Monday, November 28, 2011

Seasons Greetings

The holidays are upon us!  That means it is time once again for my annual look at Christmas specials!  For those who followed my reviews in previous years, you'll know that I spend the month of December looking at Christmas movies and television specials.  Having already covered most of the big ones, I feel a break from the usual fare is in order.  I am still having fun with my look at the works of Jim Henson, so I will be combining the best of both worlds!  Over the past two years, I briefly covered a handful of Henson Christmas specials, and this year I plan to revisit at a few of them.  But I have discovered many more hidden gems and forgotten holiday moments, so do not fret about me repeating myself for four weeks straight.

There is a bit of an unspoken rule about this blog in that I try not to cover works made by the Jim Henson Company after his parting.  I greatly enjoy the creations where I can see elements of his personal touch.  However, I will make a couple exceptions for "Christmas Month," namely an in-depth look at The Muppet Christmas Carol, since many of you feel I judged that movie too harshly.  Perhaps a repeated viewing shall change my perspective?

But to kick things off, we shall start with the smallest medium.

Christmas cards.

A skull under the mistletoe.  I'm filled with warm feelings already.

Like all greeting cards, Christmas cards are a way to express to someone else that they are currently in your thoughts.  But Christmas cards have an additional purpose that other cards do not.  A greeting card is often associated with an event.  It could be a personal annual event ("Happy Birthday"), a planned event ("Congrats on the new baby!") or an unexpected event ("Get Well Soon").  These events can occur at any time of the year, and are related to whatever the intended recipient is going through at the moment.  Then there are holidays which have specific targets (Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day) and holidays which do not seem to warrant greeting cards at all, yet do ("Boo! It's Halloween! In case you forgot!").

All of these cards serve many purposes, but the brilliance of the Christmas card is that it applies to everyone universally.  It comes at the end of the year, so it serves as a great opportunity to connect with all of those in your life, whether you still keep in touch with them or not.  Families enjoy posing for photos and sending updates to their relatives, friends, and neighbors.  It's just a nice little tradition to keep everybody on the same page at the same time.

Large companies usually send these cards to their employees en mass, which diminishes that personal touch.  That being said, there are certain companies who use the Christmas card to provide some humor and allow employees to enjoy an aspect of their product that those outside the company rarely see.  Original art is showcased, only to be viewed by the corporate family.

In the early years, Jim Henson took this a step further and personally created the company holiday cards.

These cards ranged from simple doodles... complex sketches.

Some were abstract...

and others were informative.

And some were just silly.

As time went on, other staff members were in charge of creating the holiday cards, but the whimsical nature of the cards remained, reflecting Jim's philosophies.

Miss Piggy never looked so peaceful.

The tradition of recapping the year appeared on many of the designs (resulting in a multi-year slew of Dark Crystal cards, due to the ongoing production process).  While many of these cards lack dates on them, it is easy to place them in chronological order based on the content depicted.

Although The Land of Gorch card could really fit in anywhere, right?

These cards are still being created year by year (with last year's sporting the Fraggles in a festive spirit, signifying a possible return to Fraggle Rock) and each serves as a little reminder of the joy that accompanies the holiday season.  To see images of the 30+ cards created during Jim's lifetime, check page 160-161 of Jim Henson: The Works or view them here and pick your favorite!

Although it'll be hard topping the best one.

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