December 11, 1992 – The Feature Film The Muppet Christmas Carol is Released to Theaters
“A blue, furry Charles Dickens who hangs out with a rat?”
On December 11, 1992, the live-action feature film The Muppet Christmas Carol was released to theaters. It was the first Muppet film to be released after the deaths of creator Jim Henson and puppeteer Richard Hunt (it was released in their memory). The film is based on the classic tale by Charles Dickens, and is considered one of the more close adaptations of Dickens’ story; for instance, the character of The Ghost of Christmas Present is seen aging during his visit, as was written in the story. Directed by Brian Henson, the film stars Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, and puppeteers Dave Goelz (Gonzo, Waldorf, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew), Steve Whitmire (Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker) Jerry Nelson (Robin the Frog, Statler), and Frank Oz (Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle). The film was a modest success, and has developed somewhat of a cult following in the years since its release.
Set in 19th century London, the film begins with an introduction by Charles Dickens (played by Gonzo) with his friend Rizzo the Rat, selling apples. Although Rizzo doesn’t believe that he’s standing with Charles Dickens, Dickens sets out to prove that he is, beginning the tale. We then meet the miser Ebenezer Scrooge as he makes his way through the town. The residents of London remark how cold and cruel Scrooge is, and he responds with a simple “Humbug.” He arrives back at his business, where his employees, including his assistant, Bob Cratchit (Kermit the Frog), are hard at work. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, arrives at the door, trying to convince his uncle to join him for Christmas dinner, but Scrooge refuses. Late that evening, Cratchit timidly asks Scrooge if the employees can take Christmas day off, and Scrooge reluctantly agrees, so long as they arrive all the earlier the next day.
Scrooge is startled by all the strange disturbances he experiences on Christmas Eve
While the whole town seems to excitedly anticipate Christmas day, Scrooge arrives at home, disturbed by a vision of Jacob Marley (Statler). As he sits in front of the fire, strange things occur, startling him, until the ghosts of his former partners, Jacob and Robert Marley (Statler and Waldorf), appear. They warn him that if he doesn’t change his ways, he will end up with their fate, wrapped in the chains of their wickedness. The two tell Scrooge that he will be haunted by three spirits, and without these visits, he cannot hope to avoid their fate. He is to expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one. Scrooge doesn’t believe them, but still crawls into bed, fearful of what could happen.
Sure enough, when the bell tolls one, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes him back to the Christmases of his youth. They watch as year after year passes by, with Scrooge sitting all alone at his school every Christmastime. They are then taken to his apprenticeship days at Fozziwig’s Rubber Chicken Factory, with Fozziwig’s (Fozzie Bear) annual Christmas party. It is there that Scrooge meets a young woman named Belle, and falls in love with her at first sight. Despite Scrooge’s protests, the Ghost shows him the Christmas where Belle breaks off her engagement, believing him to be more in love with money than with her. The ghost then returns a depressed Scrooge to his chambers.
The Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge around town, including to the home of his loyal employee, Bob Cratchit
When the bell rings two, Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, who takes him out into the city on Christmas morning, intent on showing him the joy of Christmas. Scrooge asks to see his family, suddenly inspired by the kindness he saw in the street. Taken to his nephew’s Christmas party, Scrooge is saddened to find that he is the joke of the party, and called an “unwanted creature.” The spirit then takes him to Bob Cratchit’s house, where Scrooge sees Cratchit and his son, Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog), walking home from church, full of joy. At their Christmas dinner, Cratchit raises a glass to Scrooge, although his wife Emily (Miss Piggy) strongly objects to this, but in the spirit of the season, she agrees; this touches Scrooge deeply. Scrooge is impressed by the good attitude of the sickly Tiny Tim, and asks the Spirit if Tiny Tim will live. Although the Spirit can’t give a confirmation, he says he sees “a crutch without an owner.”
The Spirit then takes Scrooge to the cemetery, to await the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Although frightened, Scrooge declares that he is willing to learn with an open and grateful heart. They arrive on a rainy Christmas day in London, seeing a crowd of pigs discussing someone’s death, declaring that no one would go to that funeral. They then move on to a back alley trader named Old Joe, with people trading with him items from the deceased, including his bed curtains and the blankets from his bed. Although Scrooge suspects that he is the deceased in question, he claims that with his new blossoming outlook on life, this may change. He then asks to see some tenderness in the world, and is taken to Bob Cratchit’s once again. Unfortunately, at this Christmas, Tiny Tim has passed away. Scrooge is taken back to the cemetery and sees his own grave before his eyes. He pleads that he has changed, that the future can change. He then promises to keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year round, sobbing into the spirit’s robes.
Scrooge, having turned over a new leaf, finds the charity volunteers and offers them a large sum to help the homeless and destitute
All of a sudden, Scrooge looks around to see that the spirits have passed, and it is Christmas morning. He then sets out to make things right, buying the prize turkey from the butcher and bringing good tidings to all, including giving to a charity he had turned down the day before. Scrooge then goes to Bob Cratchit’s house to surprise him with the turkey, presents, and the offer of a salary raise. The movie ends on a high note, with Tiny Tim living after all, and the whole town of London celebrating Christmas.