This past week, Jim Henson Productions’ seasonal favourite The Muppet Christmas Carol, celebrated its 25th year. For a quart of a century, the world famous puppets have entertained us over the festive period (and beyond), with their unique spin on the classic Charles Dickens yarn.
You’ve no doubt seen the film a million times, but we’d wager there’s a few things you don’t know about the popular production. Such knowledge is too much for us to keep to ourselves, so we’re bringing you into the loop.
10. A Brian Henson Film
The Muppets Christmas Carol will forever be remembered as the first Muppet movie to be made following the death of creator Jim Henson. With Jim no longer involved, it fell to his son Brian to take the reins. Brian had been working for his dad’s company since 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper, but had never directed a movie before. He would later go on to direct the also incredible Muppet Treasure Island in 1996.
9. There’s Magic In The Air Tonight
When Kermit sings “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas,” we see a shooting star in the night sky. This is a tribute to the late Jim Henson, and the trademark of all Muppet productions from that point on. Keen-eyed readers will remember this is actually a shot from the very first Muppet Movie, and was one of Henson’s favourite shots.
8. Hi Ho, Kermit The Frog Here
Following the death of Jim Henson, Steve Whitmire was gifted the honor of bringing Kermit the Frog to life. Whitmire – who had previously worked on Fraggle Rock – has frequently told fans that he felt completely unworthy of such a gift, and was terrified when it came to recording his lines for The Muppet Christmas Carol.
So what changed? Well, according to Whitmire, he met Henson in a dream just hours before the recording session. The Muppet creator told Whitmire to relax, and that he would be a huge success. Knowing his old boss had every confidence in him as a performer, Whitmire forgot all about his nerves and went on to become the Kermit the Frog for a whole new generation of fans.
7. The One That We Call Scrooge!
Michael Caine has gone on record as saying that he really enjoyed working on The Muppets Christmas Carol. He believed that despite working opposite puppets, he should still give a memorable performance, as if this were a straight up adaptation of the Dickensian classic. When The Guardian newspaper asked him about the role he said:
“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.”
But Michael Caine was not the first choice to play the notorious skinflint. David Hemmings (Gladiator), Ron Moody (Oliver!), David Warner (Star Trek VI), and George Carlin (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) were all approached to play the role, with Carlin coming closest to signing on to the project.
6. Expect The First Ghost Tonight, When The Bell Tolls One
In the original script, the ghosts who haunted Scrooge, were supposed to be portrayed by Miss Piggy, Gonzo (or Animal, depending who you ask), and Scooter. This all changed though, when someone realised Scooter wasn’t the most ominous Ghost of Christmas Future, and “scarier” looking spirits were selected instead. Piggy and Gonzo would go on to be recast in the main story, while Scooter would be cut entirely. It is believed that Scooter was removed out of respect for Richard Hunt, his voice for so many years, who had died 12 months before the production ended.
5. I am the ghost of Christmas past
Ever wondered how the filmmakers managed to get the creepy, floating effect with the Ghost of Christmas Past? According to the DVD commentary, they achieved this by filming the Muppeteer submerged in a tank of baby oil. Eventually the cost of the baby oil became too much, and they had to switch to water – which actually caused more damage to the puppet than the oil.
4. The Marley’s Were Dead To Begin With
When Statler and Waldorf appear as Marley and Marley, they are covered in chains which in turn are linked to wailing cash boxes. This was written in as a comedic nod to Bob Marley and his band The Wailers.
Speaking of Marley and Marley, on the original soundtrack for the film, there is an additional line in their song that doesn’t make it into the final cut:
“We’re Marley and Marley, And now it’s time to part To go back where they keep our kind, The wretched and the heartless The news we’ve shared has got you scared We’re glad that we got through So make amends (and make some friends!) The future’s up to you.”
3. The Unbearable Cuteness of Bean Bunny
The character of Bean Bunny was created as a bit of an in joke. The team at Muppets HQ consciously decided to create a character so sickly sweet that audiences would hate him. This is why he’s so poorly treated by almost everyone in the movie, and why there’s whole websites dedicated to how unbearable he is.
2. The (pork) Ribbing Continues
Speaking of bullying, according to the DVD commentary, the Cratchit daughters were added to the film for the sole purpose of allowing Steve Whitmire and Dave Goelz the chance to rib Frank Oz over the way he performed the Miss Piggy character.
1. Muppet Christmas Carol By the numbers
Disney had high hopes for the film, but it struggled to outperform other movies released at the same time, including Disney’s own Aladdin, and Home Alone 2. By the end of its domestic cinematic run, The Muppet Christmas Carol grossed a respectable $27,281,507 against a budget of $12 million. It’s no wonder they’re still considered a bankable commodity all these years later.
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