|CHARACTERS • HOME VIDEO|
SOUNDTRACK • MORE
|Released||December 11, 1992|
|Written by||Charles Dickens (author) |
Jerry Juhl (screenplay)
|Music||Paul Williams (songs) |
Miles Goodman (score)
|Studio||Walt Disney Pictures|
The Muppet Christmas Carol is the fourth feature film to star the Muppets, and the first produced after the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson. Released in 1992, it was one of many film adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Gonzo, claiming to be Dickens himself, narrates the story, with the help of Rizzo the Rat. Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge, with Muppets taking the rest of the parts — including Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit, Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim, and Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig.
In this adaptation of the timeless story, narrated by Gonzo as Charles Dickens (assisted by 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. He is so cold to the season of giving 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, arrives to invite his uncle to Christmas dinner, and two gentlemen (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew 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's invitation and, after his departure, shocks the charity collectors with his statement that the poor are looked after by prisons and workhouses, and their deaths will decrease the surplus population.
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, 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, 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, but Belle knows he will most likely never have that, given his birthing obsession with money.
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 wife Emily Cratchit (Miss Piggy) and their 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) 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. 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.
Scrooge returns to his bedroom on Christmas Day, and he goes about the town spreading good deeds and charity. He enlists the help of a homeless boy (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.
Like many films, when The Muppet Christmas Carol was going through production, many concepts, ideas, and even songs were conceived which did not make it into the final film. The song "When Love Is Gone" was originally planned to be part of the film; however, it was dropped when filmmakers found that the test audiences (mainly family viewers with younger children) become restless during the scene. Its reprise at the film's finale, "The Love We Found," and the pop version over the closing credits, were retained. Producers felt the song slowed the film down, and was not Muppet-focused; plus the film was already pushing the limits of many younger viewers' attention spans in the test screenings. The producers decided to cut the song from the theatrical release of the film.
It was not until the film was released on home video that the song was presented to the viewers. They felt that the song worked better in a home-viewing context, and audiences would be more accepting, understanding and appreciative of its inclusion. The song was included for subsequent American video releases and TV airings of the movie prior to the 2012 Blu-Ray edition, which only includes the theatrical cut albeit with a different edit of the sequence. This version of the film has since aired on ABC Family. The song is also removed in the UK and Region 2 DVD release. The issue of this cut was discussed by director Brian Henson in the film's DVD audio commentary recorded in 2002 (again, except on the UK DVD release, which omits the commentary as well). The scene was included as an extra when the film was released in the iTunes Store, and on Disney+ in 2019.
There are common misconceptions and confusion surrounding two other songs written for the film that weren't seen in the final product. The songs "Room in Your Heart" (sung by Bunsen and Beaker) and "Chairman of the Board" (sung by Sam Eagle) were written by Paul Williams for the film. The two songs were recorded and mixed. However, they didn't move further into development because the filmmakers felt the film was already going to be quite lengthy, that the songs didn’t help progress the story, and that they would hurt the overall pacing and feel of the film. The two numbers were dropped from the script early on. These musical sequences never made it to production and were never filmed. Yet, since the filmmakers did not just want to waste the two unused Paul Williams tunes, the songs were included on the soundtrack album.
Production Notes and Trivia
- The film was directed by Jim Henson's son, Brian Henson. Despite the fact that the majority of the cast is comprised of Muppets, this film is in one sense one of the truest adaptations of the original story because it is interspersed with scenes of a narrator (Gonzo playing Charles Dickens), who -- along with the characters -- recites many of Dickens' original lines. In 2011, Dave Goelz spoke of how the idea came about;
“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 that 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.”
- This is the first of the Muppet movies in which the focus of the story revolves around characters played by human beings. However, 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 (Piggy, Scooter, and Gonzo, specifically) before it was decided that it would detract from the ominous effect the spirits would need to convey.
- This film was dedicated to Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, who both had passed away before production began. Though some of their characters were recast starting with this film, others only made brief, nonspeaking appearances. Steve Whitmire had already taken over the role of Kermit by this time, and would perform him for almost every subsequent Muppet production afterwards through 2016. Of Henson's regular characters, Kermit, Waldorf and the Swedish Chef appeared in speaking roles (while Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, and Link Hogthrob were relegated to the background). Of Hunt's regular characters, only Statler and Beaker appeared in major roles (Janice also silently appeared).
- Near the end of the film, Scrooge and company pass by a store called "Micklewhite's." Michael Caine's real name is Maurice Micklewhite.
- This is the first Muppet film not to feature any Sesame Street characters. Several recycled puppets from Fraggle Rock (including Sprocket) make background appearances.
- This film was originally planned to be a TV special.
- The movie cost $12 million to make and earned $27.5 million in theaters.
- For the soundtrack album see: The Muppet Christmas Carol (soundtrack)
The movie, like the three previous Muppet films, was done as a musical. The songs were written by Paul Williams and the score by Miles Goodman. A soundtrack album was released including the film's songs along with instrumental tracks of Goodman's score. In addition, recordings of two unused songs were also included on the album.
“It's hardly surprising that the Muppets look more comfortable than the humans in this Victorian London heritage ride. It's like a department-store Xmas grotto after lights-out with the toys taking over and sending up the tawdriness of the whole thing simply by indulging their cynicism and sentimentality, while Michael Caine's Scrooge wanders round like a disgusted caretaker. The film's best joke is its ongoing symposium on the problems of narration, between "Dickens" (The Great Gonzo, neither bird nor beast but a misbegotten bendy-nosed thing) and his skeptical stooge Rizzo the Rat. They have to keep climbing walls and hitching lasso rides to get the story told.”
—Jonathan Romney. The New Statesman December-January 1993 issue, p. 60
“...There's a sense that the film-makers, overawed by their classic source, are reining back the anarchic exuberance on which the Muppets' appeal always rested. Cult acts like Fozzie Bear (Fozziwig) and Miss Piggy (Miss [sic] Cratchit) are seriously constrained by their Dickensian characters -- although at least the long-delayed union between Kermit and Miss Piggy, celebrated in The Muppets Take Manhattan, has finally borne fruit (two female pigs and two male frogs --- the opportunity for a pog, or even a frig, has sadly been passed up)... All the same, The Muppet Christmas Carol achieves the odd genuinely chilling moment, along with a lot of fun. The sets are detailed and charming, there are the usual lively, instantly forgettable songs, and several favourites (the Swedish Chef, Rowlf) show up in cheerful cameos. As lead guest human, Michael Caine makes a respectable stab at Scrooge, but never for a moment challenges the memory of Alistair Sim.”
—Philip Kemp. Sight and Sound, February 1993.
- Muppet Performers
- Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, David Rudman, Louise Gold, Karen Prell, Mike Quinn, Robert Tygner, Donald Austen, William Todd Jones, Jessica Fox, David Shaw Parker, David Alan Barclay, Robbie Barnett, Ian Allen, James Barton, Joan Barton, Michael Bayliss, Simon Buckley, Dave Bulbeck, Marcus Clarke, Craig Crane, Sue Dacre, Taylor David, John Eccleston, Geoff Felix, Kate Frost, Ken Haines, Ronnie LeDrew, Christopher Leith, Anthony Lymboura, Rebecca Nagan, Angie Passmore, Peter Passmore, Nigel Plaskitt, Judy Preece, Sally Preisig, Peter Robbins, Gillie Robic, Tim Rose, Kaefan Shaw, David Showler, John Thirtle, Ian Thom, Mark Alexander Todd, Ian Tregonning, Simon Williamson, Victoria Willing, Phil Woodfine
- Human Cast
- Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge
- Steven Mackintosh as Fred
- Meredith Braun as Belle
- Robin Weaver as Clara
- Raymond Coulthard as Young Scrooge (Adult)
- Russell Martin as Young Scrooge (Adolescent)
- Theo Sanders as Young Scrooge (Child)
- Kristopher Milnes as Young Scrooge (Child)
- Edward Sanders as Young Scrooge (Child)
- Anthony Hamblin as Boy #1
- Fergus Brazier as Boy #2
- Muppet Characters
- Gonzo as Charles Dickens
- Rizzo the Rat as himself
- Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit
- Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit
- Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim Cratchit
- Statler as Jacob Marley
- Waldorf as Robert Marley
- Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig
- Emily Bear as Ma Fozziwig
- Betina Cratchit
- Belinda Cratchit
- Peter Cratchit
- Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker
- Sam the Eagle
- Bean Bunny
- Ghost of Christmas Past
- Ghost of Christmas Present
- Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
- Background Characters
- The Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth, Animal, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Rowlf, Lips, Sprocket, Droop, Lew Zealand, George the Janitor, J.P. Grosse, Pops, Mr. Applegate, Old Joe, Mrs. Dilber, Undertaker, Laundress, Lyle the Dog, Rats, Chester Rat, Masterson Rat, Montague, Tatooey Rat, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Wander McMooch, Brool the Minstrel, Murray the Minstrel, Mr. Curly Twirly, Begoony, Mudwell the Mudbunny, Aretha, Snowman, Mrs. Appleby, Wolf, Bobby Benson, Vegetable Seller/Prisoner, Dogs, Penguins, Inkspots, Pigs, Vegetables, Link Hogthrob, Punch and Judy puppets, Mouse Family, Richmond the Horse, Horses, the Babies, Geri and the Atrics, Frackles, Cashboxes and Locks, Whatnots, Christmas Turkey, Louise (chicken), Cats, Pigeons, Lobsters, Raccoons, Chickens, Frogs, Wolfhound, Cows, Sheep, Blacksheep, Porcupine, Mr. Bitte, Beggar
- Executive Producer: Frank Oz
- Co-producer: Jerry Juhl
- Production Designer: Val Strazovec
- Director Of Photography: John Fenner
- Costume Designer: Polly Smith
- Choreographer: Pat Garrett
- Muppet Workshop:
- Designers and Builders: Rollie Krewson, Peter MacKennan, Tom Newby, Mark Zeszotek, Paul Andrejco, Abigail Belknap, Isabelle Dufour, Henri Ewaskio, Jon Gellman, Paul Hartis, Laurent Linn, Michael Wick, Heather Asch, Mary Brehmer, Edward G. Christie, Patty Farr, Jim Glavan, Jim Hammer, Anne Timinelli, Jean-Guy White
- Muppet Costumes: Stephen Rotondaro, Barbara S. Davis, Carol Spier, Carmel Dundon, Victoria Ellis, Muriel Stockdale, Lisa Boquist, Carol Craddock, Liz McGarrity
- Jim Henson's Creature Shop
- Release dates around the world were Australia: 11 December 1992; USA: 11 December 1992; UK: 18 December 1992; Japan: 27 November 1993; Germany: 9 December 1993; Portugal: 10 December 1993; Netherlands: 16 December 1993; Finland: 17 December 1993; Spain: 17 December 1993; Sweden: 17 December 1993; Poland: 24 December 1993
- Disney twenty-three, Winter 2011 issue, page 51
- Brian Henson, Audio Commentary
- Lewis, Jim The MuppetCast episode 35
- Cox, Meg. "Kermit's Keepers: Jim Henson Is Gone, But Muppets Thrive Under His Children", The Wall Street Journal. August 9, 1993.
- Studies in Popular Culture -- A Weirdo, A Rat, and A Humbug: The Literary Qualities of The Muppet Christmas Carol