Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Emmet Slaughter?

In 1977 a holiday special premiered on television and touched audiences around the world. Based on a book by Russell and Lillian Hoban, “Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas” is about Ma and Emmet Otter—a family that has little more than each other. When a talent show is held in town, a fifty-dollar prize gives them each hope of buying the other a real present this year.

Columbia Tri-Star released the Henson holiday classic on VHS in 1998 and in 2001 released it for the first time ever on DVD. Both of the Columbia Tri-Star releases were edited from the original broadcast form. The changes in the broadcast original to the Columbia Tri-Star release are as follows: the sequence where Ma and Emmet deliver Gretchen Fox's laundry was slightly re-edited; there was a short cut of Emmet’s introduction to 'Ain't Got No Hole in the Washtub', and two new lines of "Ain't No Hole in the Washtub" were inserted; during the talent show, a new act is shown after Clarence the Dancing Horse; Will Possum's comment to Mayor Fox was removed; and Kermit the Frog's closing appearance watching Emmet's band perform was completely removed. It is unsure exactly why these changes were made, but many suspect they are due to the source material used to master the releases video.

Fans did not take these changes well, and to this day there are people who will do anything for the original edit of the special. It wasn’t until last fall that fans saw hope of seeing the un-edited version of the film released. Information came out that HIT Entertainment would be re-releasing the special on DVD and VHS in the fall of 2005, and people started to get excited. The classic holiday film would be released to the public, but would it be un-edited? I hate to be the bearer of bad news but…

…the HIT Entertainment release will showcase a new cut of the film. I have talked with HIT and have some answers. Now, it is unsure if the “minor re-edits and inserts” (Ma and Emmet deliver Gretchen Fox's laundry; 'Ain't Got No Hole in the Washtub'; the inserted talent show act; and Will Possum's comment to Mayor Fox) from the previous releases will carry over to the HIT release (it all has to do with which cut of film HIT and Henson have access to and feel is best). In fact, the HIT representatives I talked with did not know that most of those edits took place. But there will definitely be something cut out of the upcoming HIT re-release. Brace your self - The HIT release will not feature Kermit the Frog at all. After the Disney-deal it was discussed what would happen to Kermit’s (and the other Muppet character’s) appearance in the non-Disney owned productions. It was originally stated that Kermit would be able to say in. But HIT has gone on the record say that with respect to “Emmet Otter”, Kermit is out.

Since HIT does not own Kermit, including the character would require setting up agreements and deals between Disney and HIT. HIT does not feel the effort would be worth their time and resources in the end, so they took the simple road and just, “clip-clip-clip”, cut Kermit out. I was informed by HIT that Kermit will not be seen in the special – and as for the other edits we’ll have to wait and see when the DVD hits stores in the fall.

This makes it pretty clear that if HIT ever releases “The Christmas Toy” on DVD, you can bet Kermit will be cut too. So if you want to see the specials in their original form, you’ll want to pick up an old VHS on E-bay; if not you’ll still be able to enjoy the classic special – just without our froggy friend. I've already sent HIT a letter saying that because of their lack of effort to work with Disney to be able to preserve the film, I for one will not be buying the disc (I already own one hacked-up version on DVD, I don't need another).

Feel Free To Contact HIT:
Phone: 1-866-405-7625 (toll-free)
Mail: HIT Entertainment; PO Box 9000; Allen TX, 75013
E-mail: consumerrelations@hitentertainment.com


Ryan said...

This makes me so so sad. :(

Thanks for the inside info, though. I think it's awesome that there's a new cool Muppet fan on the scene :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the info...everytime I watch the DVD i always repeat the missing lines....I watched this special on HBO religiously when i was a kid. Do you know where to find high res images like the one above?
Kurt paddedproductions@yahoo.com

Sam-I-Am said...

I'm glad that there is a new place for muppet info and commentary on the web. Untill now all we had was danny at toughpigs and don't get me wrong, Danny is awesome but he's only one man. Now we have two!