18 Festive Facts About The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a live-action puppet musical that follows the Charles Dickens story fairly closely.
It stars Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge, and we’re sure that many of you, like us, consider it to be one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.
Below are 18 facts about this 1992 movie that are sure to get you in the festive mood.
18. It was the first Muppet movie to be made following the death of creator Jim Henson
The Muppet Christmas Carol is the fourth movie to feature the Muppets, and the first to be produced following the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson in 1990.
Muppet Christmas Carol was directed by Brian Henson, Jim Henson’s son, who went on to direct Muppet Treasure Island in 1996, and more recently the critically derided adult puppet movie The Happytime Murders.
Kermit the Frog was voiced by Jim Henson until his death, and his new voice actor Steve Whitmire was extremely nervous about taking on the mantle in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
However, Whitmore revealed that he had a dream in which he told Jim Henson how worried he was.
In the dream, Henson reassured him that he would be OK, and on waking up, Whitmore’s nerves had disappeared completely.
We hope and believe that Henson would have adored The Muppet Christmas Carol as much as we do.
17. Michael Caine took his performance very seriously
A number of English actors were considered for the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, but Henson eventually offered the part to Michael Caine.
And not only did Caine accept, but he took his performance very seriously.
“I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company,” Caine was quoted as saying to director Brian Henson at the time.
“I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role and there are no puppets around me.”
Caine has since revealed that the role was one of his favourites, and remains the most memorable to him to this day.
16. 95 percent of what Gonzo says is directly quoted from Charles Dickens book
According to Brian Henson, Gonzo and Rizzo narrate Muppet Christmas Carol because he wanted to incorporate the narration and prose of the original novel.
Henson has been quoted as saying that 95% of what Gonzo says in the movie is text taken straight from Charles Dickens’ classic novella.
“Pretty much almost everything that Gonzo says is straight out of the book,” Henson revealed.
“Probably 95% of his dialogue is Dickens prose, and maybe 5% are little asides and quips that we threw in there.”
A lot of the film’s humour comes from Gonzo and Rizzo’s mishaps, including the pair of them falling off of a coach.
15. It took ten puppeteers to make Kermit the Frog walk
The Muppet Christmas Carol is the movie in which we finally get to see Kermit the Frog walk, something that was extremely difficult to pull off for the production team.
Henson had to employ ten puppeteers to achieve the effect, which proved to be no easy feat.
Kermit was first placed on a snow-covered rotating drum to create the illusion of a natural gait.
Behind the drum was a small army of puppeteers controlling Kermit’s limbs in front of a blue screen.
The puppeteers were then edited out in post-production and replaced with a row of houses.
14. The Ghost of Christmas Past puppet was filmed underwater
In order to make the Ghost of Christmas past look like it was floating, filmmakers went down an unorthodox route.
Since the ghost needed to look ethereal and weightless, the Christmas Carol team decided to make a special waterproof puppet.
The puppet was filmed in front of a green screen whilst in a tank of oil to make it look like the ‘ghost’ was floating in the air.
However, the crew soon realised that the oil would prove expensive, and had to switch to using water mid-production.
Although the desired effect was achieved, the puppet did not take kindly to being submerged underwater, and its glue and paint soon started to peel away. Luckily, the team got their shot before the puppet fell apart.
13. Michael Caine had to act standing on narrow wooden planks
So that Muppets could be filmed alongside human actors, floors in the Christmas Carol set had to be removed and reinserted where required.
Michael Caine often had to act whilst walking across narrow wooden planks which were located between the Muppets and their puppeteers.
The buildings in the London street scenes were built by hand in order make the set look as realistic as possible.
Smaller houses were used at the end of the street to create the illusion of the streets being longer and relative in size.
Eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted that at the end of the film, the crane shot reveals the buildings’ differing heights.
12. One of the songs was dropped at the last minute for being too sad
The theatrical release of The Muppet Christmas Carol was meant to feature a song called When Love is Gone.
The track was a haunting, slow number and was sung by a heartbroken Belle to a young Ebenezer.
However, the song was cut out after Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg decided that it was ‘too sad for children.’
Katzenberg also felt that the song was too lacking in Muppets to keep the predominantly child-based audience fully engaged.
The song was restored for the VHS and DVD releases of Christmas Carol, but it does not feature on the Blu-ray or Netflix versions of the film.
11. The shooting star was added as a tribute to Jim Henson
At the end of Kermit’s song One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas, you can see a shooting star blaze across the sky.
Touchingly, this was actually added as a tribute to the late Jim Henson.
According to Brian Henson, this was also a nod to The Muppet Movie, in which a star flies over Kermit.
Since that film, the shooting star has become somewhat of a trademark and has appeared in subsequent Muppet movies.
Subsequent films to feature a shooting star include Muppet Treasure Island, Kermit’s Swamp Years, It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and The Muppets.
10. It under-performed at the box office
Disney had high expectations for The Muppet Christmas Carol, largely due to the fact that it was their biggest release of the Christmas season.
However, much to Disney’s shock and dismay, Christmas Carol drastically under-performed at the box office.
The Muppet Christmas Carol opened in sixth place in the US, eventually making a modest $27 million.
This fell significantly short of the mark considering the film’s budget was $12 million.
Christmas Carol’s flop was partly due to it coming up against Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, as well as Aladdin, another Disney movie.
9. It was the first time Brian Henson directed a film
Jim Henson was the man behind The Muppets, and many were concerned for the future of the franchise after his death in 1990.
Luckily, his son, Brian Henson, stepped forward to fill the role and agreed to direct Muppet Christmas Carol.
Brian Henson was used to working on a film set, having been involved with The Muppets since childhood.
He began his foray into the entertainment industry when he appeared on Sesame Street as a child, alongside his father Jim Henson who encouraged his involvement as a director on the show.
Brian then went on to perform as a Muppeteer on The Great Muppet Caper (1981), where he began acquiring the skills necessary to continue his father’s legacy.
8. Michael Cane’s real name appears on a shop sign
Michael Caine brought a much-needed touch of class to The Muppet Christmas Carol, fully immersing himself into the role.
This was the first Muppets movie to focus on human characters, and so required a strong lead actor.
Academy Award winner Caine fit the bill, and the film’s design team decided to honour him in their own very special way.
Caine’s birth name was Maurice Micklewhite, a unique name which the team managed to work into the set design.
In the film’s finale you can spot a shop named Micklewhite’s.
7. Fred’s wife didn’t die
If you’re an avid fan of The Muppet Christmas Carol, you might have noticed something strange in the final scene.
Whilst Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, is present, his wife, Clara, is not.
This led to speculation over whether Fred had lost his wife, with outrage apparent amongst fans.
Henson has since revealed that he received droves of letters from frantic viewers, desperate to know what had happened to her.
In fact, the real reason was far more innocent. The actress who played Clara, Robin Weaver, perhaps now best known for playing Simon’s mum in The Inbetweeners, was simply absent from filming that day.
6. Miss Piggy was almost the Ghost of Christmas Present
Originally, The Muppets Christmas Carol had a very different cast, with Miss Piggy in the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Early on in the production stages on Christmas Carol, the idea was to have principal Muppets in all the leading roles.
However, the team eventually decided to go down another route, with Miss Piggy playing Emily Cratchit instead of any ghost.
Once again, Miss Piggy forms a double act in the film with Kermit, who plays Bob Cratchit.
In typical Miss Piggy fashion, she has to restrain herself from performing a karate move on Scrooge.
5. Sir Michael Caine couldn’t stop laughing during the rat scene
Caine was determined to perform the role of Muppet Christmas Carol’s Ebenezer Scrooge in a serious manner, but let’s face it, no one can be serious all the time.
In a 2016 interview with GQ magazine , Caine recalled how he struggled whilst filming the scene with the disobedient rats due to the fact that he simply couldn’t stop laughing at their hilarious antics.
Caine recounted watching the film again, this time with his grandchildren, and still found the scene amusing.
According to Caine, the scene wasn’t as easy to film as you might assume, saying “You have to do a couple of extra takes”.
His efforts clearly paid off, however, with the film being hailed by many as the greatest Christmas film of all time.
4. Bean Bunny was bullied on the set
Bean Bunny is undeniably cute, but unfortunately, he was not treated like the adorable ball of fluff he is on the set of The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Disney might have a reputation for being sickly sweet, but there was some serious bullying going on behind the scenes.
Luckily though, the team have owned up to their bad behaviour and opening admitted making jibes at Bean Bunny.
“Inside the Muppet Company, we love to hate Bean Bunny,” explained Brian Henson.
Apparently, the character was an inside joke, and the crew just would not let it go.
3. It’s considered one of the most depressing adaptations of A Christmas Carol
Whilst The Muppet Christmas Carol might be aimed towards younger audiences, many consider it one of the darkest versions of the story.
For one thing, the song When Love is Gone adds a sense of melancholy, although it is not included on all versions of the film as it was deemed too upsetting.
Not only this, but the film portrays Tiny Tim as more sick than he is in other adaptations.
Many people also consider the song Bless Us One and All incredibly depressing, whilst others were traumatised by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.
It seems even The Muppets were concerned, with Rizzo the rat asking Gonzo during the movie if the film is suitable for children.
2. George Carlin was considered for the role of Scrooge
Despite his incredible performance, Caine was not first in line for the role of Scrooge.
One of the most prominent names in the running was American actor and comedian George Carlin.
Despite undergoing several test screenings, it was ultimately decided he was not suited to pay the cantankerous Scrooge.
Carlin was not the only high-profile name to be considered for the role, however.
The casting team also approached english actors David Hemmings, Ron Moody and David Warner.
1. Caine’s performance was based on Wall Street bankers
Playing the role of Scrooge was one of the most daunting tasks in Caine’s career. For one thing, he had to sing!
Ultimately, it was down to his daughter that he agreed to take the role. After the steady decline of his career, Caine realised that his young daughter had never actually seen him in a film.
When the role of Scrooge was offered to him, he accepted readily, largely due to the fact that his daughter would be able to watch it.
But of course, this left Caine with quite the conundrum. Just where could he turn for inspiration? Well, the answer might not be exactly as you would expect…
According to Caine, he turned to “Wall Street cheats and embezzlers, I thought they represented a very good picture of meanness and greed”.