Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Nostaglia: Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

A Trip Down Memory Lane...

I would have dubbed this as one of my Christmas essentials, but it isn't among those specials that are shown every year around this time.

In fact, it hasn't been shown on TV maybe since its first airing. And my mom had the foresight to record it so my sister and I could watch it again in the future.
This was one of several Christmas specials recorded on this old VHS. I keep meaning to record it onto DVD- we have the machine to do it- but I just keep forgetting. Plus YouTube makes things so much more convenient and accessible.

Other specials included:
* Disney cartoons featuring Donald, Mickey and Pluto, leading up to their "Christmas Carol"
* behind-the-scenes footage of "Oliver and Company" (not Christmas-y, but if I ever see that footage again... man... I can only imagine the nostalgia- between that and the commercials that somehow made the cut)

* Rudolph
* Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas (which I may write-up one day as well)
* Charlie Brown
* Claymotion's Christmas (also on YouTube- we may or may not get to it this year).

Anyway... the short of it is... I know my sister had watched this particular special on YouTube one other year and I only heard it going on. I didn't get to see this. This year, I finally got that opportunity and Google Chrome did a great job casting it. [YouTube is the only website where the streaming works perfectly without the audio and video being out of sync].

And the nostalgia hit me right in the heart and it was AWESOME... I don't think I'd seen this in 15-20 years. And I still remember so much of it like it was yesterday.
The coolest part... my mom was late recording the special and I did the math... this was the first time I saw the first 2 minutes of this special ever. And it does explain one thing I never thought to ask...

In a Chestnut[shell]... with all the trimmings


I never thought to ask why they came to Fozzie Bear's mom's farmhouse. I didn't add up that fact and her being ready to go to Hawaii. All I knew is that they crashed at her house, which was a huge surprise to her as well as Doc, the boarder she invited to watch the house while she was gone.

BTW, RIP Gerry Parks. He passed away in 2014. And he was such a great guy in a special where he was the only human character.
Fraggle Rock had been around for a couple years before this special, but Doc and his dog Sprocket were in it and he always told his dog that he was crazy for imagining Fraggles.

I actually caught one interesting bit of dialogue for the first time- when the Muppets invade, he asks Sprocket if they were anything like the Fraggles he kept telling him about.

Funny he should mention that... but more on that later...

Anyway, he starts as this curmudgeon of an old man, being bent out of shape that he's being denied this "nice quiet Christmas" he'd been promised.
But at the same time, Fozzie's mom is a little miffed that she took 3 months of surfing lessons and getting nothing in return for it.
Uh... I guess she didn't have the heart to tell Fozzie and the others that she had plans?? I thought for years that she found out she couldn't go because of the upcoming snowstorm. But she might have been out of dodge before it got there...

I'm thinking too much about this :P time to move on.

So anyway, everyone is here to celebrate Christmas at the farmhouse. And three spheres of Jim Henson's incredible universe [four if you include the Muppet Babies footage] come together for the first time EVER... and never really did again. Unless you account for the fact Kermit occasionally cameos on Sesame Street.
There's a running joke that they're having trouble finding room for everybody to spend the night, the icy patch at the front door keeps getting tripped over (it's still funny every single time, lol), and Miss Piggy is literally doing every last minute thing before she gets over there.
And we have this impossible snowstorm on the horizon- barometers are falling sharply!!!

That was one of those jokes I didn't get until I was older. :P

Much of Kermit's storyline was worrying about Miss Piggy and whether she'd get to the farmhouse safe and sound. As materialistic as she is, it's not surprising that she has to go to a photo shoot (that she somehow forgot she scheduled) and does some last minute shopping (and we never see her give away those great fuzzy flipper snippers) before actually making the trip.
I mean, these are just puppets at the end of the day, but that part of the story has so much suspense in it. I mean, it didn't make me a sobbing mess when I was a kid (Mickey's Christmas Carol on the other hand... I have to just think about Christmas Future and the song at the beginning and end... that messes me up... Muppet Christmas Carol has a few spots that do the same thing)... but it's kinda sad and kinda scary. Right along with Kermit, I'm worried if things will work out all right even though I know the ending.

Kermit does have some good distractions to help keep his mind off things, though.

Fozzie, as anyone knows, is a comedian and he finds a new act after he builds a snowman.

Yeah, the snowman comes to life. And the act kinda goes bust, but hey, certainly can't blame him for trying.


Then there's the great scene where Robin takes Kermit to Fraggle Rock and we get to meet some Fraggles. Of course, the main characters from the TV series. (I'd only seen it a couple times maybe ever, but it might be worth looking up in the future... maybe YouTube will indulge me like it did with this).
And they introduce to us the art of regifting... and they're happy to receive any gifts at all, which is kinda nice.

And they get their own musical number too. Good times 8-)

And just to finish my comments on Doc- the way his character evolves throughout these 45 minutes is a great example of Christmas spirit. He doesn't get the Christmas he wanted when he first arrived, but he comes to like the Muppets a lot and goes above and beyond in a couple ways.
One of them, of course, has to involve Miss Piggy. Despite all the hardship, they make a pretty amazing and touching entrance (complete with a duet of "There's No Place like Home for the Holidays" with her and Kermit). Makes me wonder if she really is that composed a person... er, pig. Or she was a complete mess and she threatened to karate chop Doc if he said anything about the state he found her in.
The other way... you'd have to watch it to see, but it allows for a really nice cameo by Jim Henson himself. For years, I didn't know it was him and learning how he died a couple years later... it's a sweet and bittersweet moment all at the same time.

Only Jim Henson could come up with something where you have nothing but puppetry and you get to feel all kinds of emotions. Everyone takes part a really sweet Christmas Carol medley where they cover pretty much all the songs we grew up on. Plus maybe two I hadn't heard anyone but with the Muppets.

Of course there's also a lot of comedy. The icy patch is only the... I guess, the tip of the iceberg... shut up!
Maybe the funniest beside that is the saga of the Christmas Turkey and Swedish Chef. The turkey shows up, alive and well and Gonzo tries to talk him into leaving.

The Swedish Chef gets all confused about which creature is the turkey.
Doc: I don't care if the turkey says the dog is the turkey. The dog is not the turkey. The turkey's the turkey, you turkey!

There's a love triangle between Gonzo, Camilla and the turkey.
Gonzo: But Camilla's my girlfriend
Turkey: You gotta be kidding! You're not even a bird!
Gonzo: [shrug] well, nobody's perfect

Then he beats the stuffing out of the turkey when he finally catches him... but then this turkey is so slick, he thought up another lie and he thought it up quick... yeah, I'm quoting The Grinch :P so what? I'm finishing this up on Christmas Eve.

Yeah, he told Swedish Chef that Big Bird is a turkey. And he exclaims: "Gobble Gobble Hugmungo!"

I believe Doc gets into the Christmas spirit right around the time Bert and Ernie show up and they do their "small talk" routine.
You know... Doc starts with the letter D, and so on...
and he cheerfully says he's gotta build some bunk beds.

If I watched Sesame Street as a kid, I don't remember it... but after all these years, when Big Bird shows up, I get warm and fuzzy.
His big moment in this special is when he talks to Swedish Chef, saying how he might be lonely because his family is back in Sweden and Christmas is about spending time with family.
I mean, I've said it a bunch already... these are puppets! Yet their duet of "The Christmas Song" is a tearjerker every time :P And the sweetest part is that Swedish Chef decides on a vegetarian menu as a result of this.

"Shredded wheat and cranberry sauce- my absolute favorite!"

At least "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" has the icy patch gag to keep it from getting too sappy and too teary :P

And while we're going with the animal friendly theme here- I love Kermit's present to Miss Piggy. It's a live mink [opposed to a mink coat or stole] who's Miss Piggy's biggest fan.
"I've seen everything you've done... I worship the ground you walk on."
If there's one thing Miss Piggy loves more than minks and Kermit, it's herself. So it's perfect.

And Robin has a nice moment where he continues to the Fraggle tradition of regifting, but he gives it to one of the Sesame Street gang.
Also RIP Jerry Nelson- who did the voice for The Count, Fozzie's mom and Robin in this special. I don't know if it's because of this special or Muppet Christmas Carol where he plays Tiny Tim [ :sniff: ]... he's always been one of my favorite Muppets characters and Jerry Nelson is the biggest reason for that.
Also he was Emmett Otter and Doc Bullfrog in "Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas"... and I just found that that Emmett Otter was made in 1977... 10 years before Muppet Family Christmas... just wow... I don't know how I feel about Emmett Otter being older than me :P

Most of the other cast members are still alive, which is good. Or I'd be here for ages.

A couple more things:

* Animal has some of the funniest moments. Like when he eats all the Christmas cookies and Cookie Monster says "that my kind of fella."
And Gonzo and Animal are totally game for sleeping on hangers in a closet- the only places left to sleep in the house. ["That's the only way Animal ever sleeps, man."]
* Mechanical Mayhem do a kick-ass version of "Jingle Bell Rock."
* Oscar and Rizzo bond in a cute scene- Rizzo asks if he can bunk out with Oscar and Oscar says "I've never had a rat in my trashcan before. That might be kinda nice."

...
and it looks like we might be entering into a similar situation. Some unexpected guests are coming to our Christmas Eve gathering.
And I guess we'll see how it goes. The idea of it is getting some mixed results.
Hopefully it all turns out ok in the end.

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