Kieran Moore – If you ask a layperson (i.e. someone who doesn’t know the names of Kermit’s aunts and uncles in Muppets at Walt Disney World) what their favorite Muppet production is you’ll likely get one of two responses – “Wow, You’re a Cartoonist” or “Little Muppet Monsters”. Such is the great cultural impact of these two fine pieces…
Ok, I jest – but if you substitute them for “The Muppet Show” and “Muppet Christmas Carol” that’ll probably cover the vast majority of answers. Over the last 25 years Muppet Christmas Carol has become one of the things the Muppets are best known for. It’s amazing to me that in 1992, without two of their biggest ever influencers, the Muppets were able to take to the silver screen and create a classic piece of movie making that has become a holiday tradition for the world.
Having touched upon it above and in greater detail in my last chart, I felt it would be wrong not to briefly mention Richard Hunt here as 1992 is the sad year that he passed away. Richard was an amazing puppeteer and performer. As Scooter, Janice, Sweetums and Junior Gorg he became my favorite “Muppeteer” as a child. Growing up I just adored his voice and enjoyed listening out for it and recognizing it in new productions. To me, his distinctive tone somehow felt like home – I can’t think of how else to describe it. Richard’s presence told me everything was going to be ok. That Muppety goodness was here. I loved his musicality too – I wish I could sing like he did. I love the current crop of Muppet performers and thank the stars for David Rudman and Steve Whitmire who have taken on most of Richard’s recasts, but when the world lost Richard Hunt the Muppets lost one of their greatest assets.
10 – Snoozin’ Time – Dinosaurs: Big Songs
Do you remember back in the 1990s when a Kevin Clash character with a cutesy high-pitched voice and slightly annoying personality was one of the biggest things on TV? Yeah me too! As Baby Sinclair he certainly made his mark on early 90s pop culture. This song from the tie in album to the hit sitcom “Dinosaurs” describes just how much his family adore him for the obnoxious way he treats them. It’s a sweet lullaby sung by Jessica Walter as Fran (with interjections from the whole family) that becomes more and more forceful as her temper becomes more and more frayed. I think anyone who’s ever tried to get a small child to sleep can sympathize. Other than Jessica’s voice, the big plus here are the clever and funny lyrics. At the start of the song I was all set to dismiss this as a schmaltzy cheese-fest, but as the song goes on it gets funnier and funnier.
9 – Room in Your Heart – Muppet Christmas Carol Soundtrack
I could only get so far into this list before I included a song from Muppet Christmas Carol, but if you’re scratching your head because you don’t remember this Bunsen and Beaker classic then don’t panic! You didn’t miss it last Christmas due to a turkey induced coma – it’s not actually in the movie. Various songs in varying stages of production were ultimately cut from the film in order to keep the storytelling tight and this was one of the casualties. Even now I lament that fact that Bunsen lost what is likely to be his biggest movie moment ever (prunes aside). This is such a fun Christmassy song I’d love to see it take on new life somehow. It would be awesome if it somehow found its way to YouTube. The recording exists so maybe Steve Whitmire and Dave Goelz could recreate this sequence as an online exclusive. Alternatively, with a few lyric changes this could become a little more generic and the whole gang could get involved. Either way, this song is too good not to so something with. How do I pitch an idea to Kirk Thatcher?
8 – Marley & Marley – Muppet Christmas Carol
This song bounced around the upper half of this chart for quite a while before settling in eighth place. I’m sure for many though this song would be number one. It’s become a bit of a cult classic – just check out the number of YouTube videos that use this as their soundtrack! It’s definitely one of the more memorable moments in the film – for most kids it’s because it scared the living heck out of them when they first saw it, but for me it’s the awesome puppetry and incredible way Dave Goelz and Jerry Nelson step up to takeover the roles of Statler and Waldorf from Jim Henson and Richard Hunt. I don’t know if it’s because the passage of time has desensitized me or not, but whilst these two sound unmistakably like Dave and Jerry they also sound exactly like Statler and Waldorf. I’ll admit I get emotional every time I see the tribute to Jim and Richard at the start of the movie, but I also like that this acts as a second, unofficial tribute in musical form.
7 – Eon after Eon – Dinosaurs: Big Songs
This is a strange old song. It’s a fairly generic, early 90s ballad that could be taken from the end credits of any Disney movie of the period (with some fun dino-related lyrics sprinkled in), but on an album of songs sung by the characters of “Dinosaurs” this stands out as being very definitely not so. Which brings me sadly to my next point – as these vocalists aren’t characters from the show it would seem that the names of whoever is singing have been lost in the annals of time (ironically a bit like dinosaurs themselves). It could be Jessica Walter and Stuart Pankin who voice Fran and Earl Sinclair and that would certainly make sense, though I did wonder if the male vocalist could be Kevin Clash as he has the range and ability. It’s a shame we don’t know for sure. If you’re reading this and happen to know, please get in touch so I can pass on my appreciation. We’ve had Muppet people get in touch before to let us know about obscure vocalists so anything is possible…
6 – Grandma’s Comin’ – Dinosaurs: Big Songs
Back in the day concept albums based on TV shows, cartoon characters and even video games were all the rage – the Muppets even got in on the act with “Muppet Beach Party”. Most of these were pretty awful (though I did really like “The Simpsons Sing the Blues” and still have a copy somewhere) so I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed Big Songs. (Before I wrote this chart I’d never listened to the full album and I wasn’t particularly hopeful going in.) The songs, although originals, are generally pastiches of different musical styles and each one will have you wondering where you’ve heard it before. This song in particular sounds a lot like “Zat You Santa Claus?” Speaking of which Stuart Pankin is doing a very fine Louis Armstrong impression here (with shades of Cab Calloway too).
5 – Scrooge – Muppet Christmas Carol
Muppet movies are known for their strong opening numbers and this has to be one of the best. One day I’ll have to turn them into a top 10 chart, but in the meantime I can discuss how much I love this song. (Spoiler Alert: I really love it!) The visuals and lyrics do a great job of introducing us to this Dickensian world and the character of Scrooge so that even those with no knowledge of the original source material are well caught up. I love the special effects, beautiful sets and puppet tricks. There are a ton of Muppets onscreen – it’s like a scavenger hunt for fans. From Mudwell to Pops to an Inkspot, almost everyone is present. It’s also fun to listen out for the various Muppet performers too – I get fanboy chills when I hear Louise Gold or Karen Prell. It really feels like the whole Henson family of performers came together to be a part of this movie.
4 – When Love is Gone – Muppet Christmas Carol
There are a handful of Henson scenes or ideas that didn’t quite make the final cut of their respective movie such as the Skeksis speaking in their own strange language or Kermit going back to the nudist colony in Muppets Take Manhattan (ok, I made that one up), but probably the most famous example is this beautiful song sung by Meredith Braun as Belle. I think its notoriety is down to the fact that it did eventually make it into a few home video and TV cuts of the movie. Of all the things that have ever been cut from a movie this is surely one of the best. It’s a lovely heartfelt track that helps the viewer get a better understanding of why Scrooge hates the festive season so – no one wants to get dumped at Christmas. Ultimately, it was decided that this song slowed the movie down too much and didn’t feature enough Muppet fuzziness and though I generally agree I think it’s a real shame this had to go.
3 – Bless Us All – Muppet Christmas Carol
In a move to try and redress the balance after the editor of this very site denigrated this song last Christmas I was tempted to put it at number one. Unfortunately every time I’ve had the chance it’s been up against really tough competition (in fact this might be its highest ever position). One day this will take the top spot – or my name isn’t Funella Furchester. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this song. The performances are amazing, the song is sweet and the setting is a delight to look at. This track opens a Christmas CD I made for the car so those first few notes just feel so much like the holidays to me. This song is full of memories and I’m man enough to admit that it’s made me cry on more than one occasion. Anyone who says it’s “dull” must be dead inside (or a wonderful human being who keeps publishing my stuff – you decide).
2 – One More Sleep ‘til Christmas – Muppet Christmas Carol
When most people think of the music from Muppet Christmas Carol, I would wager this song comes to mind first. In part I guess because it’s a Kermit number that’s full of fun visuals and Christmassy lyrics, but also because I think the idea of one more sleep ‘til Christmas really appeals to kids so it’s an easy “in” for them. Whether you’re six, seven or 38 – we all get excited on Christmas Eve as the anticipation of another day of arguments and familial angst looms on the horizon. Just kidding – I’m always giddy as a boomerang kipper on Christmas Eve! There’s a lot of soul in this movie. It comes from characters like Tiny Tim (as we saw a moment ago) and even from Scrooge himself, but of course when a Muppet movie needs heart we really do turn to Kermit. The best example of this is his scene in The Muppet Movie where he discusses his problems with himself – the shooting star at the end of that scene mirrors the one here and lets us know that new beginnings and heritage can walk hand in hand.
1 – It Feels Like Christmas – Muppet Christmas Carol
In a movie full of music that embodies the feelings of Christmas this will always stand out as the one that best sums up the season to me. It really is true – wherever you find love it feels like Christmas. The Ghost of Christmas Present is one of my favorite characters from this film and certainly my favorite original. Jerry Nelson does a great job portraying not just his joy for the season, but also his quirky, offbeat nature – all the while presenting us with the foreboding knowledge that this ghost will only exist for one day. After the merriment of this song the subsequent “death” scene is quite hard to bear and certainly a very persuasive factor in Scrooge’s redemption. That this character makes such an impact in such a relatively short space of time is due to the incredible talents of everyone involved – Jerry Nelson, Jerry Juhl, Brian Henson and Paul Williams. The brass band arrangement of this track sounds so much like Christmas I can practically taste the turkey. It’s perfect!
Before I wrap up this chart I just want to give an honourable mention to “Adventure” from Sesame Street – this En Vogue number was originally considered for my 1991 chart as there were conflicting dates for the song online. Had it been included it would have certainly charted, however I ultimately decided it was most likely from 1992 and faced with such stiff competition has found itself outside of the top 10. If you have a spare couple of minutes go look it up!
As you can see, 1992 was a pretty incredible year for the Muppets and Henson as a whole. It really feels that despite the loss of their creator, the team are working hard to usher in a whole new era of creativity. Thanks to everyone who picked up what must have felt like a very heavy baton and forged ahead (to mix my metaphors). You gave the world something truly special – more than just an iconic movie – you gave us hope.
Join me next time when we celebrate 1993 by going to the beach, the 80s and the great outdoors!