“The Christmas Toy”: Jim Henson’s Precursor to “Toy Story”

On this week’s Shouts From the Back Row podcast about our favourite Christmas specials, I discussed a Jim Henson holiday production that even my Henson-obssessed colleagues had never seen, so I feel this situation definitely has to be remedied. The Christmas Toy is a made-for-TV Christmas special that aired on ABC in 1986 and its premise may sound a little familiar to you. The story takes place in a playroom on Christmas Eve where all the toys magically come to life when the kids and their parents aren’t around. The main protagonist is a stuffed tiger named Rugby, who prides himself on being the favourite toy of the young girl of the house. However, Rugby starts to get very insecure when he finds out that his master is going to be getting a new doll for Christmas who could potentially replace him as her favourite toy. In case you haven’t guessed it already, yes, this is essentially a live action puppet version of Toy Story nine years before the fact! I hope Pixar sends royalty cheques to the Henson family. Anyway, I watched and taped The Christmas Toy on its original airing back when I was eight years old and thought the notion of toys coming to life when humans weren’t around was the coolest idea ever. I absolutely adored this when I was a child and still think it’s pretty fun to watch today, so if you’re a Jim Henson fan, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It should be noted that when The Christmas Toy was eventually released on DVD in 2008, the host segments featuring Kermit the Frog were edited out due to legal rights issues! Therefore, it’s recommended that you watch the original uncut version of The Christmas Toy on Youtube. You’ll find it divided up into seven parts below. Enjoy!








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