‘Never Eat Singing Food’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’
Over the past three decades, The Muppet Christmas Carol has become a cinematic Christmas tradition on par with It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street. While also providing a solid supply of laughs from the Muppets, its faithful take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, along with the sincerity of Michael Caine’s performance as Scrooge, make it a genuinely masterful and heartwarming adaptation. With that, we’re happy to share these tidbits about the film, lest we be Scrooges ourselves…
The Ghost of Christmas Past
Nobody Asked ‘What Would Jim Do?’
As Brian Henson explained, being the first Muppet film after his father’s passing, they wanted to get it right. However: “What we didn’t do was, ‘What would Jim do in this moment?’ Which is something that Jim would never do. It’s always, ‘What’s the best idea? What’s the most interesting thing to do in this moment?’ You’re trying to figure out what’s the thing that will make this moment the most fun to watch. Right from the get-go, it was a very different Muppet movie than any other Muppet movie — visually, radically different; tonally, radically different. We were trying to make a movie that wasn’t really comparable to the other Muppet movies because it was a whole different approach to (a) Muppet movie. But certainly, we all wanted to get it right. We were all very close. We were a close-knit group and had become closer since my dad had passed. So there was just a lot of mutual respect and support on set.”
A Saluting Star
The shooting star at the end of the “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” song was Brian’s salute to his father and a nod to the shooting star in The Muppet Movie.
The Muppets Take the Movies
No Scrooge for Christmas
Henson abstained from watching any other adaptations of A Christmas Carol during production for fear of accidentally copying them.
Gonzo’s Original Role
The Muppet Christmas Carol began more as a parody, as opposed to the straight adaptation it became. In its original version, familiar Muppets were going to play the various ghosts of Christmas. “Gonzo was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, and Miss Piggy was the Ghost of Christmas Present,” Henson has explained.
‘The Contrast of Dickens and Henson’
Longtime Muppet writer Jerry Juhl convinced Henson to change the tone to a straight adaptation. Juhl told him, “Dickens’ prose is so magical, it needs to be in the movie, and we need to just do this story properly. We can’t make fun of it. Let’s not make fun of it. It’s the contrast of Dickens and Henson that will make the movie. Every aspect of the movie will sit right in that conflict, and that’s what’s going to make the film really work well.”
The Two Old Wailers
In the original novel, Scrooge is first visited by one ghost, his former business partner Jacob Marley, but The Muppet Christmas Carol split Marley into two characters played by Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. Their names were Jacob and Robert Marley, the latter being a reference to musician Bob Marley.
The Love Is Gone, But Now It’s Back
The song “When Love Is Gone” — sung by Scrooge’s former love, Belle — was cut from the theatrical release because Disney studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg thought it moved too slowly for a scene without Muppets in it. In 2022, it was restored to the cut currently on Disney+.
‘I Will Never Do Anything Muppety’
When Michael Caine was cast as Scrooge, he told Henson, “I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role.”
To achieve its ghostly effect, the Ghost of Christmas Past was shot in a water tank.
The Rainbow Connection
Paul Williams wrote the songs for The Muppet Christmas Carol, much like he did for The Muppet Movie.
Despite being a core character on The Muppet Show and in the first three Muppet films, Rowlf the Dog had only a brief, non-speaking cameo in The Muppet Christmas Carol. This was done in reverence to Jim Henson, as Rowlf was the character often deemed to be the most like Jim himself.
‘And to Tiny Tim — Who Did NOT Die’
At the end of the film, Rizzo asks Gonzo (playing Charles Dickens) about the fate of Tiny Tim now that Scrooge has changed. Gonzo replies with the very Muppety-sounding line, “Tiny Tim, who did not die, Scrooge became a second father.” This line, and many others given to Gonzo, was a direct lift of Dickens’ prose from A Christmas Carol. The use of Gonzo to deliver much of Dickens’ original narration makes The Muppet Christmas Carol not only the best adaptation of A Christmas Carol but one of the most accurate to Dickens’ original novel.
A Double Dedication
In addition to being dedicated to Jim Henson, The Muppet Christmas Carol was dedicated to Muppet performer Richard Hunt, who passed away due to complications from HIV/AIDS in 1992. Hunt performed iconic characters like Scooter, Statler, Janice, Beaker and Sweetums.