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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

It is a little late for Christmas specials now, but recently I came across this video of bloopers from Jim Henson’s 1977 special Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. The video was takes after takes of the same shot to get the rolling of the drum right. It amused me to no end because the drum keep rolling in different fashions and the puppeteers kept commenting on it. And yes, I watched it many many many times.

To give you a little bit of background information, Emmet Otter and Ma Otter were walking by a music store, where the local River Bottom gang was creating havoc. Things got tossed around and a drum rolled out of the shop.

Emmet was performed by Jerry Nelson (Count von Count, Robin the Frog, Herry Monster, etc.) and Ma was performed by Frank Oz (Cookie Monster, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Yoda, etc.). I love how life-like they looked when they reacted to their surroundings and each other. And I guess it’s just very difficult for two puppets to stand next to each other without making silly comments.

After watching the video, I decided to find and watch the entire TV special. And guess what, I liked it a lot. The songs were beautifully written and I was really impressed by how they rigged all the set pieces and puppets, since they were not just seen from waist up. There were cars, boats, characters sliding and skating. There were many different kinds of puppets used too, and the whole thing just came together very well.

I loved the story and the characters too. I liked how the main characters are faced with real hardships but still stay nice and optimistic. And it didn’t get cheesy or preachy like some other Christmas specials. Some bad deeds went unpunished. Some of the characters took a chance on things. You could call them gutsy but you could also potentially call them stupid or irrational for taking a risk. I think that’s something I appreciate. They didn’t try to make the characters perfect in every way or have everything wrapped up perfectly in the end, but that made everything so much more believable. And I liked that.

And yes, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas has become one of my favorite Christmas specials, right up there with A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the 1964 claymation one), and Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983).


  1. January 11th, 2011 | 5:01 am

    Hi Kelvin, great clips, I too loved the adlibs. I am going to watch this now!

    Happy New Year to you.

    Enjoy the journey.


    Mandy Allen’s last blog post..A New Year Begins

  2. January 11th, 2011 | 10:22 am

    Hi Kelvin,

    It is a funny collection of shots for the comments of the puppets, but also shows how complex it is to create every scene in a puppet show, especially when multiple puppets and actions are occurring at the same time in the same frame. Maybe this collection inspired the bloopers at the end of the movie “Monsters Inc”?


    Alien Ghost’s last blog post..Misled Children

  3. January 11th, 2011 | 6:14 pm

    @Mandy: Yeah, sometimes the greatest stuff come out during AdLibs. I’ve certainly seen it happen (brilliant, unintentional stuff from rehearsal ending up in the final product) many times before. Happy new year to you too! 😀

    @Raul: This one is especially complicated, I guess, since they were trying to get everything a very specific way. As for Sesame Street type of productions, I heard that they have such a tight schedule that sometimes they would just do three takes and move on to the next shot. It varies, I guess.

  4. January 12th, 2011 | 11:25 pm

    Oh Frank Oz…

    Also, I love Otters.

    Katrina’s last blog post..The Return of the Cookie Monster… Maybe

  5. January 12th, 2011 | 11:38 pm

    The ones that hold hands?

  6. January 13th, 2011 | 1:02 pm

    Kelvin — This was a funny one. I also loved the interactions of puppets, but to life of me I couldn’t WHY the drum was sent out so many times. I I also laughed about how they stapled down and couldn’t move. It must be lots of fun to be a puppeteer…is that right?

    It does make me want to watch the show. How do you find the TV special? I don’t it remember it being aired where I live, but I was out-of-town for quite a few days during the holidays.

    I also agree with Katrina in that I love otters. I could watch them all day. They always seem to have so much fun…just like these puppet otters:~)

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Sara’s last blog post..Guilt: A Poem

  7. January 13th, 2011 | 6:37 pm

    I think they wanted it to stop between the steps in an angle, like that final take (which was in the final product). But it’s true that all the rolls seem a little arbitrary. I would imagine them to get closer and closer to the desired result with practice instead of all over the place.

    I’ve never seen this one aired, actually. I wonder why they don’t.

  8. January 17th, 2011 | 5:52 pm

    You make some great observations, Kelvin. I think storytelling was a lot different back then. Characters were usually rather simple, almost perfect, and they tended to be inherently good or evil. Sounds like here, they were more realistic (flawed). I like the inclusion of “bad deeds going unpunished.” A lot of stories strain to tie up every loose end, but that is not realistic. Your review makes me want to watch the whole show.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Writing the Truth in Creative Nonfiction

  9. January 18th, 2011 | 1:33 am

    I’ve never read the book, but I’ve heard that it was a pretty faithful adaptation, down to where the songs will appear and what the characters look like (the puppets match the illustrations). While it’s nice to tie up every loose end in some cases, I think it works for this particular story. If you didn’t make the characters perfect in the beginning, then you are less likely to expect the ending to wrap everything up perfectly.

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