The Great Santa Claus Switch was a Muppet television special that first aired on CBS on December 20, 1970 as a special episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. As a gift, Ed gave Jim Henson and hour of his show as an appreciation for four years of apperances.
The show, narrated by Ed Sullivan, begins at the North Pole with Santa Claus and his elves getting ready for another Christmas. However, Cosmo Scam has hatched a plan to kidnap Santa and take his place. As part of the plan, Cosmo plans to abduct Santa's elves (one at a time) and replace them with his evil henchmen.
The idea for this Christmas special had been developed by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl for several years, and had a long evolution. Notes and sketches date as far back as 1963, when the project was originally titled The Witch Who Stole Santa Claus, and later The Sinister Santa Claus Switch. The story revolved around a failed plot to kidnap and impersonate Santa Claus in order to rob every home in the world. Taminella Grinderfall, the witch from the unsold Tales of The Tinkerdee pilot was to play a starring role. Henson and Juhl reworked the script numerous times, and the title changed as well. To help sell the project to television executives, Henson created watercolor illustrations to accompany a written proposal. The concept circulated for several years before Ed Sullivan, based on the response to the Muppets' frequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, agreed to produce the special and air it in his regular Sunday evening time slot.
By 1970, Henson's Muppets had made nearly two dozen successful guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Great Santa Claus Switch was a full Henson production – written by Juhl, with music by Joe Raposo and puppets by Don Sahlin. The production marks the first time Henson worked with Richard Hunt and Fran Brill.
- This special includes the very first appearance of the puppet that would later become Gonzo. He was then known as Snarl (or the Cigar Box Frackle) and would be remodeled and reused for The Muppet Show.
- The Great Santa Claus Switch is currently available for viewing at The Paley Center for Media.
- Jim Henson: Fred, Lothar
- Frank Oz: Thig, Skippity, Hoppity, Boppity, Snerf
- Jerry Nelson: Thog, Zippity, Snivelly
- Richard Hunt: Bing, Frackle with a match
- John Lovelady: Bong, Snake Frackle, Scoff, Snerf, Alarm Frackle
- Danny Seagren: Gloat, Snarl, Snerf
- Fran Brill: Snerf
- Additional Muppet Performers: Marilyn Sokol, Byron Whiting, Greg Antonacchi, Cary Antebi, John Byrum
- ↑ Jim Henson's Red Book entry - December 1969
- ↑ Inches, Alison Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles, pp. 70-74