Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)
December 16, 2016 10:36 PM - Subscribe

A poor otter family risks everything for the chance to win the cash prize of a talent contest for Christmas.

Based on the beloved children's story of the same name, this TV movie was produced by Jim Henson, who
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.
The special is available in a series of different edits.

Is ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ Too Weird For The Holidays? The greatest Christmas movie ever stars a Muppet otter, and you can watch it right now

Listen to the soundtrack.
posted by the man of twists and turns (10 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of my favorite Christmas movies, as well as one of my favorite Muppet movies! We just rewatched it recently!

Ma Otter has a soft, sweet, beautiful singing voice courtesy of Marilyn Sokol, but she's just the voice actress, not the puppeteer; all her lines were dubbed in after the physical puppet-controlling process. For the actual filming, they used brilliant puppeteer Frank Oz (voice of Gonzo, Yoda, Miss Piggy, and about a million other muppets). You can hear his rendition of Ma Otter in this outtake reel.

Marilyn Sokol does a great job too, but because her lines aren't precisely synced up to the hand doing the puppeteering, the timing of her lines has always bothered me slightly. Plus, the Frank Oz version of the voice is kind of delightfully bonkers. I've always wished I could see a full version with the Frank Oz voice all the way through; I'd be particularly curious to hear his weird Grover-like warble singing all the songs that Sokol does so beautifully.

(if you don't feel like sitting through the endless outtake reel where they try again and again to get the drum-roll scene just right, the absolute best one is the totally bizarre HUBBA WHA series of noises where it's clear the performers are starting to get tired and punchy)
posted by Greg Nog at 6:28 AM on December 17, 2016 [6 favorites]

It's a shame that the Kermit scenes have been removed from some of the later edits, as this was the first time Henson put the frog on his bike, a trick he later featured in The Muppet Movie.

Also, the character Emmett Otterton from Zootopia was named a deliberate homage/nod to this special by that film's creators.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:00 AM on December 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

oh wait, sorry, I forgot Frank Oz doesn't do Gonzo, he does Fozzie. Sorry sorry delete delete
posted by Greg Nog at 8:33 AM on December 17, 2016

Oh I've forgotten how delightful those outtakes are
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:22 AM on December 17, 2016

One of my childhood favourites! Though Ma Otter's line of "I haven't had this much fun since Pa died!" Feels suspect these days.
posted by Kitteh at 3:53 PM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

oh my god. I was just going on and on to my friends-with-kids that they HAVE to watch this one ASAP. the mom found the Riverbottom Nightmare Band song on Spotify and when I told her they were the bad jerk guys, the kid (third grade) said, "I hate to say it, but they're playing a GOOD song!"

I remember as a kid wondering how the puppets were being maneuvered in the boat/water.

my brothers and I got this on a hand-me-down VHS taped off TV by another family, and we watched it at least every year from when I was six to sixteen. the tape got lost sometime after; I was so sad the next Christmas without it. later, during the age of WinMX/Soulseek, I somehow stumbled upon mp3s of the soundtrack and then would play them on college radio (on sunny spring days -- totally not at Christmastime). then my CD-R of it was playing in the car as my boyfriend and I were breaking up the final time and we were sitting in my driveway. swear to god, it was "when the mountains" through "we're closer now than ever before" (!) -- I was bawling. even he was crying. and then within the semester HE was playing "Brothers" on HIS radio show.

but now it's on DVD so everything's good :-3
posted by cluebucket at 8:31 PM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Both of their plans are terrible, but Emmett's is worse, because if he had won and put a down payment on a piano, they would have just ended up in debt and without their main source of income.

I love this movie so much. I watch it every year.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 4:17 PM on December 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Ma Otter is the most adorable Muppet of all-time.

"Aw, Emmet."
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 5:39 AM on December 21, 2016

I was so delighted earlier this year in Zootopia when the otter character was named Emmett Otterton.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 11:02 AM on December 21, 2016

The first time I ever saw the outtake reel, I was in a hotel room by myself, and I laugh-cried uncontrollably for about 20 minutes.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 1:07 PM on December 21, 2016

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