Well, if you forgot, then your previous Christmas toy (and toys) will be sad.
Timeless Treasures of Christmas
Some Christmas specials remain timeless treasures of years gone by, watched by several generations. The stories are timeless, the songs sung over and over again, and the word “classic” is bandied around. There are other specials that have the look, feel, and makings of a classic holiday tradition, only to mire in obscurity. These specials disappear after airing once, remembered by the children who watched that year, but never witnessed by anyone else thereafter.
This is the story of one such special, remembered fondly by this writer (and those who were old enough to know about it in 1986), but not really by anyone else.
This is the story of The Christmas Toy.
The Christmas Toy
ABC aired The Christmas Toy on December 6, 1986, sponsored by Kraft Foods, produced by the Jim Henson Company, and featuring a Santa suit-clad Kermit the Frog setting the stage.
The story takes place within a playroom, where the toys come to life when no one is around. (I know this sounds unoriginal, but this was nine years before Toy Story, so hear me out). The toys are aware that their fate hinges on not being out of position, as to freeze them forever. This particular evening in the playroom, however, is a Big Deal…it’s Christmas Eve!
Old Balthazar tells the toys that a new toy will join the group after the kids open presents the next day. Of course, this does not sit well with Rugby the Tiger Cub, who will not stand for being replaced as his owner’s favorite Christmas Toy.
And what happens next is a harrowing journey through the quiet hallways of the family home, all in a quest to be the Christmas Toy…now and forever!
It’s quite the adventure, complete with songs, familiar Muppet voices, and the Kraft TV recipes in lieu of actual commercials.
Which brings me to the next thing about this special…
“Celebrate the Season With Kraft!”
Since The Christmas Toy was sponsored by Kraft Foods, the ad space was given over to Kraft. And while they could have just run ads for their products, they took it a step further…
Uploads via Allison Venezio / Allison’s Written Words
(Yes, this was a feature on my blog in December 2015)
Kraft Foods showed off all the amazing recipes one could make with their foodstuffs, thanks to coupons in the Sunday paper, and recipes in that week’s TV Guide.
I particularly loved this…
So you’ve got amazing commercials for amazing yuletide eatings, and a Christmas special that’s all Muppets and Christmas.
So what happened? Why did this disappear into obscurity?
Where Did The Christmas Toy Go?
To answer your question…I have no idea.
The Christmas Toy wound up being a one-and-done special, as primetime Christmas programming goes. The special disappeared from conscious memory for seven years (save for the kids whose parents taped the special in 1986, like mine did), until resurfacing on VHS in 1993, and DVD in 2008, albeit edited for legal reasons to omit Kermit the Frog’s introduction.
You say “legal reasons,” I say “Disney will sue into oblivion.”
Probably wasn’t Disney’s doing (the DVD came out in 2008, and I don’t believe Disney owned The Muppets until a few years later), but someone didn’t want Kermit appearing here!
I’ve never been able to find any reason this special went into obscurity after its initial 1986 airing, but I treasure my recorded VHS of it – so much so, I transferred it to a DVD in 2009 to keep it preserved. I just transferred it to my laptop last night to keep a digital copy as a backup.
And yes, it is that good. The Christmas Toy became a yearly tradition for me for years, even if I watched it by myself. I plan to watch it this year (for the first time since 2009!) to recapture the magic all over again!
As for availability…its almost non-existent.
The DVD is out-of-print (the only way I can explain why a new copy is over $50), and forget YouTube – my last YouTube account was terminated because I uploaded this rare classic. Let’s just say Lionsgate found me out four years later (seriously, four years!).
To The Wayside…Like Last Year’s Christmas Toy!
I’m not ok with the “fall to the wayside” treatment The Christmas Toy got since its release. Among Muppet/Jim Henson specials, this one has the makings of a classic. I can assume it may have been Kraft’s sponsorship that has kept it from airing again. Perhaps this was meant to be a one-and done deal? I’m not sure, but I do know this…it’s not right.
I can’t stress that enough, apparently.
The story of hoping to be loved forever, and the lengths one will go (even when it is unnecessary) when that love is doubted makes for a timeless story. If you have an original print of the special, consider yourself lucky, and cherish it. Please, make a copy of your VHS, just keep it well preserved.
Like the toys in the special, The Christmas Toy deserves to be loved too.
Look, I Found A Clip!
If you truly want to get a song stuck in your head the rest of the day, may I recommend this clip?
Upload via LionsgateVOD
I did a four-part series on the Kraft TV Recipes on my blog in 2015, if you’re feeling particularly empowered to read them!
Hostess Gifts (Week 1)
Tree Trimming (Week 2)
Christmas Eve (Week 3)
New Year’s Eve (Week 4)