Here’s an interesting, very early, Muppets holiday special from 1970. It’s not as good as some of the later ones like Christmas Toy or Muppet Family Christmas, but it’s still pretty good. It also has great historical significance (at least in the realm of muppetry). It is “The Great Santa Claus Switch”.
After the Ed Sullivan intro to the story, it starts out in Santa’s workshop. We get some typical holiday special fare such as a song & dance routine, then Santa gets kidnapped.
There’s this evil wizard who wants to take Santa’s place and rob houses on Christmas eve.
The evil wizard kidnaps Santa, then each of his elves as they catch on to the switch, there are some antics, and the day gets saved. There’s a running gag about santa not being able to do parlor tricks, but overall there’s nothing story-wise to make this special …er… special. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, just nothing out of the ordinary.
What does make this special special however is it’s historical significance. This is the first appearance of many of the monster type Muppets who would later become familiar members of the Muppet Show (you should recognize the 2 giant monsters in the one screenshot above). This is also the origin of one of the most well known and well loved Muppets ever, Gonzo.
He isn’t known as Gonzo here though, in this he is “the cigar box frackle”. Now, I know what you’re thinking “frackle? Don’t you mean fraggle?” Nope. You are on the right track though. For this special is also the source of the name for the Fraggles (and probably the influence for their other characteristics like basic appearance & living in caves). All of the monsters in this special were called “frackles”. When the Henson company was coming up with a name for what would become Fraggle Rock, they decided to take the name “frackles” from this special and soften it to “fraggles”.
While this is a Muppets special, it was supported by Ed Sullivan and aired in his timeslot for that week. The net result is that this is functionally an episode of the Ed Sullivan Show. This fact unfortunately borks up the copyrights issue and greatly hinders any attempts at a DVD release. For the time being, the only way to watch it is via bootleg recordings of the original broadcast (which have fortunately been placed on youtube).
Watch the Great Santa Claus Switch
“I was scared, but this rock costume makes me a little boulder.”