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Hollywood Flashback: 1978's 'Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas' Obsessed

Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1976) Probably not as well known as Dr. How Seuss’ Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) or Rankin/Bath The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (619). But it’s as charming and enduring as those Christmas TV specials.

Based on Russell Hoban’s 1966 children’s book by The Jim Henson Co. . and premiered on CBC in Canada on December 4 1979, and on HBO in the US a year later. Emmet is technically ambitious, with a new Muppet wizardry that bridges the gap between The Muppet Show, which Debuted at

, and The Muppets (1977) — Includes well-rigged sets (with floors) and radio-controlled puppets. The episode ends with the appearance of Kermit the Frog, and follows Emmet and his widowed horse, residents of Frogtown Hollow, who do odd jobs for the residents, some of whom scam them for payment.

Talent competition news with $87 The jackpot leads them both to enter, hoping to win money for Christmas presents. But, repeating O. Henry’s Magi’s Gift , there are unintended consequences: Ma sells Emmett’s tools to buy fabric for her clothes, and he turns her washtub into a Upright double bass. To write the song for the special, Henson turned to Paul Williams, the prolific songwriter and actor with whom he sympathized while recording The Muppet Show


“I walked into that studio in London and was like, ‘Oh my God — I found my tribe,'” recalls Williams, 16, about his work with Henson and other collaborators, including Frank Oz and Dave Goelz’s first encounter. For Otter, “he’s auditioning for the soundtrack to The Muppet Movie, ” says Williams. “I loved the story, and I used my own band. We recorded the track at Sigma Sound [Studios] in Philadelphia.”

Nostalgic and melodicly complex tunes — like “Laundry No Hole in the Basin” and “When the River Meets the Sea” – will herald the arrival of the Williams classics (co-writing and songwriting partner Kenneth Ascher) in Muppet Movie , such as “Movin’ Right Along” and “The Rainbow Connection,” which should have done for Kermit “When You Wish Upon a Star” did for Jiminy Cricket. “He just knows he’s going to get the best from us, “Hanson’s Williams said. “Working with him was a rare, unique opportunity. ”

The Hollywood Reporter tear sheet - review of 'Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas'

THR called the special a “triumph of story, song and captivating performances.”

This story first appeared in December 38 Issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe 2205.



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