A Christmas Essay
No Christmas would be the same without the tradition of A Christmas Carol. The story almost single-handedly made Christmas the popular holiday it is today. Since Charles Dickens wrote the original novel in 1843, countless movies have been made to spread the story. One of the best movie interpretations was Jim Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol. While not perfectly accurate to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol did an overall great job of interpreting the characters, setting/mood, and plot to be more kid-friendly. One of the most well-done portions of The Muppet Christmas Carol was the depiction of the characters.
A majority of the characters were spot-on. The most complex character of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge, was pulled off quite well. His opening description in the movie was identical to the book. Scrooge’s fiancee, Belle, and the family of his clerk, the Cratchits, were also very accurate. The only issue with them was that they were introduced by name to the audience earlier than in the book.
Belle, in particular, was introduced at Fezziwig’s party, rather than when she broke up with Scrooge. Fezziwig was well depicted, too, other than the fact that he was played by the Fozzi Bear Muppet. Many characters were slightly changed because they were Muppets. The Ghost of Christmas Present was not one of those. Even though he was a Muppet, his character was exactly as it should be. The other ghosts were almost as accurate.
The Ghost of Christmas Past looked like a little girl floating on a cloud, but its personality and dialogue got the same message across. The final ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, looked just as scary, but he showed both of his hands and was not always pointing. During the Yet to Come scene, we met Old Joe and a company of Scrooge’s workers who sell his possessions. This group was captured nicely in the movie. The only two characters that were full-on inaccurate were the Marleys and Charles Dickens. In the novel, the author spoke to the audience in a way that implied he was an abstract being that was overseeing the situation from a godly standpoint.
In the Muppet movie, the author was a visible character who watched the plot unfold from a distance. He was certainly in London. Another difference with Charles Dickens in the Muppet movie was that he was accompanied by something of an assistant. Both characters were Muppets. This detail, though, does nothing to alter the storyline. The Marley character(s) did, however.
In the novel, Scrooge’s old co-worker Jacob Marley in the form of a ghost visited him. The movie changed this by adding a Robert Marley in addition to Jacob. They probably did this so that all of their Muppet cast could be featured, but it was still one of the biggest inaccuracies of the movie. Overall, though, The Muppet Christmas Carol did not do much harm to the original cast of characters. The Muppet Christmas Carol also did a fantastic job matching the setting and mood of the original text.
The opening scene of the movie showed the cheerful streets of London as triumphant Christmas carols played in the background. Even though this is not how the exposition of the book began, it is accurate to the original setting and mood of the London streets. The cheerfulness died down as the camera entered Scrooge’s office. The movie preserved the cold, negativity that Scrooge spent years building up in that office. This was kept up, with the addition of loneliness, as the plot enters Scrooge’s house. Around this time, the movie hits its most deliberate flaw: the Marley(s) encounter.
This scene was not as emotionally driven in the movie as in the book. The Marleys sang a song that was more informational than emotional. Jacob and Robert expressed no sadness, even though they were doomed to wander the Earth for life. The Muppet Christmas Carol made up for this throughout the other ghost encounters and the duration of the movie. The Ghost of Christmas Past scenes were nostalgic, but not necessarily in a pleasant way.
The audience can visibly feel the sense of lost opportunity hanging over Scrooge’s past, just as in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. There was the perfect amount of festivity at Fezziwig’ party in the past, as well as at Fred’s party in the present. On the surface, the Present is cheerful, but underneath, there is constant stress that Scrooge forced down everyone else’s throat. The movie managed to capture this depth, which is not an easy task. The most crucial moments of the movie and the book took place in the Future.
Scrooge gets to see his future, but none of it involves him. The settings of nearly every ghost scene from the book were shown, even up to this late point in the story. The mood builds up a strong feeling of suspicion. Much of the movie was made to be more light-hearted than the book, but this scene was left alone. The climax and to the end, where Scrooge transforms, were also accurate in terms of setting and mood.
The movie and the book both leave you with the cheerful feeling radiated by the streets of London. It was very important to preserve the setting and mood, so as not to mar the plot and symbolic value of the story, and The Muppet Christmas Carol succeeded. The most important element of A Christmas Carol (other than theme), which is plot, faltered at times. Most of the original plot was represented, but some of it was altered, omitted, or added. Much of the first chunk of plot, the Marley encounter, went through some alteration and addition. In Scrooge’s office, the movie showed a group of Muppets that worked for him.
In the novel, Scrooge was too cheap to have any unnecessary workers, and had only Bob Cratchit. This detail is inaccurate, but insignificant to the big picture. As stated earlier, the Robert Marley addition threw the scene off a little ways, but the content of the conversation was accurate to the text. At the end of the Marley encounter, the novel showed an assembly of phantoms. This is key for showing the disdain for certain mentalities that Dickens intended to be shown.
Instead, the movie showed Scrooge going to sleep, and waking up to the first vision. This was a loss, as it kept out some of the real-world symbols that the book had. Also, Scrooge couldn’t fall asleep in the book out of anticipation. This section was a bit faulty in the movie. This lingered in the ghost encounter in the past, too. In the movie, the Ghost of Christmas Past materialized next to the bed, rather than pulling aside the bed-curtains.
They made up for this by using the exact dialogue from the book to introduce the specter. Once it got into the scenes that Scrooge and the spirit visit, the movie did not stray very far from the text. Most of the scenes were shown, but out of order. The only major scenes omitted were the ones involving Scrooge’s sister, Fan. The next ghostly encounter, which is in the Present, was one of the most correct portions of the movie. Meticulous work went into making this stave perfect.
From the meeting of the ghost to the last scene visited, the Present was accurate. The only slip-up was that Scrooge had more leeway with where they went, such as when he requested to see Fred. The movie meandered one last major time at the end of the Present encounter. The Ghost of Christmas Present failed to reveal Ignorance and Want, two literary devices that highlight Dickens’ true purpose for writing A Christmas Carol. This is the movie’s one true failure. The good news is that the movie carried the same message, even though it had less material to back it up.
All of the scenes in the final encounter in the Future were perfect. There’s no sense in changing a story’s climax, after all. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’s departure was incorrect, however. In the book, he simply became Scrooge’s bedpost, rather than waiting for Scrooge to grab his cloak so that he could vanish like in the film. Then, Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, a changed man.
Both versions of A Christmas Carol have this happy ending. Scrooge goes out and spreads joy to all those he previously hurt. It is irrelevant to the story exactly where Scrooge celebrated Christmas dinner, or who received which gift. The movie wasn’t perfect with those minor details, but what really matters it that it leaves the audience with a happy ending and a new attitude towards Christmas. The Muppet Christmas Carol, in the long run, brought this message to a young audience in a brilliant way.
Of all of the versions of A Christmas Carol, the Muppet adaptation did the best job executing the characters, setting and mood, and plot for children. Because of this movie, kids can now experience fantastic plot and a beautiful message in a way that they understand and in an environment that they are comfortable with. Charles Dickens would be proud to know that the love and joy that comes with Christmas will continue to spread for generations to come.