The Muppet Christmas Carol

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The Muppet Christmas Carol
Muppet christmas carol.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed by Brian Henson
Screenplay by Jerry Juhl
Based on A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Produced by
  • Brian Henson
  • Martin G. Baker
Starring
CinematographyJohn Fenner
Edited byMichael Jablow
Music by Miles Goodman
Production
companies
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution [1]
Release date
  • December 11, 1992 (1992-12-11)
Running time
86 minutes [2]
CountryUnited States [3]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$12 million
Box office$27.2 million [4]

The Muppet Christmas Carol is a 1992 American Christmas musical comedy drama film directed by Brian Henson (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Jerry Juhl. Adapted from the 1843 novella A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, it stars Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, alongside Muppet performers Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, and Frank Oz. Although artistic license is taken to suit the aesthetic of the Muppets, The Muppet Christmas Carol otherwise follows Dickens's original story closely. [5] It is the fourth theatrical film in The Muppets franchise, and the first to be produced following the deaths of the Muppets creator Jim Henson and the performer Richard Hunt; the film is dedicated to both.

Contents

The film was released in the United States on December 11, 1992, by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. It was a modest box office success and received mostly positive reviews. It is the first Muppets film to be produced by Walt Disney Pictures, whose parent company would later acquire the Muppets franchise in 2004.

Plot

On Christmas Eve, in nineteenth century London, Charles Dickens (played by The Great Gonzo) and his friend Rizzo addresses the audience as narrators. Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a cold-hearted, stingy, grumpy and selfish moneylender, does not share the merriment of Christmas. He rejects his nephew Fred's invitation to Christmas dinner, dismisses two gentlemen (played by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker) collecting money for charity, and tosses a wreath at a carol-singing Bean Bunny. His loyal employee Bob Cratchit (played by Kermit the Frog) and the other bookkeepers request to take 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 shackled ghosts of his late business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley (played by Statler and Waldorf), who warn him to repent his wicked ways or be condemned to suffer in the afterlife as they do. They inform 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, with Dickens and Rizzo hitching a ride too. They visit his lonely school days and then his time as an employee under Fozziwig (Mr. Fezziwig in the original story, played by Fozzie Bear), who owned a rubber chicken factory. Fozziwig and his mother throw a Christmas party, where Scrooge meets a young woman named Belle, with whom he falls in love. However, the Ghost shows Scrooge how Belle left him after he chose money over her. A tearful Scrooge dismisses the Ghost as he returns to his bedroom.

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 Fred's house, where Scrooge is made fun of for his stinginess and general ill will toward all. Scrooge and the spirit then visit Bob Cratchit's house, learning his family (Mrs. Cratchit is played by Miss Piggy) is content with their small dinner. Scrooge also takes pity on Bob's ill son Tiny Tim (played by Robin the Frog). The Ghost of Christmas Present abruptly ages, commenting that Tiny Tim will likely die before next Christmas. Scrooge and the Ghost go to a cemetery, where the latter fades away.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears to Scrooge, as a tall, silent, cloaked figure, and takes Scrooge into the future. Scrooge and the Ghost witness a group of businessmen discussing the death of an unnamed colleague, saying they would only attend the funeral if lunch was provided. In a den, Scrooge sees a charwoman, a laundress, and the local undertaker trading several stolen possessions of the deceased to a fence named Old Joe. The Ghost then transports Scrooge to Bob's house, revealing Tiny Tim has died and the Crachits are mourning him. Scrooge is escorted back to the cemetery, where the Ghost points out the wretched man's neglected grave, revealing Scrooge as the man who died. Overcome with emotion, Scrooge tearfully vows to change his ways and embraces the ghost's robes before finding himself back in his bedroom.

Discovering it is 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, reconciling with Fred and Fozziwig. Scrooge goes to the Cratchit house, at first putting on a cold demeanor before revealing he intends to raise Bob's salary and pay off his mortgage. Scrooge, the Cratchits, Fred and the neighborhood celebrate Christmas, as Dickens narrates how Scrooge became a second father to Tiny Tim, who escaped death.

Cast

Muppet performers

Performer Muppet character A Christmas Carol character
Dave Goelz The Great Gonzo Charles Dickens (Narrator)
Waldorf Robert Marley
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew Charity collector
OriginalBetina Cratchit
Steve Whitmire Kermit the Frog Bob Cratchit
Rizzo the Rat Co-narrator
Beaker Charity collector
Bean Bunny Boy
OriginalBelinda Cratchit
Frank Oz Miss Piggy Emily Cratchit
Fozzie Bear Fozziwig
Sam Eagle Schoolmaster
George the Janitor Himself
Animal Fozziwig party entertainer
Jerry Nelson Robin the Frog Tiny Tim Cratchit
Lew Zealand Himself
Statler Jacob Marley
Ma BearMa Fozziwig
Original Ghost of Christmas Present (face and voice performance)
David Rudman Peter Frog (original)Peter Cratchit
OriginalOld Joe (puppeteer only)
The Swedish Chef Fozziwig party cook
Louise Gold OriginalMrs Dilber
Karen Prell Original Ghost of Christmas Past (puppeteer only)
Robert TygnerOriginals Ghost of Christmas Past (puppeteer only)
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (puppeteer only)
William Todd-Jones Original Ghost of Christmas Past (puppeteer only)
Don Austen Originals Ghost of Christmas Present (in-suit performer)
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (in-suit performer)

Production

Following Jim Henson's death in May 1990, the talent agent Bill Haber approached Henson's 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 had sold the idea to ABC as a television film. [6] The 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. [7] Henson stated that Gonzo was chosen because he was the least likely choice to play Charles Dickens, [8] while Rizzo the Rat was added to inject some humor and serve as a Greek chorus. [9] Established Muppet characters were initially written to portray the ghosts, 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. [6] [8] However, the idea was scrapped in favor of new Muppet characters that would better underline the ominous nature. [9] 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 release. [8]

The English actors David Hemmings, Ron Moody, and David Warner and the American comedian George Carlin were considered to portray Ebenezer Scrooge. [10] Henson later offered the role to Michael Caine, who replied: "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." [6] He took inspiration for the role from "Wall Street cheats and embezzlers; I thought they represented a very good picture of meanness and greed." [11]

Production took place at the Shepperton Studios, England. [12] During filming, in order to allow for the Muppets and the human actors to be in the shot, floors had to be removed and re-inserted, with Michael Caine having to walk across narrow planks between the Muppets and their performers. [13] 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 a crane shot, the short buildings became visibly seen in the background; 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. [13]

Release

Box office

Walt Disney Pictures appeared to have high expectations for the film, being their widest-released film of the holiday season and the second-widest release under the Disney banner that year. [14] However, the film opened in sixth place, initially reported to have collected $5.9 million in box office estimates, [15] which was later revised to $5 million. [16] Ultimately, The Muppet Christmas Carol grossed a total of $27.3 million in North America. [4] Despite being a modest box office success, The Muppet Christmas Carol did not have a large effect during its theatrical release, having to face competition from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Disney's own Aladdin .

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 75% based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 6.70/10. The site's 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." [17] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 64 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." [18] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale. [19]

Janet Maslin, reviewing for The New York Times , summarized the film as 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." [20] The 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." [21] 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. [22]

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. [23] 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.” [24]

Giving the film three stars out of five, Almar Haflidason of the 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." [25] Anthony McGlynn of Screen Rant called The Muppet Christmas Carol "a work of genius on every level" and "the greatest Christmas movie ever made," praising the original songs that were written for the film and Michael Caine's performance as Scrooge. [26]

Home media

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. In addition to theatrical releases, the film has also been made available on home video formats. It was first released on VHS in the US on November 5, 1993, in the UK on November 15, 1993 and later on DVD in both countries. The first US DVD release on October 8, 2002, was in a full-screen-only format. Walt Disney Home Entertainment re-released the film in the US 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 UK has also had similar DVD releases.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released a 20th anniversary collector's edition on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy on November 6, 2012. [27] The release doesn't include the film's extended cut. However, the song "When Love Is Gone" and its accompanying scene can be viewed in its entirety on the full-screen version of the anniversary edition of The Muppet Christmas Carol, though it is cut in the widescreen format. [28] [29]

Music

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 (1979) 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. [30]

Soundtrack

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedNovember 10, 1992
Genre Soundtrack
Label Jim Henson
The Muppets chronology
The Muppets Take Manhattan: Original Soundtrack
(1984)
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
(1992)
Muppet Treasure Island: Original Soundtrack
(1996)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [31]

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. However, most of them are different arrangements than what appear in the film. 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 number 189 on the Billboard 200 chart. The soundtrack was digitally re-released by Walt Disney Records on November 6, 2012.

Track listing

All tracks are written by Paul Williams (songs) and Miles Goodman (score), except where noted.

No.TitleWriter(s)PerformerLength
1."Overture"  2:29
2."Scrooge" The Muppet Cast2:27
3."Room in Your Heart" (deleted song)  Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker 1:49
4."Good King Wenceslas"TraditionalThe Muppet Brass Buskers1:05
5."One More Sleep 'Til Christmas"  Kermit 2:50
6."Marley and Marley"  Statler and Waldorf 3:13
7."Christmas Past"  1:09
8."Chairman of the Board" (deleted song)  Sam Eagle 1:50
9."Fozziwig's Party"  Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem 2:22
10."When Love is Gone"  Meredith Braun 3:38
11."It Feels Like Christmas"  Ghost of Christmas Present 2:42
12."Christmas Scat"  Robin and Kermit0:23
13."Bless Us All" Robin and family2:50
14."Christmas Future"  1:46
15."Christmas Morning"  0:57
16."Thankful Heart"  Michael Caine and the Cast2:16
17."Finale — When Love is Found/It Feels Like Christmas" Ghost of Christmas Present, Caine, the Muppet Cast, Robin4:01
18."When Love is Gone" (Pop Version)  Martina McBride 3:48
Total length:41:41

"When Love Is Gone"

"When Love Is Gone" is a song sung by the female character Belle (portrayed by Meredith Braun) as she laments that Scrooge's love of money has replaced his love of her. The song itself was cut from the original 1992 American theatrical edition of the film by Jeffrey Katzenberg of Walt Disney Studios, who believed that the following scene would not appeal to young viewers. Instead, the song was only played during the film's end credits scene. [32] Brian Henson objected to this decision as the concluding song, "The Love We Found," was a direct counterpoint to it. [13]

Henson commented: "'When Love Is Gone' was not in the theatrical release, and is presently missing from some copies of the movie, which is a real shame." The song titled "When Love Is Gone" is only included on some home media releases of The Muppet Christmas Carol which are now out of print. It is included as a deleted scene in the "extras" section of the film on Disney+. [33]

The song is included on all of the 1993 VHS and LaserDisc releases of the film., [8] as well as at least one UK VHS release. The LaserDisc version includes the only widescreen presentation of this song ever released. [34]

The 2002 and 2005 DVD releases of the movie do retain the song, but only in the 90-minute full-screen version of the film, not in the 86-minute widescreen version on the same disc. A 2012 standalone DVD release of the film uses the same disc from the 2005 release, so it also contains the song. However, a different DVD was used for the 2012 Blu-ray combo pack which does not contain the song. The digital download release of the film contains the entire "When Love Is Gone" as a bonus feature, in widescreen and in high definition.

In a 2018 interview with The Big Issue , Henson said he believed that the song was "unlikely" to appear in any further releases of the film, because the Walt Disney Company lost the video master and film negative. [35] However, on December 9, 2020, Henson confirmed to BBC Radio 2 that the original film negative featuring the entire footage of the song had been found by Disney archivists and would be included in all future 4K releases. Due to time restraints, Disney+ was unable to include the new full version on its Christmas 2020 release of the film. [36] At the 2022 D23 Expo, Henson stated the full version of the film with the song left intact will be available on Disney+ on December 11, 2022. [37]

See also

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