On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas
Honestly, I had no choice but to end this series with Jim Henson’s wonderful Christmas special which first aired December 1978. It has been required holiday viewing for me since the early 80s, and I consider it to be the best Christmas special of all time.
Young Emmet and his “ma” Alice have been struggling financially and emotionally ever since the death of his father/her husband. Alice takes in laundry to bring in extra income, while Emmet does whatever odd jobs he can find using his dad’s old tool chest, sometimes along with his buddy Wendell.
As Christmas approaches, Alice would love nothing more than to get Emmet the guitar he admires in the music store window as they stroll downtown. And Emmet longs to find a way to bring home a piano for his mom. They both painfully realize that their meager funds make each of those goals very unlikely.
It is announced that a talent show will take place in Frogtown Hollow on Christmas Eve, the winner of which will receive $50. Emmet and his friends decide to put together a jugband and enter the contest; however he must put a hole in his ma’s washtub to make a bass. Likewise, Alice decides to enter the contest as well, but she doesn’t have enough money to buy material for a dress, so she is forced to sell the tool chest Emmet uses for his odd jobs.
Who wins the contest? I wouldn’t dare spoil the ending for those who haven’t had the experience of getting to know Emmet and Alice and all their friends and neighbors. Suffice it to say, sacrifices are made, lessons are learned, and this Christmas Eve will be a night that will change their lives forever.
Of all the films and specials reviewed in this series, I whole-heartedly urge you and your entire family to take an hour to sit down and enjoy this one together.
The songs will be stuck in your head for days, weeks, and possibly even months and years afterwards. I’m pretty sure I know each and every one of them by heart.
The relationships between the characters, particularly between Emmet and Alice, are poignant and remarkably human, even though there’s not a single homo sapien to be found.
And most importantly, whenever I sit down and watch this remarkable Christmas special, the spirit of the holiday becomes omnipresent. This is the definition of timeless entertainment. A family struggling to make ends meet, the dreams we often stifle because they seem too impossible to achieve, the questionable things we often do for unquestionably noble reasons. This was first released nearly 40 years ago, but the themes of this special are pertinent yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Forgive me if my effusive praise is a bit hyperbolic, and perhaps no program is able to live up to such superlatives, but this is a very personal choice for me. It’s one of the most wonderful and moving artistic experiences I can imagine, and more than any other movie or documentary or special, it conveys the spirit and magic of Christmas.
Isn’t it funny how a few puppets made of felt and glue can move a jaded, often cynical 43 year old man to such superlatives? That’s a Christmas miracle in itself.
By the way, if you happen to watch this on DVD, don’t miss the wonderful behind the scenes documentary about the making of this classic. You will see bloopers, the faces behind the voices, remembrances by those who worked with and knew Jim Henson, and other fascinating tidbits.
I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed this series! It has been thrilling for me to revisit some old favorites, to discover some new ones, and to share with you my love and passion.
Please revisit my introductory page here for a list of all 12 movies and specials I’ve reviewed for you this month.
I wish you all the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of times in 2017!
12 Days of Movies
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