Three woodland animals and a cool little otter
A fat guy in a jer-sey
Christmas, and by extension Gheorghemas, is my favorite time of the year. Santa stumbles, office parties, house parties, time with friends, time with family, I love it all. I am also a sucker for TV Christmas specials. My original plan for the third day of Gheorghemas was to document three of my favorite holiday shows but in the end I decided to detail one of the lesser known Christmas specials that just happens to be my favorite.
In 1977, Muppet creator Jim Henson was sitting on top of the puppet world. After cutting his teeth on Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, Henson was enjoying the triumph of season one of The Muppet Show. Building upon the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational show ever, Henson decided to produce a Christmas special based on Russell Hoban's 1971 O'Henry-esque story of an otter family struggling to make ends meet at Christmas. Add the newly famous Kermit the Frog as narrator and the classic Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas (EOJBC) was born.
|Font fans, note the awesome 70's style text|
Typically, Christmas specials feature standard animation (A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas), stop motion animation (The Year without Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer), or even claymation (The California Raisins Christmas). EOJBC, is different and special. Henson utilized many different styles of puppeteering and set design to bring to life the residents of Frogtown Hollow. The result is an amazing christmas special that is a must watch every year in the Marls household.
Essentially, EOJBC is the story of Ma Otter and her son Emmet's efforts to get the other a special christmas present (a guitar for Emmet & a piano for Ma). Times have been tough for the Otters since Pa Otter passed away and the cash each make from various odd jobs is not enough to cover the desired gifts. Apparently, credit remains tight in Frogtown Hollow. However, the town's Christmas talent show boasts a $50 first prize. Unbeknownst to the other, Ma & Emmet each enter the competition set on winning the prize so they can buy gifts to put under the Christmas branch.
|Whadda' ya expect, times are tough...|
Ma plans on singing, while Emmet and THREE of his buddies form a jug band. Emmet's buddies are Harvey Beaver, Stanley Weasel, and Wendell Porcupine...three species that I was unaware got along, let alone be able to harmonize together. That said, while Emmet and the boys can't hold a candle to FoG:TB Rootsy's New Roanoke Jug Band, they do have some talent as seen here (note Harvey's solid kazoo work):
Also entered in the talent show is a group of miscreants from the town of Riverbottom, which, like Phildelphia, is clearly a town of ne'er-do-wells. However, just as Philadelphia spawned Hall & Oates, Riverbottom can proudly claim the Riverbottom Nightmare Band as their own.
I won't spoil the ending for those who have not seen it before, but unlike many of today's children's stories that stress that everything is possible if you try hard enough, EOJBC has a bit more realism. Life is not always easy, you can't always win, and you don't always get everything you want, but that's ok. In the end, Emmet, his jug band buddies and Ma Otter learn a very Gheorghie lesson about finding the good things in life and working together, which is as relevant today as it was in 1977, making EOJBC a Gheorghemas must.
An added bonus is that EOJBC features several songs written by Paul Williams.
At just five foot two inches, the bespectacled author of "An Old Fashioned Love Song", "We've Only Just Begun", and most importantly "Rainbow Connection", is no doubt a favorite of our own Tiny Dictator.
It is tough to deny the Gheorgh-ness of Mr. Williams who has never been afraid work with muppety co-stars. However, if you need any further evidence of a man that does not take himself too seriously, at 1:55 of the attached clip you can see Mr. William's seminal work as Little Enos Burdett in Smokey and The Bandit.