Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Marilyn Sokol in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas 1977

This holiday special from 1977 is borderline for this blog. It was very well received and quite popular when it was released on HBO and in subsequent airings on ABC, and marked a turning point in the production capabilities for Henson productions. It's also been forgotten over the years, though many people sill hold it dear and there is a large fan base for it. Because it was, and still is, one of my favorite holiday specials, I decided to include it.

When Jim Henson and company set out to produce this project they raised the bar for their already high production values. This project would be the most realistic production they had ever produced with elaborate, complete sets and characters that moved through them using a variety of different puppetry methods. The result is a visually stunning, delightfully crafted and utterly simple story about an otter and his widowed mother trying to get along with the little they have. It features lovely, folksy songs by Paul Williams that really stick with you, and charming humor that warms your heart. Playing against type, as one can only completely do when voicing an animated character, Marylin Sokol is Ma Otter.
Image courtesy of
 You may remember her from her comedic turns as the dark haired side kick in Foul Play (1978) and Can't Stop the Music (1980). The original airings featured an introduction and sign off from Kermit the Frog, but because Henson sold off the rights to the character those segments have been removed, unfortunately.

This musical number from the show is courtesy of HensonCompany on YouTube. I'm happy to say that there is a collector's edition DVD available now and it includes some great behind the scenes footage that shows how they created such realism in the final product. If you haven't seen this one, you should definitely rent or buy it. It's charming from start to finish.

Obscurity factor: 2 (Not widely known, but has a large cult following, Available on DVD)

Image from Google images

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