We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas brings back a few memories for me from my childhood. I’ve always enjoyed Jim Henson and the Muppets, but Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas came across my radar by pure happenstance. I was maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of age 8-10 the first time I watched this special.
I was watching Nickelodeon as I was wont to do at that time and the special started up. I hadn’t seen any commercials about the special, but that Kermit the Frog introduction really sucked me in to watch a special featuring Muppets I had never seen before. Have you seen this Jim Henson classic? Check out the trailer for Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas and we’ll get started.
As you may have gathered from the trailer, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas was a special created for CBC in 1977 and then aired on HBO in 1978. The special is based on a book of the same name, written by Lillian and Russell Hoban. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas was actually created in part to work through some potential issues surrounding making a full-length Muppet movie.
Obviously, with the release of The Muppet Movie in 1979, Emmet Otter allowed them to explore techniques and experiment successfully enough to create a full-length feature film. However, we would not have The Muppet Movie or even some of the puppetry and techniques used in later Jim Henson productions, such as Labyrinth without Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. Here are some fun facts that I think will entice you to add this Christmas special to your holiday viewing list this year.
- In its broadcast airings prior to 2005, there is an introduction to these new Muppets featuring Kermit the Frog. This is notable for two reasons–the first is that having a familiar face, like Kermit, act as “narrator” or “spokesperson,” for this special will draw viewers in who may have stumbled across the special, like I did, with the context that this is a Muppet production.
- The second is that when the DVD of this special was released in 2005, it omitted the Kermit introduction, narration, and closing scene because of the recent sale of The Muppets to Disney. These scenes were added back in the 2015 broadcast airing, the 2017 DVD, and 2018 Blu-Ray release. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas is currently included with Amazon Prime and features these scenes and narration from Kermit the Frog as well.
- As mentioned previously, we see some of the puppetry techniques perfected in this special that would later be used in other Jim Henson productions. While it’s not the first time he ever rode a bicycle, the opening with Kermit riding and then crashing his bike is only the second time to that date that Kermit was ever depicted riding a bike. Later, during the talent show scene, the technique, “Chroma key” or “Black Theater” is used, which later appears in several other Muppet productions, including the Fireys in Labyrinth.
- Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas begat a lengthy partnership with prolific songwriter and performer Paul Williams. Williams wrote all the songs for Emmet Otter as well as The Muppet Movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa. He also guest stars in numerous Muppet productions.
- The music provides an added whimsy and humor to the special. Many of the songs I enjoyed as a kid had me cracking up in a completely different way as an adult. If you’re unfamiliar with Williams, you’ve most certainly heard, “Rainbow Connection,” from The Muppet Movie, and his top 40 hit, “Just an Old Fashioned Love Song.”
What I think is especially nice about Emmet Otter is that it’s a special that’s heartwarming in the best seasonal type way. It’s slightly kitschy, but in a way that is warm and cozy, not saccharine sweet. There’s plenty of humor in the songs and dialogue, but the parts that had me laughing the most were the antics of The Riverbottom Gang. When they sing the line in the talent show, “We don’t want to learn/but we hate what we don’t understand” I about fell out of my chair laughing. It’s so on the nose, and yet so, so funny.
If you’re looking for a Christmas special to share with the little ones in your life that’s also fun for adults, or if you’re just a Muppet aficionado check out Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas this season.