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. 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 released after the deaths of Muppets creator Jim Henson and fellow puppeteer Richard Hunt. The film is dedicated to their memory.
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 on 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. However, 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 Kermit, 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 Scrooge's charwoman Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's laundress, and the undertaker 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 Kermit 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.
- Michael Caine as Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge
- Steven Mackintosh as Fred: Ebeneezer Scrooge's nephew.
- Meredith Braun as Belle
- Robin Weaver as Clara: Ebeneezer Scrooge's niece-in-law and Fred's wife.
- Jessica Fox as Ghost of Christmas Past (voice)
- David Shaw Parker as Old Joe (voice)
- Edward Sanders, Theo Sanders, Kristopher Milnes, Russell Martin, and Raymond Coulthard as Young Scrooge
- Anthony Hamblin as Boy #1
- Fergus Brazier as Boy #2
- Dave Goelz as:
- The Great Gonzo as Charles Dickens: The film's narrator.
- Waldorf as Robert Marley: Scrooge's former business partner and Jacob Marley's brother.
- Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
- Betina Crachit: The daughter of Bob and Emily Cratchit
- Pig Businessman
- Steve Whitmire as:
- Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit: An underpaid worker of Ebenezer Scrooge.
- Rizzo the Rat as Himself
- Bean Bunny
- Belinda Crachit: The daughter of Bob and Emily Cratchit.
- Laundress: A toad-like laundry servant of Ebeneezer Scrooge.
- Pig Businessman
- Inkspots from Fraggle Rock
- Jerry Nelson as:
- Robin the Frog as Tiny Tim Cratchit: The youngest son of Bob Cratchit and Emily Cratchit.
- Statler as Jacob Marley: Scrooge's former business partner and Robert Marley's brother.
- Ma Bear as Ma Fozziwig: She presides over her son's Christmas Party
- Lew Zealand as Himself
- Voice and Face Performance of Ghost of Christmas Present
- Mr. Applegate: A tenant that Ebeneezer Scrooge deals with during their meeting
- Father Mouse
- Pig Businessman
- Rat Bookkeepers
- Inkspots from Fraggle Rock
- Singing Food: They are seen on the Vegetable Vendor's stand.
- Dr. Julius Strangepork
- Frank Oz as:
- Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit
- Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig
- Sam the Eagle as the Schoolmaster
- George the Janitor
- David Rudman as:
- Peter Cratchit: The middle son of Bob and Emily Cratchit. In the character commentary on the Blu-ray version, Rizzo the Rat says his real name is Peter Frog.
- The Swedish Chef
- Performer of Old Joe
- Wander McMooch from Fraggle Rock: He appears as a guest at Fred's party.
- Jessica Fox as:
- Voice of Ghost of Christmas Past
- Karen Prell as:
- Daughter Mouse
- Performer of Ghost of Christmas Past
- Aretha from Fraggle Rock
- Mike Quinn as:
- Pig Businessman
- Turkey |Vendor
- Undertaker: A bird in well-formal clothes.
- Louise Gold as:
- Mrs. Dilber: A winged insect who works as Ebeneezer Scrooge's charwoman.
- Brool the Minstrel from Fraggle Rock: He appears as a guest at Fred's party.
- Robert Tygner as:
- Performer of Ghost of Christmas Past
- Performer of Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
- William Todd Jones as:
- Performer of Ghost of Christmas Past
- Don Austen as:
- In-Suit Performer of Ghost of Christmas Present
- In-Suit Performer of Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Background Muppets (non-speaking)
Baby Band, Begoony from Fraggle Rock, Bobby Benson, Chickens, The Christmas Turkey from A Muppet Family Christmas, Cows, Dogs, Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, The Frackles are Blue Frackle, Jade Green Frackle, Frogs, Geri and the Atrics, J.P. Grosse, Janice, Lips, Link Hogthrob, Lobsters, Lyle the Dog, Mrs. Appleby, Mudwell the Mudbunny from Fraggle Rock, Murray the Minstrel from Fraggle Rock, Pigeons, Pops, Raccoons Richmond the Horse, Chester Rat, Masterson Rat, Rowlf the Dog, Sheep, The Snowman from A Muppet Family Christmas, Sprocket the Dog from Fraggle Rock, The Wolf from the "Lynda Carter" episode of The Muppet Show, Wolfhound, Zoot
The Muppet Christmas Carol was one of the ideas by Jim Henson shortly after the Muppets joined Disney and 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.
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 is regularly grim and stern to Scrooge. In contrast, this adaptation 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). Richard Hunt could not perform any of the Muppets because he was infected with AIDS. He passed away 12 months before the film's release.
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 hooded robed and terrifying wraith 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.
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. 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. 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.
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. The release did not include the film's extended cut or "When Love is Gone".
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."
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 filmed as a musical. The soundtrack album reached #189 on the The Walt Disney Company. The soundtrack also became available to purchase at the iTunes Store the same day as the film's Blu-ray release.
- Track listing
- "Overture" - Instrumental
- "Scrooge" - Cast
- "Room in Your Heart" - Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker
- "Good King Wenceslas" - Muppet Brass Buskers
- "One More Sleep 'til Christmas" - Kermit
- "Marley and Marley" - Statler and Waldorf
- "Christmas Past" - Miles Goodman
- "Chairman of the Board" - Sam the Eagle
- "Fozziwig's Party" - Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
- "When Love is Gone" - Belle (Meredith Braun)
- "It Feels Like Christmas" - Ghost of Christmas Present
- "Christmas Scat" - Kermit and Tiny Tim
- "Bless Us All" - Tiny Tim and Family
- "Christmas Future" - Miles Goodman
- "Christmas Morning" - Miles Goodman
- "Thankful Heart" - Scrooge
- "Finale: When Love Is Found/It Feels Like Christmas" - Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Cast
- "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.
- King, Susan. "The Muppets Take On Dickens' 'Carol'", The Los Angeles Times, 1996-03-10.
- Heckman, Don. "The Muppet Christmas Carol' songwriter Paul Williams undergoes a metamorphosis no less powerful than Scrooge's", The Los Angeles Times, 1992-12-13.
- December 15, 1992 (1992-12-15). Weekend Box Office : 'Home Alone' Passes $100 Million - Los Angeles Times. Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved on 2012-07-06.
- Maslin, Janet (1992-12-11). Movie Review - The Muppet Christmas Carol - Review/Film; Kermit, Etc. Do Dickens Up Green - NYTimes.com. Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved on 2012-07-06.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews. Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved on 2012-07-06.
- Reviewed by Almar Haflidason Updated 14 December 2000 (2000-12-14). Films - review - The Muppet Christmas Carol. BBC. Retrieved on 2012-07-06.
- Variety Reviews - The Muppet Christmas Carol - Film Reviews - - Review by Variety Staff. Variety.com (1991-12-31). Retrieved on 2012-07-06.
- ['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. Retrieved on 30 July 2012.
- Brown, Kenneth (6 November 2012). The Muppet Christmas Carol Blu-ray Review. Blu-ray.com. Retrieved on 6 November 2012.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at the Internet Movie Database
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at All Movie Guide
- The Muppet Christmas Carol at Box Office Mojo
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