A Look at Disney Christmas: The Muppet Christmas Carol

Hello & welcome back to A Look at Disney.  And the Christmas celebration continues with a look at one of my all time favorite adaptions of A Christmas Carol.  When I think of A Christmas Carol,  4 things come to mind.  The original source material,  the 1938 MGM film,  Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

Those two are perennial favorites as the 1938 film is my one of my Dad’s favorite Christmas movies alongside Miracle on 34th Street.  And Mickey’s Christmas Carol is one of the earliest ones I remember seeing as a kid.   And while those two do hold a very special place in my heart.  My favorite version of A Christmas Carol has been the 1992 adaption featuring The Muppets.  Yes, The Muppet Christmas Carol is easily my all time favorite take on A Christmas Carol.  Now, I’ll freely admit that I haven’t seen some of the classics such as the Albert Finney or Alastair Sim version.  I know, I know.  I should rectify that but out of the countless adaptions that I have seen, The Muppet Christmas Carol has always been the one that I hold closest in my heart.  With that out of the way, let’s begin.


Trailer

Man, this trailer evokes so much  ’90s nostalgia from the way, it’s edited to the narrator. I swear that this guy narrated every trailer for a Disney movie in the 1990’s.

The Plot



I don’t think that I really need to go over much in terms of plot here.  It’s a pretty straightforward adaption just with Muppet humor thrown in along the way. And out of the films that are adaptions of classic works of literature featuring The Muppets, I think this one is the best.  The casting for both the human & Muppet characters is rather spot-on.  It does a good job of keeping the spirit of the story alive along with the spirit of The Muppets intact as well. And considering that this was the first film made after Jim Henson passed away that couldn’t have been easy. And well, he wasn’t the only man behind a Muppet that they lost because this film was also dedicated to Richard Hunt,  who was known for playing characters such as Beaker and Janice.


Now, when I review these Muppet movies, I like to keep the spirit alive by referring to only the characters playing these roles because after all, that is how they are credited in the opening credits.  It’s meant as a way to make their performances seem all the more real to us. However,  there is a small story that I would like to share concerning Steve Whitmire, who took over as Kermit in this film after the passing of Jim Henson.

According to Whitmire he was incredibly nervous about taking over such an iconic character. The night before he had to go record Kermit’s songs for the movie, he had a dream where he met Henson in a hotel lobby and told him how unsure he was. In the dream, Henson reassured Whitmire that the feeling would pass. After waking up, Whitmire was confident and able to do the part.

I’ve always found this to be rather touching and I think it shows in the performance of Steve Whitmire as Kermit here Because he turned in a rather solid performance as Kermit The Frog and I enjoyed every moment of it.  With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the characters.

Narration


Charles Dickens & Rizzo The Rat played by Gonzo The Great and Rizzo The Rat

Brian Henson included these two for narration as he wanted to include the Dickensian dialogue.  And it really worked because these two work so well as on screen narrators.  I love that only the audience is aware of their presence and the rest of the movie just plays out as it should without the other characters acknowledging their presence until the very end of the film.  Gonzo & Rizzo serve as the comic relief for the film and because of the fact that they exist outside the story, it works very well and doesn’t take away from the story.  It’s just a nice added little bonus and as the Muppet Wiki points out, it allows Gonzo and Rizzo to serve as the Greek Chorus a la the singers from Little Shop of Horrors as he comments on the events but doesn’t get involved in the story.  It’s one of the great highlights and I always enjoy seeing these two on screen and man, were they a great pairing on during the ’90s.  And I am thankful for the new TV show bringing back Rizzo and giving him more time with Gonzo, even if he has to share it with Pepe.   Ah well, that is neither here nor there because as far as this movie goes, they are always a joy to watch.

Main Character


Ebeneezer Scrooge played by Michael Caine

I’ll make no bones about it, from the versions that I have seen of A Christmas Carol, Michael Caine is my favorite Scrooge.  Sure, he starts off a bit over the top in the beginning but that works to show us the cold and heartless man that he is in the beginning of the movie.  And I think in a way, it helps the audience to see the transformation that he goes through as the movie progresses as it feels very real and natural.  It’s as I said in my Muppet Villain cross over with Infamous Jak.

Before, he’s visited by the ghosts, he is a deplorable man that had lost his way. And if Scrooge is really an antagonist to anyone, it’s himself. Because sure, while he is mean to people around him as we see with how he treats Crachit but Scrooge is his own worst enemy

And I still hold that to be very much true to this day as Caine shows through his performance how broken, a man Scrooge truly is.



Ghosts


Interesting fact,  Muppet characters were almost cast in the role of the Ghosts of Christmas Present, Past, & Yet To Come.

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.

I’m honestly glad that they didn’t go with this because while it worked with Mickey’s Christmas Carol, I’m not so sure it would’ve worked with The Muppets.   Because while Mickey’s Christmas Carol did take the source seriously, it was shown how much effort Brian Henson put into this film and in the end, he made the right call.

Jacob & Robert Marley played by Statler and Waldorf

The only exception to the decision of not having Muppet characters not play any of the Ghosts was with Jacob Marley and the role was actually split into two as both Jacob and Robert Marley.  And yes, that is a reference to Bob Marley.   And having The Muppets’ two hecklers fill the role of Marley was a stroke of genius and while it added their humor to the Marley scene,  it can also be really effective because these two to a young audience can actually be quite haunting  during their Marley and Marley number.  And there is also a tinge of remorse in these two for their past misdeeds as they speak to Scrooge.   Yes,  they are sarcastic like what we know from The Muppet Show but the remorse is still noticeable.

Ghost of Christmas Past Performed by Karen Prell,  Rob Tynger,  & William Todd-Jones.  Voiced by Jessica Fox.

Jessica Fox was only a child, when she voiced  the Ghost of Christmas Present and I feel that that having a child voice this character, I feel was a great idea as it really sells the idea of going into the past.  And I do agree with Doug Walker in his Disneycember review that it works well that the Ghost has the look of both an adult and a child.  By the voice, you know  the Ghost sounds youthful  but from the design, you do not know how long this ghost has been around.

The Ghost of Christmas Present performed by  Donald Austen (Body) & Jerry Nelson (Face).  Voiced by Jerry Nelson

This… this is how you do The Ghost of Christmas Present.  I’m hard pressed to say that I’ve ever seen a better take on Present.  When I think of this particular Ghost, this is the one that always comes to mind.  He is just so full of jovial life and warmth that you can’t help but enjoy his presence on screen, whenever you see him. And the aging process done for Present is handled rather well and you truly feel remorse for him as he passes on.

You truly feel for him as he passes but it doesn’t go too far unlike another version that I’ll be looking at next week. 

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come performed by Donald Austen (Body) & Rob Tygner

I love how Yet To Come never talks and instead lets his actions speak for himself.  And that works so well because the future is unknown.   And having him be this large and grim figure is such a menacing presence. And this works because you see the threat that is brought forth, when Yet To Come comes on screen and it’s not hard to feel the fear in Scrooge as he is shown such a bleak future. It doesn’t go too dark but it has the right balance of bleakness to get the point across of what will happen, if Scrooge doesn’t change his ways.

Supporting Characters


Bob Cratchit played by Kermit The Frog













Casting Kermit as Bob was as obvious a choice as Mickey playing him in Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  But obvious isn’t bad and he works well here as he exudes the warmth that you expect with Cratchit.  As he is just so friendly and I always enjoy seeing Kermit in this role as it just a great joy to watch.

Tiny Tim played by Robin

Robin may come off as too cutesy for Tiny Tim but Tiny Tim was always a precocious type character and having Kermit’s nephew made sense as he is the most popular child character from The Muppets.  But having said all of that, I do think that he works well in this adaption.  And he is very adorable here in this role and you really do feel for the Cratchits, when he passes on in the bleak future that is shown as a possibility, if Scrooge doesn’t change his ways.

Fred played by  Steven Mackintosh

Fred may be perhaps my least favorite character in this film. He’s not bad and his actor does a good job with the material that he is given to work with but compared to some of the other characters, he feels like the weakest link out of an otherwise solid cast.

Charity Workers played by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew & Beaker

The Charity Workers are small but crucial characters to show who Scrooge is at the beginning of  the film.  And I actually liked having Bunsen and Beaker in these roles as they are a fun duo. And apparently, Bunsen was supposed to have a song in the film but it was cut and after hearing it, I can see why it was cut.

Headmaster played by Sam The Eagle

Now, I do have to correct myself on one thing that I said about Gonzo not interacting with the story.

Sam the Eagle: Mm, you will love business. It is the AMERICAN WAY!
Gonzo: [whispers] Sam…
[whispers in Sam’s ear] Sam the Eagle: Oh… It is the BRITISH WAY!

I can’t believe that I forgot that line because it is so funny.  And Sam playing playing the Headmaster was such a great choice as he is what you would expect in this type of role with an uptight teacher type.  And it works rather well. It’s brief but it works well.

Fozziwig played by Fozzie Bear

This had to be an obvious casting choice for the writers, when they decided to A Christmas Carol with The Muppets. And I think that it really works in this role as Fozzie is the type of person that is just a happy person and he wants to see everyone around him be happy and that really reminds me of Fezziwig as he had this joyous personality that was just so infectious.  I also have to make mention that I love that at the end, Scrooge goes and sees his old Headmaster and Fozziwig at the retirement home.

Belle played by Meredith Braun

I was reading a blog that did a three-way comparison between the 2009 film, Scrooged, and The Muppet Christmas Carol.  And that author didn’t seem to be a fan of Belle in this adaption.

Meredith Braun’s singing Belle (ugh) almost seems content in the knowledge that she can move on, resigned to the fact that Scrooge just doesn’t love her any more. And that is, honestly, pretty sad.

While I do see where the author is coming from to an extent,  I’d actually argue that Belle being content in her decision to move on actually works to add more tragedy to Scrooge because here as we see what Scrooge had lost as a young man and Belle made this hard decision because she knew could no longer compete as Scrooge had moved on from her.  While it may appear that Scrooge is doing these things for her or so he tells Belle and more importantly himself, Belle has come to see that Scrooge’s work comes before their relationship and she doesn’t want to be second place.  You feel the heartbreak in Belle with this one line in reply to a young Scrooge saying that he loves Belle.

You did once

Those three words say so much about how much the relationship has broken and Belle doesn’t want to continue fighting.  She’s given up because to her, Scrooge  doesn’t love her any longer.  He may tell himself that he does but Belle can see that she is no longer as important to him as she once was.  And this is what makes Scrooge joining in on singing When Love Is Gone as an old man all the more heartbreaking.

This scene shows how much these wounds have cut deep in Scrooge and I think that you can see that Scrooge had let Belle’s decision hurt him and how he had kept it bottled in for so many years.   And Scrooge seeing it for himself and having to relive it brings out all of the pain that he locked away for so many years.

Clara played by Robin Weaver

Clara, Fred’s wife is a rather minor character in the grand scheme of the whole plot but I think that the relationship that Fred and Clara is meant to represent the relationship that Scrooge and Belle could have had.

Emily Cratchit played by Miss Piggy

I really like Miss Piggy as Emily Cratchit because not only does she get across the attitude of Mrs. Cratchit and her disdain for Scrooge.  Even if the scene does go on a little too long but other than that, I really do like Piggy here as Emily because you truly feel the anger that she has for Scrooge for putting Bob in this helpless situation.  And beyond that, you also feel the love that she has for Bob and that she will always be there for him.

My Final Thoughts


I love this movie,  it’s my favorite adaption of A Christmas Carol.  It’s the one that gives me the most joy to watch and it is a yearly tradition to watch this film every year as it is to me a Christmas classic.  And easily, one of my favorite takes on the classic tale. It may not be the best or the greatest adaption out there but out of the takes on A Christmas Carol that I’ll be looking at during this event, this is easily the best adaption ever released by Disney. Join me next time as I continue my look at The Muppet Christmas Carol as I look at the music of The Muppet Christmas Carol.

 

8 replies
  1. the-second-opinion
    the-second-opinion says:

    Of all adaptations, Mickey’s Christmas Carol was actually my first encounter with the tale. Nobody ever bothered to tell me about it before that. Then, of course, I started seeing it everywhere.

    The muppet version is indeed a pretty good one, though I don’t know if I’ve seen enough to pick a favorite yet. But it’s such a good story, and the muppets fill it out so well. In normal circumstances, I might’ve said something about the ghost of Christmas present not being true to the original, but actually, the original ghost of Christmas present is probably the most forgettable of the three. (He has a couple interesting gimmicks, but he’s mostly the warmup for Christmas yet-to-come.) Here, he’s so likable and inspiring, he might just be my favorite character. And of course, the Marley brothers were an outstanding touch. I think Mickey’s Christmas Carol actually beat it in the ghost of Christmas yet-to-come scene, but still far be it from me to pick a winner between the two. Job well done!

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    • moviefan
      moviefan says:

      I watched the 2009 version first and boy do I regret that. This one made up for it and I’ve got my DVR set to record the 1938 version, the George C. Scott adaption and Albert Finney’s Scrooge. I’ve also found starring Basil Rathbone, that I’m gonna check out.

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