Michael Wermuth, Jr. – Everybody should know that classic tale in which toys are alive when mortals aren’t looking, focusing on the favorite toy who gets overshadowed by a new toy, a space hero who initially doesn’t realize it’s a toy. A great classic… And no, I’m not talking about Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story, I’m talking about Jim Henson’s 1986 classic television special The Christmas Toy.
The special begins with Kermit the Frog dressed as Santa Claus, who informs the viewers of the special’s premise. The special takes place on Christmas Eve at the Jones family household. The Jones children, Jesse and Jamie, own many toys, including Rugby Tiger, a doll named Apple, an old teddy bear named Balthazar, and a rocking horse named Belmont. Even their cat has a toy, Mew, a mouse made of catnip. Unlike Toy Story, which never gave any explanation for why the toys don’t move when mortals are around, this special gives an explanation: If a toy is even seen in a different place or position from where a mortal last saw them (even if it’s a different mortal), the toy will be frozen forever.
When the toys learn that it’s Christmas Eve, Rugby, who had been Jamie’s favorite toy since she got him last Christmas, thinks he is supposed to be in a box under the tree, so he sets out to do what he thinks he’s supposed to do. Mew informs the other toys of what has happened, and soon they set out to get Rugby back into the playroom before he gets spotted.
Eventually, Rugby gets to the tree and gets a box open, finding Meteora, a space warrior doll who doesn’t know she’s just a toy, and starts running loose in the living room. Apple tells Rugby that she knows how he feels because Jamie had gotten her the Christmas before she got Rugby and had previously been the favorite. However, Rugby still wants to be the favorite and gets into Meteora’s box, only changing his mind when Mew points out that if Rugby is seen in the box instead of the playroom he’ll be frozen forever. They quickly convince Meteora that she’s a toy and to get back into the box. Then, as they head back to the playroom, Mew gets seen by the mother while in the hallway, and becomes frozen. A saddened Rugby mourns a frozen Mew and sings, but then Mew (and subsequently all the other toys that had become “frozen forever”) becomes unfrozen. It’s not explained why the toys are suddenly alive again, but it doesn’t matter.
The next morning, the kids put their new toys in the playroom. Jamie likes Meteora, but also tells Rugby and Apple that she still likes them. As the toys all sing and celebrate the arrival of their new friends, Kermit shows up, his presence not causing them to freeze (well, as Gonzo said in The Muppet Christmas Carol, storytellers are omniscient) and joins them in song.
The Christmas Toy is a good special and I actually like it better than Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. The songs, written by Jeff Moss, are very good, particularly “Toys Love to Play,” “Try the Impossible,” “The Greatest Christmas Toy of All,” and “Together at Christmas.” The fact that the toys can become frozen forever is a bit creepy, but still a good idea, story-wise. The chemistry between Rugby and Mew, as performed by Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire, is great. The other performers do a great job as well, including Richard Hunt as Belmont, Jerry Nelson as Balthazar, Kathy Mullen as Apple, and Camille Bonora as Meteora. I highly recommend checking it out this holiday season.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org