Over the years, “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” has become a popular Christmas tale to watch with the family. And, for the past several years during Christmas In Our Hometown, this holiday feature has been playing at the Dietrich for all to see while enjoying the holiday festivities in town. And this holiday season, families can see the little holiday feature at the theater as they continue the “Jug-Band Christmas” tradition.
For those not too familiar with what the feature is about, “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” tells the story of Emmet Otter and his Ma, who scrapes by on a small amount of money she gets from doing laundry and that Emmet gets from doing odd jobs around their home in the town of Frogtown Hollow.
As Christmas approaches, they hear of a talent contest in the nearby town of Waterville with a grand prize of $50, and separately decide to enter so one can buy a store-bought present for the other - something that they haven’t been able to do in some time.
“Jug-Band Christmas” isn’t as well-known as the other Muppet productions. But, this sweet, little Christmas production is bittersweet and something kids of all ages will like. Muppets creator Jim Henson and his team created a charming tale of how selflessness can lead to a rare occurrence. And, children will really enjoy the characters that are featured and the songs that were created. “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” is the kind of Christmas specials that should still be made today.
The cast: Jerry Nelson (Sesame Street) as Emett Otter/Melissa Rabbit/Stanlet Weasel/Yancey Woodchuck, Frank Oz (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Chuck, Marilyn Sokol as Ma Otter, Dave Goelz (The Muppets) as Wendell/Pop-Eyed Catfish/Will Possum, Richard Hunt (Sesame Street) as Lizard/Charlie/George Rabbit and Eren Ozker as Gretchen Fox/Hetty Muskrat/Mrs. Mink/Old Lady Possum. “Jug-Band Christmas” is produced and directed by the late great Jim Henson.
“Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” is based on the children’s book of the same name written by Russell Hoban, who has written numerous children’s books. In 1977, Muppets creator Jim Henson produced the one-hour TV adaptation of the story in Toronto and premiered on CBS (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) on December 4, 1977. The special also had its US premiere the following holiday season on HBO.
You can catch “Jug-Band Christmas” at the Dietrich during the Christmas In Our Hometown festivities on December 7 and 8 at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Incidentally, there is another local tie to Emmett Otter in that Calista Hendrickson, part-time Tunkhannock resident, was the costume designer for the film. “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas was my first job as a Costume Designer for the Muppets, working directly with Jim Henson who was the Director. Before that I had done some sewing jobs in the Muppet workshop, being called in when they needed extra help. My good friend, Bonnie Erickson, was running the workshop at the time. She and I had gotten to know each other on other costume jobs, mostly in off-Broadway New York theater.” She goes on to say that the Emmet Otter puppets were unusual for the Muppets at the time because they are all Full Body Puppets. The Muppets on Sesame Street, for instance, do not have legs and feet when being puppeteered. The legs are sometimes added for full body shots, but mostly what is seen on screen are heads and upper body, for close-up dialogue shots. She always considered the Emmet Otter puppets to be more like Beatrix Potter storybook characters, fully dressed like Peter Rabbit.
Two special touches to the costumes can be seen if you look for them. Emmet Otter wears Calista’s father’s baby shoes and Heddy Muskrat wears her mother’s brooch, a bit of the family history of Alva and Alice Tompkins onscreen at the Dietrich.