Film: The Muppet Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens's 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 the Muppet films (so far, three) that adapts a famous story with the Muppets acting both as themselves and as characters from them. note 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 and, remarkably, is 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.
This film contains examples of:
- All Musicals Are Adaptations
- Ambiguous Gender: This movie's version of the Ghost of Christmas Past. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Call Back: As in the original story, The Ghost of Christmas Present throws "do it now and decrease the surplus population" back in Scrooge's face.
- 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. 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.
- 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!
- Cut Song: "When Love Is Gone" is absent from the original theatrical release, some versions of the DVD, and the Blu-Ray, but appeared on the many TV airings (before later Christmas specials supplanted it) and the VHS and laserdisc copies. Especially egregious because it's reprised at the end with different lyrics...
- There's another verse on "Marley and Marley," but only on the soundtrack:
- We're Marley and Marley,
And now it's time to part (doot doot)
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!
- The way the track is set up on the OST makes it sound like the explanation of the spirits originally came after this part, but in practice it probably ran on a little too long and was cut from the final filmed version.
- The soundtrack, as mentioned, has the expanded version of this along with wholly Cut Songs for Honeydew and Sam the Eagle (which are not present in any released film cut and were apparently not filmed at all).
- There's another verse on "Marley and Marley," but only on the soundtrack:
- 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 Nightmare Fuel scenes in the franchise, even though they are portrayed by Statler and Waldorf.
- Dedication: This movie is dedicated to Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, both of whom died shortly before production.
- Deadpan Snarker: Rizzo, as is his wont. Much of the movie's verbal humor comes from his snarky comment, and Gonzo's reactions to said comments.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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"
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Running Gag: Gonzo and Rizzo always seem to be in front of a window that needs opening...
- 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.
- In the musical number after Scrooge's change of heart, the ensemble passes a shop called Micklewhite's. Scrooge is played by Michael Caine, whose real name is Maurice Micklewhite.
- Another storefront bears the names "Statler and Waldorf," after the two old cranks who routinely heckle the Muppet performances (and who appear in the film as the Marley brothers).
- 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).
- 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:
- 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, throw them to the ground.
- Theme Twin Naming: Belinda and Bettina.
- 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!
- Although that may just be him misinterpreting the phrase "hot goose" considering his dating habits.
- 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.
- The Villain Sucks Song: "Scrooge". "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 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.
- What an Idiot: Invoked directly by Gonzo when Rizzo squeezes through the bars to get his jellybeans.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!Gonzo: You think that's good, you should read the book.