I like the Muppets!

I think they lost their edge after the 1979 release of The Muppet Movie, but that happens when you go main stream…

Before that, Jim Henson was making big plans for his company.  The Muppets were on Sesame Street.  They had their own TV show, The Muppet Show.  They had made numerous appearances on late night television shows.  The future was limitless!

In 1977, Henson adapted a book by Russell and Lillian Hoban for HBO called Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas!  It follows a poor, but rich in spirit, mother otter and son.  They both work hard and want to please the other this Christmas.  A talent show’s prize money gets both to secretly attempt to make that happen…at the expense of Ma’s money making washtub!

What makes this show so special is that it doesn’t try to be commercial,…or sell toys,…or feature sarcastic characters!

This is just a really nice holiday story that a family can watch together and even learn something from!  The horror!

It is photographed beautifully and often looks very realistic.

The songs by Paul Williams, a song writing genius under-used since the 70’s, are catchy and enjoyable, and stick with you even 30 years on!  He continued working with Henson for years!

The production employs the usual hand operated Muppets, as well as marionettes, and is one of the first Muppet productions to use radio control effects!  This helped a few years later with Yoda on The Empire Strikes Back, and the massive production, The Dark Crystal!

Emmet Otter was performed and voiced by Jerry Nelson, and Emmet’s mother was operated by Frank Oz, but voiced by Marilyn Sokol.  Henson, in addition to Dave Goelz, operated several of the supporting characters.

Goelz still loves the project…

“Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas remains one of my top three projects of all time. I love the feeling of that Emmet Otter world. We built a 55-foot-long river that was about 10 feet wide and went all the way across the stage, and they built a radio-control rowboat for Emmet. It was so lovely and lyrical to see Emmet rowing his mom down the river. The idea that there was life along the river and that it was all interconnected was a great metaphor for people.”

The original airing on HBO included Kermit the Frog as a host/narrator book ending the show and making an appearance as well!

Sadly, all that has been edited out, as well as some other magical moments, due to copyrights and time…

Watching it this many years later, I would have to admit, it is too slow for modern audiences.  Kids especially have been fed too much Christmas Shrek and other crap over the years to really appreciate the slower pacing.

As a piece of art however, this show is still wonderful!

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas will always be my favorite MUPPET project!


Heart warming emails and comments appreciated…!  Tiberius@Podwits.com


  1. J. Marcus says:

    Definitely agree about the turn the Muppets took after The Muppet Movie. The first one was so well done on so many levels (cinematography, choreography, story, music.) The Great Muppet Caper was decidedly aimed at kids and felt kind of off. The Muppets Take Manhattan, while being fairly simplistic and child-like, had at its core a story that could really reach the child inside the adult, which to me, was the very magic that the Muppets were made of. After that, it seemed like they lost their way.

    Emmit Otter, without the trappings of the larger Muppet brand, returns to the simplicity that the Muppets worked best in. Great and touching storytelling.