The Christmas Toy

Four dolls of various styles on a shelf; a fifth in the upper right corner pops out of a basket on a higher shelf.

“Toys Love to Play”*

[Rugby] Something special happens
[Apple] When you leave a room
[bunny wearing a top hat] You may think it’s magic
[another bunny pops out of a top hat, they laugh together; both] We don’t

[sailor duck in a tugboat] Sometimes when you leave us
[soldiers] We still feel like playing
[Balthazar] You’ll be feeling tired
[Humpty Dumpty] But we won’t

[chorus of toys]
If we can’t play with girls and boys
Then it only makes sense for toys to play with toys
Toys love to play
Toys love to play

[Dauntless Dragon] Toys love adventure
Toys can be very brave
[Rugby, spoken] Like me!
[Apple] Toys can be so conceited, like he is
[Ditz] Toys can be pretty funny
[doll] Toys can wear pretty clothes
[spoken] Don’t I look excellent?
[biker] Toys can be pretty pretty, like she is

[chorus]
Toys love to play
Toys love to play

*These lyrics may be incomplete for all versions. I have a distinct memory of Balthazar singing “Toys are for cuddling” followed by Belmont singing “Toys are for riding on,” but I couldn’t find that version anywhere. This makes me suspect there are multiple releases with different edits, which is infuriating—a frustration Emmet Otter fans know all too well.

Jamie touches Rugby’s nose; Rugby is in his Christmas box

“The Greatest Christmas Toy of All”

[Part 1, sung by Rugby]

I’ll always remember how everyone cheered
That wonderful moment yours truly appeared
Open the ribbon and on with the show
Could anyone ever love anyone so?
No Christmas tree ever felt so tall
I was the greatest Christmas toy of all

[Part 2, sung by Rugby]

You know a big band was playing with trumpets a-blare
Spotlights were shining, you shoulda been there
Streamers were flying and banners unfurled
And guess who was feeling on top of the world?
No Christmas tree ever felt so tall
I was the greatest Christmas toy of all

[Part 3, sung by Apple]

I’ll always remember how everyone cheered
When they opened the ribbon and Rugby appeared
Yes, they were happy and laughing a lot
Except there was one little thing they forgot

Left to right: Apple, Belmont, and Balthazar

“Try the Impossible”

[Apple] When there’s a big job to be done
Or a race that must be won
No matter how impossible it seems
[Balthazar] If there’s a feeling in your heart
On your mark, get set to start
And head on out to try to reach your dreams
You’ve got to

[Apple and Balthazar] Try the impossible
Dare the incredible
Climb aboard and take a ride
Hope that luck is on your side
[chorus of toys] Try the impossible
‘Cause if you do
You can make the impossible come true

[spoken interlude]
[Apple] “Yup, and that’s just what we’re gonna do. Belmont, you and I are going on a rescue mission!”
[doll] “Oh, my! Rescue mission? I’m not dressed right at all!”
[Bleep] “Request permission to join the mission as robot guard.”
[Apple] “Affirmative, Bleep. Rescue missions need guards.”
[Cruiser] “Did I hear someone mention a rescue mission?”
[Apple] “You sure did. We’re going out of the playroom to rescue our friend Rugby, and we’ve gotta be quick about it.”
[Cruiser] “Well, Cruiser’s the name and speed is my game.”
[Apple] “Oh, it—it could be dangerous.”
[Cruiser] “Heh, baby, you just said the magic word.”
[Apple] “Oo, wow.”
[Belmont] “This rescue business is very nice, but don’t you realize that what happened to Ditz could happen to us?”
[Apple] “Oh, Belmont, well, well, we just won’t let it!”
[Belmont] “Well…I hope not. I mean, uh…absolutely not!”
[Apple] “Yeah!”

[Belmont] There’s a wise and simple lesson
When your hopes are growing dim
Simply take the word “impossible”
And throw away the “im”
[whinnies]

[chorus] You’ve got to
Try the impossible
Dare the incredible
Climb aboard and take a ride
Hope that luck is on your side
Try the impossible
‘Cause if you do
You can make the impossible come true

Left: Meteora. Behind her to the right, Mew sings from the Christmas tree.

“Meteora”

[Rugby] You are lovely, Meteora
Yes, so lovely and smart and brave and strong
So exciting, Meteora
Even lighting bolts seem dull when you’re along

[Meteora, spoken] You’re right!
I am thrilling
[Mew] Meteora
[Meteora] And my glow outshines the planets near and far
[Rugby] Share your glory
[Mew] Meteora
[Rugby and Mew] And be our brightly shining superstar

[spoken interlude]
[Apple] “Meteora, please get into the box.”
[Rugby] “You’ll go in queen of the asteroids, but you’ll come out a star!”
[Apple] “Yeah!”
[Meteora] “Hmm, I like the sound of that.”

[Meteora] I am stunning
[Mew, echoing] She is stunning
[Meteora] Meteora
[Mew] Oh, so stunning
[Rugby and Apple] And the world must learn how wonderful you are
[Mew] How wonderful you are
Share your glory
[Rugby and Apple, echoing] Oo-oo-oo-oo
[Mew] Meteora
[Rugby and Apple, echoing] Oo-oo-oo-oo
[Rugby, Apple, and Mew] And be our brightly shining Christmas superstar

Foreground: Mew lies frozen in the cat bed/basket. Behind him, Rugby looks off into the distance slightly right.

“Together at Christmas”

[Part 1, sung by Rugby]

Old friend, dear friend
Friend who has gone away
I want to tell you I love you
I wish you’d hear
Things that I meant to say
I want to tell you I love you
Always you believed in me
But you never knew
Old friend, dear friend
So much I longed to say
First of all, most of all
I love you

[Part 2, sung by the chorus of toys]

Old friends, dear friends
Here where we ought to be
We’ll be together at Christmas
Old friends, dear friends
Living in harmony
We’ll be together at Christmas
Some things change with passing years
Let this feeling stay
Old friends, dear friends
Hoping we’ll always be
Here with each other together on Christmas Day

[Part 3, sung by the chorus of toys]*

Old friends, new friends
Home with the family
We’ll be together at Christmas
Snowflakes, sleigh bells
Bringing back memories
We’ll be together at Christmas
Some things change with passing years
Let this feeling stay
Old friends, new friends
Hoping we’ll always be
Here with each other together on Christmas Day

*The same version of these lyrics appears in the Christmas carol medley in A Muppet Family Christmas.

Songs by Jeff Moss


Music from The Christmas Toy

This was one of my favorite Henson movies as a kid, and I would watch it any time of the year. It’s still as wholesome and charming as ever, and nowadays it’s part of my annual tradition of watching all the Henson Christmas movies (well, the good ones, anyway), usually while making Grandma Cook’s Swedish Christmas cookies.

Rigby Tiger’s voice is like halfway between Gonzo and Boober Fraggle. Like an upbeat, growly Boober. Love you, Dave Goelz. Once upon a time, I had a stuffed tiger named Rugby, too. Rugby’s superiority in being a tiger always reminds me of Hobbes, but you can’t be mad at him cuz he’s so friggin’ cute and charming.

A lot of the main cast have Fraggle-soundalike voices, actually: there’s Apple (Mokey Fraggle [Kathy Mullen]), Mew (Wembley Fraggle [Steve Whitmire]), and Ditz (Marvin Fraggle [also Dave Goelz]) and no I did not have to look any of that up. And Bleep is like the original ’80s Robot, but instead of a robot who says ’80s things he just says robot things and lives in the ’80s.

I always envied this playroom as a kid. I’ll bet Jesse got the castle with guards and Jamie got the giant dollhouse in the same year, because imagine one kid getting this huge amazing toy and the other getting anything even a little bit smaller—cue tantrum. And how the heck do those hot air balloon toys work? Actual hot air? A track on the ceiling? I mean both “how is the actual toy it’s imitating supposed to work?” and “how did the Henson workshop make their version work?”, which may be two different answers.

The use of humans in this special is slightly odd. It made sense, from a kid’s point of view, that we see Jessie and Jamie, the kids, as full human characters but we only see Mom and Dad as feet. It’s the fact that we only see the big sister Molly as a very blurry arm in the doorway and a disembodied voice that was always a little weird to me. It was also clear to me that her voice was someone imitating a bratty teenager, not played by an actual teenager. My favorite human moment, though, is when Jamie, a little girl in the ’80s, uses the word “shall” for no reason. She’s gonna discover Little Women when she’s twelve and never look back. As for the cat, the captions spell his name Weegie, but I always assumed it was spelled like Ouija Board. Y’know, cats and the occult.

Meterora is so. Freaking. Cool. Very She-Ra meets Xena meets Yellow Diamond meets Captain Janeway as Queen Arachnia. I love the moment of her talking to the chess pieces: “Talvin of the Megadors, I face you at last. Reveal the secret of the Cosmotron, Talvin, or your man here will meet the same fate as his comrade.” There’s a fanfic comic book waiting to be written.

“You’re calling Meteora a liar?” “No, I’m calling you a toy.” I remember thinking when Toy Story came out that it was a rip-off of The Christmas Toy: toys that come to life when the humans leave the room and have to rescue one of their own. And of course there’s the New Space Toy who doesn’t know they’re a toy and thinks they’re a real space adventurer. Of course, in Meteora’s case, they save the day by leaning into and fueling her conceit. She’s gonna have an ever harder time than Rugby next year, unless they get the jump on explaining things to her right away.

“This isn’t the way I remember it.” “Maybe you’re not remembering it right.” I wonder when a toy’s memory starts. When it’s fully manufactured? When it’s opened by the kid? Somewhere in between? We know that at least some toys, like Meteora, come into their sentience with a full backstory.

The Christmas Toy is still one of my favorites because it’s packed with emotional journeys, honesty, and poignant moments, especially for a lesser-known Henson special. Mew, I think, is the real hero, even though he’s not the main protagonist. His emotional resilience, tenacity, and courage are inspiring. “Where there’s a cat toy, there’s a way.” “You watch me, people toy!” And Mew stepping forward when they’re all about to be caught and frozen forever, meowing like the cat to throw off the humans… is so damn brave. Of course, if I heard my cat meow like THAT, I’d coming running TO her immediately, but maybe Weegie just has one of those meows that always sounds like he’s dying (side-eyes my roommate’s cat, Marley).

I love Mew’s self-awareness in his imperfect friendship with Rugby. It never occurred to me as a kid how rare that is, both in media portrayal and real life. Way to model emotional honesty and frank vulnerability, Mew! I wonder what their friendship was like before that night; had it always been that lopsided and unhealthy, or did Rugby mostly ignore Mew until they went on an adventure together?

Rugby goes on his own heck of an emotional journey, from self-absorbed and taking his friends for granted, to truly appreciating them and finding a better sense of self and his place in the world. That moment when he realizes “If you were Jamie’s Christmas present before me, Meteora must be her Christmas present after me. And she really should be in the box” is devastating. And the idea of a toy being “frozen forever” when they get caught out of place by a human was always scary and sad to me as a kid. Hell, it’s scary and sad now—hello, death metaphor. And then the funereal scene of Rugby realizing all Mew has done for him and singing his gratitude and regret that literally brings Mew back to life?? WHO’S CUTTING ONIONS IN HERE??

Seeing Apple cry when Rugby’s opened on Christmas and replaces her as Jamie’s favorite always made me want to make sure all my toys knew they were loved, like Jamie does in the last scene.

Does anyone who watches A Muppet Family Christmas but has never seen The Christmas Toy wonder where this “Together at Christmas” song comes from? They don’t get the full effect without both versions.

We’ll be together at Christmas

OK, 2020, you don’t need to rub it in. My family is opening presents over Zoom this year. It makes me grateful for traditions like The Christmas Toy.

Some things change with passing years,

Let this feeling stay

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