10 Awesome Things About ‘A Muppet Family Christmas’

Posted 9 years ago by Television

A Muppet Family Christmas

If you listened to our last episode of Bubble Pipe Theater, you heard me mention ‘A Muppet Family Christmas’ as I rambled on about the Muppets with Tim and Rob. I can’t believe I haven’t written about it on the site before, because it just may be my all-time favorite holiday special. It’s a unique blend of Henson characters that just couldn’t be possible today with Disney owning the Muppets.

‘A Muppet Family Christmas’ first aired on television way back in 1987 and I just have vague memories of seeing it as a kid. It wasn’t until 2003 when I picked up the (now out of print) DVD that I fell in love with it. The hour-long show is the perfect blend of Christmas warmth and the classic Muppet humor we grew to love with The Muppet Show and the early movies. Without further ado, I’d like to kick off a new series here on the site with 10 Awesome Things about ‘A Muppet Family Christmas.’

Emily Bear

Emily Bear

10. Fozzie’s Mom

The whole premise of the special is that the Muppet gang is surprising Fozzie’s mom, Emily Bear, at her farmhouse for the holidays. Emily, as it turns out, is awesome, and was planning on ditching the snow and heading to California for Christmas. She doesn’t have a clue that a few dozen weirdos are on their way to her house, which is exactly why she decides to rent the place out to…well keep reading.

9. Fraggle Rock Characters

What? Fraggle Rock characters mingling with Muppets? How’s that work? Surprisingly well, actually. Doc and Sprocket rent Emily Bear’s farmhouse out for the holidays (apparently in an attempt to escape their house that is infested with Fraggles) only to pick another house that contains a Fraggle hole. Doc is his usual cranky self, but when The Muppets arrive he only briefly complains before getting to work making bunkbeds for all the extra guests. Eventually Kermit and Robin find the Fraggle Hole and meet up with the gang and join in one of the classic songs from the HBO series.

8. The Running Gags

Muppet fans love a good running gag, and this special has one in the form of an icy patch on Emily Bear’s door. It doesn’t sound very funny, but watching puppets who obviously do not have legs slipping and falling all over each other actually is. Everyone also keeps mentioning that outside it’s “Cold enough to freeze your Winnebago,” which I often use now to describe Indiana.


The Christmas Turkey

7. The Turkey

Leave it to the Swedish Chef to befriend a turkey and invite him to the farmhouse with the intentions of cooking and eating him. That’s just what happens, but luckily Gonzo finds him first and informs him of the Chef’s plans. The hip turkey (voiced by Steve Whitmire) returns the favor by hitting on Gonzo’s chicken girlfriend. Sounds like a Christmas with my family.

6. Sesame Street Joins the Fun

The other big surprise of ‘A Muppet Family Christmas’ is that the gang from Sesame Street joins the Muppets at the farmhouse, continuing the whole universe-colliding theme. Even though Kermit regularly appeared on Sesame Street, it’s weird seeing the characters together. The Sesame Street characters are far less manic and more innocent than the Muppets, but they were written into the special well. Their educational tendencies to talk about the alphabet or count snowflakes are used almost as a lack of social skills, and the result is pretty funny. Plus, the Swedish Chef just views Big Bird as a new (and much bigger) turkey, so you can imagine how that plays out. Spoiler: Big Bird does not get eaten.

Muppet Babies

"Even weirdos are cute when they're babies."

5. The Parts You Haven’t Seen

If you read my Muppet Geek’s Guide to ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ you know that a lot of times when these older TV specials get released on DVD, certain parts are edited out. This one is no exception. When I got the DVD in 2003 I noticed there were some parts that seemed edited very strangely, and I was right. There are many parts that have been left out over the years (read the list here), but if you’re an enterprising Muppet Geek you can digitally acquire the unedited version online. I just watched the whole version and it’s a big improvement over the DVD.

Two-Headed Monster

The Two-Headed Monster as Santa

4. The Christmas Play

Bert, Ernie and a bunch of Sesame Street monsters put on a short play of The Night Before Christmas that is weird enough to be considered awesome in my book. Bert plays the role of Ma, Grover is a mouse with a mixing bowl but isn’t stirring, and The Two-Headed Monster is Santa. Sam the Eagle does not approve.

3. The Music

There is a surprising number of songs in this TV special. Over ten full songs and even more than that in the big Christmas medley at the end, but it never feels too much like a musical. It’s also a nice mix of traditional and modern (for 1987) songs. Even though the medley gives me flashbacks to high school choir concerts, I love the music in A Muppet Family Christmas. Besides, who doesn’t prefer a Muppet version of a Christmas song over it’s non-Muppet counterpart?

2. The Swedish Chef’s Duet with Big Bird

I’m a sucker for the Swedish Chef. Usually he just gets to spout his nonsense in the form of one-liners, but in A Muppet Family Christmas he sings “The Christmas Song” with Big Bird. Hearing the Chef (or Mr. Cook as BB calls him) sing his parts of the duet in typical Swedish Chef fashion always cracks me up.

Jim Henson

Jim Henson and Sprocket

1. Jim Henson’s Cameo

Just as things get warm and fuzzy with the Muppets, Fraggles, and residents of Sesame Street joining in a huge Christmas carol sing, it cuts to a shot of the man himself, Jim Henson. He’s hanging out with Sprocket and comments that he “loves when they’re having a good time” but that someone has to do the dishes. While it would have been nice to see the other Muppeteers get some love, it always gives me goosebumps, especially because this special was made just three short years before his death.

Overall, A Muppet Family Christmas captures a time when everything the Henson company had it’s hands in were still living under the same roof. Today, with Henson still owning the Fraggles, Disney owning the Muppets, and Sesame Workshop owning the Sesame Street gang, something like this could never happen. But more importantly, it’s just a great TV special and I look forward to watching it a few times every year.

Oh, and if you still haven’t seen it, this would be a good place to start.

  • I have a dvd bootleg of the uncut special and look forward to it every year.

  • Kat Latimer

    My phone ringtone for ages:
    “Ah that’s just Animal”

  • Jon

    Whoever distributed the dvd couldn’t get the rights to “Sleigh Ride” and “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” Hence the weird editing around those songs.