The Muppet Christmas Carol is a film starring Michael Caine and the Muppets in the classic Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol. It is notably the first feature film to star the Muppets following the death of their creator, Jim Henson. It is also the second of three theatrical films released by Walt Disney Pictures based on the story, between Mickey's Christmas Carol in 1983 and Robert Zemeckis' CGI version in 2009.
In this adaptation of the Christmas story, narrated by Gonzo as Charles Dickens (with the occasional commentary of Rizzo the Rat), it is Christmas Eve in 19th century London. The merriment is not shared by Ebenezer Scrooge (portrayed by Michael Caine), a surly money-lender who is more interested in profit than celebration. He is so cold to the season of giving that his book-keeping staff, including loyal employee Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), has to plead with him just to have the day off work during Christmas by pointing out that Scrooge would have no customers on the holiday and that it would waste coal to sit alone in the office. Scrooge's nephew, Fred (Steven Mackintosh), arrives to invite his uncle to Christmas dinner, and two gentlemen (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker) also come to Scrooge's offices, collecting money in the spirit of the season to provide a Christmas dinner for the poor. Scrooge rebuffs his nephew and complains that it is not worth looking after the poor, as their deaths will decrease the surplus population. Fred is shocked at his uncle's uncharitable and cold nature, but repeats his invitation, makes his own donation, and departs.
Later that evening, Scrooge finds himself face to face with the still mean-spirited spirits of his former business partners, Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf), who have been condemned to shackles in the afterlife as payment for the horrible deeds they committed in life. Nonetheless, they warn him that he will share the same fate, only worse if he does not change his ways, and foretell the arrival of three spirits throughout the night.
Scrooge is first visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past (voiced by Jessica Fox), a childlike specter who takes Scrooge on a journey back through time to his youth. He recalls his early school days, during which he focused on his studies; meeting of a young woman named Belle (Meredith Braun), with whom he would later fall in love; and the end of their relationship, despite Scrooge's protests that he would marry her as soon as he feels he has enough money to provide for them, but Belle knows he will most likely never have that, given his birthing obsession with money.
Scrooge then meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, a large, festive spirit with a booming voice who lives only for the here and now. He gives Scrooge a glimpse into the holiday celebration of others, including Bob Cratchit, and his family who, although poor, are enjoying Christmas together and reveling in the anticipation of the Christmas goose. The Spirit also shows Scrooge's own family, who are not above cracking jokes at Scrooge's expense.
Finally, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, a silent entity who reveals the chilling revelation that young Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog) will not survive the coming year, thanks in no small part to the impoverished existence of the Cratchit family. Furthermore, it is revealed that when Scrooge's own time has passed, others will certainly delight in his absence from the world. Upon seeing his headstone in the cemetery, it is the final epiphany that convinces Scrooge to change his ways and makes him vow to celebrate with his fellow man, never to be greedy again and share his money with the poor.
Scrooge returns to his bedroom on Christmas Day, and he goes about the town spreading good deeds and charity. He enlists the help of Bean Bunny, at whom he threw a wreath earlier in the film, and the two travel around the town gathering items for a Christmas feast and giving gifts to characters who had previously been wronged by Scrooge. Scrooge tells his assistant, Bob Cratchit, that he is going to raise his salary, and pay for his house mortgage. He also plans a feast for Cratchit's family and learns to adopt the spirit of Christmas throughout the year, now encouraged by the addition of new friends.
Songs featured in the film include:
- "Scrooge" - Cast
- "Good King Wenceslas" - Bean Bunny
- "One More Sleep 'til Christmas" - Kermit
- "Marley and Marley" - Statler and Waldorf
- "When Love is Gone" - Belle (video releases only)
- "It Feels Like Christmas" - The Ghost of Christmas Present
- "Christmas Scat" - Kermit and Robin
- "Bless Us All" - Robin and Cast
- "Thankful Heart" - Scrooge
- "Finale - When Love is Found/It Feels Like Christmas (reprise)" - Cast
One of the songs, "When Love is Gone", was cut from the film's original theatrical release, because the filmmakers found that the test audiences (mainly family viewers with younger children) become restless during the scene in question, including the UK DVD and the 2012 Blu-ray releases. When the movie was released on VHS and LaserDisc in the US and the UK the following year, "When Love is Gone" was reinstated, since the filmmakers decided it worked better in a home-viewing context. Subsequent video releases of the film have included the song, with the 2005 DVD release also containing the original theatrical version.
Two extra songs were also written for the film by Paul Williams - "Room in Your Heart" (sung by Bunsen and Beaker), and "Chairman of the Board" (sung by Sam the Eagle). These two songs were dropped from the script early on because the filmmakers felt the film was already going to be quite lengthy, that the songs didn't help progress the story, and that they would hurt the overall pacing and feel of the film. However, the songs were included on the film's soundtrack album.
Home video releases
- Main article: The Muppet Christmas Carol (video)
- This is the first of the Muppet movies in which the focus of the story revolves around characters played by live actors.
- However, several pivotal roles—in particular, the three Christmas Spirits—were portrayed by specially-created Muppet characters.
- It was at one time considered that well-known Muppets would be cast in these roles (Piggy, Scooter, and Gonzo, specifically) before it was decided that it would detract from the ominous effect the spirits would need to convey.
- Unlike the 2009 CGI film, this Disney film adaptation totally omits Scrooge's sister.
- In the novel, she took Scrooge home for Christmas when he was a child, but passed away giving birth to Fred in her adulthood.
- Near the end of the film, Scrooge and company pass by a store called "Micklewhite's."
- Michael Caine's real name is Maurice Micklewhite.
- Another store sign is called "Statler and Waldorf," the names of the Muppets who portray Jacob and Robert Marley.
- This film was originally planned to be a TV special.
- It was also the first Muppet film to be directed by Brian Henson, following Jim Henson's death in 1990.
- The song "When Love is Gone" was originally planned to be part of the film; however, it was dropped from the theatrical release of the film after being shown to test audiences.
- It was not until the film was released on home video that the song was reinserted, although current DVD/Blu-ray releases and TV airings have the song still omitted.
- Two additional songs were written for the film that wasn't used.
|Michael Caine||Ebenezer Scrooge|
|Edward Sanders||Young Scrooge (Child #1)|
|Theo Sanders||Young Scrooge (Child #2)|
|Kristopher Milnes||Young Scrooge (Child #3)|
|Russell Martin||Young Scrooge (Adolescent)|
|Raymond Coulthard||Young Scrooge (Adult)|
|Anthony Hamblin||Boy #1|
|Fergus Brazier||Boy #2|
Background Muppets (non-speaking)
Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Rowlf, Lips, J.P. Grosse, Lyle the Dog, Chester Rat, Masterson Rat, Murray the Minstrel, Begoony, Mudwell the Mudbunny, Snowman, Mrs. Appleby, Wolf, Bobby Benson, Vegetable Seller/Prisoner, dogs, Link Hogthrob, Punch and Judy Puppets, Richmond the Horse, Babies, Geri and the Atrics, Great Grandmother Bunny, Frackles, Cashboxes and Locks, Whatnots, Christmas Turkey, Louise, lobsters, raccoons, chickens, frogs, Wolfhound, cows, and sheep