A Muppet Family Christmas Is a Celebration of All Things Jim Henson

Movies


The Big Picture

  • A Muppet Family Christmas is the best Muppet production ever made with adorable crossovers and interactions between characters.
  • The special brings together various Muppets properties, including the Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock.
  • The lack of a strong narrative allows for a joyful celebration of holiday songs and showcases Jim Henson’s talent.


When it comes to the holidays, there’s no shortage of Muppet-starring options. Over the decades, there have been around a dozen different Muppets specials and movies, including the best adaptation of a Charles Dickens classic with The Muppet Christmas Carol, the beloved favorite Emmet Otter’s Jug-Bang Christmas, and even two different specials features John Denver. These are well and good, and among some of the best holiday specials one can watch during the season. But one Muppet special rises above the rest, a Multiverse of Madness if you will of Muppet proportions. I’m talking about A Muppet Family Christmas.

A Muppet Family Christmas starts simple enough: Fozzie Bear brings almost all the Muppets to his mother Emily’s farm to celebrate Christmas, a lovely surprise that ignores that this poor mother bear is about to have her house invaded by this troupe of aspiring entertainers. What the Muppets don’t know is that Emily was planning on going to Malibu for Christmas, even renting her house out to Doc (Gerard Parkes) and his Muppet dog Sprocket. But Emily Bear and Doc are quite accommodating, adjusting their plans to spend time with Fozzie and his oddball performer friends.

A Muppet Family Christmas

Fozzie Bear surprises his mother on Christmas Eve by bringing the entire Muppet gang to her farm to celebrate the holidays.

Release Date
December 16, 1987

Cast
Jim Henson , Frank Oz , Steve Whitmire , Caroll Spinney

Rating
TV-PG

Runtime
47

Genres
TV Movie , Holiday , Comedy


All The Muppets Are Finally Together Under One Roof

But then, A Muppet Family Christmas goes from good to the best Muppet production ever made. This shift starts when the group decides to watch some family movies, which leads to just about the most adorable thing ever: a puppet version of The Muppet Babies. Debuting in 1984, Muppet Babies was a huge hit for CBS, presenting the toddler version of Muppet favorites in animated form. But the puppet Muppet babies, well, that’s about the cutest thing you’ll ever see in your life. As baby Rowlf plays “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” on a little piano, baby versions of Fozzie, Kermit, Miss Piggy (with a baby Kermit doll in hand!), Scooter and Gonzo fight for screen time while they sing along. Naturally, the video concludes when a baby Animal pops out of a package, followed by an adult Animal busting through the projection screen.

Yet this is just the beginning of the crossover madness. Soon after, a massive group of carolers shows up to Emily Bear’s house in middle of nowhere, and I’ll be damned, it’s the Sesame Street crew! As if Emily Bear’s house has unlimited size inside, the Sesame Street team is invited inside for the festivities, leading to some great dynamics between a group that skews much younger and one that is clearly for a slightly more adult audience. For example, Bert and Ernie attempts to start small talk with Doc, pointing out that Doc starts with the letter “D” and so on and so forth, leading to Bert stating, “where we come from, this is small talk.” Even better is the Swedish Chef trying to cook Big Bird (or has he calls him “Gobbly-Gobbly”), leading to an extremely sweet and earnest discussion from Big Bird of how lonely the chef must be away from his family during the holidays. We’ve seen for decades how these different characters work within each own little bubbles, but watching them play around together is an absolute joy, and a playful dynamic that we rarely see.

But that’s not the end of this celebration of late 80s Muppets properties. Kermit is called down to the basement by his nephew Robin, which leads to a cave full of Fraggles (Emily Bear really needs to clean her basement better). While down there, the Fraggles tell Kermit and Robin about a pebble that they pass off to each other as a present, eventually giving the gift to Robin. A Muppet Family Christmas aired just a few days after a few months after the last episode of Fraggle Rock and only a few days after the last episode of Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series. While the show would live on through various reruns, this was one of the last bits of new Fraggle content since Apple TV+ revived the characters with Fraggle Rock: Rock On! in 2022 and Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock.

Even though A Muppet Family Christmas is Muppet cameos galore, again, it’s watching these characters interact with each other who usually exist in their own universes that make this undeniably charming. Like most Muppet stories, A Muppet Family Christmas has the bare minimum of narrative, and the biggest thread here is whether Miss Piggy will finish her photo shoots and shopping in time to get to Emily Bear’s house for Christmas. Naturally, she makes it in time to spend the holiday with her beloved Kermie, but the majority of this special revolves around fun combinations of characters, great callbacks, truly hilarious jokes, and the joy of spending the season with those you love.

A Beautiful Celebration of All Things Jim Henson

The cast of A Muppet Family Christmas

That lack of any real narrative allows for a final third that is simply this massive group of Muppets singing a selection of holiday songs directly to the audience. Considering how many puppets and puppeteers are involved in this over ten-minute sequence, it’s easily one of the most ambitious undertakings Jim Henson’s team had ever attempted. There’s something wonderful about watching Statler and Waldorf singing a verse while Cookie Monster watches in the background, or to even see an early iteration of Elmo in the background, before he became the cultural icon he is today. But the unbelievable accomplishment of this sequence almost makes is feel like these are living, breathing characters, and makes the audience forget that there are likely dozens of puppeteers under our eye line controlling this spectacle.

After watching A Muppet Family Christmas, it’s shocking that a collaboration of this magnitude never happened again. By the early 90s, Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock were relegated to reruns, and after the death of Henson in 1990, it became less clear how these characters should move forward—an uncertainty that continues to this day. In the final moments of A Muppet Family Christmas, we see Henson deciding to do the dishes while his Muppet friends sing their holiday songs, beautifully stating that “I like it when they have a good time.” It’s lovely that Henson had the opportunity to see his creations united in this way before his passing.

A Muppet Family Christmas isn’t just the best movie/special that The Muppets ever did, it’s also one of the best Christmas specials to enjoy over the holidays, and unfortunately, the only way to watch this remarkable production is via YouTube recordings. A Muppet Family Christmas works because it isn’t the madcap insanity that one expects from the Muppets (although there is understandably some craziness), but rather, Henson taking an opportunity to gather all his Muppet friends under one roof and, as he states, let them “have a good time.” It’s one of the most charming testaments to Henson’s legacy and work, and deserves to be considered one of the great holiday classics.



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