The story tells of Emmet Otter and his Ma, a widow who scrapes by on the small amount of money she gets from doing laundry and that Emmet gets from doing odd jobs around their home of Frogtown Hollow. As Christmas approaches, they hear of a talent contest in the nearby town of Waterville, and separately decide to enter to buy nice presents for each other -- a nice guitar for Emmet, or a piano for Ma. However, in a twist on The Gift of the Magi, they must sacrifice each other's livelihood for the talent contest -- Ma hocks Emmet's tools for dress fabric, while Emmet turns Ma's washtub into a washtub bass for a jug band.
Emmet and Ma each do an excellent job, only to be defeated at the last minute by a rock and roll band called The Nightmare, which comprises a hoodlum gang from the fairly distant town of River Bottom. However, as Ma and Emmet's jug band sing a song together on the way home (more accurately, both of their talent show songs together after Ma realized they fit together), they are overheard by Doc Bullfrog, owner of a local restaurant, who hires them to sing for his customers, thus granting them the bigger prize.
Here's a bootlegged bit of the show, my favorite part because you get to see the muppets run on ice. I know the quality is crappy but you'll get the idea.
When I watched it this year I identified a red-winged blackbird, an eastern meadowlark, and a sandhill crane during the river scenes. Rather unlikely birdie suspects in a Christmas film, and the crane call was definitely played while showing a great blue heron. But, regardless it remains one of my favorites, so I'll let Jim and Kermit slide on this one.
By the way, the word "Muppet" itself was said by Henson to have been created by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet"; however, Henson was also known to have stated that it was just something he liked the sound of, and he made up the "marionette/puppet" story while talking to a journalist because it sounded plausible. Thanks Wiki.
You just can't get any better than singing otters:
And, you can find muppet bloopers (good quality) from the show on YouTube.
Merry Christmas everyone!