Initial Release (1992)
Being the first film released with the Muppets without Jim Henson or Richard Hunt, Muppet Christmas Carol had quite the reputation to live up. Directed and produced by Richard Henson, The Muppet Christmas Carol was the fourth Muppets film released, in-between Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppet Treasure Island. Released on December 11th 1992, Christmas Carol did not perform as well in the box office as had hoped, but its rivals were Home Alone 2 and Aladdin, so people were spoiled for choice for their Christmas viewing. However, on home media, Muppet Christmas Carol truly shined, gaining a strong following that made it a staple of the Christmas period.
The film has had a strange history in its editing – in particular the song ‘When Love Is Gone’, which Disney cut from the film, thinking young children wouldn’t ‘get’ the song, despite a jarring edit that cuts out a chunk of exposition and musical context. This edited version of the film is the one that is still distributed to theaters, and remains the one most commonly found on DVD/Blu-Ray, although a newer cut features new music that makes the effect less jarring. Disney – performing bad jump-cuts a cold decade before Youtube was ever a thing!
My Full Experience
Every year since 1996 I’ve watched Muppet Christmas Carol on, or as close to Christmas Eve as humanly possible. That should be an indication of what the film signifies to me with regards the festive season. Even when Disney attempted to replace it with It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas, I was relentless in my hunt for Marley and Marley, so much so that a copy of the DVD was bought to ensure maximum Muppet related Dickensian Caroling is achieved yearly. And now it’s shown locally in cinemas, with new little ones seeing it for the first, old parents happy they’re being kept quiet, and me, my sister and nephew laughing at every part and singing along at every part like we always do. It just doesn’t get old.
Muppet Christmas Carol is the perfect Christmas film. From the onset, with the swooping single shot of the 1800’s London rooftops into the initial introduction from Gonzo as Dickens and Rizzo as Himself, there’s an element of magic. The muppets have always had a way to cultivate cheer and childlike wonder out of their viewers, with memorable characters and incredibly detailed and precise set design that brings the fantastical into the realm of the real. Christmas Carol is no different, with the variety of animals and food stuffs keeping the laughs and smiles constant. Once the first song ‘Scrooge’ hits, with its poetic verse and light snarl at Scrooge’s wicked demeanour, its easy to understand how this film made its name in the home domain. Great on the big screen, but the true pleasure of Muppet Christmas Carol is in watching it at home and singing along with the film, as each one is an open invitation to have a little foot-tap and head-bob for the merry season.
While the soundtrack is untouchable, though, my favorite aspect is always how good the performances of the veritable rainbow of puppets are, and how much I always fall hook line and sinker for their sincerity and believability. From Kermit’s indomitable sense of finding good in all things, to Tiny Tim’s season blessing to Fozzy’s optimistic boss to Sam the eagle’s stoic belief in the British way of ‘business’, there’s a sense of sincerity about how the muppets portray their own ever so ridiculous selves that is infectious and is the perfect cure to the ails of aging into a consumerist routine that infects every inch of the Christmas-time if you let it. The muppets represent not letting go of just giggling because you’re happy, and they’re in their element at a time like Christmas.
Perhaps most impressive, on a critically over-thought level, is how well Muppet Christmas Carol maintains a sense of ambiguity. Its not a religious film, nor is it a political one, its one that is accessible to all because being happy and enjoying being a part of the human race is something that is, and should be accessible to all. The Muppets are still relevant because what they bring is something that taps into what everyone can still relate to, and The Muppet Christmas Carol is a sterling example of that. I believe The Muppet Christmas Carol Has done me good, and will do me good, and it’ll do you good too. Merry Christmas, one and all!
Initial Release (1992)