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Jim Henson’s most successful productions

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Several Muppet Christmas specials have become Christmas staples, but Jim Henson also created this lovely non-Muppet holiday special. It’s a parody on O. Henry’s festival tale The Gift Of The Magi, and it follows Emmet the otter as he joins a talent contest to finance Christmas presents for his family, based on Russell and Lillian Hoban’s children’s book of the same name.

Jim Henson’s most successful productions

It moves at a slower, sweeter pace than other Muppet shows, and it has a charming Wind In The Willows meets Southern Gothic flavour about it. The otter puppets are wonderful, and there are some excellent creative tunes. It broadcast on HBO in the United States, and because the nascent cable network was only available to a small number of homes, it never really caught on with the general public, but it’s absolutely worth picking up when December rolls around. Kermit was the original host of the special, but since Disney now owns The Muppets, he has been taken out of modern DVD and digital copies. The Jim Henson Company filmed another Christmas special almost a decade after Emmet Otter. Although this picture was not directed by Jim Henson (he just handled a few puppets), it is still a fascinating watch. On Christmas Eve, a group of toys who come to life when no one is present starts to worry about what new toy will be unwrapped and if they’ll be replaced, similar to the plot of Toy Story.

When the presents are opened and Meteora, who looks like She-Ra, interacts with the other guests, she even does the entire nave-Buzz Lightyear dance ten years before Pixar did. The special’s main distinctions from Toy Story, however, are what make it truly amazing. If a human sees the toys moving in this environment, they will become forever frozen. They never say the D-word, but they will undoubtedly perish if this occurs. When a crucial character is frozen, it adds a great sense of bleakness and terror to the special, giving it unexpected seriousness regarding the value of human (toy?) connections. It’s serious material, and as much as I love it, I’d definitely keep it away from younger Muppet lovers. The fact that they are real physical items that come to life in real time gives them a tactile richness that Pixar could never duplicate, especially when combined with the looming presences of scarcely seen human actors. I wouldn’t say it’s better than Toy Story, but it’s a fun addition. Kermit’s introduction, like Emmet Otter’s, has been removed from newer releases.

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