Jim Henson’s “The Christmas Toy”

When I was a kid, I saw a film that showed what happened with your toys when you left the room: They came to life! Of course, this was no surprise to us kids, as that was what we had, generally, suspected all along.

Not only did the toys come to life, but they enjoyed playing, and their most favoritest thing in the world was to be loved and played with by a child… particularly the child that they belonged to.

Also, at Christmastimes it was time for a new toy to come join the other toys in the playroom. This kinda made the old favorite toy nervous, as he was scared that he would be replaced.

Sure enough, at Christmas, a new toy came to the playroom. This new toy was from Outer Space and could fly! The old favorite toy got really jealous, of course.

In the end, we learn that all children love all their toys, not just the new Christmas toy.

Sound familiar?

Let me give you a hint: this film had absolutely nothing to do with Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, or computer animation.

I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now: it’s Jim Henson’s “The Christmas Toy”.

If the plot above sounded familiar to you, it’s because Disney/Pixar basically stole it for their hit feature film, “Toy Story”.

Sure, toys coming to life at Christmas isn’t a new idea. Who hasn’t seen “the Nutcracker”, after all? Or “Babes in Toyland”? But the plotline for “The Christmas Toy” is so incredibly close to “Toy Story” that it is extremely hard for me to believe that it’s just a mere coincidence.

This fellow here is named Rugby, and a better name for a cuddly stuffed tiger I have yet to hear. Especially one with this personality.

See, Rugby here is the “Woody” of “the Christmas Toy”. Rugby was the Christmas Toy last year, and since that time, he’s been the A-Number-One toy of the playroom. As such, he is arrogant (I guess Woody doesn’t come off as too arrogant) and very, very comfortable in his spot as the Christmas Toy.

What Rugby does not realize is that Christmas comes every year, and every year there is a new Christmas Toy. He doesn’t realize that last year he took this creepy motherfucker’s place:

That little glass-eyed serial killer was the Christmas Toy last year. She looks like a psychopathic cross between Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake, to me. I think it’s the all-black eyes that do it for me. It could also be that she looks like she could be Chucky’s sister. Rugby’s worries should be more concentrated on this little Lizzie Borden, than on maintaining his title as the Christmas Toy.

As a side note, I thought I would point out here that there aren’t any Muppets in this one, but you will certainly recognize a lot of the voices. I think Gonzo does the voice for Rugby. As a kid, I didn’t really care as much about the non-Muppet Muppet stuff as much, but I remember being deeply affected by this film. Mostly because of this one scene:

Rugby decides to sneak out and place himself into a gift box so that he can be the Christmas Toy all over again this year. This plan has one fatal flaw: If a toy is caught “out of place” (meaning caught moving around, basically), then they are FROZEN. FOREVER. This is, for all practical purposes, death for toys. Like exorcisms for ghosts in Beetlejuice. So if the child opens up her gift, and Rugby is inside, he’ll be frozen. forever.

This stupid clown, whose name I think is Ditz or something similarly demeaning, has the bright idea, “Why don’t we just stick our heads out and call for him?”

"We hafta figure out what we're gonna do about Rugby!"

"Why don't we just stick our heads out and call him back?"

"Emergency! Emergency! Ditz is leaving the playroom!"



This chilling sequence really affected me as a kid. Like, toys could die? That is effed up. Even for an idiot like Ditz, it’s not right that an innocent toy should die. But at least now we have an idea of exactly how serious the trouble with Rugby really is.


This is Mew. Mew is a cat toy, which means he doesn’t really get any respect in the playroom, and also that he smells like catnip. Fortunately for Rugby, Mew is his friend and decides to help him not get dead.

To fast forward a bit, Rugby makes it downstairs to under the Christmas tree:

"Now... how to get inside"

He finds a Rugby-size box and decides that this is the one that he needs to be in (incidentally, we’re led to believe that this is the same box the parents used last year, which is weird. I’m sure I didn’t notice it as a kid, but kids are stupid). Mew has come along on his long journey, thankfully, and must figure out a way to get Rugby back to the playroom.

"Leave that box alone!"

Chucky’s sister also shows up to lend a hand in getting the Rugster back up to the playroom.

Rugby doesn’t listen, and opens the box anyway…


Which sets loose this whacked-out space bitch. Meteora. Like Buzz Lightyear, she is from Outer Space and has no clue that she is a toy, instead opting for a hostile takeover of the Christmas Tree area, as you can see here. I think she has Mew in a headlock.

While Meteora goes on a rampage, Rugby sneaks into the box:

Mew tries to talk him out of the box.

While Meteora is killing chess pieces, Mew and Chucky’s Sister try to talk Rugby out of the box. We get a real tear-jerky kind of tale from Chucky’s Sister about how she was the Christmas Toy last year, but then Rugby’s ass came along and knocked her out of her spot. This doesn’t persuade Rugby one bit, but it has all the 5-year-olds in the audience bawling like 4-year-olds.

What finally does convince him is when they remind him that, if he is caught out of place in the box, that he will be frozen forever, just like Ditz and that other weird Bird thing toy that no one liked anyway.

They also convince Meteora (a little too easily, if you ask me) to get back in the box and they all go back upstairs to the playroom.

Oh, and Mew gets caught out of place and frozen…

"Ah, shit...."

In the end, they figure out that love(?) somehow brings all the dead toys back to life. How they have gone their whole toy existence thinking that being frozen was forever, when all you had to do was sing a charming tune to bring the frozen toys back, is beyond me. But I’m also a thirtysomething year old grown ass man writing about a kid’s Christmas special like it was my business.

"Hallelujah! It's a Christmas Miracle!"

So Ditz, Mew, and that tangle-eyed Bird Thing are all back to life. Just by singing one of the greatest tunes ever written for the Muppets. Yes, this is the first use of the song “Old Friends, New Friends” (or “Dear Friends” as it is sung in this), that we hear so famously in “A Muppet Family Christmas”.

The kids arrive on Christmas morning to place their new toys in the playroom. You can’t really see it here, but the boy has a giant “tin soldier”. No doubt that tin soldier is going to rule the roost from now on… he’s twice as big as any of the other toys, and he has a frackin firearm!!!! Meteora (seen here in the arms of the girlchild, about to be deposited in the playroom) better watch her ass, that tin soldier isn’t gonna put up with any of that “Bow to me!” bullmess.

The kids leave and the toys come to life and wish each other “Merry Christmas”. Here’s a good shot of that tin soldier I was talking about.


There’s also a new cat toy, presumably female and appropriately named Mew 2 (cat toys aren’t the brightest toys in the playroom). Mew seems excited about this, but as a cat owner I can tell him that the arrival of this new cat toy can only mean one thing for him: the garbage dump. Sorry Mew, you had a good run. Say hello to Broken GI Joe for me, wouldja?

"I love you Meteora, just like I love all my toys."

The girl comes back for one last look at her new Christmas Toy. Honestly, how could a little girl love Meteora? Look at those big thighs. And that mangy hair. And that crazy get-up. Honestly.

The End

I hafta be honest: for years I thought I was crazy and had made up “the Christmas Toy” in my head, because when I would bring it up to people, all like “Toy Story ripped off this Muppet thing I saw when I was a kid!” No one would ever remember it.

Then I stumbled onto it on netflix. So you can watch it there. It is probably on youtube also, everything else is.

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11 Responses to Jim Henson’s “The Christmas Toy”

  1. 1148BucksX2 says:

    The only tidbit I vividly remember from this one was the mouse sneezing, all of the other toys reacting with disgust, and he would remind us all “….catnip.” I still don’t understand why catnip was apparently considered such an offensive odor…….

    • Yeah, all the other toys act like Mew’s smell is nothing short of utterly revolting. I’ve always thought catnip smelled kinda good, and our cat loves it, of course.

      Due to being a Bloom County fanatic, I’ll always think of catnip as marijuana for cats. Not that that is an original thought by any means, but I always associate Bill the Cat with smoking catnip and getting all messed up and whatnot.

      • 1148BucksX2 says:

        And who can forget Bill and the band (at the time, still Deathtongue, I think) caroling at this festive time of year? Classics such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Headbanger” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa So I Blew Him Away.”

      • Did you know that every single Bloom County cartoon has now been released in chronological order in 5 separate volumes? I have the first four, but I’m waiting til I finish all four of them to get the fifth. This is the kind of thing I’ve been waiting for for 20 years. Don’t know if you were a Bloom County collector “back in the day”, but getting all of the strips was a royal pain in the arse… and you could just hang it up on getting them in order.
        In other words, these new volumes are a miracle sent from Berkeley Breathed himself.

  2. Brandon says:

    I had heard about this for a few years but never saw it until last year when I caught it on The Hub. I loved it, and as soon as I saw that creepy doll and Rugby, I realized that I had seen this as a kid. All I remembered were these characters. I would have been really young when this came out. Saw it again on Netflix this year. Great review!

    • Thanks! Like I said, for years I thought I was just making this one up in my head, because no one I knew had seen it. After some internettery, I have discovered that it was made in 1986, which would put me at around 9 years old (so that’s how old I am).

      I really like it. I don’t guess that came across as much in the review, but I definitely like it better than Emmett Otter, even though I feel obligated to love Emmett Otter due to the jug-band connection.

      That flippin doll is incredibly creepy. The first shot of her I thought, “Good Lord, I hope she’s not a main character!” But she was, and it turned out good anyway. Possibly she was based on a female “My Buddy” doll, which, incidentally, was the inspiration for Chucky as well.

  3. Apple is cute idk why you find her creepy. Though Rugby is my favorite.

  4. You forgot Belmont the cowardly horse who Apple some how roped him to go with her. I watched it several times and I still can’t figure out how. I was so thrilled when I finally remembered name of this special as an adult.i could remember for long time just enough to drive self bonkers.

  5. Obviously Rugby is Woody and Mettora is Buzz. Idk if Apple has an equivalent in toy story. Mr. Potatato head=Balthizar. Rex= Beldmont kind of shy but willing to help. I think Slinky = Mew.

  6. Andrew Wilson says:

    Jamie Jones, the owner of Apple, Rugby and Meteora was the voice of Madeline in all 6 of the Madeline specials and is a real life French Canadian born in Niagara sur le lac, l’Ontario, Canada.

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