On December 18, 2022, Julia Gaskill and her boyfriend, Stephen, watched The Christmas Toy. Julia had not seen it since 2012. Stephen had literally never heard of this special. What follows is a (condensed) transcript of their conversation during their viewing.
Julia: … and I’m going to start recording… now… Uh, hi! It’s us! We’re back! For another ToughPigs Christmas! This year we’re going to be watching The Christmas Toy. Stephen, have you ever heard of this special?
Stephen: No… also, why didn’t you introduce us when you said, “It’s us”??
J: It’s Stephen and Julia!
S: That’s better.
J: Do you have any predictions for what we’re about to watch?
S: There’s a toy. It’s Christmas.
J: That’s a pretty solid guess.
The special starts, with a bunch of toys saying “Am I the Christmas toy?”
S: None of these feel like the Christmas toy.
J: What do you think makes a Christmas toy?
S: I mean, based on all the other things we’ve watched, it’s gotta be a wooden block toy that you play with for precisely two hours on Christmas morning and then forget you own.
Kermit appears to intro the special.
J: I forgot Kermit was in this! That’s very Emmet Otter.
Kermit, in explaining the plot, mentions the family cat, Weegie.
J: Weegie is a terrible name for a cat.
S: Weegie is a great name for a cat.
[Editor’s note: The cat is actually named “Ouija“, as in “Ouija board.” Still not very Christmassy, but what can you do? –Ed.]
Apple the doll is introduced.
S: Apple looks suspiciously like Chucky.
J: [laughing] A little bit.
S: Is there a Chucky element in The Christmas Toy?
S: Chucky came out in the 80’s. Possessed haunted doll stories were kind of the rage.
J: I don’t want to spoil it for you, but there will be elements of another movie to this, but it’s not Chucky.
S: Nightmare on Elm Street.
The kids enter the room, and then immediately are called to bed by their mom.
S: They just walked in and then left? They didn’t even turn the light on when they came into the room?
J: They’re being sneaky, they’re supposed to be in bed… Although, wait, how does the light just turn back on after the kids leave? Did one of the toys turn the light on??
S: I’m just saying.
J: They have a lot of clown toys. Was that a thing in the 80’s? I feel like media paints this false picture of kids loving clowns.
S: Some kids probably love clowns.
J: That’s how Pennywise gets you.
Author’s Note: At this point, Julia accidentally sat on the remote and switched away from Amazon Prime. Way too much profanity ensued, which is exactly why y’all get these transcripts and not actual audio. Back to the special.
All the toys say “Ew, it’s Mew!” when they see Mew.
J: Oh! No! I forgot how mean everyone is to Mew!
Balthazar the Bear starts giving a speech.
S: It’s now the Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear origin story.
Rugby starts singing about his previous Christmas experience.
J: I’m remembering that the songs in this are kind of lacking.
S: What is the toys’ concept of time?
J: I think that the problem with Rugby is he thought Christmas was never going to happen again, and so he was the only Christmas toy.
Rugby has left the playroom to go down to the Christmas tree.
S: I feel like this sequence would be better if this had been made after Mission: Impossible, so they had…
J: The music?
S: Some stealth and some, y’know, Tom Cruise-y wire work to play with.
J: I don’t know if this tiger screams stealth and Tom Cruise though.
S: That’s the point.
Ditz walks out into the hall.
J: [laughing] Oh yeah. We’re going to see some real-world consequences for these toys.
Ditz is seen and falls over.
J: So this toy is basically dead.
The phone toy says, “Sorry, the number you have dialed is no longer in service.”
S: [laughs] That’s cold. That phone is cold.
The dad can’t find Weegie to put him outside.
J: It’s late December! It’s probably really cold!
S: I’m with that cat. Stay inside, cat.
J: It’s bad for the environment for cats to be outside.
Back to Rugby hiding in the hallway.
S: It seems like an impossible standard to meet to be a toy. You can come to life, but only when nobody’s around and then you have to resume your exact position or else you’re stuck. There’s too much exactitude to it.
J: I mean, this bear’s been around for ages and he’s never been caught.
S: It’s a destruction of the universe. They’re already pushing the limits that this cat toy has equal life skills.
J: This really gets into some of the problems I had with Toy Story 4 where, essentially, children are gods and can create life. Maybe one time one of these kids played with this cat toy and the toy came to life? I don’t know the rules for this world.
S: I also don’t like the weird racism of it. Like, you’re a lesser toy? That’s not good.
Rugby sings a reprise about being the greatest Christmas toy. Mew is wowed.
S: When you sing a self-aggrandizing song, you can convince anybody you’re the best.
J: I guess part of this special is about overcoming prejudice.
Mew says that Rugby is the closest thing to a friend he’s got.
J: That’s sad.
S: That sucks.
J: Mew, that’s not friendship. There aren’t other cat toys for him to befriend? The cat has only one toy??
Back in the toy room, they’ve piled Ditz next to other toys who aren’t moving.
J: Are these the bodies of all the toys that can’t come back to life?!
S: That’s what it seems like. They just put them in a corner. The kid’s got to move them around.
J: Every time they come to life it’s like, “time to move the dead back to the corner so we don’t have to look at them!”
S: They’re just securing their deaths repeatedly. It’s got to be crazy getting played with, then the kids leave, and you wake up and there’s a corpse next to you.
J: Also, did you see that cowboy raccoon toy in the back?
S: Yeah, I love the cowboy raccoon toy! I still think Apple is a serial killer trapped in a doll.
J: Spoiler alert, Apple’s not going to murder anybody.
S: That’s a big letdown. Apple looks like she’s going to murder everybody.
Cruiser, a taxi toy, wants in on the Rugby rescue mission and introduces himself to everyone.
S: Have they never met Cruiser before? Also, Cruiser’s a creep!
J: I feel like so many toys on this rescue mission are going to make too much noise.
S: They should just let Rugby die. He’s an egotistical jerk and it could just be like, “We had a year of Rugby, he was a terror in the playroom, everyone had to kowtow to his whole deal, and no one hipped him to the fact that he was going to kill himself – accidentally – next Christmas trying to be special again.”
J: Also, there is a giant poster of a tiger on the wall, it seems like him being the Christmas toy and the poster might make him feel even more emboldened. Maybe this girl really loves tigers.
S: If you really love tigers, you got more than one tiger toy. I really loved G.I. Joe’s, I didn’t just stop at one G.I. Joe and call it good.
Mew and Rugby have made it to the Christmas tree.
S: What are the toys in these boxes doing?
J: Maybe they haven’t come to life yet?
Cut back to the rescue mission.
J: The robot is the loudest toy! Why would they take the robot? [upon seeing Cruiser] Never mind, I take it back, the car is the loudest toy. How are they going to get the robot, the horse, and the car down the stairs??!
Cruiser drives Apple down the stairs.
J: That car handled the stairs a lot better than I was expecting.
S: That car is dead. There’s no way Cruiser makes it back up the stairs. I mean, I think it’s fair seeing as nobody knew Cruiser existed before he showed up. So if he dies, it’s like, “Oh, we knew that guy for a day.”
Meteora is revealed inside the box.
J: It’s the coolest toy ever!
S: It’s so confusing. It’s not in any package, it’s just in a box. Is it like a nutcracker or an heirloom figure?
J: I think she’s a doll mixed with an action figure? She’s got a sword!
S: It’s extra confusing. What parent buys Meteora, unpackages her, and then repackages her in a box? The 80’s was wild.
Rugby has put himself inside of Meteora’s box.
S: I’m just saying, this move on Rugby’s part is an instant suicide. They open the box, Rugby’s in the box, and he’s dead because he left his position.
J: Sure, the parents didn’t put him there so they’ll immediately know he doesn’t belong in there.
Apple tells Rugby that two Christmases ago, she was the Christmas toy.
S: Why didn’t they have that talk, like that night?
J: Cause he was the new toy and he was the hot shot. Though it is weird that they didn’t talk about this in the ENTIRE year leading up to the next Christmas.
J: You think they could have been like, “Hey Rugby, you’re not going to be the Christmas toy when Christmas comes back.” But maybe they did try and he didn’t listen because –
S: – because he’s a s**tbag.
Apple cries in her flashback.
J: Does this mean toys can cry?
S: Some toys can cry, Julia!
J: This also implies that kids can’t love more than one toy at a time.
Meteora is now pushing chess pieces off a table.
S: Meteora is wild. Are board games not toys?
J: I suppose not?
The dad of the family is heading to the living room to check out the noise.
S: They’re all dead. Does this special end with a long PSA about how friends don’t let friends get mass killed by being seen by humans?
S: Is this dad wearing dress shoes??
J: This is supposed to be the dead of night, right? I mean, maybe they’re doing last minute wrapping in their room, but why wouldn’t he be wearing slippers?
Meteora is examining the new space around her, not acknowledging that she’s a toy.
J: So, a lot of people go on about how Toy Story sort of ripped this special off. You have Meteora, a space toy who doesn’t know that she’s a toy and she’s going to become the new favorite toy, and the once was favorite toy is really butt hurt about it.
The toys all sing to Meteora.
J: Is no one else in this house hearing this song? They reacted to the board game pieces getting knocked off, but not a whole song?
S: There have been a few songs, and the rest of the house doesn’t seem to be able to hear them.
J: But most happened in the playroom where the door’s closed –
S: As if the playroom is soundproof.
J: A lot of the songs have been in flashbacks too.
S: Also, I already made a Lots-O’ reference, I obviously get the Toy Story vibes. The toys in Toy Story are more accurate to real toys, despite being CGI. I had a lot of those toys or knew of their existence. And, y’know, it’s a more sensible movie. It makes more sense from the beginning. Woody’s not deluded, he’s just jealous.
J: Rugby’s also jealous.
S: No, Rugby is insane!
The toys head back to the playroom. The parents come into the hallway where Mew still is.
S: Mew’s dead.
J: Mew could get away with having moved to a different area, cause they could reason the cat brought him there?
S: Right, you’d think so. Also all these toys are standing in the same position that the clown was in when he died. How are they okay?
The mom says, “Oh Weegie, you’re as bad as the kids” as Mew freezes for good.
S: Yeah, I really feel like Mew shouldn’t be dead.
J: That should be the perk of being a cat toy. Like, “Oh this toy’s in the hallway, the cat probably brought it here.”
S: Also, why would the parents scold the cat for taking its toy anywhere? This mom’s like, “I can’t believe this! Oh Weegie, you’re as bad as my children!” He’s a cat!
J: Also, it’s the middle of Christmas Eve night and she’s just yelling in the house, as if she doesn’t have kids trying to sleep!
S: This whole movie also defies the whole logic of my own toy experience, which had little to no attachment to Christmas. The only Christmas toy I would argue that lasted for years for me was the Sega Genesis I got, which is arguably not a toy.
J: It’s a different kind of toy. That would be a weird toy to see come to life.
They’re all sad about Mew dying.
S: This movie doesn’t make any sense to me.
J: Rugby’s had a whole journey this evening. He went from thinking he was the best toy of all time and hating Mew to being humbled and having a friend who’s dead.
Rugby mourns Mew, mentioning his bad smell.
S: I don’t know if I can accept that toys have a sense of smell.
J: I mean, that doll cried on her own. I feel like you need a brain and possibly organs to have these bodily functions.
Rugby begins singing.
J: I forgot there were so many songs.
S: There’s been zero bangers in this, Julia.
J: That’s probably why I forgot. Y’know, you might think that Emmet Otter is depressing as all get out –
S: It’s depressing, but it’s intentionally depressing.
J: Right, and the songs in that are jams.
J: [laughs] It’s true.
S: This is the first special you’ve shown me that I genuinely think is terrible.
J: You didn’t think Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree last year was terrible?
S: Robert Downey Jr. playing young Scrooge and getting lit on Christmas, are you kidding me? I loved it!
J: I will say, and this is controversial as a Muppet fan, I do think I enjoyed Mr. Willowby more than this. It’s shorter. The songs, while not great –
S: The songs have pep!
J: – and maybe it’s because I grew up with them, I think they’re all better than the songs in this.
The toys all sing “Together At Christmas.”
J: This song gets sung in the medley in Muppet Family Christmas, so I guess I like this one.
Mew is back alive.
J: Did they explain why Mew came back to life?
J: Rugby was so sad that his love brought Mew back to life? Does no one love Ditz?
S: Nobody likes Ditz.
All the other toys come back to life.
J: Is it Christmas magic that brought them back?
S: That’s gotta suck. You’re a toy and you die on January 30th and you’ve gotta wait till next Christmas to come back to life.
Jamie comes into the playroom with Meteora.
S: This playroom seems incredibly dangerous.
J: Cause they have an open fireplace with an unsupervised fire going?
S: It’s weird that the kids don’t actually play with any of the toys. They just set them down in this room.
J: It’s Christmas, maybe they’re going to go have a meal with family.
S: Unrealistic. In A Christmas Story the kids play with those toys until they pass out.
J: Why didn’t she keep Meteora with her? She’s still in her PJs, so it’s gotta be still Christmas morning.
Jamie says she loves all her toys.
J: See, she loves all her toys. Well, wait, she only named Rugby and Apple too. She didn’t list anyone else.
S: She only has those three toys.
J: No one cares about Bleep, Balthazar, Belmont.
The toys sing their last song of the special. Kermit reappears.
S: Kermit’s there!
J: Is Kermit a toy?
S: Kermit is not a toy.
J: But he can see them and they’re not freezing. I guess he’s more of a plot device.
S: In this special, Kermit is possessed of the Santa magic that allows him to do all things. That’s why he’s wearing the Santa costume.
J: Do you think Meteora and that Barbie are going to start dating?
S: That’d be cool.
J: Where’s that sequel?
S: Meteora is definitely looking at that Barbie some type of way.
The credits start rolling.
J: That’s it. That’s the special. Alright, so that was The Christmas Toy. This was only my third time seeing it. It is not in my Christmas watching rotation for a reason. It’s fine. It’s cute. It’s lacking in likable characters and an entertaining plot, perhaps. And the songs aren’t at all memorable. What are your takeaways?
S: This is the first one that I think is bad. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like Rugby’s attitude. I didn’t like Dave Goelz’s performance as Rugby.
J: Interesting. Say more.
S: It was really grating. He’s doing a Dave Goelz voice that’s kind of in the more unpleasant characters model extreme as opposed to the instantly likable characters.
J: What other character of Dave Goelz would you compare that to?
S: Well, here’s the thing, I don’t know if I know enough of the performances well enough to call it from the back of my hand, but each performer sort of has a spectrum of voices they’ll do.
S: I think it’s Jerry Nelson who has the “old hapless guy” and his Robin the Frog, his sweet innocent character, same with Emmet Otter. There’s the “I’m the stone you can’t squeeze blood from and that’s the TRUUUUTH” characters on the other side. Dave Goelz has got a style of performances where his character is weird, creepy, and unpleasant. And then Gonzo is in the middle, cause Gonzo can be all things.
J: He’s got a bit more of a range than that. He’s got Bunsen who’s smart and calculated, he’s got Beauregard who’s a bumbling dummy.
S: I love Beauregard.
J: Everyone loves Beauregard.
S: I’m just saying, he could have played it on the Beauregard side. He very much didn’t. That character is already an egotistical maniac, there’s nothing sympathetic to latch onto with the voice and performance, so the whole time from the beginning song I just didn’t care for this tiger. I wasn’t invested in his Christmas journey. Also, all the other characters that may or may not be sympathetic are – these are wack toys that have not aged well. You don’t have – and I’m sure it’s because of brand stuff – you don’t have any of the classics. Apple is no Raggedy Ann. She’s a knock off, but because they’re all knock offs there’s something that’s lost. One of the strengths of Toy Story is that it’s Mr. Potato Head. One of the strengths of Toy Story is the identifiable green army men figures.
J: They get an actual Barbie in the second one.
S: There are original toys, but there are enough recognizable real world toys to kind of bridge the gap, and in this one the phone toy was the closest we got to an “oh yeah, that’s a real toy.” I’d like to see a modern version of this with a bunch of… what are though big loaf pillows?
S: Get like a poop shaped squishmallow and make that the star, cause that would be legitimately challenging to care about it! I don’t know! And also, yeah, the logic and the stakes of it were not fully formed, which we talked about… anyway, my rant could go on. This one did nothing for me and kind of bothered me a lot.
J: So this one’s a skip for you.
S: I will never watch this one again.
J: Fair enough, alright… well…
S: I had lost no sleep having never seen it, and I will lose no sleep forgetting it exists. When I think fondly of the weird Muppet specials you’ve shown me, I will imagine the crystal meth dance sequence of the owls in Mr. Willowby’s Tree of Insane Proportions and I will not care at all about this one.
J: Sure, I can’t say I’ll never watch this one again. Either out of curiosity in ten years from now or, much more likely, if I have to write something for ToughPigs about it. Y’know, it’s short enough, and it’s something you could have on in the background and you could be doing something else.
S: If you really don’t value the time in your life! If I’m endorsing this to any of your ToughPigs crew who haven’t seen this and are on the fence: don’t watch it.
J: I will say if you do want to watch it, it’s free on Amazon Prime. That’s, yeah, that’s pretty much the end of it. We’ll be back next year –
S: I will say if you have a special that you need to watch, there is an amazing Muppets at the Haunted Mansion special that is the same length and is, like, four times as good.
J: Yeah… I don’t know if that’s the right move for Christmas, but sure.
S: It doesn’t need to be! The Guardians of the Galaxy Christmas special is the same time length, fifty minutes, and it will do wonders for you!
J: Just imagine they’re all Muppets.
S: The stakes were similar!
J: Okay. We’ll be back next year. I think that we’re pretty much down to the Lady Gaga And The Muppets Holiday Spectacular and The Great Santa Claus Switch. So either something really old that perhaps is maybe similar to Christmas Toy cause I’ve only seen it once and I have not gone back and I remember nothing about it, or the special I’ve never watched because everyone has told me how bad it is. Uh… we’ll see? Alright, see you next year, everyone!
Click here to theorize if Apple is secretly Chucky on the ToughPigs forum!
by Julia Gaskill and Stephen Meads