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Lionsgate/Hit Entertainment presents

The Christmas Toy (1986)

"Am I the Christmas toy?"- Rugby (Dave Golez)

Stars: Dave Golez, Steve Whitmire
Other Stars: Mullen, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Camille Bonora
Director: Eric Till

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (puppet trauma)
Run Time: 00h:47m:00s
Release Date: 2008-11-04
Genre: holiday

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B-B F


DVD Review

Jim Henson brought a lot of wonder into the world, but he also haunted my childhood dreams. Everyone loves the mainstream Muppets, but the bizarre creatures from The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth were scarier than ghosts and goblins to my five-year-old eyes, and something about the slow pace that seems part and parcel with puppetry gave the films a melancholy air that I always found a little creepy. Take the otherwise innocuous 1986 holiday TV special The Christmas Toy, for example. For the most part, it's a heartwarming story in the spirit of the season, but I can see why it bothered me as a child.

You see, it takes place in a world where toys come to life when people aren't around. It's a fantastical notion that always failed to delight me, because I felt nothing but guilt over the fact that a great many of my stuffed animals had likely suffocated in plastic bags in the attic, or at the very least gone mad from isolation and beguan to feast on the pillow-y innards of their compatriots. The Christmas Toy adds a delightful wrinkle to the nightmare—if the toys are ever glimpsed by a human "out of position," they drop limply to the group and are frozen. Forever. Merry Xmas!

That was my impression of The Christmas Toy for 20 years after I first saw it. The Christmas special where the nice mom inadvertently kills the nice toy soldier. In retrospect, it's actually not as gruesome as I remembered. The sudden death element is but a small part of the narrative, which is decidedly familiar if you've seen Toy Story, produced years later. Rugby the toy tiger rules the bedroom as the pompous favorite toy, and can't handle the thought that he might be replaced when he learns that new toys will be joining the crowd on Christmas day. He decides to venture down to the living room and climb into the wrapped package himself, so he can be the Christmas toy all over again. Aside from the obvious flaw in his plan (instant death awaits!), there's the problem of the new toy, a space queen named Meteora who doesn't realize she's just a toy (it is implied that all toys most be gently introduced to the fact that they are mere imitations of what they believe themselves to be, which is rather upsetting all by itself).

Anyway, dark undertones aside, this is really a fun little special, with a lot of great Henson touches that appeal to me more as an adult than they did as a child, particularly Rugby's sidekick Mew, a small mouse stuffed with catnip who is often at the mercy of the family pet. All of the other characters constantly ridicule Mew for smelling funny, despite his frequent protests that it's just catnip. Meteora has some amusing self-aggrandizing speeches about ruling the world of Living Room before she realizes she was made in China, and the rest of the characters are cute, if rather unmemorable.

This is a quality production with a few good songs, and Muppet fans will have no trouble picking out the familiar voices of the performers (Rugby sounds just like Gonzo). The special eventually spawned a running series, The Secret World of Toys. Note that this version deletes the original bookends with Kermit the Frog introducing the story, as the character is now owned by Disney.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The video quality is passable, but doesn't look significantly improved over a VHS transfer. Colors appear natural and blacks are solid enough, but the image is soft and lacking in detail, and there are a few instances of interlacing and edge enhancement.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is fine. The box says it's a DD 2.0 mix but don't expect a lot of action from the surrounds. This is a front-centric mix, and speech and music are presented pretty basically across the front channels.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: No bonus features here, and I mean it. There isn't even a chapter menu. The program starts when you insert the disc and repeats when it's over. Basically, you are replacing your old VHS copy with a DVD, and not getting much for the effort.

Extras Grade: F

Final Comments

There are few times in life that can't be improved by the generous application of Muppets. The Muppet Christmas Carol and The Christmas Toy prove that Christmas is not one of those times.

Joel Cunningham 2009-01-07