"If being mean's a way of life you practice and rehearseCharles Dickens' A Christmas Carol as performed by The Muppets. This is the first feature length Muppet production since the deaths of original Muppet performers Jim Henson (Kermit) and Richard Hunt (Scooter). It is the first of several Muppet films that adapts a famous story with the Muppets acting both as themselves and as characters from them. It stars Michael Caine as Scrooge. Oh, it's also a musical.The film largely follows the story of the book with the typical Muppet humor thrown in. The film was praised for using specially created Muppets to portray the ghosts instead of established Muppets, in order to keep true to Dickens's descriptions. Remarkably, it's actually one of the most faithful Christmas Carol adaptations, with most of the dialogue intact and the omniscient narration quoted in large chunks by the character of Dickens himself — it's just that it's spoken by Muppets.The film is also the first time Gonzo the Great and Rizzo the Rat appeared as a double act. Gonzo played Charles Dickens and acts as the narrator, while Rizzo is, well...Rizzo.The film was followed up with Muppet Treasure Island in 1996. It also had humans playing vital roles while the Muppets played supporting characters.
Then all that work is paying off, 'cause Scrooge is getting worse.
Every day, in every way, Scrooge is getting worse!"
Then all that work is paying off, 'cause Scrooge is getting worse.
Every day, in every way, Scrooge is getting worse!"
This film contains examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: Mrs. Cratchitt keeps mixing up her daughters Bettina and Belinda.
- Adapted Out:
- Scrooge's younger sister Fan (Fred's mother) from the original novel does not appear or even get mentioned here.
- In the novella after Marley's visit Scrooge looks out the window, and sees many ghosts in the street, burdened by chains, lockboxes and even a safe, all labouring under the weight and in misery, and recognises some of them as former business partners. For an adaptation that sticks mostly to the original story, this scene is cut.
- The children Ignorance and Want—who Christmas Present shows Scrooge in the book—do not appear here.
- In the novel, Mrs. Fezziwig, while not having any lines, is fairly prominent in the Ghost of Christmas Past sequence. She doesn't exist here.
- Adaptation Expansion:
- In the original story, and in most other adaptations, Scrooge grumbles about giving Cratchit a paid day off for Christmas, but relents. In this version Cratchit actually raises a valid point in defense of taking the day off: All their potential clients would be closed for the day as well, so being open on Christmas would just mean sitting around wasting coal, and it makes a classic Scrooge line ("it's a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every December the 25th...") work even better.
- Played for Laughs with the Fozziwig Christmas party scene. Exactly what Fezziwig did for a living is not described in the book (though one presumes he was a moneylender, since he taught Scrooge). Fozziwig makes rubber chickens. Which apparently involves actual chickens.
- Adaptation Name Change:
- Mr. Fezziwig is named "Fozziwig" in this version. Clearly, they couldn't resist the pun.
- The eldest Cratchitt daughter Martha gets swapped with Bettina.
- Adaptation Personality Change:
- Mrs. Cratchitt of course becomes a Violently Protective Girlfriend towards Bob, due to being played by Miss Piggy.
- Fred's wife becomes a bit more of a Genki Girl than she is in the novel.
- Christmas Present is much jollier and continually laughs. In part this is due to the exclusion of Ignorance and Want, in part it's simply a contrast to other adaptations (in which Christmas Present tends to be impatient with tutoring Scrooge in Christmas).
- Ambiguous Gender: Christmas Past is portrayed as a child, voiced by a girl and given nothing to indicate whether it's male or female.
- Anachronism Stew:
- The film depicts Scrooge and his employees using quill pens, even though by 1843, they were practically extinct; steel pens had been the standard since the 1820s. One can only presume Scrooge was too stingy to buy them.
- During the "Marley and Marley" musical number, when Statler and Waldorf bring up when they evicted an entire orphanage, leaving the orphans to freeze outside, Waldorf adds, "With their little frostbitten teddy bears!" Teddy bears didn't exist until the 1900s. note
- A relatively minor example, as it doesn't occur in-story: during the "Scrooge" musical number, a harpsichord can be heard playing in the background. This is inaccurate for the time period, as the harpsichord was more popular in the Baroque era (c. 1600-1750), but the film takes place during the Romantic era of music (c. 1780-1910), by which time the piano note had practically replaced the harpsichord as the standard keyboard instrument.
- It's also worth noting that this particular example occurs only on the soundtrack version of the song - it's possible that the filmmakers realised this mistake in post, and removed the harpsichord part accordingly before the film was finished. Unfortunately, the soundtrack version was still used in the trailer, however.
- Rizzo's jelly beans aren't as anachronistic as you may think. Jelly beans were first invented in 1861, so they did exist in Victorian times even if not in the 1840s specifically. Granted, they were probably not available outside the United States until sometime in the 20th century.
- Animal Motifs:
- The quartet of businessmen discussing Scrooge's death are a quartet of pigs, symbolizing greed.
- Old Joe is a spider.
- The Undertaker is a carrion bird.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: During the Cratchit family dinner:Mrs. Cratchit: I suppose that on the blessed day of Christmas, one must drink to the health of, uh, Mr. Scrooge, even though he is odious...
Mrs. Cratchit: ...stingy...
Mrs. Cratchit: ...wicked...
Mrs. Cratchit: ...and unfeeling...
Mrs. Cratchit ...and badly dressed!
- Big Eater: Rizzo, constantly searching for or noticing food during the narration.
- The gentlemen pigs seen a couple of times throughout the town always seem to steer their topic toward lunch, even after evidently just finishing breakfast.
- Big "SHUT UP!": Animal does this to assist Fozziwig in getting everyone to quiet down for the Christmas party.
- Butt-Monkey: Rizzo can barely go one scene without some type of misfortune happening to him.
- As in the original story, The Ghost of Christmas Present throws "do it now and decrease the surplus population" back in Scrooge's face.
- During the opening song, a mouse Muppet in the wall begs Scrooge for some cheese. In the "Thankful Heart" number, Scrooge gives her a block of cheese as a gift.
- In Christmas Present, Emily Cratchitt is introduced hunching over the stove because she's secretly eating chestnuts. In Christmas Yet To Come, she is in the same position, but crying instead.
- The Cameo - Various minor characters appear as extras in the crowd scenes:
- As well as the various extras who are recognisable Muppets characters, several are from Fraggle Rock. Sprocket appears briefly at the start and joins the crowd at the end. Murray, Mudwell and Begoony play a family, peering through a window in the street scenes. Brool (in a dress, with a female puppeteer) and Wander Mcmooch are guests at Fred and Clara's party. Aretha sings during the songs "Scrooge" and "It Feels Like Christmas". The small Inkspot creatures can be seen in several places.
- The Snowman from A Muppet Family Christmas is seen briefly during the Ghost of Christmas Present's song.
- Canon Foreigner: The character of Jacob Marley is given a brother named Robert, strictly for the purposes of being able to put Statler and Waldorf in the roles (as well as a Stealth Pun). It works.
- Scrooge has several bookkeepers, rather than just Bob Cratchit as his only member of staff as in the book and other adaptations.
- Celebrity Paradox: An in-movie example. Gonzo insists he's Charles Dickens, and Rizzo insists otherwise. Eventually, Rizzo just rolls with it.
- Cerebus Syndrome: "Bless Us All" marks the part where the movie becomes incredibly dark and tragic.
- Character as Himself: "...and Rizzo the Rat as Himself."
- Christmas Carolers:
- Bean Bunny comes to the counting house singing "Good King Wenceslas" and meekly asking for a penny, only to have Scrooge rudely slam the door in his face, then throw a wreath at him. Later, as evening falls, he's seen huddled in a pile of trash, pulling newspapers around him, cold and miserable and alone.
- As Christmas Present is showing him, they pass a small choir composed of babies. One of them accidentally hit the other on the face.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Gonzo, of course, in this film narrating as Charles Dickens.
- Comically Missing the Point:Gonzo: I know the story of A Christmas Carol like the back of my hand!
Rizzo: Prove it!
Gonzo: All right. [averts his eyes and holds his hand out] Um, there's a little mole on my thumb, and a scar on my wrist, from when I fell off my bicycle—
Rizzo: [shaking his head] No, no, no, don't tell us your hand, tell us the story!
- Darker and Edgier: The movie follows very closely the book, and can be seen as very dark for a Muppet movie. The emotion is often put before the laughter, Gonzo and Rizzo provide more than half of the comic relief, and the part with the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is both scary and sad. The Marley scene is one of the biggest Played for Drama scenes in the franchise, even though they are portrayed by Statler and Waldorf.
- Decomposite Character: The singular Jacob Marley is split into two Marley brothers in this film. Justified, since Statler and Waldorf both fit the role of a cruel, greedy curmudgeon like a glove... and you simply can't have one without the other.
- Dedication: This movie is dedicated to Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, both of whom died shortly before production.
- Deadpan Snarker:
Scrooge: "Let us deal with the eviction notices for tomorrow."Cratchit: "But sir, tomorrow is Christmas!"Scrooge: "Very well. You may giftwrap them."
- Rizzo, as is his wont. Much of the movie's verbal humor comes from his snarky comment, and Gonzo's reactions to said comments.
- Scrooge himself gets a few in, naturally with a large dose of Black Comedy.
- Demoted to Extra:
- While most of the characters they once performed are given new puppeteers and voices here, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth and Janice are reduced to non-speaking cameos and Scooter is completely absent.
- Mrs Dilber only gets to appear briefly in Christmas Yet To Come, selling Scrooge's blankets to Old Joe.
- Department of Redundancy Department: In "Marley and Marley" the brothers refer to themselves as "avarice and greed" both of which are the same thing.
- Disneyfication: Subverted. While this starts out being lighthearted, when Scrooge appears, it's clear it's not really pulling that many punches. Many Dickens fans believe this to be one of the better adaptations, mostly due to the inclusion of Gonzo as Dickens himself, which amounts to Gonzo providing narration straight out of the book. Much of the dialogue in the movie (as well as some of the lyrics) is simply lifted directly from the book as well, albeit with the standard Muppet humor added here and there.
- Epic Tracking Shot: The introductory shot of London.
- Establishing Character Moment: The first time we see Scrooge, he's back-lit so all we see is an ominous silhouette, the sinister music starts up and Rizzo shivers and asks "Say, is it getting cold around here?"
- Everything's Better with Penguins: The penguins' Christmas skating party, during Bob Cratchit's first song.
- The Film of the Book: Lampshaded in the end, as noted in the trope's last word quote below.
- Flanderization: Somewhat on Scrooge, who is portrayed as having been a stodgy workaholic since childhood. This is possibly because his sister was cut out of the story, and he's still shown as being a lonely boy.
- Friendless Background: With Fan being left out, this is Scrooge's backstory in his childhood. He does mention having a best friend called Edmund though.
- Funny Background Event: As is typical with Muppets.
- Gender Equals Breed: All of Kermit and Piggy's children are frog boys and pig girls. (This is one of the films which led to the trope's creation.)
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Throughout the course of the movie Beaker flips off Scroogenote , Gonzo says "Damn it," and Miss Piggy gropes Kermit. There's also the complaint of Scrooge's clerks: "our assets are frozen!"
- Ghost Song: "Marley and Marley", sung by the Marley brothers' ghosts.
- The Glomp: Scrooge when visiting Fred and Clara. He hands them presents, hugs them both and then walks out.
- Greek Chorus: Gonzo and Rizzo, who often provides commentary not only on the story events, but on the narration itself.Gonzo: The Marleys were dead, to begin with.
Rizzo: Uh, wha— Pardon me?!
Gonzo: That's how the story begins, Rizzo: "The Marleys were dead, to begin with"!
Gonzo: "As dead as a doornail."
Rizzo: It's a good beginning. It's creepy and kinda — hoo hoo! — spooky.
- Happily Married: Scrooge's nephew Fred and his wife Clara, as well as the Cratchits.
- Harmless Freezing: Rizzo briefly becomes a ratcicle after being thrown into a bucket of ice water to put out a fire on his clothes.
- Heel–Face Turn: Scrooge at the end, just like in the book.
- Hitler Cam: Scrooge's introductory shot, appropriately.
- If You Can Read This:
- A sign in London says "Statler and Waldorf".
- Another sign says "Micklewhite's" — Michael Caine's birth name.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The Marley's treat Scrooge's "more gravy than grave" line as one.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Tiny Tim coughing is what prompts Scrooge to ask if he'll live.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: In-universe. When seeing Tiny Tim for the first time, Scrooge says "a remarkable child".
- Interactive Narrator: Gonzo, although Rizzo doesn't quite buy it... until Gonzo starts getting everything right.Rizzo: (buried upside down in snow after Fred comes knocking) You're very good at that, "Mr. Dickens"!
- Interspecies Romance: Implied by the very blended Cratchit family, headed by Bob (Kermit) and Emily (Miss Piggy).
- Ironic Echo: When inquiring on the fate of Tim to the Ghost of Christmas Present, who believes he is destined to die; to which he adds, "But if he's going to die, he'd better do it! And decrease the surplus population!" Scrooge had coldly uttered this to Bunson and Beeker when they suggested a donation to the poor. This time he is saddened and horrified at his own words. This exact same exchange took place in the original novel as well.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Variation, with the offended parties being someone other than the person being insulted. See Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking.
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet: This is Scrooge's first hint of the Crachits' Bad Future.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lampshaded and denied in "Scrooge".
- Knight of Cerebus: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Not only does he look more than a little like the Grim Reaper, Gonzo and Rizzo promptly hightail it out of the movie until Scrooge wakes back up.
- Lampshade Hanging: Par for the course for a Muppets movie.
- Large and in Charge: Scrooge, being human, towers over his less-than-three-foot-tall underlings, and the entire Muppet cast. Used to good effect in the opening number, where he wades through a sea of knee-high Muppets singing about how oppressive he is.
- Large Ham:
- The Ghost of Christmas Present.
- Scrooge gets some moments of this himself, especially when screaming at the rat bookkeepers about firing them all.
- Last Disrespects: While not actually showing the funeral, three pigs say they'll only go to Scrooge's funeral "if lunch is provided". (Incidentally, this is straight out of the book.)
- Made Myself Sad: Scrooge is visited by the Marley brothers, a.k.a. Statler and Waldorf. They openly admit that, in life, they were selfish and heartless bankers, and they even reminisce about evicting an entire orphanage in the middle of winter. This makes them break out into their trademark laugh, which almost immediately degenerates into a shudder, and they move on to warn Scrooge to repent from the mistakes they made.
- Massive Numbered Siblings:
- When Gonzo asks Rizzo if he was ever a lonely child, Rizzo replies, "I had 1,274 brothers and sisters!"
- The Ghost of Christmas Present had more than 1,800 brothers, each of them representing a year of Christmas.
- Match Cut: The movie uses several of these very well to put Scrooge back in his room following a ghost visit; probably the most famous one is his sitting on the bridge following the "When Love Is Gone" sequence, in which he sits on the railing of the small bridge, and the entire scene dissolves back to his bedchamber, with Scrooge sitting on his bed, having seemingly not moved an inch, reinforcing the book's question of just how real it all is.
- Medium Awareness: Gonzo and Rizzo, of course, but at one point, Gonzo has to step out of his narrator's role to remind Sam the Eagle that he's not American, but British in this production.
- Midword Rhyme: "Marley and Marley" rhymes "greed" with "needy", "black" with "shackles", and in a verse cut from the film, "part" with "heartless". Since it happens at the same point in every verse, it was probably done to be stylish.
- Monochrome Apparition: Marley and Marley are pale blue.
- Muppet: Logically.
- Named by the Adaptation:
- Mrs Cratchitt gets Emily as a first name for this film.
- Fred's unnamed wife is Clara here.
- Never Say "Die": Averted all over the place, as is Muppet tradition, particularly in the Christmas Yet to Come scenes.
- Never Trust a Trailer:
- In general, part of the reason for the movie's initially poor run was this phenomenon; the trailers were cut like typical kid's movie/"Muppet movie" trailers of the time, and did an absolutely rotten job of conveying elements like the book-accurate dialogue, the elaborate and gorgeous set design, the very somber middle of the film, and the excellent music, all of which would later define the movie in the zeitgeist and make it far more popular. This is one such example. (Note that at one point it opts to use music from Beetlejuice instead of the film's score.)
- Some trailers and promos that feature Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past flying would be followed by a clip of Bob (Kermit) seeing a shooting star, implying he saw his boss flying in the sky.
- No Fourth Wall: Characters will routinely drop character and speak directly to the viewer during the film. Of course, this is only standard procedure for The Muppets (and it's usually just Gonzo and Rizzo doing this).
- Oh, Crap!:
- Bean Bunny is standing on Scrooge's doorstep singing a carol, but when he looks up and sees who's standing in the doorway he trails off.
- Scrooge when Jacob Marley transforms into a doorknob and yells his name.
- Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous: This movie's version of the Ghost of Christmas Past, much like the original story. It's... possibly a girl. We think. Maybe. At the very least, it's voiced by a woman. As the spiritual manifestation of a concept, it may not really have one at all.
- Parental Bonus: Loads (it is a Muppet movie, after all), such as the Stealth Pun below, or the following exchange:Rizzo: This is scary stuff! Shouldn't we be worried about the kids in the audience?
Gonzo: It's OK; this is culture!
- Plucky Comic Relief: Rizzo the Rat, as a Fourth-Wall Observer.
- Running Gag: Gonzo and Rizzo always seem to be in front of a window that needs opening...
- Say My Name: Jacob yells, "SCROOGE!" when his face appears on the door knocker, shocking Scrooge. Gonzo and Rizzo's horse gets spooked also and they're thrown off the carriage.
- Scenery Porn: Everything you'd expect from a screen adaptation of "A Christmas Carol".
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Gonzo and Rizzo vanish from the scene after the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come shows up, not returning until after Scrooge wakes up in his own bed and the story is almost over. It's both lampshaded and justified, in that they point out that they're leaving because they're scared of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. As this is the point where the original and all adaptations of the story gets Darker and Edgier, Gonzo's address to the audience is probably included so the kiddies won't be too scared.Gonzo: You're on your own folks. We'll meet you at the finale.
- Shout-Out: To another Dickens novel Oliver TwistMouse: Please Sir, I want some Cheese.
- Shown Their Work: As the Yet Another Christmas Carol page points out, this film uses dialogue from the original novel, which is more than most A Christmas Carol adaptations can say. The ghosts are also closer to Dickens' descriptions; the choice not to use established Muppets for the ghosts vastly improves the film.
- Of note is the fact that while the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come are Muppets, strictly speaking, they were custom-built Muppets just for this film (although Christmas Present would go on to be used in other projects under different names) and are some of the largest Muppets ever built. Christmas Present is about as tall as Scrooge (usually), and Christmas Yet To Come is a towering eight feet tall. Christmas Past, meanwhile, is more of a CGI-esque effect to cleave closer to the book's strange, ethereal description of the being, and looks more like the Uncanny Valley protagonists from The Dark Crystal.
- The songs have lyrics lifted out of Dickens, too. The phrase "captive, bound, and double-ironed" shows up in "Marley and Marley,", which is something Jacob Marley says in the book.
- Spared by the Adaptation: It's all but implied that Fezziwig has since passed on since Scrooge worked for him, and several adaptations have even directly stated it. In this version an elder Fezziwig, or Fozziwig as he's referred to here, is shown to be still alive in the present when Scrooge visits him during the ending.
- Stealth Pun: They split the role of Jacob Marley in two so both Statler and Waldorf could play it. So now we have Robert Marley (think about it, mon).
- In the book, but not the movie, they have Old Joe tell Mrs. Dilber, the laundress and the mortician to "Come into his parlor". In the film, they have Old Joe as a spider and Mrs. Dilber as a fly.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: Scrooge does this twice to his bookkeepers at the beginning.
- When his bookkeepers ask if they can put some more coal into the stove:"How would the bookkeepers like to be suddenly...UNEMPLOYED?!"note
- And again when his bookkeepers applaud Fred for his speech about Christmas:"And how does one celebrate Christmas ON THE UNEMPLOYMENT LINE?!"
- When his bookkeepers ask if they can put some more coal into the stove:
- Swirly Energy Thingy: Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come walk though one of these to go into the future.
- Tempting Fate:Rizzo: Are you sure it's okay to be up here? [on a window ledge]
Gonzo: Scrooge is saved! What could happen?
Scrooge flings open the window, throwing them to the ground.
- Theme Twin Naming: Belinda and Bettina.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Rizzo, landing in the past.Rizzo: Safe at last.
Rizzo: [Aside Glance, shakes his head.] No.
- Those Two Guys: Gonzo and Rizzo, which carried over to Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets from Space.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Gonzo's weird tendencies are given a nod when Rizzo takes a tumble into the Cratchit household.Rizzo: (blowing on his feet) I fell down a chimney and landed on a flaming hot goose!
Gonzo: (dejected) You have all the fun!
- Tranquil Fury: Scrooge in the first part of the film, especially in his Establishing Character Moment with Mr. Applegate. Scrooge doesn't say a word as Mr. Applegate pleads for mercy: he just picks him up and tosses him out the door.
- Triumphant Reprise: "When Love Is Gone" midway through becomes "The Love We Found" at the end.
- Villain Song: "Marley & Marley" comes the closest to this, since it's sung by "bad" characters, but it's done as a warning to Scrooge.
- "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Scrooge," where all of the townsfolk of London sing about how heartless Scrooge is. "Marley & Marley" as well, even though it is the villainous Marley brothers who are singing it.
- Walking Wasteland: In the first part of the film, Scrooge seems to make the environment colder wherever he goes.
- Wasn't That Fun?: After hitching a ride on the Spirit of Christmas Past and getting dragged through an entire forest, Gonzo almost immediately says that he'd love to go through that again.
- We All Live in America: Lampshaded below:Sam the Eagle: Mm, you will love business. It is the AMERICAN WAY!
(Young Ebenezer looks extremely confused)
Gonzo: Ack! Uh, Sam... (whispers in Sam's ear)
Sam the Eagle: Oh... It is the BRITISH WAY!
Gonzo: Good. (thumbs up)
Young Ebenezer: Yes, Headmaster.
Sam the Eagle: Hmm. (looks around, confused)
- We Are Song: "Marley and Marley" is one of these. If you want to get technical, call it a "We Were Song."
- We Are as Mayflies: True to the original work, the Ghost of Christmas Present is born, lives, ages and (it's implied) passes away in twenty-four hours.
- Weirdness Censor: How visible Gonzo and Rizzo are varies. Scrooge doesn't notice them when Christmas Past opens his window (nor does he feel the grappling hook Gonzo attaches to his robe), but does see them to say "Merry Christmas at the end."
- What An Idiot: Invoked directly by Gonzo as an In-Universe example: Rizzo was panicking about climbing up a gate and then having to jump down from the top of the gate. After a crash landing on the ground, Rizzo... squeezes through the bars to get back to the other side to retrieve jellybeans, meaning he'd never really needed to climb the gate in the first place!Gonzo: You are such an idiot.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: When Scrooge is redeemed, Rizzo and Dickens think they're off the hook as slapstick victims. It happens one last time, as they are knocked off of Scrooge's windowsill.
- Why Are We Whispering: Rizzo the Rat does this. Gonzo explains it's for dramatic emphasis.
- Yet Another Christmas Carol: Behind the scenes, Director Brian Henson was originally opposed about doing another Christmas Carol... but after they worked out that Scrooge and the Ghosts would not be played by regular Muppets was when they decided to move forward.
- You Just Told Me: How Scrooge knows the Ghost of Christmas Present took him to the Cratchits'.Scrooge: You're a little absent-minded, spirit.
Ghost of Christmas Present: No, I'm a LARGE absent-minded spirit!
- Rizzo: Wow, what a great story, Mr. Dickens!Gonzo: Oh, thanks. You think that's good, you should read the book.