that we all know and whose actions and relationships we can anticipate, and then there are the characters they’re playing.’[iii]

Jerry Juhl, a Henson veteran who had written for the Muppets since Sam & Friends in 1955, wrote the film’s screenplay. ‘When this project was first discussed,’ he said, ‘it was so easy to think in terms of parody. So rather than let the Muppets ride roughshod over Dickens, I went back to the novel and decided it would be rotten of us to belittle the quality of one of the greatest stories of all time. I was determined to preserve the intent and honest emotions of the piece, while overlaying the Muppet brand of craziness.’[iv]

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Casting the Muppets in specific roles was a logical progression for the characters. Since the 1960s the Muppet characters had occupied a strange liminal existence: clearly fictional, yet broadly treated as actual people. Take Kermit the Frog. He is a green felt glove puppet, yet has attended Presidential inaugurations, hosted Lateline and The Tonight Show and remains the only fictional character to deliver a lecture at Cambridge University. Collectively we all know he is not real, but we treat him as if he is.

The strange Muppet existence, somewhere between fiction and reality, reached fresh heights in November 1990 when CBS aired a Disney-produced special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. At one point Gonzo points out the puppeteers operating below the Muppets, to which the Muppet characters react with alarm. Gonzo then proceeds to demonstrate how running around the room forces the puppeteers to run around as well.

For Brian Henson shifting the Muppets into story-specific characters was a pronounced step away from what his father had produced, however in practice it’s not too far removed from what Jim Henson had established and previously brought to life.

Another part of why The Muppet Christmas Carol feels like such a smooth progression for the Muppet characters is the extent to which the film re-uses old talent. The screenplay is by Jerry Juhl. The songs were composed by Paul Williams, whose work on The Muppet Movie had earned him an Academy Award nomination for “The Rainbow Connection”. The entire Muppet Show troupe of puppeteers returned for the film, save for Richard Hunt – who was too ill from AIDS-related illnesses to participate. He died in January 1992. The Muppet Christmas Carol is dedicated to both him and Jim Henson.

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While many of the novel’s characters were adopted by Muppets, the central role of Ebenezer Scrooge was written for a human actor. In this respect The Muppet Christmas Carol does chart a major new course, since the previous three Muppet films had all focused on Kermit as their protagonist with humans playing supporting parts. In many respects it’s a deliberate inversion: rather than enter the human world, the Muppets invite a human into theirs.

The role of Ebenezer Scrooge was played by Michael Caine. While other actors had been considered for the role, including David Warner, George Carlin and Ron Moody, Caine remained Brian Henson’s first and only real choice. Caine said: ‘Over the years I had watched as all my friends had appeared on The Muppet Show and I tried not to mind that I was never invited – but of course in the end I got the big part.’[v]

‘I had a wonderful time doing it,’ said Caine, ‘although I found it a very long process because continuity is a nightmare. I loved working with the Muppeteers who are all very gentle souls and really do inhabit their characters and I found that I didn’t have to change my style as an actor at all: working with the Muppets was just like working with real people.’[vi]

Michael Caine is a rare actor who fully understands how to act opposite Muppets. He, alongside Charles Grodin as Nicky Holliday in The Great Muppet Caper, represents the gold standard. He treats them as human actors, and never reduces his performance to mugging for the camera or over-acting in the belief that it’s all just children’s entertainment. Later Muppet co-stars, including Jason Segel and Amy Adams in 2011’s The Muppets, could have learned from their example.

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The Muppet Christmas Carol commenced shooting at London’s Shepperton Studios on a $12 million dollar budget – although some reports had the final cost of the film stretching to around $15 million. The film was shot over a nine-week period from June to August 1992, leaving an extremely truncated schedule for post-production.

The street sets, designed by Val Strazovec, used forced perspective, with buildings and shop-fronts in the background being considerably shorter than those in the foreground. Straight lines and right angles were avoided as much as possible, giving the scenes a more curled-up and ornate appearance. Numerous in-jokes were placed into the signage on the street sets, including “Statler and Waldorf”, “Micklewhite’s” (Michael Caine’s real surname) and “Duncan & Kenworthy’s” (named after Fraggle Rock producer Duncan Kenworthy).

Due to the extensive blending of human and Muppet cast members the sets all featured numerous pits to accommodate the puppeteers, with Caine and other actors having to carefully traverse a series of planks over them to walk through the scene.

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The film begins with Gonzo the Great (Dave Goelz), in the role of author Charles Dickens, accompanied by Rizzo the Rat (Steve Whitmire). Goelz said: ‘Jerry Juhl saw me kind of growing [as a performer] at the same time he was writing the movie with Kirk Thatcher, and wanting the Dickens narration to somehow be in the movie because it was so beautiful. He didn’t want to use a voiceover because it was an intrusion; suddenly it occurred to him that if Gonzo could play the part of Charles Dickens, he could be the Greek chorus in the movie, as well.’[vii]

It was the most prominent role to date for Gonzo in a Muppet film, and heralded a mini-renaissance for the character culminating in 1999’s Muppets from Space. Here – as in Muppet Treasure Island – Gonzo is paired with Rizzo throughout the film. The Muppets seem to work well as double-acts, typically performed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz: think of Kermit and Piggy, or Kermit and Fozzie, or Sesame Street’s Ernie and Bert, or the Swedish Chef and the hands of the Swedish Chef; most of the best pairings of Muppets through the 1970s and 1980s were the work of the same two performers. With Christmas Carol there is something of a generational change: Frank Oz takes a back seat in this production, with only small roles for his signature characters, and the focus has shifted to Goelz and Whitmire.

It’s fair to say that Gonzo and Rizzo are one of the best parts of this film. They get most of the funny lines, and bounce back and forth between which one is the comic character and which is the ‘straight man’. They also serve a valuable purpose in lightening the film’s tone. A Christmas Carol is, above all else, a ghost story, and Henson does not shy away from translating the book’s creepier aspects to the screen. It is difficult to imagine the Jim Henson Company making The Muppet Christmas Carol in the manner it did without having made The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth first.

When Gonzo introduces Ebenezer Scrooge, the film launches into the first of its six musical numbers: “Scrooge”. As noted above, the film’s songs were composed by Paul Williams. Williams said: ‘I wrote the words and music and recorded all the stuff with Chris Caswell, who’s been my music director for years, we did a very almost Beatle-esque… not rock and roll, but the versions we did weren’t extremely Christmassy. When [Executive Producer] Robert Kraft got involved, he wanted it to be more traditional Christmas, so he brought in Miles Goodman to do the underscoring and also to augment all of my arrangements. It was a good move, I think. He did beautiful, beautiful work.’[viii]

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When Scrooge reaches his offices the film introduces his clerk Bob Cratchit, played by Kermit the Frog (Steve Whitmire). It’s an oddly under-stated performance and melancholic for Kermit, lacking the arm-flailing bursts of exasperation that made the character so iconic in the past. It’s testament both to the strength of the character and Whitmire’s puppeteering that Kermit works so well in the role. This was Whitmire’s second performance as Kermit the Frog, although his first in The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson was little more than an extended cameo.

Whitmire had struggled to accept the role of Kermit the Frog, having assumed after Jim Henson’s death that the puppet would be assigned by Brian. He said: ‘Heather Henson arranged for a Kermit to be sent to me in Atlanta, so that I could fiddle around with it for a little bit. I remember taking the puppet out of the box and the puppet “smelled” like Jim. I don’t even know what that was about. It smelled like Jim… It really did. I took this puppet and I put it on, and I had Kermit on before while fooling around in the shop, but I had never performed him. So I put him on, and I was standing in front of a mirror and I held him up, and I sort of had him turn around to me, and I really got this sense of this voice in my head of Kermit saying, “C’mon, I need to talk. Do a voice.” I could not do it. I just took the puppet off, set it on a shelf in another room, and I didn’t touch it for almost a month.’[ix]

Speaking of his work on Christmas Carol, Whitmire said: ‘It was a real challenge for me, because not only was it Kermit, it was Kermit playing another character, so he couldn’t just be Kermit. It couldn’t just be a copy of Jim. The most important aspect of doing Kermit was that we wanted him to continue on, and while he needed to be the same character, he needed to not just be a parroted copy of what Jim did. Otherwise he’d just become a corporate icon.’[x]

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Scrooge’s opening scene pulls no punches in representing the character as cruel, mean-spirited and vindictive. He insults his visiting nephew Fred (Steven Macintosh), and rudely rebuffs two gentlemen seeking charitable donations (played by the Muppets Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker). He even hurls an unwanted Christmas wreath at a begging Bean Bunny (Steve Whitmire).

Jerry Juhl writes some exceptional dialogue for Scrooge in this scene: so effective that it’s easy to assume it’s drawn directly from Dickens himself. ‘You could almost say,’ he tells Cratchit, ‘that Christmas is the foreclosure season; harvest-time for the money lenders.’

Once Scrooge departs for home, Kermit and his rat co-workers close up the office before entering the film’s second musical number: “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas”. It is the typical sort of warm, upbeat song for which Kermit the Frog seems best suited. It is also for a short while a relief from the bleak undertones of the film so far. That relief does not last, however: the song’s final shot is of a shivering Bean Bunny bedding down in garbage. Even in its brighter moments this film keeps leavening them with darkness.

At the end of the musical number Kermit watches a shooting star fly across the sky. The shot was a deliberate reference to an identical shot in The Muppet Movie, where Kermit sees an identical shooting star over the Mojave Desert. This shot would be repeated in both Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets from Space.

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When Scrooge returns home he is confronted by the ghosts of his former business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley – represented by the Muppets Statler and Waldorf. In Dickens’ novel there is only one Marley in the story: Jacob. Casting Statler and Waldorf in the role necessitated creating a second Marley, named Robert in reference to singer Bob Marley. Statler and Waldorf were originally played by Jim Henson and Richard Hunt. For this film the roles were taken on by Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz.

It’s worth considering, as Statler and Waldorf sing to Michael Caine about how they’re condemned to suffer for all eternity in hell for their mistreatment of others in life, that this is almost certainly the bleakest and most dark Muppet production ever made. Its tone, while littered with brilliant flashes of comedy, ranges from bleak melancholy to emotional upset. It is easy to simply think of the movie in tandem with all of the other Muppet productions before and since and not fully appreciate just how distinctive a film it is.

The Marleys warn Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts, and the first – the Ghost of Christmas Past – arrives as the bell tolls one’o’clock. Initial plans for the film had the three ghosts be played by pre-existing Muppet characters, with Fozzie representing the past, Miss Piggy the present, and Gonzo the future. As the screenplay developed away from a parody take the ghosts were re-envisaged as completely original characters. They remained puppets, but are more akin to the characters seen in Jim Henson’s fantasy film and television works than the Muppets.

The Ghost of Christmas Past, represented as a small red-haired girl, was operated inside a specially-constructed 10-foot long tank in order to give it an eerie, floating appearance. Scenes were initially shot with the puppet immersed in baby oil, but when the viscosity prevented the character’s clothes from billowing sufficiently the oil was replaced with water. Matters were further complicated when it was discovered the glue used to put the puppet together dissolved in the water.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge by the hand and flies him over London, eventually arriving in the past at his childhood school. The flight over London was achieved with a combination of blue-screened footage of Caine in a wire harness and the same intricate London models used for the film’s opening titles. The miniature sets, which also included a snowy forest for the Ghost’s descent to Scrooge’s school, were constructed by a 20-person team at the Jim Henson Creature Shop and supervised by David Sharp. The sets were built in multiple connected sections that could be easily slid in and out of place to accommodate a moving camera.

Scrooge and the Ghost move quickly from his childhood to his first job, working as an accountant for the rubber chicken manufacturer Fozziwig (Fozzie Bear, as performed by Frank Oz). It’s one of the film’s few concessions to the Muppets over and above Dickens, and an excuse for the film to squeeze in cameos for the Muppet Show’s Electric Mayhem band, as well as the Swedish Chef and Rowlf the Dog. Rowlf’s single appearance in the film marked his first appearance on screen since Jim Henson’s death. The character did not speak because no Muppet performer had managed to duplicate Henson’s voice to their satisfaction.

Scrooge sees his younger self – played by an eerily well-cast Raymond Coulthard – strike up a romance with a young woman named Belle (Meredith Braun). The Ghost then transports him to the day when Belle broke off her engagement with the young Scrooge. She breaks up with him in the most heart-breaking of ways: through song.

“When Love is Gone” is a rather strange number for a number of reasons. Primarily it is because it really is sad in the most unremitting and unexpected of fashions. It is also a song by one human actor to another, with Gonzo and Rizzo being the only Muppets to appear in the scene. By the song’s end the elder Scrooge is visibly grief-stricken and badly affected by what he has seen. There’s a raw element to Caine’s performance that you don’t typically see in a children’s film; I am not trying to claim it’s award-worthy, but like much of his performance it is a cut above the usual standard for this kind of film.

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the song is that, despite being a critical part of Scrooge’s journey through the film, it is not in the film at all.

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The head of production for Walt Disney Pictures, Jeffrey Katzenberg, insisted that “When Love is Gone” was excised from the film, arguing that its slow pace and adult themes would bore the children in the audience. Brian Henson vigorously defended the song, since it formed a major step in Scrooge’s character development. Ultimately Henson lost the argument and the song did not appear in the finished film. A rather abrupt edit in the theatrical cut revealed where it was supposed to have been (that edit has finally been smoothed over with music in the recent bluray edition).

In an unexpected turn of events “When Love is Gone” was edited back into the film for its VHS video release in 1993, but then edited back out again for all subsequent home video releases.

To add to the problems regarding the song’s removal, the film’s climax segues into “When Love is Found”: a companion song to the one that was cut that demonstrates that the humanity Scrooge abandoned when Belle left him has finally been restored. In effect, The Muppet Christmas Carol concludes with a reference to a song the audience didn’t hear or see.

Two other songs were written for the film and recorded in a music studio, but were edited from the film before the commencement of principal photography. These were “Chairman of the Board”, a song for Sam the Eagle to sing to the young Scrooge in primary school, and “There’s Room in Your Heart for Love”, a song sung by Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker while attempting to get a charitable donation in Scrooge’s office. While showcasing their respective Muppet characters the songs did not build on the film’s narrative, so it was not a difficult decision to remove them.

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At the stroke of two Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present. One of Brian Henson’s early concepts for the character was to make it an enormous Muppet using blue-screen composites and visual effects. That plan was abandoned due to costs, but the Ghost does make his debut at his intended size before shrinking to slightly larger than human height. The shrinking effect was achieved by shooting the macro-puppet (effectively a man in a suit with an electronically-operated puppet head) against a black background and tracking the camera away from it, and then compositing that shot with a background plate shot on the Scrooge’s house set.

This Ghost takes Scrooge to two residences on Christmas morning: that of his nephew Fred, and then of his employee Bob Cratchit. The first scene, where Scrooge is forced to watch a ‘twenty questions’ parlour game in which he is the cruel punch line, is an intentionally awkward scene. It helps to overcome one of the perennial struggles of A Christmas Carol adaptations: how do you make Scrooge sympathetic? In the case of the Muppet version, it is primarily by watching him suffer terribly and then feel sympathy towards him.

Scrooge and the Ghost move on to the Cratchit residence, with Mrs Cratchit played by Miss Piggy (Frank Oz). When it came to depicting the Cratchit family, lengthy debate ensued over the four children: what exactly did the offspring of pigs and frogs look like? After considering making puppets that blended the looks of Kermit and Miss Piggy together, the decision was made to simply make the girls pigs and the boys frogs – a much simpler solution.

The daughters Belinda and Bettina were performed by Steve Whitmire and Dave Goelz, with both puppeteers taking the opportunity to lampoon Frank Oz’s long-running portrayal of Miss Piggy. The elder son Peter was puppeteered by David Rudman. For younger son, the crippled Tiny Tim, Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin was used, played as always by Jerry Nelson. ‘I was never really happy with my Tiny Tim,’ Jerry Nelson admitted. ‘I feel like I could’ve done so much better than that.’[xi] Nelson is, incidentally, very wrong. His performance as Tiny Tim is perfectly pitched and highly appealing.

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When Bob and Tim walk home, it is via a striking shot of a full body shot of Cratchit walking with his son on his shoulder. Visual effects supervisor Paul Gentry said: ‘It was the first shot in which Kermit was ever seen walking without any visible means of support. I had a treadmill idea that would enable the puppeteers to connect Kermit to a surface and make it appear as if he was walking up a sloped street. In London, I happened to find the elliptical rolling drum that had been using for the revolving Earth shots in Superman.’[xii]

By combining a shot of Cratchit walking along the rolling drum against a blue screen with a pre-recorded shot of model houses, the illusion was completed. It remains a stunning little piece of imagery.

Through the entire ‘present’ sequence, the Ghost of Christmas Present is seen to gradually age. His hair changes from scene to scene from a deep red to grey, and then white. While part of the character as written by Dickens, The Muppet Christmas Carol was one of the few film adaptations to incorporate it.

The Ghost leaves Scrooge alone in a churchyard, for his final encounter: the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come. It is the darkest sequence of the film so far: so dark in fact that Gonzo and Rizzo make a joke about it being too scary and bow out until the film’s climax. It is important that they leave, since this final sequence works by being as bleak, grim and frightening as its child-friendly audience can handle.

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The Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come was initially conceived as a humorous character, with one idea being to have Gonzo play the character with his nose prominently poking out of the hood. With the more traditional take on the story it instead became a hooded ‘grim reaper’ figure, albeit slightly exaggerated to fit with the Muppet aesthetic.

Scrooge is escorted through a near-future vision where thieves and fences haggle over his possessions, businessmen joke about his funeral, and Tiny Tim has died. It remains the only time a Muppet character has been seen to die; another sign that A Muppet Christmas Carol is such a distinct and unusual film in the Muppet canon.

The Ghost and Scrooge’s supernatural journey through his future was enhanced by a series of computer-generated transitions produced by the Computer Film Company. Due to the truncated post-production schedule, about a third of the effects shots in the film – there were 90 in total – were handed over to Composite Image Systems to ensure the movie was completed on schedule.

At the journey’s end the Ghost shows Scrooge his own grave, at which point a panicked and repentant Scrooge finds himself safe and well in his bedroom on Christmas morning. He immediately sets out to make amends and celebrate Christmas with his peers, via a rather unexpected route. Michael Caine sings.

‘My singing has surprised everyone,’ admitted Caine, ‘including me. I’ve never had any lessons in my life.’[xiii]

Paul Williams tailored “Thankful Heart” to Caine’s limited range, but even with that in mind it’s a song Caine speaks more than he sings. It makes for a heartfelt and pleasant, but very slightly awkward, end.

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The Muppet Christmas Carol remains one of the most significant Muppet productions, not only because it followed on the heels of Jim Henson’s death but also because it demonstrated an additional range and versatility to the characters. If the collected Muppet productions from Sam & Friends through to the creation of The Muppet Show can be considered the first phase of the Muppet franchise, and the period from The Muppet Show through to the early Disney-produced TV specials the second, then Christmas Carol absolutely heralds the commencement of the third.

In the subsequent years the Henson team supervised another two feature films – Muppet Treasure Island for Disney and Muppets from Space for Columbia Pictures – as well as the short-lived weekly series Muppets Tonight and several TV and direct-to-DVD specials. Characters like Kermit and Fozzie Bear took something of a back seat, in favour of Gonzo and Rizzo – and later the Pepe the Prawn character, introduced in Muppets Tonight. It successfully demonstrated that, even with Jim Henson’s passing, the Muppets could continue. Brian Henson said: ‘Muppet Christmas Carol came at, obviously, a really sensitive time for me, because my dad had just died, and it was the first thing we were doing with the Muppets.’[xiv]

‘Our wounds were raw,’ said Dave Goelz. ‘Jim and Richard were very spiritual, and this project was about the ultimate spiritual journey. And going back to work together did feel like a rebirth.’[xv]

 

References

[i] Kenneth Plume, “Interview with Brian Henson (part 2 of 3)”, IGN FilmForce, 10 August 2000.

[ii] Marc Snetiker, “Henson’s greatest hits: Brian Henson on designing creatures in Dinosaurs, Farscape, Fraggle Rock and more”, Entertainment Weekly, 15 April 2014.

[iii] David Hutchison, “The Muppet Christmas Carol”, Starlog 186, January 1993.

[iv] Alan Jones, “Those little Dickens, the Muppets”, Cinemafantastique, Vol 23 No 5, February 1993.

[v] Michael Caine, The Elephant to Hollywood, Hodder, 2010.

[vi] Michael Caine, The Elephant to Hollywood, Hodder, 2010.

[vii] Quoted in Disney twenty-three, Winter 2011.

[viii] Joe Hennes, “A thankful heart: The Paul Williams interview, part 3”, Tough Pigs, 8 March 2013.

[ix] Kenneth Plume, “Ratting out: an interview with Muppeteer Steve Whitmire”, Muppet Central, 19 July 1999.

[x] Kenneth Plume, “Ratting out: an interview with Muppeteer Steve Whitmire”, Muppet Central, 19 July 1999.

[xi] Joe Hennes, “A chat with Jerry Nelson, part 3”, Tough Pigs, 12 December 2009.

[xii] Christine Sellin, “Muppetized Dickens”, Cinefex 53, February 1993.

[xiii] Alan Jones, “Those little Dickens, the Muppets”, Cinemafantastique, Vol 23 No 5, February 1993.

[xiv] Marc Snetiker, “Henson’s greatest hits: Brian Henson on designing creatures in Dinosaurs, Farscape, Fraggle Rock and more”, Entertainment Weekly, 15 April 2014.

[xv] Kenneth Plume, “Gonzo puppeteerism: an interview with Muppeteer Dave Goelz”, Muppet Central, 28 January 2000.

  1. Great review as usual, thanks.

    Reply

  2. This review makes me really happy! It talks about a lot of the things that I think makes A Muppet Christmas Carol one of the strongest post-Jim Henson productions. Also burn that Caine’s singing makes it a slightly awkward end.

    Reply

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