Film / The Christmas Toy

Feeling nostalgic yet?

The Christmas Toy is a 1986 made-for-TV movie by The Jim Henson Company. It originally aired on ABC on December 6, 1986, and was sponsored by Kraft Foods. Originally introduced by Kermit The Frog, it was released on VHS format in 1993. In 2008 it was released on DVD. However, Kermit's appearance was edited out due to legal issues. It was shown occasionally on The Hub before that network's re-branding.

The story follows the idea that, even when no people are around to play with them, toys love to play so much that they will do it on their own. But since a toy will be frozen forever — unable to come to life and move on their own — if a person catches it out of position, they have to be very careful. It's Christmas Eve, and Rugby the Tiger remembers how he was the Christmas Toy last year, and thinks he's going to be unwrapped again. It's up to Apple the Doll, whom Rugby supplanted as favorite toy, to tell him the truth. But Rugby won't believe her, and tries to get into the Christmas package — only to release the current Christmas Toy: Meteora, Queen of the Asteroids. She's a warrior princess who doesn't know she's a toy and thinks she's landed among aliens. It's up to the other toys to get Rugby out of the box and Meteora back in it — and everyone back to the safety of the playroom — before they're all caught and frozen forever. Does this sound familiar?

Eight years later, the special was recycled as Secret Life of Toys. It lasted 13 episodes (with a Two Shorts format) and retained some of the special's performers.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • And I Must Scream: Being frozen forever is like this, apparently.
  • Batman Gambit: Rugby gets Meteora to return to her box by playing to her ego.
    "That box is a one-way ticket to the fame and glory you deserve."
  • The Big Guy: Belmont, the rocking horse. He's by far the biggest toy in the playroom.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Molly is never seen, but her offscreen lines suggest her to be this.
  • Break the Haughty: Rugby believes himself to be center of the toy universe as Jamie's favorite toy. He has a complete meltdown when he finds out a new toy might take his place.
  • Butt Monkey: Mew is treated with scorn because of his "lower status" as a cat toy. He's also the source of most of the slapstick in the film.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Meteora has no idea she's a toy. The others' attempt to reason with her fails spectacularly.
  • Captain Ersatz: The doll is not a Barbie.
  • Christmas Special
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Rugby's long talk with Mew after he gets frozen. Mew doesn't hear him, but the message of love gets through and he wakes up.
  • Didn't See That Coming: When the toys point out to Rugby that he'll be frozen forever if Jamie finds him in Meteora's box instead of where she left him, all he can say is, "Oops."
  • Disney Death: All the frozen toys are saved by the Power of Love at the end.
  • The Ditz: Ditz the Clown
  • The Faceless: The parents are only ever shown from the waist down. Apparently a common trope for Henson productions.
  • Fantastic Racism: All of the other toys look down on Mew, with Rugby often reminding him that he's "just a cat toy." It doesn't help that toys hate the scent of catnip. Towards the end, Belmont's also against risking themselves just to save Mew.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: All the toys are afraid that the shiny new Christmas toys will replace them in the hearts of their human owners.
  • Happy Holidays Dress: The Barbie (or Brand X equivalent) wears a grand dress with a a white fur cape and hat. She later decides to get changed for the rescue mission. Alas, by the time she's dressed for action, it's Christmas morning and the lost toys are safely home.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Rugby and Mew, after all they go through together.
  • Irony: Rugby (a toy that's a cat) doesn't care for Mew (a toy for cats).
  • It's All About Me: Rugby sings a song about how awesome he is, which he reprises no less than twice.
  • Jerkass Realization: Rugby only realizes how much of a jerk he was to Mew after Mew becomes frozen. Rugby tearfully apologizes to Mew, and is about to leave when Mew wakes up.
  • Jive Turkey: The taxi toy Cruiser.
  • Living Toys: The toys come to life and continue to play after the humans have left the room.
  • Masquerade: See above.
  • Missed the Call: Played for Laughs with the Barbie-like doll. She wants to help the other protagonists, but she gets caught up looking for the right outfit and never leaves her house. She finally finds the right outfit once everyone is back in the room.
  • Never Say "Die": Toys caught out of place are "frozen forever" and consigned to a 'graveyard' in the corner of the playroom. Even though it's never called death, it's clearly the functional equivalent until the toys figure out how to revive them.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Rugby leaving the room kick-starts the whole plot. Opening Meteora's box just makes it worse.
  • Not So Different: Balthasar notes how hard it was for Apple to be replaced as favorite. Apple says that no one likes being replaced and the others nod along. Rugby about to experience what Apple already has is also a major plot point.
  • Oh Crap!: When Apple finally gets it through Rugby's head how dumb his plan is:
    Apple: Rugby, listen to me! If Meteora belongs in this box, then what do you think will happen to you when Jamie finds you here instead of on the floor where she left you??
    Mew: Rugby! You'll be frozen forever!
    Belmont: That's what I've been trying to tell you!
    Rugby: Whoops.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The Barbie doll's holiday dress.
  • Perspective Flip: We see the scene of Rugby's unboxing three times — once as it actually happened, a second time with Rugby putting some extra spin on it, and then a third time where we see that a despondent Apple witnessed the whole thing.
  • The Power of Love: It will bring frozen toys back to life!
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Ditz is introduced and frozen in the span of about two minutes of screen time, just so we can see how serious the consequences are.
  • Sliding Scale of Living Toys: Level 1.
  • Talking The Toy Back Into The Box
  • Tears from a Stone: We see Apple shed a Single Tear when Jaime unwraps her new Christmas toy.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ditz takes his Played for Laughs stupidity to invoke the trope in its most literal sense (or as literal as it can be for the toys). Then it kind of stops being funny.
  • The Unfavorite: Apple, after being dethroned by Rugby last Christmas.
  • The Voice: Molly, the eldest, is never seen, only heard.
  • Wainscot Society: The toys have their own society, albeit only when humans aren't watching.
  • With Friends Like These...: Mew notes that Rugby is the closest thing he has to a friend among the toys.