The Muppet Christmas Carol

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The Muppet Christmas Carol

Theatrical release poster
by Drew Struzan
Directed byBrian Henson
Produced byBrian Henson
Martin G. Baker
Screenplay byJerry Juhl
Based onA Christmas Carol by
Charles Dickens
StarringMichael Caine
Steven Mackintosh
Muppet Performers:
Dave Goelz
Jerry Nelson
Frank Oz
David Rudman
Steve Whitmire
Music byMiles Goodman
Paul Williams (songs)
CinematographyJohn Fenner
Editing byMichael Jablow
StudioJim Henson Productions
Distributed byWalt Disney Pictures
Release date(s)
  • December 11, 1992 (1992-12-11)
Running time86 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$12 million
Box office$27,281,507
 
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The Muppet Christmas Carol

Theatrical release poster
by Drew Struzan
Directed byBrian Henson
Produced byBrian Henson
Martin G. Baker
Screenplay byJerry Juhl
Based onA Christmas Carol by
Charles Dickens
StarringMichael Caine
Steven Mackintosh
Muppet Performers:
Dave Goelz
Jerry Nelson
Frank Oz
David Rudman
Steve Whitmire
Music byMiles Goodman
Paul Williams (songs)
CinematographyJohn Fenner
Editing byMichael Jablow
StudioJim Henson Productions
Distributed byWalt Disney Pictures
Release date(s)
  • December 11, 1992 (1992-12-11)
Running time86 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$12 million
Box office$27,281,507

The Muppet Christmas Carol is a 1992 American musical fantasy-comedy film, and an adaptation of Charles Dickens' 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 remake with contemporary songs, The Muppet Christmas Carol otherwise follows Dickens' original story closely.[1] The film was directed by Brian Henson, produced by Jim Henson Productions, and released by Walt Disney Pictures.

The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first film produced after the deaths of Muppets creator Jim Henson and fellow puppeteer Richard Hunt. The film was dedicated to the memory of both Henson and Hunt, who died before the film's release.

Contents

Plot

In this adaptation of the Christmas story narrated by Charles Dickens himself (played by Gonzo the Great) with the occasional commentary of Rizzo the Rat, it is Christmas Eve in 19th century London. The merriment is not shared by Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine), a surly money-lender who is more interested in profit than celebration. So cold to the season of giving is he that his book-keeping staff, including loyal employee Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), has to plead with him just to have the day off work during Christmas by pointing out that Scrooge would have no customers on the holiday and that it would waste coal to sit alone in the office. Scrooge's nephew, Fred (Steven Mackintosh), arrives to invite his uncle to Christmas dinner and two gentlemen (Bunsen and Beaker) also come to Scrooge's offices, collecting money in the spirit of the season to provide a Christmas dinner for the poor. Scrooge rebuffs his nephew and complains that it is not worth looking after the poor, as their deaths will decrease the surplus population. Fred is shocked at his uncle's uncharitable and cold nature, but repeats his invitation, makes his own donation, and departs.

Later that evening, Scrooge finds himself face to face with the still mean-spirited spirits of his former business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf) who have been condemned to shackles in the afterlife as payment for the horrible deeds they committed in life. Nonetheless, they warn him that he will share the same fate, only worse, if he does not change his ways, and foretell the arrival of three spirits throughout the night.

Scrooge is first visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (voiced by Jessica Fox), a childlike specter who takes Scrooge on a journey back through time to his youth. He recalls his early school days, during which he focused on his studies; meeting of a young woman named Belle (Meredith Braun), with whom he would later fall in love; and the end of their relationship, despite Scrooge's protests that he would marry her as soon as he feels he has enough money to provide for them, which Belle knows, given Scrooge's birthing obsession with money, he will most likely never have.

Scrooge then meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, a large, festive spirit with a booming voice who lives only for the here and now. He gives Scrooge a glimpse into the holiday celebration of others, including Bob Cratchit, and his family who, although poor, are enjoying Christmas together and reveling in the anticipation of the Christmas goose. The Spirit also shows Scrooge's own family, who are not above cracking jokes at Scrooge's expense.

Finally, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, a silent entity, who reveals the chilling revelation that young Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog) will not survive the coming year, thanks in no small part to the impoverished existence of the Cratchit family. Furthermore, it is revealed that when Scrooge's own time has passed, others will certainly delight in his absence from the world, with four local pig businessmen attending his funeral only for the free food, and that the laundress, the undertaker and the charwoman Mrs. Dilber steal the very clothes he has slept in and selling it to a spider fence named Old Joe (voiced by David Shaw Parker). Upon seeing his headstone in the cemetery, it is the final epiphany that convinces Scrooge to change his ways, and makes him vow to celebrate with his fellow man. He returns to his bedroom on Christmas Day, and Scrooge goes about the town spreading good deeds and charity. He enlists the help of Bean Bunny, at whom he threw a wreath earlier in the film, and the two travel around the town gathering items for a Christmas feast and giving gifts to characters who had previously been wronged by Scrooge. Scrooge tells his assistant, Bob Cratchit, that he is going to raise his salary, and pay for his house mortgage. He also plans a feast for Cratchit's family, and learns to adopt the spirit of Christmas throughout the year, now encouraged by the addition of new friends.

Cast

Muppet Performers

Production

The Muppet Christmas Carol was directed by Jim Henson's son Brian. Taking over the puppeteering role of Kermit, originally performed by Jim Henson before his death in 1990, was Steve Whitmire (Whitmire had already first performed Kermit in the 1990 CBS special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, aired six months after Henson's death). It was shot in Shepperton Studios, England and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.[2]

Despite the use of Muppets throughout filming and a humorous spin on much of the story, this film is a fairly close adaptation of the original story. The story proper is interspersed with scenes of a narrator (Gonzo playing Dickens), who, along with the characters, recites many of Dickens's original words. One notable difference from the original story is the addition of Jacob Marley's brother, Robert, who was not present in Dickens' story, to allow the use of both Statler and Waldorf. It is suggested this name was chosen as an oblique reference to musician Bob Marley. Another alteration involved changing the name of the character Fezziwig to Fozziwig, as Fozzie Bear played the role. Another difference is that whilst in the film, the Ghost of Christmas Present is perpetually jolly and cheerful, the novel counterpart was regularly grim and stern to Scrooge. In contrast, this adaption is unusual in that it presents The Ghost of Christmas Present as aging during the course of his visit, as he does in Dickens' novel. The human forms of Ignorance and Want, shown as hideous, animalistic children in the novel, are absent from the film (as is also the case with several other adaptations).

This is the first Muppet film in which the story revolves around characters played by human beings, specifically, Ebenezer Scrooge, as played by Michael Caine. The rest of the cast consisted of mostly Muppet performers. Several pivotal roles — in particular, the three Christmas Spirits — were portrayed by specially-created Muppet characters. It was at one time considered that well-known Muppets would be cast in these roles (Miss Piggy, Scooter, and Gonzo, specifically) before it was decided that it would detract from the ominous effect the spirits would need to convey. Only the Ghost of Christmas Present is clearly a Muppet (albeit a giant one), while the Ghost of Christmas Past is an ethereal childlike spirit and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a cloaked and terrifying figure as per tradition. The Ghost of Christmas Past effects were created by making a special puppet that was operated in a tank of water and then green-screened into the film, to make it look like it was floating.

It is also the first Muppet film to not include any Sesame Street characters in its production.

Release

Critical reception

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.[3] Yet 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 grossed a total of $27,281,507 domestically. Critical reception, however, was mostly favorable.[4][5][6][7] It currently has a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes with the consensus being, "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." Over the years, reception of the film has become much more positive, with many reviewers claiming it as not only one of the best Muppet films, but also as one of the best adaptations of Charles Dickens's original story and a quintessential Christmas movie.[citation needed]

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 Disney. 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 September 10, 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.[8] The release did not include the film's extended cut or "When Love is Gone".[9]

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 in which he and Kenneth Ascher were nominated for an Academy Award for writing "Rainbow Connection."

Soundtrack

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by The Muppets
Released1992
GenreSoundtrack
LabelJim Henson
Walt Disney (Re-release)
The Muppets chronology
The Muppets Take Manhattan: Original Soundtrack
(1984)
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Soundtrack
(1992)
Muppet Treasure Island: Original Soundtrack
(1996)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
allmusic4.5/5 stars [10]

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack contains all of the songs from the movie, with performances by the Muppet characters as well as Caine, including the songs "Room in Your Heart" and "Chairman of the Board" that were recorded but never filmed. As with all Muppet movies (except Muppets from Space), The Muppet Christmas Carol was done as a musical. The soundtrack album reached #189 on the The Walt Disney Company.

Track listing
  1. "Overture" - Instrumental
  2. "Scrooge" - Cast
  3. "Room in Your Heart" - Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker
  4. "Good King Wenceslas" - Muppet Brass Buskers
  5. "One More Sleep 'til Christmas" - Kermit
  6. "Marley and Marley" - Statler and Waldorf
  7. "Christmas Past" - Miles Goodman
  8. "Chairman of the Board" - Sam the Eagle
  9. "Fozziwig's Party" - Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
  10. "When Love is Gone" - Belle (Meredith Braun)
  11. "It Feels Like Christmas" - Ghost of Christmas Present
  12. "Christmas Scat" - Kermit and Tiny Tim
  13. "Bless Us All" - Tiny Tim and Family
  14. "Christmas Future" - Miles Goodman
  15. "Christmas Morning" - Miles Goodman
  16. "Thankful Heart" - Scrooge
  17. "Finale: When Love Is Found/It Feels Like Christmas" - Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Cast
  18. "When Love Is Gone" - Martina McBride

"When Love is Gone"

"When Love is Gone" was a song performed by the character Belle (Meredith Braun) that was cut from the original 1992 theatrical release by Walt Disney Studios, who believed that the scene would not appeal to young children. The movie plays with an obvious, jarring edit when the film is played with the song missing. Brian Henson objected to their decision, believing that the song was integral to the plot (the concluding song, "When Love is Found," is a direct counterpoint to it), and the song was subsequently restored to the VHS and laserdisc editions. This song was also cut from the 10th Anniversary Edition of the film released on DVD (widescreen only; however, the fullscreen version has the song). The song was also not included on the Blu-ray, or the DVD disc that is packaged with the Blu-ray combo pack released in 2012. Two other songs were written but dropped from the production early on: "Room in Your Heart", performed by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, and "Chairman of the Board", performed by Sam the Eagle. These songs were recorded, but removed from the script before filming began. Both songs appear on the motion picture soundtrack released by Jim Henson Records.

References

  1. ^ King, Susan (1996-03-10). "The Muppets Take On Dickens' 'Carol'". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1996-03-10/news/tv-45104_1_muppets-tonight. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  2. ^ Heckman, Don (1992-12-13). "The Muppet Christmas Carol' songwriter Paul Williams undergoes a metamorphosis no less powerful than Scrooge's". The Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1992-12-13/entertainment/ca-3948_1_muppet-christmas-carol. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  3. ^ December 15, 1992 (1992-12-15). "Weekend Box Office : 'Home Alone' Passes $100 Million - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. http://articles.latimes.com/1992-12-15/entertainment/ca-1985_1_weekend-box-office. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (1992-12-11). "Movie Review - The Muppet Christmas Carol - Review/Film; Kermit, Etc. Do Dickens Up Green - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9E0CE1DA1330F932A25751C1A964958260. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  5. ^ "The Muppet Christmas Carol :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19921211/REVIEWS/212110302. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  6. ^ Reviewed by Almar Haflidason Updated 14 December 2000 (2000-12-14). "Films - review - The Muppet Christmas Carol". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2000/12/14/a_muppet_christmas_carol_1992_review.shtml. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  7. ^ "Variety Reviews - The Muppet Christmas Carol - Film Reviews - - Review by Variety Staff". Variety.com. 1991-12-31. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117793311?refcatid=31. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  8. ^ ['The Muppet Christmas Carol: 20th Anniversary Edition' Dated for Blu-ray "http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/news/show/Disc_Announcements/DisneyBuena_Vista/The_Muppet_Christmas_Carol_20th_Anniversary_Edition_Dated_for_Blu-ray/9849"]. High-Def Digest. 'The Muppet Christmas Carol: 20th Anniversary Edition' Dated for Blu-ray. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  9. ^ Brown, Kenneth (6 November 2012). "The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray Review". Blu-ray.com. http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/The-Muppet-Christmas-Carol-Blu-ray/35027/#Review. Retrieved 6 November 2012.
  10. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/r183383

External links