100 Film Favorites – #79: Elmo Saves Christmas
(Emily Squires, 1996)
“Every day can’t be Christmas,
That wouldn’t be such a treat,
You can get tired of chocolate candy
When that’s all you eat.”
Maybe you thought I’d immediately follow up the Halloween and Thanksgiving posts with a Christmas special. Well, I sure fooled you! I waited a whole seven posts before moving on to Christmas! Bet no one saw that coming…or cared…
At any rate, I’m a pretty big Muppet fan, and I have the bug-eyed Kermit hat from AMP Trivia Nite to prove it. I know that, among some Muppet purists, Elmo isn’t the most highly-regarded of Sesame Street characters. His growing popularity (and sales figures) throughout the 90s led to Elmo becoming a greater and greater focus of the series (taking the focus away from other, older characters). It got to the point that, in 1998, the “Elmo’s World” segment was instated to replace the last third of every episode. In the past year, Elmo’s reputation has suffered a more serious blow, with the revelation of puppeteer Kevin Clash’s alleged sexual relations with minors forcing him to depart the Sesame Street franchise. Truly, present-day Elmo has sunk to the nadir of infamy.
Take the following as some kind of metaphor:
BUT…in 1996, Elmo was king. That December was the undisputed Christmas of Elmo. With parents literally fighting each other for Tickle Me Elmo dolls, the stars aligned and the stage was set for an Elmo-centric Christmas special.
I already discussed Elmo Saves Christmas in the first “Christmas Classics Countdown” way back in 2011, so I’ll try to keep the summary brief. One Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Elmo rescues a stuck Santa from inside his chimney. The grateful Claus offers him a reward: A magical snow-globe which will grant him three wishes. Elmo immediately wishes for a glass of water, and Santa cautions him to save his wishes for something big…”A castle! A kingdom! A fire engine – a real one!” Bearing this in mind, the next day Elmo makes a bigger wish: That every day would be Christmas. Soon, news outlets are abuzz. Tomorrow, Kermit the Frog reports, will be Christmas again!
What qualifies Elmo Saves Christmas for this list is just how bleak and apocalyptic it gets. The other “Christmas every day” films I’ve seen (Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas and the aptly titled Christmas Every Day) feature the protagonist experiencing a Groundhog Day-style time loop, living through the exact same Christmas day over and over again. Elmo Saves Christmas, however, has the world (or at least the Christian world) continuing to celebrate Christmas on December 26th, 27th, and so on throughout every day of the following year, ostensibly just because the news media tells them to. This leads to the complete shutdown of civilization. No one goes to work, because no one works on Christmas and every day is now Christmas. Trash piles up, carolers go hoarse, and “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the only thing on TV. People visiting relatives “over Christmas” never return. The Easter Bunny, played by Harvey Fierstein, is reduced to schilling Easter eggs as novel Christmas gifts.
Finally, another December 25th rolls around. Seeing that the citizens of Sesame Street (and presumably the world beyond) are thoroughly sick of Christmas, Elmo uses his third wish to return things to normal. But before the globe can work its magic, Elmo accidentally drops it, and the world is doomed to eternal Christmas forever.
No, actually Elmo is fortunate enough to have been traveling with a reindeer capable of flying fast enough to time travel. To remedy the endless Christmas conundrum, Elmo and the reindeer fly backwards around the Earth, a la the first Superman movie, and go back in time to the night Elmo first received the snow-globe. Opting not to wish for “Christmas every day” this time around, Elmo “saves Christmas” simply by not screwing it up in the first place. Gee, thanks, Elmo.
Elmo Saves Christmas features a star-studded cast (in addition to Harvey Fierstein, Maya Angelou serves as narrator and Charles Durning plays Santa Claus), incredibly catchy songs, and a simultaneously hilarious and grim depiction of its “too much of a good thing” moral. Fly backwards around the Earth, time travel back to Elmo’s glory days, and give this special a watch.
And just for the heck of it, here’s Harvey Fierstein performing “(Buy Your Friend) An Easter Egg for Christmas”.
Brian Terrill is the host of television show Count Gauntly’s Horrors from the Public Domain. You can keep up with Brian’s 100 Film Favorites countdown here.