The Polar Express (2004)

“But sometimes seeing is believing. And sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”- The Conductor

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Written by: Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles, Jr

Cinematography: Don Burgess, Robert Presley

Starring: Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Nona Gaye, Jimmy Bennett, Eddie Deezen and Michael Jeter

dream-gift

All I wanted for Christmas was the bell from Santa’s Sleigh-

That’s all I wanted. To have that bell in my hand, to hold it next to my ear and to softly jingle it. I wanted to hear its beautiful chime and to believe once again, to know everything I had seemingly come to know about Christmas to be true.

The Plot: Multiple Personalities?

Okay, I’ll admit that everything I’m about to write comes purely from my own speculation. I hope you weren’t expecting a play-by-play review because this certainly ain’t it!

As The Polar Express makes its way from Hero Kid’s home to the North Pole, nearly everyone he encounters is a shadow or a prediction of himself. This was considered at first because they were all performed by Tom Hanks, so I automatically assumed there was some kind of connection. But after a while, I realised that simply seeing Santa Claus would never be enough for Hero Boy to grow as a character. The first personality he comes across is the Conductor. You’d think that someone who is so punctual, logical and level-headed wouldn’t be capable of believing in Santa after his childhood ends. Yet here he is helping children overcome their lapses of belief with his own brand of whimsy. Hero Boy has a very similar personality. That sense of self-wielded magic the Conductor possesses is something Hero Boy never thought he himself could have. So when he sees it in someone else, Hero Boy begins to open his eyes, even if it’s just a little bit. What else could have prompted Hero Boy to get on the roof of a fast-tracked train just to ensure a fellow passenger got her ticket?

Of course, on the roof we encounter the Hobo. I like to think of him as a Jacob Marley-type figure for Hero Boy, a type of warning for what would happen if Hero Boy continued to maul over and obsess about Santa Claus and the existence of magic. The Hobo isn’t poor because of a lack of money, he’s poor because he stripped himself of belief and filled his heart with cynicism. It’s no wonder the Hobo can never leave the train. A part of me believes that he was once a passenger on the train, but got so scared of what he didn’t know that he threw himself off board, only to be caught by the train’s magic and became trapped. He never learned his lesson, so he could never go home. The Hobo knew Hero Boy could have the same fate, so he quietly urged the kid in the right direction. Luckily, Hero Boy took the hint.

And finally we come to Santa Claus. Maybe Santa isn’t a ‘shadow’ of Hero Boy, but he certainly is the instigator of the next part of Hero Boy’s Journey. Upon seeing Santa, Hero Boy now believes, but that’s still not enough. He needs to continue to grow, and it certainly can’t hurt to have a reminder, so Santa lets him have a bell for the First Present of Christmas. I’ll talk more about the bell later.

I also find it interesting that we never learn the kid’s actual names, apart from Billy. The main kid is simply known as Hero Boy, there’s the Hero Girl, and the annoying kid is The Know-It-All Kid. From a both literary and film-making standpoint, I could guess that this is a case of the writers and director wanting the audience to be able to apply themselves to the characters. Names can sometimes get in the way when you want to relate yourself to a character you feel represents a certain part of you. I’m sure there’s a good reason why Billy got his named mentioned, other than to further along the plot when he finds and wants to follow his present towards the sleigh. If there is a reason, I certainly haven’t found it.

And just to quickly comment on the Know-It-All kid, as annoying as he was, I’m certainly glad he was there. He wasn’t exactly a parallel to Hero Boy, but he was still a good example for what can happen if you allow logic and knowledge to fuel your obnoxiousness. If any kid deserved to have the First Present of Christmas, it definitely wasn’t him!

The Music:

Alan Silvestri has composed the soundtrack for some of my favourite films, especially Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that the music for this film is sensational. A mark of any good composer is the ability to work the music with the scene without undermining what is actually happening at the time. What I really enjoy about the score in this film is that the music only shows up for when it’s really needed. Transitional scenes and emotional moments are accompanied, but the film trusts itself enough to allow the dialogue to tell the story without assistance from non-diegetic noise.

I love ‘When Christmas Comes to Town’. The accompanying music score and visuals is absolutely beautiful! Definitely the best moment of the film for me. In primary school, I actually hung back after music class once so I could sing it to our music teacher because I loved it so much. Of course, this was back when I believed I could actually sing, so I may have to apologise if I ever see her again! The Hot Chocolate scene was also a bit of fun, even if it was just a way of experimenting with motion-capture. It’s one of many songs that get stuck in my head for days after watching the film.

Behind-The-Scenes:

Now, I really haven’t looked much into motion-capture, which is odd because I like to call myself a bit of a film nut. This was the first film I ever watched that used mo-cap and I’d be lying if I said I liked the final look of it. The quieter scenes look as realistic as early 2000’s technology would allow it, but others are quite off-putting. The entire scene of the roof of the train threw me out of the film’s illusion. I wish I could describe exactly why, but it’s a little hard to explain. Despite all of that, you can bet I would go and see it in IMAX if they were ever to re-release it into the cinemas! The train-roller coaster debacle would be super cool!

 

In Conclusion: Hearing the Bell

As I stated earlier, there’s nothing more I wanted for Christmas than that bell! Apparently my parents even went searching for one for a few years, never finding a bell that even came close. I’m grateful to them for trying to make my dream come true. Even now a part of me still wants the bell, but in more of a corny, symbolic, emotional kind of way. In my last post, I came off as very bitter, perhaps in the same way Hero Boy would’ve acted had he not decided to hop onto the Polar Express and taken a chance.

This film can act as a remainder to Bah-Humbug personalities like myself that maybe you shouldn’t take Christmas too literally. The Christmas Spirit isn’t something you have to earn, just sit back and allow it to find you. Go on the journey you need to take, no matter how long the trail may be. You’ll never know where it may come from.

And with that corny Christmas message, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, or whatever you happen to celebrate this time of year! This is my last post until the first week of January, so Happy New Year as well! See you again in 2017!

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Time-Turners, Bonding and Blocked Emotions

Analysing the play by J.K Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Where on earth do I start with this play? I love plays. I love Harry Potter. So you’d think that doing a play based on Harry Potter would make me one happy Hufflepuff, right?

Well, sort of. Let me put it this way: as a play, this production probably looks fantastic. I’ve only heard great things about the visual and practical effects and if I’m ever lucky enough to see it for myself, I’m sure I’ll walk out of the theatre with that confirmed. The story on the other hand…well…It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly what I’d like to consider canon for the Wizarding World Universe either.

Up until a certain scene, I think the story was going in a pretty solid direction. There was a good mix of nostalgia for the fans and progression for the lives of the Golden Trio and their families. It begins where the epilogue in Deathly Hallows left off, the Trio in their late thirties getting ready to send Rose Weasley, James and Albus Potter off to Hogwarts. We’re following Albus around this time as he deals with the unwanted attention that automatically comes with being a Potter and the quickly budding friendship with Scorpius Malfoy. This is something the playwrights chose correctly straight off the bat. It would have been easy to continue to follow Harry around as he works as an Auror, but instead we get to see another young child having to deal with second-hand fame who, unlike Harry, really can’t live up to that expectation-or can he? Perhaps James can, but Albus seems to be a pretty haphazard wizard and has placed himself in a difficult situation by befriending Scorpius. Not to mention he was placed in Slytherin! Oh, the shock horror of it all!

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There are three things in particular that I would like to discuss about what worked and what didn’t. Let’s start with what definitely worked-

Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy

These two outcasts are undoubtedly the heart of this production. From the get-go, they understand each other’s struggles and are determined to make things better for each other even if they can’t change the minds of others. Albus can see past the nasty rumours about Astoria and Voldemort. Scorpius can sympathise with the unwanted attention Albus receives. This type of friendship is one a lot of people can relate to. What I enjoy the most about it is that, for the most part it’s healthy. It’s not constantly perfect and has its ups and downs, even reaching a breaking point at the height of the story’s climax. They even help to finally unite their fathers in a thin-lined friendship- If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is! The boy’s bicker, argue, cry, laugh and rely on each other. Some fans have come to speculate that the boys are slowly developing a romantic relationship. I don’t think so. I have a similar relationship with one of my oldest friends, and while I would happily throw myself into an extremely dangerous time-bending extravaganza with her, I won’t be kissing her under the mistletoe this Christmas.

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Harry and Albus Potter

Harry (finally losing his temper)

You know what? I’m done with being made responsible for your unhappiness. At least you’ve got a dad. Because I didn’t, okay?

Albus

And you think that was unlucky? I don’t.

Harry

You wish me dead?

Albus

No! I just wish you weren’t my dad.

Harry (seeing red)

Well, there are times I wish you weren’t my son.

ACT ONE, Scene VII

Look, I know that even the best of people have moments when they let nasty things slip before they can stop themselves, but this scene has always been a bone of contention for me. Clearly, father and son have been bottling all of this up for a very long time, so I can’t blame for the impending spat. However, what I can blame them for- Harry more than Albus- is the blatant lack of communication that could have saved them from so much anguish. Just how many times have we seen a lack of communication cause the trouble and conflict in a story? I get it-Albus is a teenager and most teenagers don’t like to open up to their parents for fear of seeming vulnerable. Honestly though, how hard could it have possibly been for Albus to take Harry aside and ask him to stop comparing Albus’ experiences with his own? Or perhaps ask him how he dealt with all the expectation that had sat on Harry’s shoulders during his time at Hogwarts? And as for Harry, how thick-headed does he have to be not to see that his middle-child hates the fame as much as he does? Harry hated being famous. Has he ever even attempted to connect with Albus on that level? Instead Harry continues to let the matter slide because he can’t seem to grasp that not every child can be as resilient as he was at that age.

Harry

I don’t understand your head, Albus-actually, you know what, you’re a teenager, I shouldn’t be able to understand your head, but I do understand your heart. I didn’t for a long time-but thanks to this-‘escapade’-I know what you got in there. Slytherin, Gryffindor, whatever label you’ve been given-I know-know-that heart is a good one-yeah, whether you like it or not, you are on your way to being some wizard.

ACT FOUR, Scene XV

Leaving Albus’ and Harry’s relationship open-ended, in the ‘work in progress’ category was a good decision. Not even a time-bending event could fix their problems in a heart-beat, but it did open the line of connection they really needed to make this work Harry finally realises that he needs to bond with Albus by simply being there, and not contributing to the insignificance Albus feels by constantly reminding him of what Harry achieved in his youth. In turn, Albus now knows that even though Harry is an adult, there is still a lot he is scared of and a lot that he needs to learn. Especially when it comes to being a father. They both know they will continue to have rough patches, but things will be better than before. Ironically, the best asset they have is Time. This in itself is the reason why I think it works perfectly well within the play, even if it wasn’t particularly pleasant to witness.

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The Time Travelling Debacle and the Offspring of Nonsense

I promise I’ll keep this rant short. Here’s where all my enthusiasm disappeared when I first read the script. When I realised this was going to be a time-travelling story, everything else began to fall apart. I’ll keep it blunt: the script read like a well-written fanfiction piece. Delphi didn’t make it any more tolerable either. As someone who has read a ton of Potter Fanfiction, Bellatrix and Voldemort having a secret child together is as cliché as it gets. It kind of made it hard to empathise with Delphi’s story. Was it good to see characters who had died come back for a cameo? Sure, I guess, but it still felt like the script-writers were tugging directly on the nostalgia strings of the fans. Did we need to see Cedric again and relive the Triwizard Tournament? Did we need to see alternate timelines? Did we need to have Harry witness the sounds of his parent’s murder even though we already covered that in Deathly Hallows?

If there’s anything useful that came out of the time-travelling, it was having the friendship of Albus and Scorpius constantly tested and tried. Through the struggles provided by the alternate timelines, the boys proved that nothing can truly break them apart. I suppose that, if anything, makes the ridiculousness of the plot somewhat fade.

If only….

This whole setup could have gone in a completely different direction to where it ended up. The Wizarding World was pretty screwed up when the 7th book ended. There was Pureblood supremacy, blatant abuse of power and enough corruption in the Ministry of Magic to fill another seven books. In the 19 years since, people like Hermione have probably tried to change things for the better, but from the evidence provided it’s easy to decipher that witches and wizards are stubborn and stuck in their traditions. If any strides towards fairness and equality are to be made, then the best option is to start at the one place where many magical folk first make contact with the Wizarding World- Hogwarts.

Now what I’ve come to understand about Albus is that, despite allowing the resentment he feels towards the world influence his attitude, when he does open up enough to emote, there is a deepness there that even Harry couldn’t connect with. Albus believes that he hasn’t much intelligence, but just look at what he and Scorpius managed to do! Not only did they work their way through multiple challenges in order to go back in time, but Albus was able to figure out how to send a message to his father with quick thinking skills that would put his Aunt Hermione to shame. Albus is far smarter than he allows himself to believe. His intelligence along with Scorpius’ ability to read the emotions of others, and then to act accordingly could help them completely change the Wizarding World, starting with the school that resents them as much as they resent the school.

Call me crazy, but I would have loved to see Albus and Scorpius working together to turn Hogwarts on its head, rather than going on a Time Turner bender with the illegitimate daughter of Lord Smoldewart and Molly Weasley’s Bitch. Imagine the stir it would cause if two Slytherins decided to start breaking down the barriers that come with being sorted into different Houses. In recent years, I’ve started to question the functionality of the Hogwarts Houses. Why exactly is it a good idea to keep like-minded children in close quarters where stereotypes about the other Houses could fester without being challenged? Wouldn’t it be healthier to expose the kids to people of all personality traits over the duration of 24 hours a day? It’s no wonder Slytherin became so feared by the other Houses. Being cunning doesn’t automatically make you a Death Eater, but of course students from the other Houses would never get to learn that because being friends with a Slytherin is a huge faux pas! It’s so stupid! And because of that, the Slytherin kids can only associate with each other, which is unfortunate because being cut off from the other Houses has allowed some very nasty opinions to grow. As brilliant as the Hogwarts Founders were, keeping the students segregated into these groups even after Salazar left was one of the worst decisions they made.

Albus and Scorpius could change everything. On one side, you have the son of the Great Harry Potter, the symbol of the Light. On the other, there’s the youngest member of a family with a very dark background, who’s suspected of not even being a Malfoy, but the son of the symbol of Darkness. By working together, they could stump the logic of even the most traditionally-minded wizards. They could use their influence to create friendships based on kindness, not personal gain. They could teach others to look past the stigmas because they know what it can lead people to do. By the time they left Hogwarts, the boys could have created a whole new system of camaraderie and friendship based on who people are rather than what they are ‘supposed to be’.

This probably doesn’t sound as exciting as going back in time to save Cedric, then having to deal with the consequences, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make a good play. I just think that watching the next generation clean up the mess of their predecessors is a little closer to home. You could still have exciting scenes that were catered for special effects. Imagine Albus being challenged by someone who opposes his strides towards change with a magic duel! We could even follow the boys into their adult lives and watch them take on the Ministry itself! What would Albus’ relationship with Harry be like in this instance? There are so many opportunities there that I can’t even mention them all without turning this thing into a thesis!

So in the end-

As I said in the beginning, I certainly don’t hate the play. For what it is, even if I think there were better options available, it’s still a very imaginative, strong storyline. You have to give J.K Rowling and the playwright’s credit for trying to give the long-time fans moments and scenes with characters that they had been wishing for or felt was missing. If you happen to enjoy time-travelling stories, this is a great example of how it can be done properly. Certainly don’t let my pitiful griping get in the way of your enjoyment.

After all, what exactly does a silly squib like me know, anyhow?

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Waving Off Nostalgia: Being Honest About Christmas

Losing the magic of Christmas when you’re no longer a kid sucks. I thought I’d share my thoughts on this and how I may possibly revive my Christmas spirit in the future.

Morning

4:00am (I know. It sucks as much as you think it does.)

Eyes open.

There’s….There’s something exciting about today, but I can’t remember. What was I getting excited about last night? What were we doing last night? It was me, Mum and……No, just me and Mum…and we were…we were watching…Oh right! We were watching Carols by Candlelight! Which means…Ah, fuck it! Where’s my phone?

*Checks calendar on phone, eyes attacked by the blinding light*

The 25th. Okay then…..OH CRAP-IT’S THE 25TH! CHRISTMAS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! MERRY FREAKIN’ CHRISTMAS!

Yay?

I hate that feeling I’ve been having the past few years when I first wake up and realize what day it is. The first emotion is the same pure happiness I felt when I was a kid and Christmas was the most wonderful thing ever. But now, that happiness is immediately overturned by a sigh.

Being a kid on Christmas was easy. I’ve always woken up before the rest of my family, but at least I could open my bedroom door and find my stocking stuffed full of toys and lollies to keep me occupied for that first couple of hours. Sometimes my brother would come into my room, or I’d go into his and we’d compare and bicker over who Santa liked better based on what he had given us. Of course later on, we’d learn that it was our parents who had supplied everything and that they would never spend more money on one child than the other. Nowadays, there is no more stocking on the door and all I have to occupy my thoughts with until the rest of the house wakes up are the things I’ll have to carry out throughout the day. The stocking thing stopped quite a few years ago and now that I’m 20, I’m sure I don’t need a new bouncy rubber ball or a colouring book and some pencils. I think I can survive without them.

7:00am

Time to wake up the parents!

The 8-year-old me had already snuck out of my bedroom to see how many presents ‘Santa’ had placed under the Christmas tree, but I knew the rules. No present-opening until Nanna (Dad’s mum) comes over for breakfast! Sometimes Pop (Mum’s dad) would come over as well. We Hill’s aren’t a religious family by any means, so there was no morning mass to attend. Until Nanna turned up, my brother and I would burst into our parents’ bedroom and jump on the bed, arms still laden with our stocking booty, showing it off to the people who had brought it in the first place. Eventually we’d get kicked out so the adults could get dressed. I’d immediately head back to the Christmas tree and maybe feel a couple of the ones labelled for me to see if I could guess what it is. Before long, Nanna (and maybe Pop) would arrive and the present opening would commence! Followed by eggs and bacon for brekkie! A great start to the day!

This year will be marginally different. I’m still in the habit of feeling presents so I can guess what it might be, but I usually already know what it is because I picked it out. I may have even been there when the present was bought! My assorted grandparents still come over for the eggs and bacon and we still sit around the tree, Dad acting as mediator by handing presents out one-at-time. It’s a less exciting, but a happy tradition that’s completed due to tradition more than anything else. There’s normalcy to it: if we didn’t do it, then it just wouldn’t be Christmas. Once that is over, Nanna will head home, either to prepare what she was bringing for Christmas Lunch at our house or to prepare to host the extended family at hers.

Afternoon into Night

Christmas Lunch changes location every year. If it was to be at our house, you could either expect some type of roast, or a BBQ. For other families, their big meal comes at dinner time, but we prefer it to be in the middle of the day. Eating that much food before going to bed generally isn’t a good idea! If we ended up hungry by dinnertime, there was enough leftovers from lunch to last until New Years! If we were to have Christmas Dinner, it was usually at a relative’s house. We would have spent a couple of hours on the road, the 8-year-old me clutching into my new favourite toy and blabbering out a new theory on how Santa managed to deliver presents to every kid in Australia.

While the food situation hasn’t changed, having relatives come to visit, or going to visit relatives is a very different experience as an adult. As a kid, I was happy to receive attention, to be asked how school was going and to be praised for my achievements. The conversation has changed so much in the past 10 years, but I bet I can sum it up in a few answers for the questions I know I am going to get.

  • My Bachelor degree is going fine, thank you for asking.
  • I’m enjoying living out of home, but it looks like I’ll be moving back since I couldn’t get a job before my scholarship ran out.
  • Yes, I tried applying there. And there. And there too. I TRIED EVERYWHERE, OKAY?
  • No, I do not have a ‘special someone’. And no, I’m not trying to hide the relationship because I really don’t have one….Yes, I know I’ll find someone eventually. Yeah, thanks for the encouragement.

*Slams face into plate of food*

I have never been very social during these types of celebrations. I always tried to sit and listen to the grown-ups, trying to understand all the ‘adult talk’. That usually included family gossip about relatives who weren’t attending, funny stories about years past, or simply politics. That was far more inviting then trying to play with my cousins. I don’t hate my cousins by any means, but I just felt like a fifth wheel, only there due to family obligation. I didn’t like the games they played, or the occasional fighting that would lead to one of us in tears. My brother may have kept up with them, but I would have preferred to bury myself in a book. That hasn’t changed over the years.

In between bites of lamb chops, rissoles, sausages or salad, I try to keep the attention off myself unless I have something to contribute to a conversation. A great way to steer clear of social interaction has been to help cook and prepare the lunch. I would do the whole thing myself, salads, desserts and even cleaning the BBQ if it meant I wouldn’t have to pretend I love having so many people to catch-up with at once. Some of the best Christmas’ I’ve had are when my family travel from house to house over the course of December, dealing with one set of extended family members at a time. I love my relatives dearly, but the introvert in me can only take them in small doses. Call it a rather unfortunate quirk.

By late afternoon, unless we’re off to visit people, I’m generally done for the day. The weather is at its hottest around that time, so we all hide inside. That’s right, my American friends!  While you guys get to warm up by the fire, we Australian’s try our best not to melt into the floor. That in itself a bit difficult if you happen to be on BBQ duty for the day! Chilled alcohol is great way to keep cool, which may be why just about everyone has a ‘Drunk Aunt/Uncle/Grandma’ story to tell by the end of the holiday season. But I digress.

Christmas in Reflection:

Everyone treats Christmas differently once they reach adulthood. I know a few people who begin to treat it just like any other day, and a few who scramble to keep the magic alive in themselves. Some have never celebrated Christmas to begin with due to belonging to another Faith. I’m still in the middle of creating a new spark for the holiday. As an atheist, the religious aspects of Christmas has never provided me more than an amusing story to coincide along with the day. If I’m ever going to enjoy Christmas again with the same happy abandon I experienced as a child, I’m pretty sure it will be with my family. That’s what it has always been about. Carols and TV specials can only go so far and presents should never be the important part.

Perhaps the magic will return once I have a niece or nephew to spoil. I could take part in their traditions: the present-opening ceremonies then the parade of said gifts in the moments after. I could introduce them to my favourite Christmas carols and teach them how to make decorations. We could cook the Christmas Lunch together and make a huge mess while doing it. We could try to beat our own paper-chain making record year after year. I could make them laugh by telling them funny stories about their  grandparents, or even some silly things I had done.

One day, somehow I know I will be able to feel once again, that there is no better time of the year to be alive on then the 25th of December.

My Top Five Muppet/Henson Christmas Productions!

# 5: Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas (1976)

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Synopsis: Young Emmet Otter and his Ma are struggling to make ends meet after the death of Pa Otter, reverting to doing the laundry and odd jobs of others. When a talent contest is to be held in town with the prize of $50 for first place, Emmet and Ma Otter sacrifice each other’s most important possessions for the chance to win the prize in order to buy the other their dream Christmas present. However, a grungy new gang in town, The Riverbottom Nightmare Band, may just be the kind of trouble the Otter’s don’t need.

Written by Jerry Juhl and marking the first time Paul Williams would contribute his wonderful talents to a Henson project, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas is my go-to for the very beginning of December. The innovative puppetry is often praised by Henson fans. Between the row boat, the marionette work and the pure talent of the performers, I would be very silly not to agree with that sentiment. The story itself is simple enough, but it drives the point home. Sometimes taking a chance or sacrificing something important doesn’t work out in your favour, but that doesn’t mean things won’t work out eventually. You can always rely on your friends and family for support. There is also that classic Christmas mantra of ‘materialism will never be what the holidays are all about.’

I always enjoy coming back to this special. Even if it’s not particularly my favourite, I can certainly understand why some Henson fans treasure it so dearly.

Best Character: Wendell-Dave Goelz steals every scene he is in regardless and Wendell’s cautious optimism comes through in the very subtle performance.

Most Valuable Puppeteer (MVP): Dave Goelz as stated above.

Best Cameo: Kermit the Frog (if he’s in the version you have.)

Best Song: ‘Where the River Meets the Sea’. The later version with John Denver and Robin the Frog is a particular gem in my Christmas set-list.

Best Moment: The snare drum rolling out of the music store and into the gutter past Emmet and Ma Otter. Purely because I’ve seen just how much effort it took to get that shot!

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#4: It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)

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Synopsis: After a nightmare that was Christmas Eve, Kermit the Frog has given up on everything, even his existence. Thanks to the concern of an accountant angel, turned ‘guardian’ by The Boss, Kermit has the chance to see what the world would be like, and how his family of Muppets would cope, if he had never hatched in the first place.

 I know some of you may be thinking, ‘How on earth could this weirdo place this special over Emmet?’ Just hear me out, okay?

Despite the questionable and dated humour, I consider this special to be quite significant. It was one of the final projects made by the Jim Henson Company before Disney finally bought the characters, closing up another era in Muppet history. It was also the beginning of Eric Jacobson’s run with Frank Oz’s characters, Jerry Nelson’s departure into retirement and a big step in Kermit returning to his place in the centre of Hurricane Muppet since Steve Whitmire had taken over. I could care less for the plot and the villain, but Kirk Thatcher proved himself as a great director despite the budget he had to work with. The Muppet Performers were on the mark as usual, even if the majority of the characters were still trying to find themselves again.

Best Character: Pepe the King Prawn- In all honesty, this is the only production that I find him tolerable in, at least until The Muppets (2015).

MVP: Eric Jacobson-It can’t have been easy to jump into all of Frank’s characters in the same production. Major respect in that regard!

Best Cameo: Matthew Lillard-His character was absolutely ridiculous, but he played it so well!

Best Song: ‘Everyone Matters’ is at the very heart of the movie. It was a very human moment and performance from both the Whatever and the Frog.

Best Moment: Kermit doing his best Wembley Fraggle impression as he runs back to the theatre after Daniel restores the world to what it should be.

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#3: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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 Synopsis: In a very Muppety, yet still faithful and brooding adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, Gonzo, Rizzo, Kermit, Miss Piggy and several other Muppets play out the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge.

 The first major production after Jim Henson and Richard Hunt passed away, the Jim Henson Company had a lot to prove. Between Jerry Juhl, Kirk Thatcher, Paul Williams, Brian Henson and the remaining Muppet Performers, this film is a solid effort. It is wonderful. The characters are perfectly cast, as is Michael Caine who remains my favourite human co-star in a Muppet film. The film is able to stay faithful while having the Muppet flair one would come to expect, which is a huge accomplishment for the writers. What more can I say that other Muppet Fans haven’t? A brilliant film.

Best Character: Let’s face it, the Ghost of Christmas Present steals the entire thing.

MPV: How could it not be Steve Whitmire? Not only did he have the bravery to deal with Kermit, Rizzo the Rat is HY-sterical!

Best Cameo: Sprocket the Dog. Have you spotted him?

Best Song: ‘It Feels Like Christmas’ is still stuck in my head from the first time I watched the film.

Best Gag: Rizzo and Bean repeatedly getting beaten up.

Best Moment: ‘Light the lamp, not the rat. LIGHT THE LAMP, NOT THE RAT!’

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 #2: The Bells of Fraggle Rock (1984)

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Synopsis: While the rest of the Fraggle Five are excited about the Ringing of the Bells Festival, Gobo Fraggle just isn’t feeling it, not understanding the purpose of the celebration. When he decides to search for the Heart of the Rock, Cantus the Minstrel steps in to help him learn the truth. Meanwhile, Doc teaches Sprocket about different winter celebrations from around the world and Uncle Travelling Matt completely misinterprets Christmas.

 Not only is this episode of Fraggle Rock extremely well written, the song is simply gorgeous and I can’t help but have a soft spot for it. Including Cantus was a great decision on the part of the writers and it’s easy to imagine Jim Henson having a great time during production. It could be very beneficial to show this episode to children who have come to learn that Santa Claus isn’t real. There aren’t many Christmas specials out there that work toward reaffirming a child’s love of Christmas once that dominating illusion has been broken. There can still be Christmas without the ‘magic’, because one’s family and friends are the magic of Christmas. Heck, this episode has helped me get into the spirit for the last couple of years!

Best Character: Cantus…I may be a little biased in this decision (Cantus is Best Fraggle!)

MVP: Jerry Nelson-This episode contains one of his best performances of Gobo in the series.

Best Song: Seeing as there is only one song…..that one!

Best Gag: “You should have bought your mittens.”

Best Moment: Cantus giving the power to Gobo by allowing him to discover the Heart of the Rock on his own terms.

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#1: A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

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Synopsis: It’s Christmas Eve and the Muppets are on their way to spend the holiday at Grizzly Farm, Fozzie’s childhood home- if only Fozzie had warned his Ma! Emily Bear’s plans of a sunny Christmas, renting the farmhouse to Doc and Sprocket while she’s gone, is completely obliterated! Before she knows it, The Muppets, Sesame Street and even Fraggle Rock have crossed-over under her roof! But will Miss Piggy make it there in time? 

Pure joy!

The whole thing is non-stop fun and laughter from the word go! I’ve always loved cross-overs, no matter the franchises involved. To me, there’s nothing more special than seeing characters you love come together from different worlds and interacting. The Muppets, the Sesame gang and even Fraggle Rock had equal representation in this, my favourite of which was when Kermit and Robin found the Fraggle hole. Kermit is officially the only classic Muppet character to have set foot in The Muppet Theatre, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. I can’t imagine just how much fun the writers and performers had with this one. If it filled them with as much joy as I feel when I watch it, it would be one of their fondest memories. My only regret is that I haven’t been able to share this special with the rest of my family, which is a shame because family is what it is all about. The family of characters, the family of the Jim Henson Company and all the families who make it a tradition to watch it every year.

A Muppet Family Christmas feels like coming home. It’s family, it’s friendship, it’s love- it’s my top Muppets/Henson Christmas Production!

Best Character: Doc- how many humans could deal with that much craziness under one roof? In the end, he was just as crazy as the rest of them!

MPV: Do I really need to choose in this instance? All of the performers get to have their moment in the spotlight.

Best Cameo: Jim Henson- Who else?

Best Song: Again I just can’t choose- ALL OF THEM!

Best Gag: Icy patch. ‘Nuff said.

Best Moment(s): Sprocket and Rowlf. Doc, Bert and Ernie. Rizzo and Oscar. Poor Lips getting smacked into a wall by Doc and Sam Eagle comforting him. Big Bird and the Swedish Chief. Kermit, Robin and the Fraggle Five. Pretty much anytime the Christmas Turkey shows up.

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