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Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

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Directed by: Jim Henson
Written by: Jerry Juhl
Release date: 1977
Running time: 52 minutes (uncut)
50 minutes (edited)
Available on: VHS
Amazon Instant Video

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is a one-hour Christmas television special based on the children's storybook of the same name by Russell Hoban. It first aired on HBO in 1977 and later made its first network broadcast on ABC on December 15, 1980.



Emmet and Alice Otter row from Waterville to Frogtown Hollow.


The menacing Riverbottom Nightmare Band.

In this one-hour musical Christmas special, Kermit the Frog narrates the story of Alice Otter and her son, Emmet, who live along the river in the village of Frogtown Hollow. Ma and Emmet struggle to make ends meet through odd jobs and projects for neighbors and villagers, but this Christmas they dream of having enough money to buy each other a special gift. Known for their musical abilities, the Otters are encouraged by their friends to enter a local talent contest. The mother and son reminisce about Pa Otter, who serves as the inspiration for them to enter the show.

Without each other's knowledge, Ma and Emmet prepare for the contest in the hope of winning the fifty-dollar prize to buy Christmas gifts for each other. Emmet performs as a member of the Frogtown Jubilee Jug Band, and Ma Otter sings a solo number, but both face tough competition from a hard rock group formed by a gang of woodland creatures who call themselves the Riverbottom Nightmare Band.



The Frogtown Jubilee Jug Band performs the song "Brothers" at Waterville's annual Christmas Eve talent show.

The songs for Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas were written by Paul Williams, who is known for his 1970s pop hits "(Just an) Old-Fashioned Love Song" and "We've Only Just Begun." Williams wrote songs for the Muppets in two later productions, The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992).

  • "The Bathing Suit That Grandma Otter Wore": A standard "keeping warm while you're rowing song," affectionately mocking Emmet's grandmother and her oversized swimwear.
  • "There Ain't No Hole in the Washtub": Ma and Emmet sing this song to cheer themselves up after thinking about their dear departed Pa Otter.
  • "When the River Meets the Sea": A gospel number sung by Ma and Emmet, about the hope of redemption.
  • "Bar-B-Que": A rousing song rehearsed by Emmet's Frogtown Jubilee Jug Band. The band plans to perform this song at Waterville's annual Christmas Eve talent show, but another entrant, Yancey Woodchuck, steals their thunder by singing the song before Emmet's band comes on.
  • "Riverbottom Nightmare Band": A menacing song sung by the Riverbottom Nightmare Band, about how bad and disrespectful they are.
  • "Brothers": The song that the Frogtown Jubilee Jug Band performs at the talent show. It's a good song, but it's missing something.
  • "Our World": The song that Ma Otter sings at the talent show. At the end of the special, Ma and Emmet's band sing both songs, blending them into a harmony.

Behind the Scenes

Don emmet puppets

Don Sahlin works on various Emmet and Ma puppets.

The special utilizes a number of different puppetry methods. The main puppets used are the usual Muppet hand puppets, but the characters are frequently represented by marionettes as well. It also utilizes the Bunraku and Black Theater techniques. This is also one of the first Muppet productions to use radio control puppet effects, designed by Faz Fazakas.

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas also featured extensively platformed-up sets, all created with great attention to detail. Jim Henson explained:

Emmet Otter was the first time we had gotten into those kind of elaborate sets where we had floors in the interiors and we would take a wide-angle shot with characters coming up through holes in the floor. Or we'd cut into the set and remove the floor and have the characters moving through space in waist shots. That was the most elaborate production we had gotten into at that point. Frog Prince had been platformed-up and The Muppet Show was always platformed-up, but in Emmet Otter... we'd go right into a scene. We'd have the whole set in three dimensions... rigged so we could pop parts and come out through the openings, which is really time consuming... [1]


John J. O'Connor gave the special a very positive review in The New York Times on December 15, 1980 for its ABC airing:

Jim Henson and the Muppets are on a dazzling winning streak these days... Mr. Henson has produced and directed one of the most charming Christmas specials of the last several years... Once again, Mr. Henson's creations verge on the marvelous, perfectly capturing the Wind in the Willows aspects of Emmet Otter's story... These really are the nicest folk on the river -- and on prime-time television.

In 1981, the special was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program. However, it lost to Donahue and Kids.

Home video releases

In 1983, four Muppet Home Video titles were released under the heading "Tales from Muppetland," by Silver Eagle Records. They were Hey Cinderella!, The Frog Prince, The Muppet Musicians of Bremen and Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. In addition to VHS, these titles were released on Betamax and RCA SelectaVision CED discs.

1983 also saw the release of the four programmes in the UK by RCA/Columbia Pictures Video (forerunner to Columbia Tristar Home Video) again under the Muppet Home Video banner. There were two volumes, each containing two programmes. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas was featured on the first volume with Hey Cinderella! These programmes appear to be the same versions as released by Silver Eagle Records in the US.

Buena Vista Home Video released Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas on VHS, under the Jim Henson Video label, in 1996.

In 1998, Columbia Tri-Star Home Video released Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas under its new "Jim Henson Home Entertainment" line, and in 2001 released the same version on DVD.

In 2005, HIT Entertainment released an Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas: Collector's Edition DVD featuring "Never-Before-Seen Footage", an in-depth documentary and other new bonus features. HIT Entertainment would issue the special on DVD again in 2008, but with none of the bonus features from the previous release. It was released on DVD again, this time by Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment, on October 8, 2013.



Kermit's appearance at the end of the special.

Muppet Home Video 1983 VHS

  • Fadeout after the opening titles
  • A couple lines of dialogue before Emmet sees the guitar in the shop window
  • Some additional verses to "There Ain't No Hole in the Washtub"
  • A few lines of dialogue from the scene where Emmet and Ma wonder what to give each other for Christmas
  • Fadeout before the talent show
  • A short talent show scene after Yancy Woodchuck sings "Barbecue":
Mayor Fox: Welcome if you will, George and Mellisa Rabbit!
[Rabbits dance]
Possum: Well, It's gonna be a long night.
  • "When the River Meets the Sea" is shortened

Columbia Tri-Star Home Video 1998 VHS / 2001 DVD

  • Kermit's scene in the restaurant at the end of the special
  • Kermit's narration throughout the special
  • Several lines of dialogue between Emmet and Ma after singing "The Bathing Suit That Grandma Otter Wore"
Ma: Nice, I should say it did Emmet. Why you can hear the fish appauding.
Emmet: I think you're right. Maybe I should pass the hat.
Ma: Pa used to say, "If you pass the hat to fish, all you get is a wet hat!"
Both laugh
Ma: Still, I suppose the fish have just about as much money as any of us this year.
Emmet: Couldn't have much less.
Emmet starts rowing
Emmet: Ma, what are we gonna do about Christmas this year?
  • A couple lines of dialogue after Ma hands Gretchen Fox her laundry:
Ma:'d fall off the dock.
Emmet: Way to go, Ma!
  • A few lines cut before Emmet and Ma sing "Ain't No Hole in the Washtub":
Ma: Oh, "There Ain't No Hole in the Washtub!" That's what you call your basic 'keeping-warm-while-you're-rowing-home' kinda song.
Emmet: I'm rowin', where's the singing?

HIT Entertainment 2005 DVD
The Collector's Edition DVD released by HIT Entertainment in 2005 contained yet another variation of the special. All the scenes with Kermit were cut, including the opening scene of Kermit riding a bike, due to the character now being owned by Disney. Aside from Kermit's scenes being cut out, the special is the same version presented on the Columbia Tri-Star release. However the alternate scenes changed and missing are included in the "Deleted/Altered Scenes" reel bonus feature.


Voice actor Character
Jerry Nelson Emmet Otter
Doc Bullfrog
Stanley Weasel
Yancey Woodchuck
Melissa Rabbit
Marilyn Sokol Alice Otter
Jim Henson Kermit the Frog
Harvey Beaver
Howard Snake
Harrison Fox
Frank Oz Chuck Stoat
Dave Goelz Wendell Porcupine
Pop-eyed Catfish
Will Possum
Richard Hunt Charlie Muskrat
Fred Lizard
George Rabbit
Eren Ozker Gretchen Fox
Hetty Muskrat
Old Lady Possum



  1. Jim Henson: The Works, by Christopher Finch. 1993, Random House. p. 199, 202

External links

Jim Henson Productions and Related Shows
Sesame Street Christmas Eve on Sesame StreetA Special Sesame Street ChristmasElmo Saves ChristmasElmo's World: Happy Holidays!A Sesame Street Christmas CarolElmo's Christmas Countdown
The Muppets John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas TogetherA Muppet Family ChristmasThe Muppet Christmas CarolIt's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas MovieA Muppets Christmas: Letters to SantaLady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular
Other shows and specials The Great Santa Claus SwitchEmmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas • "The Bells of Fraggle Rock" • The Christmas Toy • "Refrigerator Day" • Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree • "A Berry Bear Christmas"
Albums Merry Christmas from Sesame StreetJohn Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas TogetherA Sesame Street ChristmasElmo Saves Christmas: Holiday FavoritesA Green and Red ChristmasBob! from Sesame Street: Christmas Sing Along

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