One of the best things about being a Muppet fan is that your friends and family will always get you Muppet stuff for Christmas. I imagine it works the other way as well — probably one of the best things about knowing a Muppet fan is that we’re easy to buy for. But have you ever gotten a Muppet-related present — whether for Christmas, your birthday, Hanukkah, or Presidents Day — that truly stands out among the parade of Kermit dolls and Miss Piggy mugs? Something you really appreciate and cherish? Something you were so happy to get that you even write a thank-you note? A bunch of us Tough Pigs contributors have, and we’re talking about them today.
I’ve received plenty of wonderful Muppet-related Christmas gifts over the last few years, but there is definitely one that sticks out in particular. Last year was my first Christmas away from home. I had the great joy and privilege of traveling abroad in New Zealand, which was hands down the best year of my life thus far, but come Christmas time I became incredibly homesick. I didn’t receive many Christmas gifts, since shipping packages from the USA to New Zealand is crazy expensive. However, one friend insisted that she send me a Christmas gift. To my great delight, the gift she sent me were a pair of Statler and Waldorf earrings she found online. The fact that she wanted to make sure I got a Muppet gift that holidays, being so far away from home, meant the world to me. It was the best Christmas gift I received that year, and definitely the best Muppet Christmas gift I’ve ever been given.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been very fortunate in terms of Muppet gifts. I’ve received DVD’s, CD’s, plushes, board games, and even event tickets from the people I love. But my most treasured Muppet gift is so old that I don’t even remember when I got it. It’s a Super Grover plush. My best guess is that I got it when I was three years old, probably as either a birthday or Hanukkah present. But I loved that plush. It sat next to me in bed as I slept. I probably took it on every vacation for a long time. But what made it my most treasured Muppet gift came a year later, when I had a hernia operation at the age of four. I clutched that Super Grover plush all the way into surgery, because to me, being Super Grover means being brave when you think life is scariest. It means doing whatever you can to help others. And when in doubt, go for the laugh. (In hindsight, I think that last part is what it means to be Frank Oz.)
It’s also the part of the reason why I dress up as Super Grover every year at New York Comic-Con. (And why I now have an awesome picture of me with the monster himself and his good buddy Eric Jacobson.) If a nervous four-year-old being rushed into surgery for reasons he doesn’t really understand yet can act brave, then life can’t be that scary. But the best part is that while most childhood plushes fall apart or disappear, I still have Super Grover, and every now and then, when I lay in bed and worry about finding a job or finding that special someone or if I’ll ever make my mark on this planet, I hug Super Grover as tight as I can, and somehow, I find myself back in that hospital bed, saying to myself, “kid, you’re going to be okay.” And the worries slowly fade away. Not too bad for a fuzzy blue superhero!
On my first Christmas, when I was just 7 months old, I received a projector that would project Sesame Street characters on the ceiling while I was in my cot. I sincerely believe that these projections brainwashed me and turned me in to the grown up Muppet fan I am today. Maybe that was their plan all along…
Probably the best Muppet Christmas present I ever got was the Jim Henson: The Works book, AKA The Muppet Fan Bible. I remember stumbling upon it in a B. Dalton (anyone remember those?) in 1993, a few months before Christmas. Up to that point, I didn’t even know it existed (this being pre-internet), and my mind was BLOWN. The months leading up to Christmas were torturous, as I paid repeat visits to the bookstore to paw through the book. By Christmas morning, I had already leafed through much of the book, but by the time 11 year-old me finished ripping through that wrapping paper and found my own copy, the rest of Christmas faded away. I have distinct memories of sitting in a corner, engrossed in the book, and not giving a hoot about any of my other presents. And it’s still the best book about the Muppets ever printed.
2011 was a generally terrible year for me, but one of the highlights was definitely when my sister got me the Playskool “Sesame Street Band Figures” for the holidays. This playset includes five big-headed Sesame Street characters dressed as a cheesy rock band: the perfect gift for the person in your life who has that oddly specific intersection of interests. These guys will always be special to me partly because they represent the love and support my family offered me in a tough time, and partly because Bert is holding a keytar and wearing some awesome 1980s shades. Nothing is more special than love, except maybe Bert dressed as a New Wave musician.
One of the best Muppet Christmas presents I’ve ever received was one I got just a few years ago. I don’t know where my brother got this idea, but it was a brilliant one: He tracked down the Muppets’ 1981 Hallmark Keepsake ornament, in perfect condition, still in the box. This was significant not only because I love Muppets, but because 1981 is the year I was born. One side finds Kermit dressed as Santa, about to drop down the chimney with a bag full of presents. One the other side, Miss Piggy waits by the fireplace. It tells a whole story! On an ornament the same age as me, featuring two of my favorite characters! There’s only one problem: It’s in such great condition I don’t want to pull it out of the box to put it on my tree.
Sometimes the simple gifts are the best. During the first year of my current job as a middle-school librarian, the 6th grade business teacher next door had a stuffed Tutter Mouse in her classroom. Naturally, when I first saw it I got pretty excited, and we had a great conversation about Bear in the Big Blue House. When she switched to 8th grade US History the next year, she decided that the Tutter would be better off in a new home. To my delight and honor, she gave it to me. He now sits on a file cabinet right inside my office door, welcoming every visitor with his adorable giant ears and staring eyes.
The best Muppet Christmas gift I remember getting is the first Muppet Christmas gift I remember getting: The Muppet Babies plushes from McDonald’s. I played with that little Kermit until his eyeball popped off and my dad had to glue it back on. Those three were just the first of many (many, many) Muppet gifts I’ve received or bought for myself, and it was a Christmas morning I’ll never forget.
My sister sometimes doesn’t get my Muppet obsession, but one year she gave me this Christmas Toy book she found at a thrift shop. She remembered watching the special with me and thought it would be cool if I had a copy of the book. If only her other gifts were so thoughtful.
I’m the sort of Muppet fan who can’t wait for gifts. My family knows not to buy me anything Muppet-related for the holidays, because there’s a really good chance that I already treated myself to that action figure/stuffed animal/hardcover book/soundtrack/ornament/whatever when it came out. I’m just impatient that way. So now I have a short list of Muppet stuff that I can’t get on my own, whether it’s because they’re too expensive or too rare or too large for my tiny New York apartment.
A few years ago, my girlfriend sussed out one item (or, set of items) from that list. The Muppet canisters seen below fit all three of the “didn’t get ’em” criteria: They’re not cheap, they’re hard to find, and they’re huge. But they’re also gorgeous, cleverly designed, functional, and I’ve wanted to own them for years. I planned on putting them on display in a prominent place in my kitchen, but I don’t trust my shelf-building skills enough to risk letting these beauties fall to the floor. So they’re safely on top of my refrigerator, looking down on my own culinary catastrophes. And I have my lovely girlfriend Sarah to thank for this amazing gift.
I very much relate to FrogFan76’s experience with Muppet Christmas gifts. Over the years my well-meaning family has gifted me a lot of random frog figurines and plushes, and about a half a dozen copies of John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. If you’re over a certain age you’ll know it’s not really their fault; much of the 90’s and 00’s were a relative dead zone for mass-produced Muppet merch. But my favorite failed attempt by far had to be one holiday season near the end of my Grandmother’s life. She wasn’t getting out very often by that point, so her local small pharmacy was really her only option for unassisted gift shopping. She was suffering from congestive heart failure and took quite an array of pills, so I’m not sure how she even found room in her bag for what she assumed was a Muppety bean bag toy. She surprised me one afternoon by reaching to the side of her power recliner and tossing a brightly colored soft thing at me saying, “I know you like Muppets, so I got you a Squarepockets!”
Oh boy, a Squarepockets! Thanks, Grandma! I actively disliked “Spongebob Squarepants” at the time, but even as a moody young adult I could see past the hideous giant eyeballs and into my Grandma’s very sweet intentions. So, at least in my collection, ugly-ass Squarepockets is an honorary Muppet. Love you, Grandma!
What’s your favorite Muppet gift? Click here to drop down the chimney to the Tough Pigs forum and tell us!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com