Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Review by William Mortensen Vaughan

Title:  The Muppet Christmas Carol

Date and Location of First Release:  
FRI, 6 DEC 1992, U.S.A.

Stars:   Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge Gonzo as Charles Dickens
Meredith Braun as Belle Formats Reviewed:   the original, live-action, feature-length film, on DVD; 
the 50th Anniversary Edition, on DVD; and 
the 20th Anniversary Edition, on BluRay

My Rating:  *****(Favorite) Dove Foundation Rating:  Approved for All Ages
M.P.A.A. Rating:  G (General audiences – All ages admitted)
What is the most remarkable thing about this adaptation?   The most remarkable thing about this adaptation is, perhaps, 
that it's such a well done, humorous, musical Muppet movie! 
It comes as no surprise to me that many people consider it to be one of the best 
(albeit least "faithful") adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

Is this adaptation reverent? Why or why not?:   Yes. The song "Bless Us All" is a reverent prayer.
Who, if anyone, utters the phrase, "God bless us..."?   Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge say "God bless us" in the 
vision of Christmas Present and the finale, respectively. 

What does my wife think of it?  
She is not a fan of the Muppets or musicals.

When and where does this adaptation take place?   This adaptation takes place in London, after the year 1800. 
The Headmaster tells young Scrooge that he has an 
apprenticeship lined up for him in London. 
The Ghost of Christmas Present claims that he has 
more than 1,800 brothers.

How closely does this adaptation follow the original novel, by Charles Dickens?   Although Brian Henson claims, on the audio commentary track, that this adaptation 
is "the most faithful," it makes several drastic departures from the classic novel. 

Besides the fact that London is inhabited, in this adaptation, 
by talking and singing fruits, vegetables, animals, and Muppets, 
the first departure from the original novel, which a viewer might notice, 
is the presence of two Muppet narrators:  
Charles Dickens, played by Gonzo
and Rizzo the Rat. 
The original novel seems to be told from the perspective of an omniscient narrator, 
which would be, presumably, Charles Dickens; however, 
the narrator never identifies him- or herself by name.

Another drastic departure is the addition of Robert Marley, played by Waldorf.  
Statler plays Jacob Marley. Scrooge's door knocker transforms into Jacob's face. 
Later, the ghosts of Jacob and Robert Marley appear to Scrooge, in his chambers. 
The scene of other ghosts outside Scrooge's window is missing.

Yet another drastic departure is the absence of Fan. 
Also, instead of being rescued from the boarding school by his sister, Fan, 
in this adaptation, young Scrooge GRADUATES from his school. 
The Headmaster, played by Sam Eagle informs young Scrooge that he has an 
apprenticeship lined up for him, in London, and gives him a commencement speech, 
about business and "the American way," which, after Gonzo whispers in his ear, 
he rephrases as "the British way."

A humorous departure is that Mr. Fozziwig, played by Fozzie Bear
instead of Mr. Fezziwig, has, according to Scrooge, an "old rubber chicken factory." 
Fozziwig and his mother (instead of his wife) host a Christmas party. 
Scrooge's fellow apprentice, Dick Wilkins, is missing, but 
his "old business partners," young Robert and Jacob Marley, are present 
to heckle Mr. Fozziwig when he gives his Christmas speech. 

As with several other adaptations, this adaptation shows Scrooge, 
as an apprentice, meeting Belle (Meredith Braun) at this party, even though 
the original novel never indicates when or where Scrooge met Belle. 
Five actors are credited as "Young Scrooge," and 
none of them have a head shot on IMDb, so I have yet to ascertain which one 
played Scrooge as Mr. Fozziwig's apprentice and Belle's fiancé.

Instead of a fiddler, various Muppets play other instruments at the Christmas party, 
including a set of drums, a piano, a bass cello, and various wind instruments.

Other departures include the absence of Martha, and one of the other Cratchit children;
and naming one of the Cratchit daughters "Betina." 
Miss Piggy plays Mrs. Emily Cratchit, whose first name is never given in the original 
novel. She affectionately addresses her husband, Bob, played by Kermit the Frog
as "Cratchy," another name never used in the original novel. 
They have four children, instead of the six mentioned in the original novel:  
Peter, Belinda, Betina, and Tiny Tim. The original novel lists six:  
Martha, Peter, Belinda, Tiny Tim, and two "younger" siblings, who remain unnamed. 
No one named Betina is mentioned in the original novel.

Other characters not mentioned in the original novel 
(yet introduced in this less than faithful adaptation) 
include a white chicken, whom Gonzo introduces to Rizzo as "Louise"; 
a Christmas turkey named Martin; an unnamed cat, who chases Rizzo around 
the schoolyard; at least seven rats who work for Scrooge, alongside Bob; 
and an entire family of mice, to whom Scrooge gives a chunk of cheese wrapped 
in a red ribbon, for Christmas.

Which brings us to the day after Christmas, which is missing in this adaptaton, 
and the odd visits Scrooge pays his neighbors on Christmas... 
In the original novel, Scrooge anonymously sends a turkey to Bob's house 
on Christmas morning, but doesn't see him until Bob shows up late for work 
the next day. Instead, Scrooge has Christmas dinner with his nephew, Fred, 
and Fred's wife and guests.  In the original novel, Fred's wife remains unnamed, 
but in this adaptation, she is identified as "Clara." Scrooge stops by their home, 
on Christmas, in this adaptation, to give them presents, but does not stay for dinner. 
He also gives presents to Sam Eagle, and, as mentioned above, to the family of mice, 
although the original novel leaves readers to assume that the Headmaster is dead by 
the time Scrooge receives his ghostly visitations. Singing, talking rodents have a 
tendency to appear in adaptations such as this, as if people in the LIBERAL arts were 
obsessed with such vermin. 

Finally, Scrooge visits the Cratchits on Christmas, and tells Bob that 
he's going to give him a pay raise, AND pay his mortgage 
(the mention of which is another departure from the original novel). 
Scrooge personally presents Bob with the turkey, and has dinner with him 
instead of his nephew.

Is this adaptation a prequel or a sequel?  

Is this adaptation supernatural Why or why not?   Yes, this adaptation is supernatural, featuring ghosts and time travel, 
not to mention talking fruits, vegetable, and animals.

Is this adaptation "framed"? If so, how?   Gonzo and Rizzo create the impression that it is framed within a lengthy conversation 
between the two of them, about Charles Dickens, who is being played, 
in this adaptation, by Gonzo.

What original musical numbers and/or dance routines are included? This film includes several musical numbers, starring various muppets, Michael Caine, 
and Meredith Braun.  
Paul Williams wrote several original songs for this film; they include:

"Scrooge" (sung by the Muppets as Scrooge walks through the streets of London to his office)
"One More Sleep 'Til Christmas" (sung by Kermit, as Bob Cratchit)
"Marley and Marley" (sung by Statler and Waldorf, as Jacob and Robert Marley, respectively)
"Bless Us All" (sung by Tiny Tim, accompanied by the rest of the Cratchits)
"Thankful Heart" (sung by Michael Caine, after Scrooge's transformation, on Christmas morning)
"It Feels Like Christmas" (sung by the Ghost of Christmas Present)
"When Love Is Gone" (sung by Meredith Braun and Michael Caine, as Belle and Scrooge, respectively)
This last song is a particularly controversial topic of discussion. For one thing, Brian Henson alleges, in one of the "Bonus Features," that it is the first song Michael Caine sang for a film or television production.
More importantly, this duet is not found on the 20th Anniversary Edition on BluRay, and it is not readily apparent how to access it on original or 50th Anniversary Editions. As seen on Amazon reviews, Fans are not happy about this.
To access this song on the original and 50th Anniversary Editions, viewers need to select "Play," which takes them to a submenu with two options:  "Widescreen Theatrical Version" and "Full Screen Extended Version." Then they need to select the "Full Screen Extended Version," which includes the duet, "When Love Is Gone."
How attractive is the visual art?   The set, wardrobe, architecture, and art are, for the most part, excellent. 
Personally, I think the Ghost of Christmas Past looks unprofessional, unattractive, 
and "unfunny." Brian Henson explains that the "rod puppet" had a tendency to 
fall apart under water, where all but one of her scenes were filmed; 
her first scene was filmed in baby oil, but proved too difficult to keep clean, 
and was too expensive. 

However, I find the Ghost of Christmas Present to be exceptionally well made and 
hilarious; I find it hard to imagine anyone watching his performance without laughing, 
or at least smiling. 

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is satisfactory. 
Marley and Marley are also hilarious. 
Miss Piggy and Kermit are ideal Muppets for their roles as Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit.

How creative and instense are the transitions, especially when "the Scrooge" is taken from one time and/or place to another?   The transitions are varied and effective, using swirling video effects in and out, 
fading to white, rapid night to day transitions; falling from one scene into another, 
fog, and sound effects.
What nap-of-the-earth footage, if any, is included?   I especially like the panning view of London's rooftops during the opening credits. 
It is also amusing to see Gonzo and Rizzo dragged, air assault style, 
through the woods, dangling from Scrooge's robe, as the Ghost of Christmas Past flies, 
with Scrooge, like Superman, into a light on the horizon, and back, in time, 
to Scrooge's boarding school.

What use is made of background extras?   Plenty of background extras are used effectively, including humans and Muppets, 
in London street scenes, at Fred and Fozziwig's Christmas Parties, and 
at the penguins' skating party. Some extras sing and/or dance. 
Some featured extras have speaking parts; for examples, 
a pumpkin complains that it is being stolen; 
and a vendor tells his Christmas turkey to "get back in the box."

What extras are included on the DVD and BluRay?  
(See below.)

What are the differences between the various editions of 
The Muppet Christmas Carol 
on DVD and BluRay?:  
A 25th Anniversary Edition was released as a download for sale or rent on
but I haven't seen any other version of that edition mentioned anywhere; 
it was apparently not released on any type of disc.

I own three copies of this film on DVD and BluRay:  
an original edition, on DVD; 
a 50th Anniversary Edition, on DVD; 
and a 20th Anniversary Edition, on BluRay
The BluRay came with a Digital Copy, the support for which seems to be outdated; 
it is, essentially, a coaster. 
The 50th Anniversary Edition is, as far as I can tell, a copy of the original edition, 
with different labels and packaging to commemorate the anniversary. 
The differences which I've discovered between these editions and the 
20th Anniversary Edition are as follows: 
Differences Between Editions of The Muppet Christmas Carol

Original/50th Anniversary*| 20th Anniversary*
Format:   DVD BluRay
Autoplay:   Autoplays ads (The Lady & the Tramp, et al) Autoplays ads (Wreck-It Ralph, et al)
Menu Availability:   The Main Menu is available at any time. The Main Menu is available at any time, after a pre-menu menu.
Menu Appearance:   The Main Menu looks like the multi-paned window in Scrooge's office; Kermit nags viewers to make a selection. The Main Menu is a vertical band on the left side of the screen. Initially, it is on top of a view of London's rooftops, with relaxing, instrumental background music. If accessed during the film, the film keeps playing under it.
Scene Selection:   Scene Selection is available on the Main Menu. Scene Selection is available on the Main Menu. Play from where you left off is automatically suggested upon start-up - even AFTER removing the disc, turning the BluRay player off, and putting the disc back in!
Widescreen or Full Screen:   must be selected after selecting "Play." is selected automatically.
"Setup" "Audio" Options:   A French audio track is available. French and Spanish audio tracks are available.
"Setup" "Captions" Options:   English captions are available. English, French, and Spanish captions are available.
"Bonus Features":   "Outtakes and Bloopers:  On the Set Gag Reel" "Outtakes and Bloopers:  On the Set Gag Reel"

"Pepe Profiles Present - Gonzo:  Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo" "Pepe Profiles Present - Gonzo:  Portrait of the Artist as a Young Weirdo"

"Christmas Around the World" [Australia, Czechoslovakia, France, Sweden, and England] "Christmas Around the World" [Australia, Czechoslovakia, France, Sweden, and England]

Audio Commentary track with the Director, Brian Henson Audio Commentary track with the Director, Brian Henson

N/A Audio Commentary track with Kermit, Gonzo, and Rizzo

N/A Subtitles for Audio Commentary track with the Director**

N/A "Frogs, Pigs, and Humbug:  Unwrapping a New Holiday Classic [an interview with the Director, Brian Henson]
Intermission:   N/A After the film is paused for a certain number of seconds, silly vignettes begin playing. This option can be turned off from the Menu. 

*In 2005, a 50th Anniversary Edition was released, to commemorate Kermit's debut on the television series "Sam & Friends," in 1955. In 2012, a 20th Anniversary Edition was released to commemorate the release of the film, The Muppet Christmas Carol, in 1992. 

**On the BluRay, there are subtitles for the Director's monologue, during his Audio Commentary. As on the DVD editions, the subtitles for the film may be turned on for the Director's Audio Commentary on the BluRay edition; however, there are also subtitles for the Director's monologue. To access them, viewers must toggle the subtitles on before playing the Audio Commentary. If subtitles are selected "on the fly," the subtitles which appear will simply be the ones for the film itself. NOTE:  When the Director isn't heard, the movie dialogue is heard, and the corresponding subtitles appear, but, when his voice is heard again, the subtitles reflect what he's saying instead of the the film's dialogue.


U N D E R  C O N S T R U C T I O N ! ! ! ! !


Test your knowledge of this film by taking these quizzes:

Quiz  1 of 10

Quiz  2 of 10

Quiz  3 of 10

Quiz  4 of 10

Quiz  5 of 10

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Quiz  7 of 10

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Quiz  10 of 10

Test your knowledge of the original, 50th Anniversary, and 20th Anniversary editions of this film by taking these quizzes:

Quiz 1 on Original, 50th, 20th, and 25th Anniversary Editions of 2

Quiz 2 on Original, 50th, 20th, and 25th Anniversary Editions of 2

Test your knowledge of the Director's audio commentary on this film by taking these quizzes:

Quiz 1 of 5

Quiz 2 of 5

Quiz 3 of 5

Quiz 4 of 5

Quiz 5 of 5

Review and Quizzes by William Mortensen Vaughan

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