|Charles Dickens’ holiday classic A Christmas Carol has gone through dozens of screen adaptations in the past century, but this is likely the only one starring pieces of felt in most of the important roles. The Muppet Christmas Carol brought our familiar friends Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and the rest of Jim Henson’s Muppet creations back for their first feature since 1984. The film was also the first since Henson’s death in 1990, with son Brian taking over direction from the late, lamented master muppeteer.
As narrated by Dickens himself (played by the Great Gonzo, with Rizzo the Rat adding comic relief), the story pretty much follows the original, albeit with more one-liners, songs and furry puppets than Dickens may have intended. Crusty old Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine, one of the few non-Muppet players) is a cheapskate and a tyrant, granting his fearful employees a Christmas holiday only because no other businesses will be open.
Scrooge’s put-upon employee Bob Cratchit (Kermit) comes home to his wife (Piggy) and children, including the sickly Tiny Tim. Scrooge himself goes home to a cold, empty house. Empty, that is, until the spirits of Scrooge’s deceased business partners appear to torment him (Yes, partners in the plural. You can’t have Statler without Waldorf, now can you?) Over the course of the evening, Scrooge receives visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, showing him the development and the results of his avaricious ways in an attempt to convert the miserable miser to good.
As with all of the Muppet movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol featured frequent song interludes, these written by Paul “The Love Boat Theme” Williams. All of the Muppet regulars-Bunsen and Beaker, the Swedish Chef, even Sam the Eagle-made cameo appearances in the film, managing to draw a balance between the gloomy nature of the source novel and the inherent zaniness of the Muppets themselves. The success of this first Muppet literary adaptation inspired a second, Muppet Treasure Island, in 1996.