It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is a feature-length made-for-TV Christmas movie starring the Muppets. The story is loosely based on It's a Wonderful Life, but also includes references to other Christmas movies such as A Christmas Story and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The movie is owned by NBC Universal, and as such was not included in The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of The Muppets franchise in 2004. Interestingly, the movie shares a lot of similarities with the 2011 Disney-released film The Muppets, particularly the plot of the Muppets putting on a show to raise money in order to save their theater.
The film opens with a snowman named Joe Snow (a parody of Sam the Snowman) recounting how the Muppet Theater was going through financial hardship, and the Muppets seeking Kermit the Frog for guidance. Joe is then hurriedly ushered off the set by a technician who checks the script and finds that there is no "narrator snowman" in the film. The tech then denounces Joe as a "Burl Ives wannabe" as the story starts in earnest at the Muppet Theater. The Muppets are all exchanging Christmas gifts, but Kermit is in no mood to celebrate with them, for he feels that he is not useful to anyone. Up in Heaven, an angel named Daniel (played by David Arquette) brings this up up with his boss (Whoopi Goldberg) as they review what has gone on with Kermit in the past few days.
A few days earlier, Kermit prepares a Christmas show with his fellow Muppets, with Bobo the Bear playing Santa Claus. Kermit is approached by Rachel Bitterman (Joan Cusack), a banker/real estate agent who says that she will foreclose the Muppet Theater if Kermit does not pay her. Pepe the King Prawn leaves the Muppets because he has fallen in love with Bitterman. While trying to raise money to pay Rachel, Kermit tries to find a celebrity to participate in his Christmas play to no avail. Meanwhile, after learning from Pepe that the deadline is midnight, Bitterman changes it to 6:00p.m. When he sees her with another man, however, Pepe leaves her and warns Kermit about the deadline change. Upon learning this, Fozzie volunteers to deliver the money to Bitterman. But in the process of trying to bring the money to deposit, Fozzie confronts a crazed nature-show host, a gang of angry Whos who mistake him for the Grinch (after he gets dyed green at a Christmas tree lot), and an array of lasers. When Fozzie finally makes it into Bitterman's office, he discovers too late that he has grabbed the wrong bag, containing clothes for the Salvation Army (following his incident at the Christmas tree lot).
After witnessing these events, the Boss allows Daniel to help Kermit. When Daniel arrives, he ends up showing Kermit what would have happened to his friends if he had not existed. In the world without Kermit, Bitterman has changed the park near the Muppet Theater into a shopping center. Gonzo is now homeless, and Rizzo the Rat stars in an episode of Fear Factor where a woman has to eat him alive. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem perform Irish stepdance. Doc Hopper's French Fried Frog Legs from The Muppet Movie has become a famous restaurant franchise. The Muppet Theater has become a nightclub called Club Dot. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew became a rapper, Beaker became a nightclub bouncer, Scooter and Sam the Eagle are club-dancing ravers, and Fozzie is now a thief living on the streets. Miss Piggy is a spinster who lives in an apartment with a series of cats, working from home as a phone psychic with a fake Jamaican accent.
Horrified at what he has seen, Kermit has Daniel restore him back to his reality and returns to the Muppet Theater. However, Bitterman arrives to shut the theater down and fights with Miss Piggy. Pepe arrives and announcing he has made the Muppet Theater into a historical landmark, foiling Bitterman's plan. The film ends with the Muppets and Joe Snow sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
- References to The Muppet Movie include:
- Kermit passes by a statue erected in his honor, the caption of which reads "For the lovers, the dreamers, and you," a quote from the song "The Rainbow Connection".
- Kermit finds out that without him, Doc Hopper's French Fried Frog Legs would have become a very successful enterprise.
- In Miss Piggy's apartment is a framed photo of her as Miss Bogen County.
- Mel Brooks, who voiced Joe Snow, had worked with the Muppets prior to this - he portrayed Professor Krassman in The Muppet Movie.
- This film marked the first major performance of Eric Jacobson in the roles of Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear, both of whom were previously performed by Frank Oz. Kevin Clash performed Sam the Eagle's voice, but Jacobson would later take over that role as well.
- This movie also had Jacobson performing a Muppet version of another Frank Oz character, who makes a very brief cameo when Daniel takes Kermit to the alternate world - Yoda from Star Wars. (Interestingly, Disney would eventually buy the Star Wars franchise as well.)
- Jerry Nelson was ill during filming, so his characters were puppeteered by others and later dubbed by Nelson. The exception was Lew Zealand, who was performed by Bill Barretta.
- Within the alternate universe in which Kermit had never been born, a poster for "Farm Fresh Bacon" can be seen on Miss Piggy's fridge.
- An early working title was He's a Wonderful Frog. Coincidentally, that title was previously used for an episode of Muppet Babies.
- In the "Moulin Scrooge" sequence, Bunsen and Beaker dress as they did in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
- Miss Piggy would sing "Santa Baby" again on the album A Green and Red Christmas and in Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular.
Over 30 minutes of footage was cut from the original broadcast of this film. Many of the deleted scenes were included as special features on the DVD release, most of them appearing as part of the 20-minute documentary Inside Pepe's Studio. Deleted scenes included the following:
- The Santa Claus hired for the Christmas show claims to be the real Santa and leaves, so Kermit has Bobo fill in.
- A sequence in "Moulin Scrooge" in which Sam the Eagle portrayed Baron Von Scrooge.
- An extended interview between Carson Daly and Kermit, where Kermit explains that the Muppets inherited the theater from Scooter's uncle.
- Joe Snow melting in the dystopia which is life without Kermit.
- A scene with Snoop Dogg (this scene was not included in the DVD release).
- A scene at a prison that is presented as a news report, which announces that the criminal Pepe the King Prawn has escaped, with Bill Barretta as a newsman and Kirk Thatcher as a guard (this scene was an Easter Egg on the MGM DVD release and a non-easter egg on the Universal release, and may have shown what had happened to Pepe in the world in which Kermit was never born).
- An alternate finale scene which had Glenn starting an angel teaching class, while bragging he had been supportive of Daniel all the way through (this scene was an Easter Egg on the MGM DVD release and a non-Easter egg on the Universal release).
Immediately following the initial airing of the special, NBC released a special VHS package of the film bundled with the Music, Mayhem and More! CD. It was available for a limited time at the NBC Shop and on NBC.com. In 2003, MGM Home Entertainment released a "Special Edition" DVD of the film with several bonus features, including deleted scenes and outtakes. Universal Home Entertainment released the film again on DVD on October 12, 2010. The disc presented the film in its original widescreen format for the first time in America and retained some of the extras from the MGM disc. It also came with a holiday CD featuring nine songs. A Blu-ray of the film was released on October 7, 2014.
- Muppet Wiki: It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie at the Internet Movie Database
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie at TV Tropes
- Platypus Comix's review
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