Sunday, November 09, 2008

Henson's Christmas Classics Come to iTunes

Earlier this week The Jim Henson Company and HIT Entertainment released two classic television specials - Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Christmas Toy - on DVD under the "Jim Henson's Christmas Classics" banner. In addition to being available on DVD, the Jim Henson Company has now made these specials available for digital download via the iTunes Store.

For the first time ever, Jim Henson's 1977 television special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is available online. The 50-minute special features the heart-warming tale of of 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. The 1986 television classic The Christmas Toy is available on iTunes as well. The 47-minute special shares the charming story of Rugby Tiger, the once beloved toy that attempts to reclaim the glory of being the Christmas toy. Both full-length muscial adventures are available to download for just $9.99 each.

These new releases join the impressive catalog of Henson titles already available on iTunes -- including The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppets From Space, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Follow that Bird, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock (seasons 1-3), Farscape (seasons 1-4), The Peacekeeper Wars, Learn Along with Sesame, MirrorMask, Buddy, The Cube, and Time Piece.

The Jim Henson Company plans to continue to release more titles from their vast video libray through iTunes in the future. Now you can download these classic specials to watch on your computer, iPod, or other portable device - what a perfect way to bring in the holiday season. I'll keep you updated as more Henson titles become available.

8 comments:

Peter Nehra said...

$10 ? That is way too much. I would Pay $2-5 but $10 is way too much

Vaughn Michael said...

And I have to ask is Kermit cut from both online as well?
BTW for those wondering this Emmit Otter DVD is not new, it's the same one that came out a few years ago with the new paul williams stuff, the only thing new is the slip cover to trick people into buying a dvd they already own.
& while they did cut Kermit out of the Christmas Toy, it was still fun to watch again.

Nic kramer said...

I don't think I would get DVD since I have recording of it. Besides, The Christmas Toy without Kermit is like Gilbert without Sullivan. Ham without cheese. Pocha without Hauntas!

frogboy4 said...

After hearing about the reportedly cheap "menu-less" treatment of Hit's Christmas Toy release it appears likely that they aren't even bothering to try for a Kermit inclusion for their Henson releases. Once again I feel a little hosed. The Kermit introduction and conclusion is so brief, yet it sets the tone. The Hit & Henson folk really need to sit down and deal with Disney on this issue. I'm sure a deal could be struck if they included a little cross-promotional advertising on these select Hit DVDs. I think an unedited version would sell significantly more units. Even non-fans are going to be upset when they find that Kermit is nowhere to be found. Bad decision Hit. I feel this is just another cashing in. I don't know if I'll buy it.

Anonymous said...

Greg,

I wish you would stop the constant conformist praising (near brown-nosing) of anything the Henson Company does and start being bold enough to criticize their poor decisions to constantly rip off Muppet fans off by omission of Kermit, or even menus on their new releases. Kudos for speaking up for the Fraggle Rock season 4 box set disaster though. When you talk about "both full-length muscial adventures," you should at least add that "full-length" could be even "fuller," since all we get are horribly slaughtered versions. Let them know that the fans demand them to stop the circumcision of their specials! The frog's equally important as foreskin is, and the US needs to wake up to that issue! Or both, actually. :)

Thank you. Now you can delete this comment, as you always do when being criticized.

Greg said...

Anonymous,

As to the lack of Kermit in these speicals, I checked on this issue and the lack of the frog is not Henson's fault. It's Disney's! Back when Henson produced the fully-loaded "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas Collector's Edition" DVD back in 2005 they tried and tried to get Kermit. Craig Shemin (who produced the set and the awesome new bonus features) fought long and hard for Kermit - as did the Jim Henson Legacy and the Henson Company. But Disney said no. Henson and HIT made every effort back in '05 to get Kermit for the "Collector's Edition" (even if that meant paying Disney for the frog's scenes), however, Disney would not allow it. I checked with some friends at Disney and they backed this story up. It's sad, but Disney is the "bad guy" in this situation - not Henson/HIT Entertainment/Lionsgate. They tried to get Kermit (they offered to pay top dollar for him) but Disney said "no". Henson knows Kermit is important in these specials and wants to include the frog - but Disney keeps saying no. Maybe it's that they don't want to support the competition (HIT Entertainment), maybe it's that they want to differentiate their brand from Henson's brands (pubic perception remains that Henson still owns the Muppets, or that Disney bought the whole Henson Company out; and having Kermit in these might perpetuate the confusion), or maybe it's that they just want to be greedy jerks. I don't know why - but it's not Henson's fault. Their option was present these Kermit-less or keep them in the vault all together.

However both specials here - "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas" and "The Christmas Toy" - are still quite enjoyable without Kermit's brief appearances. From a historical/nostalgia standpoint I do miss having the scenes, but from a storytelling standpoint the specials still hold-up and are just as great. I would not cut off the nose to spite the face here - don't sacrifice enjoying 50-minutes of classic Christmas entertainment just because there's 2-minutes that will have to stay in the vault due to silly lawyers and managers at Disney wanting to keep their property out of Henson's (and consumers') hands.


Now, as for the lack-luster Christmas Toy DVD treatment...The Christmas Toy is still a wonderful and a classic Christmas special with lots of heart and Muppet fun (even without Kermit's brief cameo). However I will agree that the rest of this DVD treatment is quite a let down. I own over 900 DVD titles and this is the first one that doesn't have a menu! How hard would it have been to create a menu (even if it was just a still image with text)? They could have easily put "play feature", a "scenes selection" section, and some "previews" for other HIT/Henson titles on there (and that would have shown some effort). Plus there are 13 already-produced episodes of "The Secret Life of Toys" sitting out there that could have been drawn upon for quick and easy disc filler (put 1 or 2 bonus episodes on the disc and you got a pretty good product). I wasn't expecting a giant newly-produced behind-the-scenes documentary or anything big, but something (anything!) would have been nice. Heck, they could have even tried to pull what they did on the early Fraggle Rock DVDs and slap a bonus episode of some unrelated show (yes, I'm looking at you "Pingu") on the disc as filler. But they did nothing here and it just showed that this specific release was unimportant, rushed or just cheaply produced. It's sad. But you might as well buy the special from iTunes because the DVD provides absolutly nothing else (except a box). However the main feature (the special itself) is still great and worth watching and enjoying.

frogboy4 said...

Thank you Greg for clearing that up. It appears this decision stems from older Disney management of years past and has altered these releases as well. I might consider getting Toy now even though it really was cheaply done. I still have the original Emmet Otter DVD release. If I had the skills I would merge the two versions for my own use and amusement.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anonymous. Thanks for clearing that up for us.

This is exactly the sort of thing I feared would come from the Disney sale back in 2004. Henson (CREATOR of the Muppets) sells everything Muppet-related, and then has to turn around and beg for the use of characters they once owned a mere five years ago.

Henson could have easily predicted that these "non-Disney" titles would be released someday, so why wasn't there a home video stipulation of some kind in the contract allowing for Kermit appearances? If there was literature covering past productions, we wouldn't have this problem. Especially since there is a very small and fixed number of past productions that fall into this category.

The whole thing is silly, and seems somewhat predictable considering how home video works these days (i.e. edits due to music rights on DVDs).