A Muppet Family Christmas
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Credit: The Jim Henson Company

The most magical Jim Henson holiday specials and movies, ranked

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Apr 12, 2019, 5:04 PM EDT (Updated)

Holiday specials are supposed to involve the perfect snowfall, a warmly lit living room (fireplace optional), gifts in Instagram-worthy wrapping paper, wishes coming true, and someone dressed as Santa (also optional). You usually don't see a stuffed tiger fighting a creepy alien warrior by the tree or a pig singing "Santa Baby."

There may be a Santa Claus here and a candy cane there Jim Henson's holiday specials. There are also creatures catching a flight to the North Pole on the wing of a plane, posing for glamour shots, crashing into scenes from a Dickens classic, breaking out into entire musical numbers and otherwise turning the entire concept of a holiday special on its furry or feathered head. No wonder so many '80s and '90s kids recorded these on VHS before the miracle of streaming happened.

Even the Scrooge-iest curmudgeon will laugh at how the Fraggles dance around in their Weeba Beast costumes or how more and more Muppets keep barging in on what Doc thought would be a quiet Christmas without singing chickens or a monster rock band.

Grab a cookie or five, make sure Animal doesn't take a bite out of any, and marathon visions of talking frogs all night.

A Sesame Street Christmas Carol

A Sesame Street Christmas Carol (2006)

Who else on Sesame Street could be more "Bah Humbug" than Oscar the Grouch? In this bizarre twist on A Christmas Carol, the green guy gets an unwanted visitor banging on his trash can to deliver three Ghost-a-Grams that are supposed to convince him to be a little less of a humbug. He seems to be more interested in the vintage can of baked beans than the spirit hiding out in it.

If you can get past the smarmy songs and that humanoid Christmas tree that's a little too lit, the ghost of a Victorian-age grouch will be the most hilarious piece of garbage you've seen in a while.

The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Mrs. Zabarelli’s Holiday Baton

The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Mrs. Zabarelli's Holiday Baton (1996)

How can all the Whos in Whoville (and everybody else from Dr. Seuss’ splendiferous stories) get a Jingle Day spectacular together without director Mrs. Zabarelli to tell them when to tap their toes and and tink the Clink? It's not every day you see a holiday extravaganza with dancing kangaroos and elephants playing horns.

While it sometimes takes way too many syllables to get a message through to anyone, which might be the reason the show almost doesn’t happen, seeing previously two-dimensional Seuss characters in 3D Muppet form is much less scary than having to endure Mike Myers as The Cat in the Hat.

A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa

A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa (2008)

Don't ever trust Gonzo to deliver your holiday mail, as you'll somehow find yourself on a flight to the North Pole so fast you might almost forget how you even got there. Somewhere in-between the mail incident and hanging off the wing of a plane for several hours, the Muppets get into their usual hijinks, with run-ins with Whoopi Goldberg as an ornery taxi driver and Nathan Lane as a TSA officer on Santa's naughty list.

While you might roll your eyes at some of the Christmas clichés here — wishes coming true out of nowhere and all that — there's still plenty of craziness to be had when you involve the Muppets in, well, anything.

The Christmas Toy

The Christmas Toy (1986)

If you think Toy Story is the OG movie about toys coming alive and doing weird things when the humans aren't looking, think again. Every plaything that watches this should remember that you only get to be the shiny new toy a kid opens on Christmas morning once.

Of course, Rugby the stuffed tiger doesn't want to believe this, which is why it takes venturing into the scary hallway outside the playroom, dodging the family cat, seeing his best friend (a cat toy) frozen in a laundry basket, and battling a relentless plastic space queen to realize that maybe he should have just hung out by the dollhouse.


It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)

Almost every holiday movie reference that exists has been crammed into this Muppet mayhem, from an It's a Wonderful Life world where a certain green creature was never born to that infamous triple dog dare from A Christmas Carol that ends up in another unfortunate frog tongue stuck to a telephone pole. Never mind the Muppetized version of Moulin Rouge's "Spectacular Spectacular" that the gang busts out before their theater is repossessed.

Bonus: Whoopi Goldberg plays the ultimate supreme being of the universe who has invented her own coffee shrub that's a whole lot more convenient than a Keurig.

Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular

Lady Gaga and the Muppets Holiday Spectacular (2013)

Fur is going to fly when Lady Gaga has the Electric Mayhem Band (and the rest of Animal's freaky friends) go all-out in this glitzy display of of holiday extravagance. Lady Gaga dazzles with songs from her album Pop Art, including duets with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sir Elton John, RuPaul and yes, Kermit.

This is one of those rare times Miss Piggy isn't in the spotlight. She not only shades Lady Gaga in the dressing room but imagines herself into a scene in which she sings "Santa Baby" in a slinky red dress, fake snow and all.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (1995)

This enchantingly strange Victorian throwback happens in and around a manor you would probably mistake for a haunted house if it didn't boast such an enormous Christmas tree. Maybe too enormous. When the top is trimmed, that turns into someone else's tree, and… you get the idea. Except that this is the Muppetverse, so unbelievably weird things are going to happen until whatever the issue was resolves itself.

The ever-shrinking evergreen makes an epic journey through a bear waltz, a flock of owls playing ice chimes, the fanciest mouse hole ever, and Leslie Nielsen (as Willowby's butler) getting humiliated when the Swedish maid crowns his head with a St. Lucia's wreath. By the way, Willowby is played by Robert Downey Jr.

Dinosaurs: Refrigerator Day

Dinosaurs: Refrigerator Day (1991)

Back in whatever age was more prehistoric than the one the Sinclairs live in, dinosaurs had no choice but to roam everywhere because they had nothing in which to store food. Then behold! A box appeared, a magic box that could be plugged in, keep leftovers cold and allow them to settle in one place without getting paranoid about running out of things to eat ever again.

At least these dinosaurs don't need to forage until Earl's fridge gets repossessed because he spent his last paycheck on presents and his boss isn't offering a Fridge Day bonus. This episode is an origin story in itself: how return policies came into being.

A Muppet Christmas Carol

A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Charles Dickens — er, Gonzo — narrates the classic tale of Scrooge, going from humbug to hero in this irreverent version you never read in lit class. You know Ebenezer Scrooge has to be hated by every creature known to man and Muppet if mice are complaining he won't toss them a crumb of cheese and pigs in top hats are gossiping behind his back. Whether that really counts as behind your back when you're dead, or at least when a Grim Reaper-esque spirits shows you your future as a corpse, is debatable.

Michael Caine stars as the curmudgeon whose entire outlook on life changes in time to narrowly escape a smackdown from Miss Piggy.

The Bells of Fraggle Rock

The Bells of Fraggle Rock (1984)

The thing Gobo refuses to believe in at this time of year isn't Santa Claus. Skeptical about the mythical bell at the heart of Fraggle Rock, which supposedly keeps Doc's basement from plunging into a deep freeze every year on the winter solstice, he ventures into the depths of the Rock to prove it exists. It's kind of like trekking to the North Pole to find the man in the red suit.

Besides ringing bells en masse, another Fraggle-ish tradition for The Festival of the Bells is dressing up in a multi-person costume of a thing called a Weeba Beast, whatever that is. You won't get "Weeba! Weeba!" out of your head until after New Year's.

A Muppet Family Christmas

A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)

When you want to get away for a quiet Christmas in the country, the last place you should rent out is anything belonging to a Muppet, because wherever one is, most of the population follows. Doc realizes that a little too late when he gets overrun by all of Fozzie's wacky wocka wocka friends. Your Christmas cookies will get devoured by Animal, any semblance of quiet will get drowned out by his band, and the chorus of "Angels We Have Heard on High" will be sung by Gonzo's soprano chickens.

Watch out for the priceless scene in which Miss Piggy gets splattered by slushy exhaust after staying too late for her glamour shots.