Otter Pop

Somewhere, Jim Henson is smiling. Twenty years after his death, so-called children’s entertainment — especially animation, in all its variations — has been thoroughly accepted as a serious art form. Of course, plenty of TV viewers and moviegoers recognized Henson’s genius as a puppeteer and storyteller while he was alive and turning out endearing Muppets shows and extraordinary movie fantasies (Dark Crystal and Labyrinth). Wrapping up the seasonal and sincere “Joy of Life” film series, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, a 1977 holiday television special adapted from Russell Hoban’s children’s book, is as smile-inducing as anything in the master’s oeuvre. Poor Ma Otter and son Emmet are having a tough go of it in Frogtown Hollow, with no dough to spare for Christmas presents. (A timely sentiment this year, alas.) Each secretly enters a talent contest in hopes of winning the prize money and going shopping. Along with Henson’s marvelous puppetry, the production boasts original songs by Paul Williams, including “When the River Meets the Sea.” The uncut version screens today, with Kermit the Frog’s restored role in the proceedings, to the delight of grown-ups with fond memories and children afforded their first glimpse of Henson’s special gifts.
Sun., Dec. 20, 2 p.m., 2009

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