Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas movie writer

The Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas movie has tapped Bret McKenzie to write the script and the music for a new take on the 1970s ABC special from the Jim Henson Company. McKenzie is no stranger to Henson-related material, having written the script and the songs for both The Muppets and its sequel, Muppets Most Wanted. This story follows some very poor otters (unlike those fancy wealthy otters) who enter a talent show to win money for Christmas gifts.

Variety broke the news about Bret McKenzie writing the Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas movie, adding that McKenzie has the option to direct, too – but that decision hasn’t been finalized yet. In the original Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas TV special, “Emmet and Ma Otter are very poor, but they are very happy and talented singers. Christmas is around the corner, and they both want to get the other a very special present. The prize in the talent show is $50. Both Emmet and Ma get a song ready for the competition; Emmet forms a jug band, and Ma practices alone, to vie with the Riverbottom Gang.”

The special required Henson and company to construct elaborate sets in ways they hadn’t before. “Emmet Otter was the first time we had gotten into those kind of elaborate sets where we had floors in the interiors and we would take a wide-angle shot with characters coming up through holes in the floor,” Henson said. “The Muppet Show was always platformed-up, but in Emmet Otter… we’d go right into a scene. We’d have the whole set in three dimensions… rigged so we could pop parts and come out through the openings, which is really time-consuming.”

There’s currently no distributor onboard the movie adaptation. You might think, as I did at first, that this was bound to end up on Disney+, the new Disney streaming service. But while Disney owns the Muppets, they don’t own the Emmet Otter characters –  The Jim Henson Company does. When Emmet Otter first aired in the ’70s, it came with an introduction by Kermit the Frog. But after Disney bought the rights to the Muppets, Kermit’s intro was cut from future releases.

Nostalgia factor aside, I have a hard time believing this project is destined for the big screen. My guess is it’ll probably end up on Netflix, who recently released The Jim Henson Company’s Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series.

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