To close out our ‘Tis The Season Cinema feature, Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I watched Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas and Charlie Brown Christmas this week. Blogger Katja from Breath of Hallelujah joined in as well.
Both films are aimed at children but carry inspirational messages for all ages.
I don’t know how I had never heard of the Emmett Otter movie until Erin mentioned it, but I hadn’t. It is shocking considering – gulp – how old I am and it was released in 197…er..something. The year I was born. Anyhoooo…
The movie is a Jim Henson creation and is about Emmett Otter and his mom who are living alone after the passing of Emmett’s father. They both decide to enter a music contest where they could win $50, hoping they can win and buy each other store-bought gifts. Neither of them knows that the other one has decided to enter.
The story is a twist on the story The Gift of the Magi and in the end, sacrifices have to be made to be sure they can get their loved one the gift they want.
The movie began as a stage adaption by Henson and was later transformed into the film to be shown on CBS.
The puppetry is cute, like all of Henson’s movies, and the songs are sweet and full of warmth. I’d listen to them on a soundtrack even without the movie.
The love between Emmett and his mom is so tender and wholesome. Plus the puppets are so cute I want to reach through the screen and cuddle them.
Henson’s version is based on a story written and illustrated by Russell and Lillian Hoban, creators of Bread and Jam for Frances and other treasured children’s books, in 1971.
The film featured Muppets characters but also Hoban’s characters. The main Muppets character showcased in the film is Kermit.
If you want to watch the movie you can find it for free on YouTube or streaming on Amazon and Peacock.
I’m glad Erin told me about it and I’m sure it will be one we will watch again in other years.
Charlie Brown’s Christmas is one we try to watch each Christmas.
The songs sung during the show transport me back to a simpler time in a similar way to I’m sure how the songs on Emmett Otter transport Erin back to a simpler time for her.
In the beginning, Charlie laments with his friend Linus that he doesn’t feel like he thinks he should feel for Christmas. In fact, he feels depressed. If you ask me, Charlie has put on himself the same pressure we put on ourselves to be happy at Christmas by participating in all the activities, sending the cards, and buying the gifts, but not really realizing that Christmas is much more than all of those things.
As Charlies discovers, Christmas is about being together with family and recognizing the ultimate gift of the season — hope found in the birth of Christ.
The main plot of the movie is that Charlie feels detached from Christmas emotionally and to make him feel more involved, Lucy tells him he can direct their (school, church, community? I don’t know which) school play. Charlie decides to take the job seriously and gets very into it. Lucy gets into it as well, yelling at the cast to respect their director, as well as threatening them with bodily harm.
I always forget certain lines in the movie, including the one that Lucy says about not eating December snowflakes because the ones in January taste better. I may totally test that theory out.
The scene that people who have seen the special remember the most is when Linus gives a speech about what Christmas is really about by reciting from Luke 2:8-14. This comes after Charlie declares that getting more involved in Christmas activities has still left him depressed and he calls out, “Does anyone really know what Christmas is about?”
I love that this was part of the film and that when it first aired on television in 1965 it was something television stations didn’t even blink at showing. The Christian message of Christmas was still very much a part of society at that time.
Producers, however, tried to talk Peanut’s creator and illustrator Charles M. Schulz out of keeping in the part with Linus reciting from Luke. Schulze, according to Amazon’s trivia section on the film, refused by saying “If we don’t, who will?” The recitation was praised as one of the most impactful moments in that special and any animated episode. In the original comic strip that featured the story, Linus was actually stressed out about having to learn and give the recitation.
As a little bit of additional trivia, the producers of the show were convinced the show would be a flop and were surprised when it was well received by viewers.
The special remains the second-longest-running Christmas special on US Network Television behind Rudolph the Reindeer.
Incidentally, every time I watch a Peanuts movie I try to figure out who I relate to most and I think I relate to more than one character. I relate to Linus because I had a blanket as a kid too (my mom eventually sewed it into a pillow when there was barely anything of it left). I also relate to Charlie, though, because he’s always melancholy and searching for happiness. I may have a bit of Lucy in me as well because I’m also a bit bossy and trying to fix everything or make sure it goes my way. Luckily not as aggressive as she does it, though.
As usual, I feel bad for poor Charlie Brown, who everyone always makes fun of, or rejects, but, of course, in the end, the real message for Charlie is finding out what Christmas is really about. His friends and classmates also rally around him in the end by decorating the little tree he found and making it a real Christmas tree while singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing with him.
These two Christmas specials were a nice, wholesome, and heartfelt ending to our Christmas movie feature. I hope all of our readers found a movie you weren’t as familiar with and either found time to watch one with your family or will find time in the next few days and into next week.
To read Erin’s impressions of these Christmas specials you can read her post on her blog. To read Katja’s you can visit her blog.