The best Christmas movie you’ve never seen

The fantastic Muppet Christmas Carol isn’t the only worthwhile festive Muppet flick.

A Muppet Family Christmas


Whenever this time of year rolls around, I can’t help but think of the Christmas specials of my youth. Sometime in the late ’80s, my mother compiled eight of them onto a VHS tape (including fantastically dated commercials and local news interruptions), creating for me this weird tradition where I’m compelled to watch these programs in the specific order from the tape, or it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

fozzieShe had Rankin & Bass’s Frosty the Snowman, followed by their take on ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and the classic Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Muppet Family Christmas, A Garfield Christmas and finally Will Vinton’s A Claymation Christmas Celebration.

Most of these are aired every year, although ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas has definitely waned in popularity since 1974 and A Claymation Christmas has turned into more of a cult favourite, likely due to the California Raisins number. The one film that has somehow slipped into obscurity is my favourite of the bunch: A Muppet Family Christmas.

The special is a collision of all things Muppet — it includes the four popular franchises of the time: The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. The story starts with Fozzy Bear driving all of the Muppets to his mother’s farmhouse for Christmas, not realizing that Emily Bear has made plans to go surfing in Malibu and has rented her house to Doc and Sprocket (Fraggle Rock) for the holidays. Once they all arrive, they decide to celebrate Christmas together only to be joined by the carolling cast of Sesame Street and later, once a “Fraggle hole” is discovered, the Fraggles as well.

muppet2The film devotes time to everything you love about the various Muppets, Miss Piggy’s quick-to-anger diva quality arriving late due to a photoshoot, the Swedish Chef attempting to cook Big Bird (“the gobbla gobbla humunga”) and for those of us whose hearts sink every time we think of the passing of Jim Henson, his cameo at the end washing the dishes with Sproket is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The reason this film may have passed you by isn’t due to any kind of personal oversight, it’s of course a legal shenanigan having to do with music rights. Everything was licensed for television and not for film distribution, so the film in its entirety has never been released on VHS or DVD, which of course would have facilitated its reach. The only copy that crops up if you sift through Amazon is one (that I bought and paid a hefty price for) that’s missing four scenes — you’d think since 1987 they would have sorted something out in order to make things right and have A Muppet Family Christmas join A Muppet Christmas Carol as some of the best festive filmmaking.

Every holiday season it seems, I introduce another Muppet fan to this film and feel a bit gutted that it passed them by. So my gift to you this Christmas, my dear readers, is a link to the exact version (commercials and all) of the film that I watched as a kid. And it’s not missing a single scene. ■

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