a very special christmas special: Jim Henson’s A Christmas Toy (1986) – sort of liveblogged.

08 Dec

I have extremely vague memories about this one.  I’m not even sure if I ever saw the whole thing.  All I know is I’m pretty sure I saw it over at Lisa D’angelo’s house when I was six and that they had taped it off of TV by means of a strange and arcane device known as a “VCR”.  A VCR was what people used to record media before TiVo, but after cuniform tablets.

So, right now, as I’m writing this, I haven’t seen The Christmas Toy in about 20 years.  I know it involves a lovable little kitty and a scary witch doll, and some ungrateful little brats who forgot about their doll last year, and perhaps some Fraggles.   That’s all I know.   I’m pressing play…… nnnnnnow.

(thanks to DTVzone for posting this)

0:10 Jeff Moss composed a lot of Muppet music, and this is just about the Jeff Moss-iest theme music I’ve ever heard.  It’s like “The Inchworm Connection.”*  Someday we’ll find it, measuring the marigoooolds…. the lovers, the dreamers and HOLY CRAP IT’S KERMIT CLAUS!!!  HOLY CRAP IT’S KERMIT CLAUS!! YAAAAAY!!  Of course he falls down the chimney.  YAAAAAAY!!

1:00 Kermit introduces us to the scene at hand – the playroom of the Jones family.  I’m not sure why Kermit’s even here, unless they thought the kids wouldn’t get into it unless there was a familiar face.  As soon as Kermit leaves, the toys come to life.  Toys don’t come to life when real people are around, so Kermit’s obviously real.  Told you.

1:53 Waaaaait a minute.  Toys coming to life when no one’s around, who also have adventures and jealousy issues?  Where have I seen this before?   Yep, this is the proto-Toy Story.  When Disney bought the Muppets, there was obviously a clause in their contract that said “We reserve the right to completely rip-off your obscure old holiday specials and not credit you.  Suck it, hippies.”

3:45 Apparently, if you get caught out of position, you get frozen forever.  It’s a fun idea, but when I was a kid, I rarely remembered where I’d left my stuff, so how would I know?

3:55 The two Jones kids show up, and the little girl gushes about how awesome her stuffed tiger is.  Mom sends them off to bed because it’s Christmas Eve and Santa doesn’t come unless the kids are in bed, everyone knows that.  Why doesn’t the little girl take her damn tiger with her to bed, then?  It’s obviously soft and snuggly.  Does Mommy have some sort of lame Mommy rule where Toys Belong In The Nursery And White Socks Go In The White Sock Drawer And Off-White Socks Go In The Off-White Sock Drawer Have I Made Myself Clear?

These kids didn’t get to decorate their own christmas tree, did they?


5:30 Ohhh…. I get it.  Straight from the horse’s mouth.  Heh.  The horse is named Belmont.

6:42 Mew, the cat toy (a mouse on wheels) really wants to fit in, except he smells like catnip.  The adorable stuffed tiger is allergic to catnip, strangely.  Nobody likes Mew.

8:00 Ah, now the thick of the plot:  Rugby the Tiger Cub (perhaps under influence of ‘the nip’), flashes back to Christmas last year.  He was the little girl’s present last year, and she loved him dearly and now Rugby thinks Christmas is all about him.  Talk about forgetting the reason for the season.  Someone needs to sit him down in front of an incredibly boring nativity movie so he learn about de Jebus.

All Rugby knows about  Christmas is this:  girl opens box, girl finds adorable tiger cub, girl hugs him, everyone loves him.  He thinks the same thing is bound to happen this year, which is highly unlikely.  OCD Mommy probably thinks that giving someone the same present two years in a row should be punishable by death.  Death by scrubbing.  Scrub. It. Out. ScrubOutTheBadThoughts SCRUBSCRUBSCRUB!!!!!!

I’m being unfair to this off-stage character: the nursery’s in a cheerful state of disorder and her kids seem reasonably well-adjusted.  Rugby, on the other hand, not so much.  That’s why he’s sneaking out.  Noooo, Rugby! Dooon’t!
And now, part two:

0:18 Balthazar Bear, the elder statesman of the nursery, drops some science.  Turns out Apple (the doll) thought she was pretty special until Rugby arrived on Christmas, and you can imagine the Woody vs. Buzz conflict of interest that ensued.   Toys are very needy.  Mew tells on Rugby.  Everyone freaks out.

2:20 Uh-oh.  Rugby’s scared.  However, having convinced himself that he’s basically the Messiah, he plows on down the hallway, until he gets slapped with Mr. Jones dirty shirt.  Ahahaha stupid cat.

2:42 I once knew a woman who disliked clowns, because she thought they made fun of mentally handicapped people.  Now I know what she meant.  Ditz is…. special.

3:59 Ditz is dead.  I LOVE MY DEAD RETARDED CLOWN SON!!  Serves you right.  Good way of amping up the tension, actually – otherwise, I wouldn’t give a crap what happened to that pompous-ass messiah cat.

5:58 Mew proves himself to be the Bravest Toy Of All, and goes off in search of Rugby on his own.

7:38 We now get to hear, again, why Rugby thinks he’s so damn special.  Same song, same soft focus, blah di blah.    Mew, who’s probably covered in cat urine, totally buys his story.

Belmont does not believe.  SHUN THE NON-BELIEVER!  SHUUUUN!


Part three:

0:21 Oh, God, this is going to be another damn song about believing in yourself, isn’t it?   Kids, don’t listen to them.  I believed in myself once and you know where I wound up?   A Tijuana prison cell.   Apple’s russlin’ up a posse to go off and find stupid Rugby.  I’d leave him to the fates myself.   The little girl obviously isn’t going to know if he’s dead to the rest of the toys, and they’re probably sick of his ass.

2:48 Ha ha ha pwned!


3:33 Oh my God, off-stage big sister is my favorite character in this whole thing so far, for one very simple reason:  the next time I run into someone who’s seen this tripe, I’m going to do my impression of her.  “Mommmmm, the brats are out in the haaaaallwaaaaay.”  Then that person will like me, because I quoted a thing.

I know how my peer group operates.

4:12 One thing that both The Christmas Toy and Toy Story have in common is that sort of “even your staircase can be an adventure” thing – taking a commonly-known space and approaching it in a fresh way through a new (and smaller) pair of eyes.   That’s as academic as I’m getting with this one.  It’s late.

4:48 Stupid Rugby’s trying to break into the Christmas presents, and he’s having difficulty.   Right now he’s just making me angry.

7:16 Now we’re getting somewhere.   See, Rugby’s opened the box, and who should be inside but a crazy space queen lady with an awesome sword.  After threatening Mew, she’s all “i’m gone like Dacron, muthaf****s,” and blasts off into the stratosphere, or at least the ceiling fan.

9:20 Okay, this is the part I remember.  Now, to my jaded and cynical grown-up eyes, it’s SOOOO obvious that Apple used to be the “christmas toy” and then Rugby showed up, and that’s how she’s older and wiser and knows that you only get to be the shiny new plaything once.   Which is a… weird moral, but not necessarily a bad one.   When I was six, though, the fact that Apple was a forgotten former Christmas toy completely escaped me until this moment.   Seriously.  No wonder my reading comprehension scores were so abysmal.

Oh sure, nowadays I’m Mister Deeper Hidden Meaning Semantics Guy, but back then, all I understood was that Mrs. D’Angelo was totally making us microwave popcorn.

10:16 The single tear on Apple’s cheek?  I was moved.  Not gonna lie.


Yeah, that’s George Costanza, dancing about hamburgers.   That’s seriously all we did, back in the ’80s – dress up in New Wave clothes and sing and dance about fast food.  If you don’t remember, you weren’t really there.

Part four:

0:23 Oh hey Rugby’s finally listening to reason oh wait never mind.  Well, thank God for that “if people see you out of place, you’re frozen forever” nonsense.


2:32 Mew saved the day.  Well, that was expected.

3:15 Now we gotta deal with Meteora.  I remember her being more of a menace the first time around, as opposed to just comically pompous and destructive.    In true Muppet fashion, our friends decide the best way to deal with this problem is to sing at it.  They sing Meteora a song buttering her up and telling her that her big debut’s coming up and she’s lovely and omg bubbles.  She agrees to get back in her box, and Christmas is saved.

By this point, we’ve completely forgotten there was spostah be Kermit.

6:40 Another oddly moving moment:  Balthazar the Bear was “the Christmas toy” so long ago, he can bearly remember it SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

7:10 Well, everyone’s back where they should be, except Mew got left behind AND NOW SOMEONE’S OPENING THE DOOR!!!    Rubgy decides it’s time to redeem himself, and risk his life for the stupid cat toy.  WHICH OCD MOMMY STEALS!!! So now Mew’s dead too, because “people saw him out of place.”  Somehow I don’t think this should count, because, seriously, cats deposit stuff everywhere and there’s no rhyme or reason for it.  The cat I live with took a massive dump this morning right next to his kibble dish.  So much for not sh*tting where we eat, right?  Oh, sorry, you were watching this.

and now the conclusion.

0:20 The music, the somber noises made by the stuffed tiger, the lighting… this is all leading up to one horrid, inevitable conclusion:  Jim Henson is about to make us weep like sissies over a goddamn cat toy.

1:10 Rugby’s telling Mew everything he wishes he could have said, and he has a point – everyone made fun of Mew because he smelled funny and wasn’t a real toy, and that’s just prejudiced of them.  It’s exactly like the Civil Rights movement and Mew is totally Rosa Parks.

2:08 Ahhhh now I know where I’ve heard that song before.  It’s “Old Friends, New Friends” and it’s at the very end of A Muppet Family Christmas, and I think a couple others.  I take back what I said about it being a horrible mutant hybrid between “Inchworm” and “The Rainbow Connection,” because it’s still a very sweet song.

Well, of course Rugby was going to be able to sing Mew back to life.  He’s a Muppet.  Mew had himself a little near death experience there, but luckily for him, it’s Christmas and he’s not Lenny Bruce.

4:04 Mew and Rugby decide to be best friends, despite Rugby’s allergy to catnip.  Oh wait, Rugby’s decided he really likes Catnip.  Whoa.  Co-dependent gay interspecies mating: that’s the true meaning of Christmas.

Of course, the stupid clown comes back to life.

6:49 Oh, crap there’s a new cat toy.  AND SHE’S HOT!!!  Sorry, gay tiger.

7:08 Well, the little girl will love Meteora forever and ever.  But that’s okay, because she has enough Christmas love for Apple and Rugby too.   This makes all the toys want to join together in song in front of an untended fireplace, and…

8:25 FINALLY Kermit’s back!!   And, seriously, thank God, for unlike the little girl, I have no room in my heart for new friends.   Go away, stupid toys, please.

But you know what?  I’m glad we could join Rugby the Tiger Cub on his character journey from Utter Prickdom to All Right Guysville.  It made me feel all warm and gooey, and I’m sure you did too.  And I think we all learned our lesson, didn’t we?   That’s right.  Make sure you play with all of your toys, because if you don’t, they’ll feel bad.  And you don’t want your toys to feel bad, do you?  I hope you’re happy – hurting toy feelings like that.  Your Matchbox cars are crying right now.  When Teddy Ruxpin fell off the top of the book case last week, did you think that was an accident?  It was a cry for help, that’s what it was.  You horrible, horrible spoiled brat.  You make toys want to kill themselves.  You make toys cry.   I hope you’re feeling incredibly, incredibly guilty.

Now go clean your room.

Next time….: I’m not gonna lie.  I’m just gonna repost something from last year.

Next next time…:  We break loose.  And then vamoose.  And now you know the plot.

*-turns out, Jeff Moss wrote neither “Inchworm” or “The Rainbow Connection.”  He did write “I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon” (you know, with Ernie and the Moon and aww.)  He also died about ten years ago.


7 responses to “a very special christmas special: Jim Henson’s A Christmas Toy (1986) – sort of liveblogged.

  1. Bill D.

    December 8, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I think Kermit’s there for the same reason he was in Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, and that’s to get kids to watch something with original-to-the-show Muppets by luring them in with one they actually recognize.

    Of course, Emmet Otter is about a billion times better than The Christmas Toy, but still, principle’s the same.


  2. geekusa

    December 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    You know, I’ve never seen this Emmet Otter, but every time I tell someone I’m reviewing Christmas specials, they’re like “Emmet Otter!!” and I have to disappoint them.

    Maybe I’ll dig that one up sometime later this month.

  3. Gilly

    December 8, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Darn it, this is making me think of A Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Might have to go find that now. I always loved it as a kid, and not just because they wish Mr Hooper a happy Chanukah.

    Keep Christmas with you, all through the year…

  4. Lauryn

    December 9, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Totally don’t remember this Christmas special.

    But totally DO remember the McDLT commercial!!!!!

    Where the hot stays hot and the cool stays cool….

    I want one now….


  5. fever2tell

    December 11, 2008 at 8:38 am

    EEK! it is snowing on your blog!


    I had totally forgotten this christmas special existed, until the pics stroked some warm fuzzy recess of my brain and all these gooey, chritmasey feelings came back.

    can we sit in our PJs and watch it sometime? please please oh pretty please!?

  6. Kayeleigh Lautner

    October 26, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    You guys are all right. I”m only eleven, and in 6th grade at Lincoln Middle School. I saw this Special In 2011.When I saw a tear on Apple’s Cheek, I got Startled. Mow I’m more used to it. 2 years ago, I found Apple, because I remembered her from 2011. I didn’t know her name at first, But I found out. I love that little red headed dolly.


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