This article is about the 1967 Rankin/Bass television special. For the song the special is named after, see Cricket on the Hearth (song).
|“||I suppose, I had never seen a happy room. And in there, in the corner, was the nicest little hearth you could ever hope for.||”|
— Cricket Crocket looking at a room inside of the toy shop.
Cricket on the Hearth is a Christmas special produced by Rankin/Bass and animated by Television Corporation of Japan (now Eiken). It is based on the book of the same name by Charles Dickens and premiered on NBC on December 18, 1967, as the twelfth episode of The Danny Thomas Hour.
The special begins in England where the chorus sings the title song. Our main character, Cricket Crocket, goes inside to warm up and tells us how he became a part of his human family.
It was springtime and he was looking for a proper family to "adopt". Just then, he spots a toy shop and meets its owner, Caleb Plummer. Caleb suggests to him if he could stay with him and his family for a little while, and Cricket accepts his hospitality.
Cricket enters and sees Caleb's daughter, Bertha weeping as she hugs her fiance, Edward. Edward is a sailor in the Royal Navy and must leave for a voyage lasting several years. The two share a tearful farewell and Bertha promises to always be faithful to him ("Don't Give Your Love Away"). Later, Caleb and Bertha, with some help from Cricket, build some toys. Bertha sings "Smiles Go With Tears". Once she's done, Jeremiah Bleak drops in to inform the family that Edward has died at sea. The shocking news makes Bertha suddenly and inexplicably go blind. Caleb does all he can to make Bertha feel better, but nothing works. He hires doctors to try to cure her blindness but they cannot. Caleb loses his passion for work and takes out loan after loan. When he's unable to pay the mortgage, he has no choice but to pack up and leave.
Caleb, with Cricket and Bertha, try to find a bit of work. As he's about to give up, Cricket spies a toy shop in need of employment ("Through My Eyes"). Caleb meets the greedy toyshop owner Tackleton and his pet crow Uriah and urges him for a job. Tackleton signs on Caleb and tells him that he can sleep on the premises and eat leftovers but won't be paid. Caleb also learns he's the only toymaker working for Tackleton and must do quadruple the usual workload on his own. In their new home, Caleb pretends they're living with other workers and that their situation isn't quite so grim so as to not worry Bertha.
Later that night, as Caleb and Bertha are sleeping, Uriah appears to chase Cricket around and tries to eat him, until Tackleton calls him back to his cage. The next day is the week before Christmas. Caleb starts to work night and day to keep up with the demands of the season and Tackleton's penny-pinching orders. Two days before Christmas, Caleb bumps into an old man who is really Edward in disguise. Caleb invites him to come home with them, and Bertha is surprised when this supposed stranger knows her name. Caleb declares that they are all one family, and that Christmas is a time for mankind to come together ("The First Christmas").
On Christmas Eve, the trio builds toys until Tackleton and Uriah stop by to give them a Christmas bonus of a few shillings. What Tackleton really wants, however, is to make Bertha his wife. He gives her an hour to think it over. Bertha, unaware of Tackleton's true nature and age, is honored, though Caleb initially refuses since he still sees her as just a child. She tells Caleb that he must accept the fact that she is grown-up now ("That Was Yesterday"). Edward arrives intending to finally tell Bertha the truth about him, but Bertha happily tells him that she's decided to marry Tackleton. Edward leaves in heartbreak.
Cricket is determined that Bertha doesn't yes to Tackleton's proposal, so he calls on his friends to sabotage her meeting with him. After it ends with Tackleton running out sneezing (as Cricket put black pepper in his tea), Tackleton orders Uriah to get rid of the cricket by any means necessary. Uriah goes to an animal bar down by the docks and meets his associates, a dog and monkey named Strangler and Slink. They listen to a cat named Moll sing "Fish and Chips".
After the song, they go over plans to eliminate Cricket. Slink proposes an alternate solution to killing him: they can capture him and sell him to a sea captain who's keen on capturing and selling crickets for their luck. Uriah, Strangler, and Slink kidnap Cricket and bring him to the captain's ship in a cage. The captain, however, shoots them and sets sail to China, intending to sell Cricket Crocket there for a pretty price.
Eager to return home to his family, Cricket plays dead and successfully tricks the captain into throwing him out of the boat. He makes his way back to land with the help of a whale, a pelican, and various helpful fish.
When Cricket finally makes it back to the toyshop, it's midnight. The toys start to come alive, which they can only do on Christmas Eve when there are no people present (they inform Cricket Crocket that crickets don't count). Cricket asks for their help in preventing Bertha's marriage to Tackleton, which they agree to since Bertha and her father have looked after them so well. They take Cricket to Edward, who is sleeping outside, and remove his disguise. The toy elephant explains that Edward didn't drown when his ship went down. He built himself a raft, sailed to an uncharted island, and lived there for two years before a whaler found him and brought him back to England.
Edward wakes up and Cricket demands to know why he never told Bertha and Caleb who he was. Edward says he came directly to Bertha once he returned home, but blamed himself for her sudden blindness. He felt guilty stepping back into her life after what he feels he did to her, so he adopted the disguise so he could still Bertha with her without anyone knowing. He finally gathered up the courage to tell her the truth, only to see how happy she was when Tackleton proposed to her and decided not to take that happiness away from her. He came back tonight to have one last look at Bertha before she is married. Cricket insists that Bertha will be happy that he's alive and wakes her. Just as Cricket said, she is thrilled to find Edward again and the two are married right away.
On Christmas morning, Tackleton is shocked to see Bertha has already been wed to Edward. He cries over how nobody loves him, but Bertha tells him that there will always be a place in her heart for him. Tackleton is suddenly moved by Bertha's kindness and happily changes his ways. Caleb tells Cricket that he was the luckiest thing that ever happened to anyone.
|"Cricket on the Hearth"||Danny Thomas|
The Norman Luboff Chorus
|"Don't Give Your Love Away"||Ed Ames|
|"Smiles Go With Tears"||Marlo Thomas|
|"Through My Eyes"||Danny Thomas|
|"The First Christmas"||Danny Thomas|
The Norman Luboff Chorus
|"That Was Yesterday"||Marlo Thomas|
|"Fish and Chips"||Abbe Lane|
|"Through My Eyes (Reprise)"||Ed Ames|
|"Medley: Cricket on the Hearth/The First Christmas"||Danny Thomas|
The Norman Luboff Chorus
The special was distributed on home video by Sony Wonder in 1998 and 2006, by Genius Products in 2007 and 2009, and by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in 2019. Prior to getting its own individual Blu-ray release in 2019, it was also included in Universal's Original Christmas Classics Deluxe Edition DVD and Blu-ray sets in 2018, sharing a disc with The Little Drummer Boy.
- On Freeform's airing of the special, some scenes were sometimes cut for time. Caleb's song, "Through My Eyes" and Bertha's second song "That Was Yesterday" were shortened as well. Also, while the first bookend segment was still kept, while shortened, the other one in the end was cut entirely to go straight to the credits.
|Danny Thomas||Caleb Plummer (animation)|
Himself (live-action bookends)
|Marlo Thomas||Bertha Plummer|
|Ed Ames||Edward Benton|
|Roddy McDowall||Cricket Crocket|
|Paul Frees||Jeremiah Bleak|
|The Norman Luboff Chorus||Themselves|
- The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass, by Rick Goldschmidt. 1997, Miser Bros. Press.
- Cricket on the Hearth (1967) at the Internet Movie Database
- Cricket on the Hearth (1967) at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Platypus Comix's review