The Muppet Christmas Carol

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
The best Christmas Carol ever.

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, two) that adapts a famous story with the Muppets acting both as themselves and as characters from them. 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 Dicken's descriptions, and sticks remarkably close to the original story, with even most of the dialogue intact - 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 (with a good chunk of the narrative from the book remaining the same), while Rizzo is well... Rizzo.

The film was followed up with Muppet Treasure Island in 1994. It also had humans playing vital roles while The Muppets played supporting characters.

Tropes used in The Muppet Christmas Carol include:
  • Actor Allusion: Several, regarding the Muppet actors:
    • Sam the Eagle, as a gaffe, says his catchphrase "It's the American Way" when telling Young Ebeneezer he is to join a business upon graduation. Ebeneezer gives him a confused look, before Gonzo informs Sam hushedly that the novel takes place in Britain, then amending the catchphrase.
    • Jacob and Robert Marley, during Fozziwig's christmas party, has them sitting in a VIP balcony for some reason while heckling Fozziwig. Guess who the Marley brothers are portrayed by (and Fozziwig, for that matter)?
  • Adaptation Distillation: This is generally seen as one of the better adaptations of the book, Muppets or otherwise. There's even one or two things many people see as an improvement compared to nearly all adaptations or even the novel - Statler and Waldorf as a kind of double-Marley in particular rarely goes without mention, and Gonzo as "Dickens-the-Narrator" (allowing passages of the book to be directly quoted) works well even beyond just a humorous level.
  • 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.
  • 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...
Daughters: Mm-hmm.
Mrs. Cratchit: ...stingy...
Daughters: Mm-hmm.
Mrs. Cratchit: ...wicked...
Daughters: Mm-hmm.
Mrs. Cratchit: ...and unfeeling...
Daughters: Mm-hmm.
Mrs. Cratchit ...and badly dressed!
[daughters gasp]

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 both the original theatrical release and some versions of the DVD, but appeared on the many TV airings (before later Christmas specials supplanted it) and the VHS copy. 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)
[[Hell 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).
  • Dedication: This movie is dedicated to Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, both of whom died shortly before production.
  • 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.
    • Scooter was absent because after the death of his voice actor, many of the other performers considered the character retired in his honor. He'd show up again later in Muppet Treasure Island, but only for a silent cameo to show that he hadn't been forgotten.
  • 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 basically amounts to Gonzo reading the non-speaking parts of the book. Much of the dialogue in the movie is simply lifted directly from the book, albeit with the standard Muppet humor added here and there.
  • Epic Tracking Shot: The introductory shot of London.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: The penguins' Christmas skating party, during Bob Cratchit's first song.
  • 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.)
  • Genius Bonus: Look very closely in one of the crowd sequences. One of the background Muppets is a lobster hanging out of a basement window. This is a reference to the line, "like bad lobster in a dark cellar," one of Charles Dickens' weirder turns of phrase.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Throughout the course of the movie Beaker flips off Scrooge[1], 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"!
Rizzo: Oh.
Gonzo: As dead as a doornail.
Rizzo: It's a good beginning. It's creepy and kinda -- hoo hoo! -- spooky.

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).
  • Low-Angle Shot: Scrooge's introductory shot, appropriately.
  • 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!"
    • And of course 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.
  • 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).
  • The Other Darrin: This was the first appearance [2] of Steve Whitmire as Kermit and Beaker, Jerry Nelson as Statler, and Dave Goelz as Waldorf.
  • 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!

  • Running Gag: Gonzo and Rizzo always seem to be in front of a window that needs opening...
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Rizzo the Rat
  • 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.
  • 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 to 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.
  • 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).
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Scrooge". "Marley & Marley" as well, even though it is the villainous Marley brothers who are singing it.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Belinda and Bettina.
  • 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!

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.
  • We Could Have Avoided All This: Gonzo and Rizzo don't make it into Scrooge's house before he closes the door because Rizzo is searching for his bag of jelly beans. Later, while Gonzo is narrating, Rizzo offers him a jelly bean, saying, "I had them in my pocket all along."
    • Just after that scene, they have to get past a gate. Gonzo makes it, but Rizzo is left standing atop it, afraid to jump. After Gonzo comically fails to catch him, Rizzo realizes he's left his jellybeans behind and takes the fastest route back: through the bars.

Gonzo: You can fit through those bars?
Rizzo: ...Yeah.
Gonzo: (turns and walks away) You are such an idiot.
Rizzo: What? What? Hey, what?

Scrooge: You're a little absent-minded, spirit.
Ghost of Christmas Present: No, I'm a LARGE absent-minded spirit!

Come to think of it, every trope on the A Christmas Carol page fits as well.

Rizzo: Wow what a great story!
Gonzo: You think that's good, you should read the book.

  1. Granted, he only has four fingers, so it might be his index finger, but the outrage is definitely there
  2. In film. Whitmire previously voiced Kermit for the prime time "The Muppets Remember Jim Henson" special