Do You Remember “The Christmas Toy”?

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…

MAGIC!

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!

Availability

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

Related Reads

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)

Age of Resistance - The Dark Crystal

Teaser Released For Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance!

Why is there an Age of Resistance in the world of The Dark Crystal? We will find out the answer to that thanks to Netflix’s exclusive new series. In fact the company just announced The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance today with this teaser trailer.

[Via] Netflix

Age of Resistance - Skeksis construction
While the teaser indeed showed us some wonderful footage from the likes of Jim Henson. As well as some brief glimpses at the legendary Creature Shop at work. We however aren’t given a lot to go on in regards to the the Age of Resistance‘s story. Thanks to a press release from The Dark Crystal website – it turns out this will be a prequel to the classic 1982 film.

“A beloved classic from the 80s marks its return as Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment network, will bring The Jim Henson Company’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance exclusively to members around the world. The 10-episode fantasy adventure series is a prequel to the groundbreaking 1982 fan favorite The Dark Crystal, and takes place many years before the events of the film. The series will be shot in the U.K., and will star an ensemble of fantastical, state-of-the-art creatures created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop™ and Brian Froud, the original feature’s conceptual designer.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance returns to the world of Thra with an all new adventure. When three Gelfling discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ power, they set out on an epic journey to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world.

Feature film director Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me, The Incredible Hulk) will executive produce the series and direct. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will be a Netflix original series produced by The Jim Henson Company and executive produced by Letterier, Lisa Henson and Halle Stanford. Longtime Henson collaborator Rita Peruggi will serve as producer and Henson’s Blanca Lista will serve as a co-executive producer. Leading the writing are co-executive producers Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (Life in a Year), and Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, The 100).

“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance will combine the art of puppetry perfected by The Jim Henson Company, with Louis’ vision, powerful storytelling and a mix of cutting-edge digital imagery and visual effects,” said Cindy Holland, Vice President of Original Content at Netflix. “I can’t wait for families around the world to see how we bring these unique characters to life.”

“Louis Leterrier is passionate about the world of The Dark Crystal and has an incredible creative vision for the series. He brings this passion to every facet of the production as he leads the talented team of artists and writers that are bringing this entire universe to life,” said Lisa Henson, CEO of The Jim Henson Company. “Netflix has a deep respect for my father’s original work and the many people it inspired. They are the perfect partners to create this next epic chapter in The Dark Crystal story for new fans and the loyal fans who have waited so long for more adventures from this world.”

Age of Resistance - Skeksis Illustration
So in addition to the awesome news that Leterrier will in fact be using practical visual effects alongside digital work. This prequel will most probably explain why the Skekis made it point to seek out all of the Gelflings. If you go by J. J. Llewellyn’s exceptional 1982 book The World of the Dark Crystal. A book I would also add is chock full of beautiful Brian Froud artwork. The Skekis in fact weren’t totally evil when the sundering first took place but soon however they changed. Taking the Gelflings as slaves and then of course destroying them almost entirely when the diminutive race devised the prophecy.

[Via] Antoneey

Of course I will be sure to pass along any new information that we get about this exciting new series. Not only that but if you would like more vintage fun concerning the Dark Crystal.

Read: After 31 Years It Was Time To Open Up That Pack Of Dark Crystal Cards!

Moreover to prepare yourself for The Dark Crystal: Age of Reckoning why not listen to episode 058 of the Retroist Podcast?


Retroist Dark Crystal Podcast

Jim Henson’s…Wizard of Id?

A huge thanks to frequent visitor to this site, Dax, for giving me the heads up on this pilot in the Summer of 1968, done by none other than Jim Henson. A colossal tip of the hat to Jim Henson’s Red Book over on Henson.Com for the brief excerpt posted below. Make sure to follow the link above to see in Jim Henson’s own words, everything from this Wizard of Id pilot to notes stating that they are shooting more meeting films and that Frank Oz is producing. Of course feel free to follow the link to Dax’s own artistic blog where you can stare at anything from the many faces of Tommy Lee Jones to water color illustrations of the one and only Houdini!

“3/22/1969 – ‘Shoot “Wizard of Id” pilot’
Posted on March 22, 2011 by admin

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

In the summer of 1968, Jim Henson met Johnny Hart, the creator of the popular comic strips B.C. and The Wizard of Id. They discussed the idea of creating a television show based on The Wizard of Id that would combine puppets with an animated background. That fall, puppets were built, and Jim and his colleagues made a presentation to Hart’s publisher, the Publishers-Hall Syndicate. The response was positive and in early 1969, Jim shot a test pilot. Robert Reed of Publishers-Hall spent the next year and a half trying to sell the show to the networks as a series or as several specials. In September of 1970, ABC expressed interest in making a Wizard of Id feature film, but, by that time, Jim was busy with Sesame Street, the Tales of Muppetland specials, and his variety show appearances and decided not to take the idea any further.”