Growing up in my house this special was so loved that when my husband told me he had never seen it, we had to watch it immediately….even though it was July.
For those like my husband who have not grown up watching Emmet Otter, the story is like The Gift of the Magi. Emmet and his Ma are very poor since Pa passed away (why are so many parents dead in kid’s stories?), but Emmet brings in money using Pa’s old tool chest to do odd jobs around the neighborhood and Ma by doing laundry in her washtub. The town holds talent show on Christmas Eve with first prize being $50. Ma decides to secretly enter, so she can surprise Emmet with a Christmas gift. But to make a new dress for the show, she has to pawn Pa’s tool chest. Emmet and his friends secretly form a jug band and enter the contest, so he can buy Ma a gift, but to make a washtub bass, he has to poke a hole in Ma’s washtub.
It’s full of fun songs, a heavy metal band (really!) and adorable river creatures wearing pants, hats and even a frog wearing a monocle. If Emmet and Ma sliding on the ice is not the cutest thing in the world, I don’t want to know what is. The story has a twist ending that I will not spoil. Netflix has Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas streaming, so go see it!
I’m actually a huge Muppets fan in general (I have based my life on Miss Piggy’s teachings) and was thrilled last year when the Smithsonian’s traveling Jim Henson exhibit came to Chicago. Some chunky brunette who looked an awful lot like me may or may not have gotten yelled at by the security guard for taking forbidden pictures of Kermit. These pictures may or may not be seen on my Facebook page. I can neither confirm nor deny these wild accusations. Although, I can confirm that had Emmet been included in that exhibit, you would have heard on the news about the chunky brunette in Chicago police custody after stealing Emmet Otter from the Museum of Science and Industry.
As a kid I just loved those wonderful songs (written by the great Paul Williams) and the humor, but as an adult I can appreciate the attention to detail that went into every scene. Emmet rows a boat on real water. There is a great blue heron that moves with grace. One of the Riverbottom Nightmare Band members is in a water tank. The characters play instruments. It’s really sort of amazing.
Jim Henson was supposedly a huge perfectionist and although it was probably irritating for those around him, it made for wonderful movies like Emmet Otter. Below is a video of outtakes, the longest being a shot of a drum rolling out of music store. The drum was supposed to roll out of the door, spin a little, and then fall to the sidewalk at Ma and Emmet’s feet. Legend is that it worked perfectly in rehearsal, but once the cameras started rolling it took over 200 takes to get something similar. What cracks me up about it, is how they kept the puppets in character between takes. It’s a long video, but I swear it’s hilarious and worth watching the whole thing.