The Muppet Christmas Carol: 30 Things You Probably Didn't Know About The Festive Classic

It just wouldn't be Christmas without Michael Caine, Gonzo and Miss Piggy, would it?
Michael Caine strikes a pose with The Muppets
Michael Caine strikes a pose with The Muppets
Jim Henson Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock

If you’re anything like us, then setting time aside to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol (otherwise known as the greatest film of all time) is an integral part of your festive schedule.

From the flawless soundtrack and the costumes to Michael Caine’s spot-on performance, there’s a lot to love – but how well do you really know the festive classic?

To mark the festive season, we’ve uncovered 30 facts about the movie that even those who think they know it back to front might not have picked up on…

1. There was a lot riding on the film in 1992 as the first Muppets movie to be released since creator Jim Henson’s death

It was also the first big-screen outing for the Muppets in the better part of a decade, and marked the first time many people will have seen the characters in action since their creator’s death two years earlier.

Jim Henson with Kermit The Frog
Jim Henson with Kermit The Frog
Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

The Muppet Christmas Carol opens with a dedication to both Jim and fellow Muppeteer Richard Hunt.

Richard died in January 1992 from AIDS-related complications, almost a year before the movie hit cinemas, with most of his usual characters being absent from the Muppet Christmas Carol, and others being recast.

Jim Henson and Richard Hunt at the Oscars in 1986
Jim Henson and Richard Hunt at the Oscars in 1986
ABC Photo Archives via Getty Images

2. Kermit The Frog performer Steve Whitmire says he had a supernatural experience the night before he began filming Muppet Christmas Carol

Following the death of Jim Henson, Steve took over the role of Muppets favourite Kermit The Frog. He’d already performed the character in a couple of smaller projects, but Muppet Christmas Carol was his first film since taking over as Kermit – not to mention his first time singing as him.

Steve previously told The Guardian: “The night before we pre-recorded the songs, I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep, thinking: ‘I really want this to be good, this means so much to everybody.’

“Then I had a bizarre dream. I was in this building that was all white, and Jim was there. He comes over to me, in a hurry to get somewhere quickly. I said to him: ‘I’m really nervous about taking over Kermit.’ He looked at me. Jim would do this thing where he would take one finger and put it on his bottom lip as he was thinking – he thought like this for a second and said: ‘It’ll pass.’ And he walked away.”

Steve Whitmire with Kermit in 2003
Steve Whitmire with Kermit in 2003
Lawrence Lucier via Getty Images

He added: “It felt much more like a visit than a dream. The feeling from that gave me confidence for the whole film.”

3. Songwriter Paul Williams – who previously penned Kermit’s Oscar-winning signature tune Rainbow Connection – was on hand to make sure Steve got Kermit’s voice just right

“Paul would stand in the recording booth and close his eyes while I was singing, to decided whether it sounded like Kermit or not,” Steve recalled to fansite Muppet Central.

“He’s not a harsh guy, at all. He’s one of the most easy-going, nicest people we’ve worked with, but he was really sensing it, and if I didn’t do it just right, we did it again.”

4. Muppet Christmas Carol was not only Brian Henson’s first time helming a Muppets project – but his first time directing any film

Brian Henson at the premiere of The Muppet Christmas Carol in 1992
Brian Henson at the premiere of The Muppet Christmas Carol in 1992
Ron Galella via Getty Images

The late Jim Henson’s son Brian took on directing duties, and while it might have been new to him, you apparently wouldn’t have known it.

“Brian was incredibly good, right from the beginning,” Muppeteer Dave Goelz told The Guardian. “Michael Caine got halfway through the film before he found out it was Brian’s first time directing – he couldn’t believe it.”

5. The film was originally intended to be a TV special – until Disney got their hands on the script

Disney was quick to see the potential in The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is how it ended up getting a full cinema release.

6. That being said, despite going on to become a Christmas classic, it didn’t quite set the box office alight at the time

It had stiff competition from the much-anticipated sequel to Home Alone and another Disney project, Aladdin.

7. Muppet Christmas Carol’s songs have become festive staples – but there were originally even more of them

Yes, not one but two songs were recorded for the film but ultimately never recorded. Chairman Of The Board would have been performed by Sam The Eagle under the guise of young Scrooge’s headmaster, while Bunsen and Beaker would have performed Room In Your Heart for the older Scrooge in a bid to try and spread some festive cheer, and raise money for charity, earlier on in the film.

Fortunately for those who love Beaker’s iconic “meep meep” vocals, while the songs never made it into the Muppet Christmas Carol, they are both featured on its accompanying soundtrack.

8. And that’s without getting into that whole When Love Is Gone debacle

Depending on which version of The Muppet Christmas Carol you grew up watching, you may or may not be familiar with the song When Love Is Gone.

The emotional ballad is performed by Belle, younger Scrooge’s fiancée, as they part ways for the final time when he revisits his past. However, it seems not everyone was a fan, with then-Disney chief Jeffrey Katzenberg ultimately scrubbing it from the US cinema release as he felt it slowed down the film and younger viewers would find a whole musical number without any Muppets in it boring.

By the way, that’s why Rizzo seems so disproportionately upset when Belle walks away from Scrooge in certain versions – what you’re not seeing is that she’s just performed a whole song about the slow demise of their relationship.

Since then, different re-releases of the Muppet Christmas Carol have varied on whether When Love Is Gone was included, with many disappointed to see it absent when the film began streaming on Disney+ in 2020.

Director Brian Henson had always objected to the song’s exclusion, and previously lamented that it would not be re-included as Disney had lost the original masters. However, it turned out he was wrong, and a new edit of Muppet Christmas Carol for its 30th anniversary arrived on the streaming service in 2022, with When Love Is Gone still intact.

Oh, and if you’re hearing it for the first time but feel like it sounds familiar, that’s because the film’s closing number The Love We Found is actually a reprise of When Love Is Gone.

9. It turns out Sir Michael Caine had long wanted to work with the Muppets gang, as he never got the chance to during The Muppet Show’s original run

Michael Caine and Kermit The Frog as Scrooge and Bob Cratchit
Michael Caine and Kermit The Frog as Scrooge and Bob Cratchit
Blanshard/Jim Henson Prods/Kobal/Shutterstock

Although The Muppet Show was filmed in Sir Michael’s native UK, its run coincided with his time living in the US, having moved away from Britain for tax reasons in the 1970s.

“Everybody I know has done a thing with the Muppets and I always felt a little bit left out,” he told Entertainment Tonight in 1992. “But they only did half-hour television shows and I got to do a two-hour movie, so it’s great.”

He was also heard saying around the film’s release: “Every one of my friends did The Muppet Show except me and now I’ve done a whole movie that I think will turn out to be a perennial Christmas masterpiece.”

And, as it turns out, he was absolutely right.

10. The actor did have a previous connection with The Muppets, though

The 1988 comedy Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels – starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin – was directed by the OG Miss Piggy himself, Frank Oz.

Steve Martin and Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Steve Martin and Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

11. Sir Michael also wanted to do a film his then-seven-year-old daughter could watch

She had never seen me in a movie,” he recalled to GQ back in 2016. “I had never made a movie that a seven-year-old can see. And so a man mentioned the Muppets and I said, ‘That’s it! I’ll do that!’. And it’s A Christmas Carol, it’s a fabulous tale! You’ll be old Scrooge, it’ll be marvelous!

“And it was absolutely perfect at that time for what I wanted. I could make it, and my daughter could see it. That’s why I did it. And it was lovely.”

Michael Caine with the Muppets on the poster for their festive film
Michael Caine with the Muppets on the poster for their festive film
Jim Henson Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock

12. The actor took his role as Scrooge even more seriously than you might realise

As Brian Henson told The Guardian: “One of the first things [Michael Caine] said was: ‘I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. 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.’

“I said ‘Yes, bang on!’”

That doesn’t mean he didn’t get swept up in the unique Muppets fun on set, though.

“It’s very difficult [to keep a straight face around the Muppets],” Sir Michael told GQ. “Very difficult indeed. You have to do a couple of extra takes.”

Michael has previously admitted it was hard to keep a straight face while filming with The Muppets
Michael has previously admitted it was hard to keep a straight face while filming with The Muppets
Jim Henson Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock

He added: “One of the funniest things that I remember is when all of my clerks were rats, in the office, and every time I looked away they did something – and when I looked back they were writing scrupulously and behaving properly. It made me laugh a lot.”

As Brian Henson observed: “He was intimidating to start with, but he’s a delight.”

13. For Sir Michael’s Scrooge inspiration, he looked closer to home than you might think

“My basic role models for Scrooge were not Victorian, they were very modern,” he has been quoted as saying in promotional materials for the Muppet Christmas Carol.

He claimed inspiration “came from watching CNN and seeing the trials and tribulations of all the Wall Street cheats and embezzlers”.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come in one of the film's most unsettling sequences
Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come in one of the film's most unsettling sequences
Jim Henson Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock

“I thought they represented a very good picture of meanness and greed!” Sir Michael said. “My Scrooge looks particularly irredeemable and is more psychotic than most.”

Wall Street types in 1992… we wonder if there was anyone in particular he was thinking about…

14. It may or may not come as a surprise to hear that he had never sung or danced before the Muppets came along

He told GQ: “People say to me, Have you ever sung? I say, Yes, I sang in a movie. They say, Who with? I say, Kermit the Frog.”

On his vocal performance, Sir Michael added: “It wasn’t bad, I wasn’t ashamed of it. I thought I was going to make a fool of myself but it didn’t matter, because it’s Muppets, you know.

“Scrooge sings badly, and it’s fine! It’s funny! But I thought we sang quite well as a duet, Kermit and me.”

15. It’s tough to imagine anyone but Sir Michael Caine in the role of Scrooge opposite The Muppets, but a fair few actors were considered

Among them were David Hemmings, Ron Moody, and David Warner, with American comedian George Carlin also thought to have been a serious contender at one point.

George Carlin
George Carlin
Kai Mort Shuman via Getty Images

16. And that’s not the only one case of almost-casting on the Muppet Christmas Carol

While new characters were created for the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present And Future, producers initially had an idea to have existing Muppet character portray the Spectres.

Innocents Scooter and Robin The Frog (the latter of whom ended up playing Tiny Tim) were both initially touted for the Ghost Of Christmas Past, while Miss Piggy was going to be the indulgent Ghost Of Christmas Present.

Meanwhile, Gonzo and Animal were both considered for the third, and weirdest, of the phantoms.

Miss Piggy was briefly considered for the part of the Ghost Of Christmas Present
Miss Piggy was briefly considered for the part of the Ghost Of Christmas Present
Christopher Willard via Getty Images

17. But hang on – if Gonzo had played the Ghost Of Christmas Present, who’d have played Charles Dickens

Well, initially the film didn’t have a narrator.

“Then we stopped and reconsidered,” Brian Henson told The Guardian. “Nobody had ever captured Dickens’s prose – the wonderful way he described the scenes. So we had to put Charles Dickens in the movie.”

Initially, according to Slash Film, the idea was to create a custom Charles Dickens Muppet who would have narrated the story, before they had the thought: “Who’s the least likely character to be Charles Dickens? Gonzo! So we made him this omniscient storyteller.”

Gonzo The Great depicts Charles Dickens in the Muppet Christmas Carol
Gonzo The Great depicts Charles Dickens in the Muppet Christmas Carol
Jim Henson Productions/Kobal/Shutterstock

18. And what a storyteller Gonzo turned out to be

According to Brian Henson: “Ninety-five percent of what Gonzo says in the movie is directly taken from the book.”

We’re guessing that doesn’t include flirting with chickens and expressing his envy when his pal burns his feet on a “flaming hot goose”.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is a true festive classic
The Muppet Christmas Carol is a true festive classic

19. Unfortunately, changes to the original plans meant certain Muppet characters don’t get as much spotlight as fans would like

Scooter doesn’t speak in the Muppet Christmas Carol at all, while Animal utters just one word (“QUIET!”) at Fozziwig’s party.

Even Muppets icon Miss Piggy doesn’t make her entrance until almost an hour into the film – although what an entrance it is.

20. Producers made a couple of key change to Dickens’ original story

For those unfamiliar with A Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley’s brother Robert only appears in the Muppets version, allowing the hecklers Statler and Waldorf to make an appearance to warn Scrooge of his fate. Whether producers chose the name Robert as a reference to reggae legend Bob Marley remains to be seen.

They also removed the character of Scrooge’s younger sister, Fan, who dies in the book after giving birth to her son, Fred.

21. The Muppeteers took unusual measures to make the (frankly, terrifying) Ghost Of Christmas Past work

The specially-created puppet was filmed in a water tank to make her look like she was floating, before being superimposed into the final edit using green-screen technology

22. Oh, and did you know she was played by a future soap star?

Hollyoaks’ Jessica Fox, who plays Nancy Hayton, was eight years old when she lent her voice to the ghostly character

Jessica Fox at the Inside Soap Awards in 2011
Jessica Fox at the Inside Soap Awards in 2011
Mike Marsland via Getty Images

23. You might recognise some of the other human actors too

Steven Mackintosh and Robin Weaver play Scrooge’s nephew Fred, and his wife Clara.

Steven Mackintosh
Steven Mackintosh
Karwai Tang via Getty Images

Since The Muppet Christmas Carol, Steven won a Bafta for his role in the BBC One film Care and appeared in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the first season of Luther.

Robin, meanwhile, has played Simon’s mum Pamela in the Inbetweeners, as well as starring in the slightly-less-cheery Black Mirror Christmas special.

Robin Weaver
Robin Weaver
Joanne Davidson/Shutterstock

24. Although one of them is noticeably absent in the final scene

Apparently Robin Weaver wasn’t available for filming on the last day, which is why she’s not present in the The Love We Found sequence.

25. Ever wondered what was the most complicated part of the shoot?

That would be this sequence in which Kermit appears in a full-body shot walking for the first time ever.

It was achieved using a whopping 10 Puppeteers, a rotating drum and a whole lot of green screen.

26. And there was a lot more visual trickery going on

The Muppet Christmas Carol was filmed on a lot in the UK, meaning all of the buildings were specially-built.

To make the streets look more like winding Victorian London, the rows of houses and buildings actually get smaller as they go along, with forced perspective being used to make them look regular-sized.

However, Brian Henson shared during the film’s DVD audio commentary that this illusion is spoiled during the It Feels Like Christmas sequence, which ends with a crane shot, briefly giving the game away.

Brian Henson briefly gave the game away during this scene
Brian Henson briefly gave the game away during this scene

27. Signs dotted around the Muppets’ version of London also hold hidden meanings

As well as nods to film’s behind-the-scenes team, one shop is shown as being called Micklewhite’s, a reference to Michael Caine’s real name. Another is named Statler and Waldorf’s, an obvious allusion to the Muppets characters (who themselves are named after two famous New York hotels).

Michael Caine singing outside a shop bearing his real name in The Muppet Christmas Carol
Michael Caine singing outside a shop bearing his real name in The Muppet Christmas Carol

28. But forget you might have heard about one supposed Easter egg (or whatever the Christmas equivalent would be)

Despite rumours that Beaker gives Scrooge the finger while telling him off, if you look closely you’ll see he’s just pointing enthusiastically.

No, that's not Beaker's middle finger
No, that's not Beaker's middle finger

29. There are fun details hidden in the closing credits too

Look out for “Rizzo’s personal caterer” among the rest of the cast and crew.

30. Keep your eyes open for a familiar face during the opening number, too

While Christmas Carol is the first Muppets film not to feature any characters from Sesame Street, there is a brief cameo from Fraggle Rock canine Sprocket.

Sprocket makes a surprising appearance in the beginning of the film
Sprocket makes a surprising appearance in the beginning of the film

The Muppet Christmas Carol is now available to stream on Disney+. HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.


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