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Didn't Elmo ever tell you about how he saved Christmas then almost lost it?
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Elmo Saves Christmas is a Direct-to-Video Sesame Street Christmas special, released by Sony Wonder in 1996. Maya Angelou tells the story of how Elmo saved Christmas to Telly and Zoe, after they wish it were Christmas every day.

When Elmo saves Santa from getting stuck in a chimney, the former is rewarded with a magic snowglobe that will grant three wishes. Elmo decides to wish it were Christmas every day, because What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Santa, chagrined at seeing the magic wasted, sends Elmo on a time-traveling reindeer named Lightning to see how his wish would play out over a year. It goes From Bad to Worse from there. Luckily, this is Sesame Street, so everything works out in the end.


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Tropes for this special include:

  • Accidentally Broke the MacGuffin: When Elmo tries to use his third wish to undo the second, he shakes it so hard the snowglobe slips out of his hands and smashes into dust.
  • An Aesop: Making Christmas happen every day makes the holiday no longer special, but you can keep the Christmas spirit with you through the year.
  • The Anti-Grinch: Elmo wishes that it was Christmas every day. Cut to a year later and everyone is broke because they have to buy Christmas presents every day, the Fix-It shop is out of business because they can't be open on Christmas, carolers have lost their voices, Big Bird is despondent because Snuffy is away for the holiday (forever!), and the Count is tired of counting Christmases. Even Santa himself is a wreck, deciding to shut down his workshop and move to Florida. Elmo gets a chance to press the Reset Button, therefore saving Christmas - when he was the one who ruined it.
  • Aside Glance:
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    • Santa winks to the audience when he reminds Elmo of his third wish, to undo the second one.
    • Ernie and Bert also do this during the It's a Wonderful Life Shout-Out mentioned below.
  • Bad Future: Christmas exactly one year later, with everyone having crossed the Despair Event Horizon. Some examples:
    • The Fix-It Shop is closed down because it can't be open on Christmas, and Luis and Maria haven't worked at all. "Good bye Fix-It shop" indeed.
    • Big Bird is in tears because he'll never see Snuffy again.
    • The Count has become tired of counting, because there have been too many Christmases.
    • The carolers have lost their voices from singing too much.
    • Christmas trees have become an endangered species.
    • People are running out of gift ideas, leading to a priceless scene in which a Muppet mugs Kermit for his microphone during a news report.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The whole point of the special. "Every day can't be Christmas" indeed.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Maria gives Oscar a polite one ("Be quiet, Oscar!") after the latter encourages Elmo to use his third wish on rollerblades instead of undoing the second wish
  • Break the Cutie: What makes the special somewhat hard to watch is seeing the endless Christmas slowly breaking down our beloved characters, Muppet and human.
    • Big Bird can't see Snuffy because Snuffy went away for Christmas. He leaves a message on Snuffy's answering machine, and writes letters that can't be posted because there's no mail on Christmas.
    • The Count gets tired of counting Christmases and stops counting.
    • Elmo and Lightning get this when they reprise "Every Day Can't Be Christmas".
    • Gabi, Maria and Luis's daughter, is among the carolers that have lost their voices.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The elves do this to Santa after finding out he gave the magic snowglobe to Elmo.
  • The Cameo: Kermit the Frog reports on Christmas everyday. A random passerby then tries to take his microphone, to give to his kid for Christmas.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Elmo happily tells Gordon and Carlo, one 1990s Sesame Street cast member, about seeing Santa and receiving the magic snowglobe. They don't seem to believe him. Subverted when Elmo confesses about his second wish in the Bad Future; Maria believes him and tells Elmo to wish for Christmas to happen once a year.
    • Elmo doesn't believe Santa at first when Santa sings about how having Christmas every day is a bad idea, especially since if people don't work they "won't make the things we need" and if children can't go to school they won't learn. Santa anticipates this response, and sends Elmo with Lightning to the future, to see the realities of permanent holidays.
  • Celebrity Cameo:
    • Maya Angelou is the narrator.
    • Charles Durning (who had previously played Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie) is Santa Claus (Durning portrayed Santa on four other occasions).
    • Harvey Fierstein is the Easter Bunny (he even gets his own song about Easter eggs).
    • 14 Karat Soul are the Christmas carolers in the spring.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Moo Bunny, a toy cross between a cow and a bunny (Santa initially refers to it, rather disparagingly, as a "cabbit") becomes Elmo's new gift after he and Lightning successfully Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
    • The snowglobe sort-of serves as this, though Elmo breaks it before he can use his third wish to undo the second one.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Lightning, the reindeer-in-training who stowed away in Santa's sack. Santa mobilizes him because he's the only reindeer who can fly fast and isn't exhausted. He orders Lightning to fly Elmo into the future, and they then fly back to undo Elmo's second wish.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Lightning's ability to travel through time. After Elmo breaks the snowglobe, they go back in time to Christmas Eve so that Elmo never receives the snowglobe.
  • Christmas Every Day: Elmo wishes for it to be Christmas every day using a snowglobe. This causes things to go From Bad to Worse.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: After Kermit's news report that Christmas will occur again the station rejoins It's a Wonderful Life in progress right on the line where George says "This is a very interesting situation!".
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Many characters, including Elmo and the elves, point out the following: if Santa had let Elmo choose the Pink Bear instead of telling him about the snowglobe, then Elmo wouldn't have made that wish. Even Santa lampshades it. This is why Elmo goes back in time with Lightning, so that he can choose another present. It's egregious on Santa's part since he's given the snowglobe before, and the elves aren't happy about it.
  • Dark Reprise: The Christmas carolers offer one because singing for 365 days straight causes them to lose their voices.
    • The "Every Day Can't Be Christmas" reprise fits this even moreso.
  • Darker and Edgier: To a relatively modest degree for a Christmas special, and for the show itself.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Sesame Street has fallen into sad ruin after a full year of Christmas celebration. The only character not in despair, obviously, is Oscar.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Santa offering a magical snowglobe as a special favor to certain people on Christmas. The elves mention that he's given it before, with consequences as bad as the "Christmas every day" wish. Given Santa's Oh, Crap! expression when Elmo uses his first wish to summon a glass of water, he regrets giving such power.
    • Likewise, Elmo doesn't think through the consequences of wishing for Christmas every day. This is justified in that he's a child, and he couldn't exactly foresee what Santa tells him: that when people don't work they can't make the things we need and kids can't go to school to learn.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Maya Angelou asks Telly and Zoe if Elmo ever told them about the time he saved Christmas and "almost lost it". As it turns out, due to Timey-Wimey Ball, Elmo travels back in time to when he got the snowglobe to choose another present, thus undoing the Bad Future. Could also be a case of Unreliable Narrator if Angelou made up the story, given she remembers.
    • Santa points out that with Christmas every day that if people don't work, then they "won't make the things we need". With each Christmas, Maria and Luis are upset that they haven't been fixing items for their customers like waffle irons and toasters. Maria even forgets how to make repairs, being months out of practice.
  • Framing Device: The story is framed by Maya Angelou telling the events to Zoe, Telly, Baby Bear and some children in her apartment.
  • From Bad to Worse: Each successive Christmas. Everyone is happy during the spring, they're dragging their feet in July, and by Christmas no one has money for presents or decorations.
  • Glomp: Rosita's Christmas gift to Elmo is a big hug.
  • Gone to the Future: Defied by Santa; he tells Elmo that he can't go with him and Lightning because he needs to go down chimneys every night. If he vanishes, then Christmas will be even worse.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Averted; just because it's Christmas every day doesn't mean that the same day repeats itself.
  • The Grinch: Oscar the Grouch is the only Muppet happy in the Bad Future, not just because everyone else is miserable but also because people are throwing out piles of wrapping paper and garbage from presents. He's the only one to protest when Elmo says he can fix things with the third wish.
  • Hope Spot: Elmo's third wish.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Santa offering the snowglobe to Elmo, and extolling its benefits when Elmo asks for the Pink Bear. The elves even call out Santa for this when the toy machines start up, as they're packing for vacation.
    • Likewise, Elmo before making his third wish telling everyone that he's going to wish for things to go back to normal, creating a Hope Spot.
  • If I Were a Rich Man: When Maya Angelou briefly stops the story to remind Telly, Zoe and the kids listening that Elmo still has two more wishes, they all talk about what they would wish for.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: An odd variant on the usual trope. Instead of Elmo wishing he weren't born, he wishes it were Christmas Every Day and assumes everyone will be happy.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Downplayed, but Elmo and Lightning are forced to concede that Santa was right about the consequences of his wish. Santa uses more Brutal Honesty when telling Elmo off for how he used the snowglobe.
    • Oscar in July is happy about how miserable everyone is on Christmas, and how much trash is piling up. Elmo tells him off, but is forced to eat his words when he and Lightning arrive in the Bad Future and see that everyone is miserable.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Lightning was the one who got Santa stuck in the chimney, which leads to Elmo rescuing Santa and the rest of the plot. Santa thus assigns him to take Elmo to the future to see the consequences of his wish. When Lightning rises to the task and then undoes the Bad Future, Santa promotes him to being a regular member of the team.
    • Santa offered three wishes to Elmo, as a reward for saving him and Christmas. When Elmo wishes for Christmas Every Day, it means that Santa has to deliver presents every night. The elves do point out that if Santa hadn't given the snowglobe in the first place, then they wouldn't be in this mess. Santa is forced to agree. It's also implied that, unlike everyone else, he remembers how that entire year went after Lightning and Elmo undo it, given he delivers the Moo Bunny to Elmo.
  • Literal Genie: The snowglobe. It grants Elmo exactly what he asks, thus why Christmas every day has the same routines, sales and shows, regardless of the season.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Elmo accidentally breaks the snowglobe right before he wishes everything to go back to normal, it seems all hope is lost, but then Lightning remembers his time-traveling abilities and uses such to take Elmo back to Christmas Eve the year before so he doesn't get the snowglobe.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!":
    • The elves when their toymaking machines start up while they're packing for vacation. They immediately realize that Santa has given the wish snow globe to someone else and call him out for it.
    • Everyone on Sesame Street when Elmo breaks the snowglobe before he can make his third wish.
  • Mundane Wish: Elmo's first wish is for a glass of water, all because he's thirsty. If it hadn't been for the Bad Future, he would've spent his third wish on a pair of rollerblades.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Elmo says something like this twice on the last Christmas: once after seeing a desolate Sesame Street, and again after he breaks the snowglobe.
  • Never My Fault: Averted. Even though Elmo is the one who wished for it to be Christmas everyday, Santa takes partial responsibility for his part in the whole mess, as he was the one who gave Elmo the snow globe in the first place.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Literally! When Elmo tries to use his third wish to undo the second, he shakes it so hard the snowglobe slips out of his hands and smashes into dust. Not to mention the Bad Future happens because of Elmo's wish.
  • Noodle Incident: Apparently Santa has offered the snow globe before, and the elves remember.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Zig-Zagged. Santa has made multiple snow globes with the same Reality Warper powers, which means there must be blueprints or a fail safe to replicate it. When Elmo makes his foolish wish, however, which leads to the Bad Future, the elves and Santa are unable to make or use another snow globe that could undo it.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • The audience knows something is up when Grover and Fat Blue agree on something after their comedy bit, namely that they wish that Christmas Every Day would stop and give them both a break.
    • Elmo is horrified when the Count says that he is tired of counting Christmases. As Elmo puts it, the Count loves to count.
    • Bob normally loves singing, but in the Bad Future he hoarsely says that he and the carolers have lost their voices from doing their holiday job every day.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: After Elmo makes his second wish, the overworked elves in the Bad Future make a Moo Bunny doll, a cross between a cow and a bunny. When Elmo returns to Christmas Eve with Lightning, undoing the Christmas every day wish, Santa reveals he has the Moo Bunny and gives it to Elmo. Let the Mind Screw ensue.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • See Christmas Every Day. Santa did warn Elmo what would happen — adults won't be able to go to work, and kids can't learn at school— but Elmo had to see the Bad Future to realize what was happening. Maria even laments that she's months out of practice of repairing toasters due to spending all their time handling presents and cooking turkey.
    • Big Bird writes letters to Snuffy every day that it is Christmas. He lampshades that no one picks up the mail on Christmas, so Snuffy will never get his letters.
    • Santa wants to mobilize a reindeer to go to Sesame Street and find Elmo after the second wish takes place. The elves tell him that all the regular reindeer are exhausted, after traveling the world all night. Santa goes with Lightning, who is fast, and the only reindeer who wasn't working.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Santa makes Reality Warper snowglobes that he only gives to special children and recipients. In this case, he offers it to Elmo for pulling him out of the chimney and "saving Christmas". Somehow the elves and he cannot use another snow globe to undo Elmo's wish, even though they are made before. Not to mention that the snow globe can do anything, like create world peace.
  • Reset Button: Which also doubles as a Take a Third Option. After the snowglobe is reduced to dust, all seems lost since the wish can't be undone. Until Elmo and Lighting realize they can go forward and backward in time. They quickly jump on the sled and go back in time to when Elmo saves Santa. This time with Elmo picking the doll instead of the snowglobe, preventing the wish from occurring.
  • Ripple-Proof Memory: After they undo the Bad Future, Lightning and Elmo remember what happened. Santa may remember, given he offers the Moo Bunny to Elmo as a replacement gift.
  • Running Gag: As per Sesame Street custom, Grover sells Christmas trees to Mr. Johnson with hilarious results.
  • Saving Christmas: Double Subverted; Santa claims that Elmo saved Christmas by rescuing him from the chimney, but Maya Angelou assures Zoe and Telly that it's only the beginning of the story. Elmo has to save Christmas after his second wish, "Christmas every day," makes things hard for the citizens of the Street.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Santa in the Bad Future, deciding to retire to Florida.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: After breaking the snowglobe, Elmo & Lightning go back in time to stop him from getting the snowglobe thus erasing the bad future.
  • Shout-Out: The movie has a brilliant nod to the urban legend that Bert and Ernie were named after the characters from It's a Wonderful Life, which, in the Bad Future, is playing endlessly on every channel. In one scene, the two walk by a TV playing the scene where George confronts his empty home in his own Bad Future. As George exclaims "Bert! Ernie!" the two turn to each other (and the camera) in astonishment.
  • Spiritual Successor: Elmo's Christmas Countdown (2007) also has a celebrity narrator (Ben Stiller in Muppet form), a Saving Christmas-type plot, a magical Christmas-related device, and a celebrity Santa (Kevin James).
  • Spoiler Title: What does Elmo do in the end, everyone?
  • The Stinger: After the credits we hear the line "Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings" from It's a Wonderful Life playing on TV. The channel then changes to Elmo who wishes the viewer a happy holiday. Afterwards "The End" appears on screen and the TV switches off.
  • Take a Third Option: Elmo can choose either the snowglobe or the pink teddy bear; after the Bad Future is undone, Elmo decides to take the teddy bear, but then Santa refers to a Moo Bunny in his sack and Elmo chooses that.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: You have to wonder how Maya Angelou knows the story when Elmo erased the bad timeline. However, it's possible Elmo told her.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Lightning becomes this when he accidentally gets Santa stuck in the chimney, due to stowing away in the sack. If he hadn't done that, then Santa wouldn't have offered the wishing snowglobe in the first place.
  • Wasteful Wishing: Once Elmo gets the snowglobe, his first wish is for a glass of water cause he's thirsty. Santa tells him to be careful with his future ones.
  • Wham Line:
    • Luis utters "It's Christmas... forever" after Elmo breaks the snowglobe before making his third wish.
    • And seconds later, Lightning utters the following line which gives Elmo another idea:
    Lightning: All I know how to do is pull a sleigh.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Christmas one year later on Sesame Street, showing all the stores boarded up.
    • Elmo accidentally breaking the snowglobe also qualifies.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Played With. Santa does call out Elmo for making such a wish, but acknowledges that it was his fault for giving the snowglobe in the first place, as the elves pointed out to him. Elmo is a child, and he couldn't have foreseen the long-term consequences. It's why Santa makes a personal visit to Sesame Street undercover as a Salvation Army Santa, and when Elmo refuses to believe him lends him Lightning to see his wish play out in a shorter amount of time.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The final Christmas in the Bad Future plays out like It's a Wonderful Life: Elmo sees a bunch of ruined businesses, with the Count showing him around like Clarence the angel and explaining how miserable all of his friends are. Oscar takes the role of Mr. Potter, reveling in everyone's sadness and trash. It's even lampshaded when the movie plays as Ernie and Bert are walking past.
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