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Film / A Muppet Family Christmas

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A portion of the cast poses for the closing shot.

"Careful of the icy patch!"

The best-remembered of several Christmas Specials featuring The Muppets; it could probably be better called A Jim Henson Family Christmas. It originally aired in 1987 on CBC in Canada and ABC in the U.S.

Fozzie Bear has packed up the entire cast of The Muppet Show and brought them with him to surprise his mother Emily Bear on her isolated farm for Christmas. There's just one problem: Emily's scheduled a trip to Malibu and rented out the farm house to Doc (from the North American version of Fraggle Rock), who's looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas in the country. Despite his protests, they're soon joined by the Sesame Street gang; complicating the matter, "the worst blizzard in fifty years" is preparing to slam the region, and Miss Piggy is missing in action. Throw in the Fraggles and even a bit of Muppet Babies, and Hilarity Ensues.


Followed by Miss Piggy's Hollywood in 1989, among many other Muppet specials; but in a holiday context, The Muppet Christmas Carol arrived next in 1992. Sesame Street had a new Christmas special of their own 1996's Elmo Saves Christmas. (Note that in A Muppet Family Christmas, Elmo was just a background character with no lines.) Both Fraggle Rock series had ended earlier that year, but the computer-animated spin-off The Doozers followed in 2012. Muppet Babies continued first-run episodes until 1991, and saw its own CGI reboot in 2018.


This special provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: None of the full-body Muppets, most notably Sweetums, appear, as there simply wasn't room on the set for more than one - and of course, that one is Big Bird.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Bert and Ernie's "small talk" with Doc.
  • Art Shift: In a meta sense. The Muppet Babies segment is puppeteered, matching the rest of the show but differing from the cartoon. The puppets (with the exception of Baby Animal) were re-used from The Muppets Take Manhattan, officially going from Piggy's dream sequence to actual backstory status.
  • Bat Family Crossover: The only time you'll ever see the four cornerstones of early Muppetdom (The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street, and Muppet Babies) in the same place. Don't expect it to ever happen again, as the Sesame Street characters are now owned by a different company, Fraggle Rock is only known to those with cable channels like The Hub or HBO (except for those Americans who were able to watch it on Canadian broadcast TV), and the original Muppet Babies will be tied up in legal red tape until the end of time.
    • It was also the only time Frank Oz, who had not worked on Fraggle Rock, participated in a Muppet work in which Fraggle Rock characters were leads (discounting works where Traveling Matt or Sprocket made cameos).
  • Bilingual Bonus: As usual, most of the Swedish Chef's dialogue is a lot of incomprehensible babble interspersed with just enough English to follow. But when he first arrives at the farmhouse, he greets Fozzie with a cheery "Glaedelig Jul!" Yep, that means "Merry Christmas"... in Danish, not Swedish. Later, while talking with the turkey, one of the things he says is "Pfeffernusse", which is a kind of German Christmas cookie.
  • The Cameo: While he doesn't appear anywhere else in the special, Fraggle Rock's Uncle "Traveling" Matt can be seen singing alongside Doc and Sprocket during the final carol sequence. Meanwhile, Sam the Eagle seems to think this is his role in the show, since one of his only lines has him asking no one in particular, "Why am I here?"
    • Creator Cameo: Jim Henson himself shows up at the very end, looking on from the kitchen doorway and commenting.
      "Well, Sprocket, it looks like they're all having a good time. I like it when they have a good time."
  • Canon Discontinuity: A possible example regarding Fraggle Rock. The show had aired its last episode nine months earlier, in March 1987, and had concluded with Doc and Sprocket befriending the Fraggles. However, in this special, Doc apparently still doesn't know what Fraggles are, as upon encountering the Muppet Show cast, he asks Sprocket, "Are these anything like those Fraggles you keep telling me about?" On the other hand, Emily's house just happens to have a Fraggle hole, which would seem to jibe with the Fraggle Rock concept of "You cannot leave the magic": it's possible the portal to Fraggle Rock followed Doc and Sprocket to Emily's.
  • Carnivore Confusion: One of the Swedish Chef's shticks; in this special the turkey tries to get out of being cooked by siccing the Chef on Big Bird instead. Before Big Bird arrives, he also attempts to persuade the Chef that Sprocket is a turkey, which leads to what may be the best line of the entire special:
    Doc: I don't care if the turkey says the dog is the turkey! The dog is not the turkey! The turkey's the turkey, you turkey!
  • Christmas Carolers: The Sesame Street gang arrive as these, performing "Here We Come A-Caroling". And toward the end of the special, all the characters join in a medley of carols.
  • Christmas Songs: Lots of them. Sometimes they're justified, such as the Sesame Street caroling sequence.
  • Continuity Lockout: Anyone from an area with its own localized human segments of Fraggle Rock was probably confused by the appearance of a different Doc, and possibly by his dog being named Sprocket (he was called Croquette in France). So, possibly, were U.S. viewers who didn't have HBO and didn't live within reach of a CBC station. (And remember this was before online streaming, or before you could just Google who they were.)
  • Contrived Coincidence: Sure, it makes for a heartwarming crossover, but what are the odds that of all the houses in all the world, Emily Bear's basement just so happens to have a Fraggle Hole inside?note  And furthermore, what are the odds that the "main" Fraggles would just so happen to be walking by that hole when Kermit and Robin enter?
  • Cool Old Guy: Doc proves to be one of these, once he gets past his initial grumpiness. He's not happy, at first, about having his holiday plans turned on their head; but he accepts the situation, helps Emily decorate the house, builds some bunk beds in the broom closet to accommodate the new arrivals, and starts to enjoy himself. His best moment, however, comes when he finds Kermit worrying over Miss Piggy and promptly volunteers to go out into the storm to find her.
  • Cool Old Lady: Emily Bear is not exactly thrilled to have "spent three months of surfing lessons for zip," but she graciously opens her home to her son's "weirdo friends" and pulls out all the stops to make them feel comfortable.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Bert dons a woman's nightgown during "T'was the Night Before Christmas".
    Ernie: C'mon, Bert. Somebody has to play Mama, and you lost the toss!
  • Cuteness Proximity:
    • After the Muppet Babies segment, Doc admits that "even weirdos are cute when they're babies!"
      Gonzo: I knew you'd learn to love us!
      Doc: I didn't say that.
    • Oscar, though, doesn't share the opinion of the Sesame Street play:
      Mrs. Bear: Oh, aren't they adorable.
      Oscar: Don't encourage them!
  • Deadline News: A gag carried over from the regular Muppet Show, when the newscaster reports on the storm and states that barometers are falling sharply. And no, he's not hit by the storm, he's hit by falling barometers.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Doc goes through this—he's at first upset that his plans for "a nice, quiet Christmas" have been ruined by the sudden arrival of the Muppets and Sesame Street gang, but as time passes and he gets to know them, he gradually warms up and starts enjoying their company. It culminates with him being the one to go out and search for Miss Piggy to bring her safely to the farmhouse, citing his new friendship with the group as why he wants to do it.
  • Description Cut: As they drive to Emily's farm, Fozzie gives Kermit a nostalgic description of what she will be doing at that very moment; cut to the farm, revealing that he is incorrect in every detail.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Count von Count IS in this, after all. Also, when the Turkey initially sics the Swedish Chef on Big Bird, we hear thunder booming for no apparent reason except to heighten the drama... except there isn't any lightning at that part!
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: Or rather, Importation Expansion Plot Hole. The first thought of many young Britons on seeing it was "Why is Sprocket owned by some guy called Doc? What happened to the lighthouse keeper (from the British version of Fraggle Rock)?"
  • Encouraged Regifting: The Fraggles have a nice yellow pebble that they've gifted one another well over thirty times as a sign of friendship. During the special it's given to Robin, who then gives it to Grover.
  • Failed a Spot Check: During the final caroling sequence, the Fraggles sneak upstairs and get a chance to observe the action. They hide behind the mantelpiece to watch—and Doc, who's right in front of it, misses his chance to see them (on Fraggle Rock, Sprocket was always attempting to alert him to their presence).note 
  • Foreshadowing: When the Muppets first show up, Doc asks Sprocket if they're "anything like those Fraggles." Guess who shows up later in the special?
  • Furry Confusion: Several:
    • Rowlf has a barking conversation with Doc's (Muppet but non-anthro) dog Sprocket.
      Doc: (amused) Don't you just hate it when you can't speak the language?
    • An anthro turkey hits on non-anthro chicken Camilla.
    • Kermit gives Piggy a mink for Christmas - a live one who proclaims herself Piggy's biggest fan.
  • Gratuitous French: Piggy does this fairly often, although it's not unusual for her.
  • Grumpy Bear:
    • Doc is one through the first half or so of the special, as he's had his holiday plans upended. He mellows after the Sesame Street cast arrives, in part because he's tickled by the "small talk" with Bert and Ernie.
    • Mrs. Bear's in the same situation as Doc, but averts the trope; she manages to take it mostly in stride. (Mostly. She does complain that three months of surfing lessons were wasted.)
    • And then there's Oscar, of course:
      Oscar: (while caroling) I will NOT sing this song!
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: You can tell that the gathering at the end of the show is a special occasion, because even the Muppets who are normally not dressed (e.g. Kermit) have put on special duds.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lampshaded with Bert and Ernie, who play a couple for a presentation of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (Bert's humiliated that he's "Mama"; Ernie responds that someone had to be, and he lost the coin toss.)
  • Hurrying Home for the Holidays: The Muppets visit the farmhouse of Emily Bear, Fozzie's mother, for Christmas. However, Miss Piggy is busy with a photoshoot and last-minute Christmas shopping, so she can't join the rest of the Muppets right away. On her way to the farmhouse, the worst blizzard in 50 years hits, and this results in Miss Piggy's limousine getting stuck in a snowdrift. Having befriended the Muppets, Doc volunteers to find Miss Piggy in the snowstorm for Kermit, and he returns with her in a sled.
  • I Am Not Weasel: Emily mistakenly refers to Kermit as a lizard several times.
  • I Got a Rock: In this case, it's apparently a good thing. The "nice yellow pebble" has been a Fraggle gift thirty-seven times, then Boober gives it to Robin, who later gives it to Grover.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Fozzie wants Kermit to watch his comedy act with his new snowman partner despite a blizzard raging outside. Kermit protests that it's too cold; Fozzie counters that it isn't cold at all; cue the snowman coming inside to warm up.
    Fozzie: ...okay, so it's cold.
  • Is Nothing Sacred?: Sam the Eagle is driven to ask exactly this (with accompanying Face Palm) after seeing the Two-Headed Monster from Sesame Street play Santa Claus in a skit.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: The turkey initially seems rather nonchalant about being, as Gonzo notes, "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: This special has the near-entire casts of three different shows show up.
  • Meta Guy: Doc, as one of the only human characters (outside of the movies) to ever interact with the Muppets, gets to play this role, as he calls attention to their sheer weirdness and the illogical matchups among them. It's best seen when he asks Kermit what Miss Piggy looks like; upon hearing she's a pig, he remarks that "Well, up to a short while ago, I would have thought that strange."
  • Mind Your Step: There's a running gag about an icy patch in front of the door. "Careful of the icy patch!" greets each new visitor... after they've already slipped.
  • Odd Friendship: Emily and Statler and Waldorf, much to Fozzie's astonishment. Big Bird and the Swedish Chef also form one. There are a few other minor friendly interactions between the casts, like Oscar and Rizzo or Animal and Cookie Monster.
  • An Odd Place to Sleep: With space at a premium, Emily tells the gang that two of them will have to sleep suspended from hangers on a hook on the wall. Gonzo and Animal are only too happy to comply.
    Floyd: That's the only way Animal ever sleeps, ma'am.
    • Earlier, Emily rattles off a list of other bizarre places people will be sleeping, including a hammock, the bathtub, and a pair of "bunk beds in the broom closet."
  • Offscreen Crash: Can be heard while Piggy is calling Kermit from a phone booth during the storm.
  • Original Generation: The turkey and snowman characters were created specifically for the special. Both puppets would be reused again in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
  • Pet the Dog: When trying to figure out sleeping arrangements, Rizzo considers bunking with Oscar... and the usually-antisocial Grouch admits he likes the idea of having a rat in his trash can.
  • Pretty in Mink: Piggy's dress for the finale has fur trim; and of course, Maureen the Mink takes this trope Up to Eleven in the literal sense.
  • Pun: Late arrival Rowlf explains to Fozzie, "I was chasin' the truck all the way, and boy, am I exhausted!" Fozzie lampshades and compliments his wordplay.
  • Revisiting the Roots: This special was an example of this for the Muppet organization. At the time, Fraggle Rock was just ending (the original series had aired its finale in March, and the short-lived animated spinoff airing at the time would not be renewed), Jim Henson was working on the concept of The Jim Henson Hour, Frank Oz was busy getting his film directing career going, and in general there was a lot of activity happening on a lot of different projects. When Henson, Oz and writer Jerry Juhl worked together on The Jim Henson Hour's pitch reel, they'd had a lot of fun doing it, and decided to make a Christmas special where the core Muppeteers could get together and just do an old-fashioned comedy-variety show.
  • Running Gag:
    • "Careful of the icy patch!"
    • Emily Bear thinking Kermit is a lizard.
    • Sesame Street small talk.
  • Santa Claus: Santa appears at the end and starts handing out presents — and sounds rather suspiciously like Doc, who is suddenly nowhere to be seen.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Doc has to remind the Swedish Chef that the turkey is the turkey.
  • Shout-Out: When it's pointed out that Gonzo's not a chicken like his girlfriend:
    Gonzo: Well, nobody's perfect.
  • Snowed-In: The gang must weather "the worst blizzard in fifty years," while Kermit worries about Miss Piggy, who is apparently lost in it.
  • Snowlems: Fozzie builds a snowman who promptly comes alive and shares his sense of humor.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Crossover: Most of the focus is on the Muppet Show and Sesame Street casts plus Doc and Sprocket, with Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies getting only one major scene each (though the Fraggles are later seen showing up for caroling). As a result, most Fraggle and Babies secondary characters (like the Doozers and Gorgs for the former and Skeeter and Nanny for the latter) don't appear at all. Worse, most of the Babies scene was cut from later releases due to rights issues.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: "Well, everybody, it's Christmas Eve and the tree is trimmed, so it's time for our annual carol sing!"
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Fozzie actually gets some laughs when he teams up with the snowman. One of the woodland creatures even calls them the funniest comedy team in the business.
  • Toilet Humor: While watching home videos, Janice spots Baby Rowlf and comments on how "wee" (small) he was, Rowlf retaliates and says he was paper-trained at the time.note 
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: You know it's cold when the snowman wants to come in and warm up.
  • True Meaning of Christmas: Robin the Frog defines it for the Fraggles as a time when "you gather together with the people you love, and you wish each other peace on Earth."
  • Under the Mistletoe: Kermit and Piggy at the very end.
  • The Unintelligible: Good thing they didn't have Beaker do a solo on the more obscure carols...
  • Villain Over for Dinner: Fozzie gets a shock when he finds Statler and Waldorf in the audience for his new act, with Emily explaining that they're friends of hers who regularly visit for Christmas.
  • Visual Pun:
    • Grover plays a mouse in the ''Twas the Night Before Christmas skit, and he's carrying a bowl — which, as he spells out, he is not stirring. (As in "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.")
    • The news reporter on television that breaks the news of the big blizzard says that barometers are falling sharply, right before a barrage of barometers falls on top of him.
  • What's a Henway?: Fozzie and the snowman's act feature two jokes of this type.
  • You Mean "Xmas": The Fraggles have never heard of Christmas, but coincidentally happen to celebrate a very similar holiday, the "Festival of the Bells," at the same time.


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