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 toys love to play so much that they will do it even when their owners aren't around. But if any person catches a toy out of position, that toy will become permanently inanimate — "frozen forever" in toy lingo — so they have to be very careful.
It's Christmas Eve, and Rugby Tiger — last year's Christmas Toy — thinks he's going to go under the tree to be unwrapped again. Apple the Doll, whom Rugby supplanted as favorite toy, tries to set him straight, but Rugby won't believe her and sets out on the dangerous expedition to the living room. Unfortunately for him, opening "his" box releases 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. (Does this sound familiar?) 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 without getting caught out of place.
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. It changed the setting to a UK child's playroom and notably replaced a few characters with new ones.note
Followed by A Muppet Family Christmas in 1987, with The Christmas Toy being included as a bonus feature on its 2003 home video release.
Tropes associated with this work:
- All of the Other Reindeer: Mew is regarded as a second-class citizen at best by the other toys mainly because one, he's a cat toy, not a children's toy, and two, (as is often mentioned), he smells like catnip.
- 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.Rugby: Prison?! You call that box a prison? Ha! 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 the center of the toy universe as Jamie's favorite toy. He has a complete meltdown when he realizes 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 explain this to her fails spectacularly.
- Captain Ersatz: The fashion doll is not a Barbie.
- Christmas Miracle: Seems to combine with The Power of Love to bring all the frozen toys back to life.
- 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.
- Cowardly Lion: Belmont really doesn't want any part in the rescue mission.
- Didn't Think This Through: 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 revived by the Power of Love at the end.
- The Ditz: Ditz the Clown
- Exact Words:Molly: Mom, the brats are awake, and they're out in the hallway.Mom: Molly, I told you not to call your brother and sister brats.Molly: Okay. The monsters are awake, and they're in the hallway.
- 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 he smells like catnip, which apparently stinks from a toy's perspective.
- 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.
- Ignored Epiphany: At one point, Apple finally persuades Rugby that it's his turn to let someone else be the Christmas Toy — only for him to decide that she lost her place by giving up without a fight.
- Irony: Rugby (a toy feline) can't stand Mew (a toy for felines). They have to go through toy hell together before finally becoming friends.
- It Runs in the Family: This was the first time Jim's son Brian Henson (Cruiser) performed a Muppet character of his own. He'd later go on to direct The Muppet Christmas Carol, considered by many to be the Muppets' seminal Yuletide production.
- 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 just about to leave when Mew wakes up.
- Jive Turkey: The taxi toy Cruiser.
- Living Toys: Toys love playing so much that they become animate so they can continue to play even when their humans are gone.
- Masquerade: As noted, toys have the magic to become animate, but only so long as they keep that knowledge from humans. A toy caught out of place, even once, loses that magic.
- 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 frozen toys are never called dead, they're treated as such until The Power of Love revives them.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Rugby leaving the room kick-starts the whole plot. Opening Meteora's box just makes it worse.
- Nobody Here but Us Birds: Mew performs a convincing meow to keep the father of the family from walking into the living room and catching the main cast out of place.
- Noodle Incident: "That was terrible! Even worse than that time I got put in the washing machine!"
- The Nothing After Death: Being frozen forever, as Mew describes it.Mew: I was someplace else. But it was like no place. And it was really dark and cold.Rugby: Something must've happened.Mew: Yeah! Then suddenly, it wasn't so dark, and then it was a lot warmer. And then I woke up.
- 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 not-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.
- Phrase Catcher: "Peeyew! It's Mew!"
- The Power of Love: It will bring frozen toys back to life!
- Recycled Soundtrack: The song "Together at Christmas (Old Friends, New Friends)" was reused a year later in A Muppet Family Christmas, sung by the casts of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street and some of the Fraggle Rock cast.
- Rousing Speech: "Try the Impossible" (Apple's song to persuade Belmont to go with them on the rescue mission).
- Running Gag: The fashion doll trying to pick an appropriate outfit for the occasion. By the time she makes up her mind, the event she's trying to dress for is already over.
- 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. Don't worry, he and the other frozen toys are brought back to life near the end.
- Sliding Scale of Living Toys: The "Schrodinger's Toy" type: able to animate and function independently so long as humans remain unaware of that fact.
- Talking the Toy Back Into the Box: The toys use a combination of praise and flattery to cajole Meteora into going back into the Christmas parcel.
- 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 all the toys are mourning him and it kind of stops being funny (don't worry, he's brought back to life near the end).
- The Unfavorite: Apple, after being dethroned by Rugby last Christmas.
- The Voice: Molly, the eldest child, 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.