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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What Can The Muppets Do Next? by Nicholas Napoli

The last seven years have been exciting for Muppets Fans around the world, we waited patiently since the last millennium and finally 2011 gave us The Muppets back on the big screen with a successful turnaround. Meanwhile for the next few years The Muppets were taking over YouTube, late night talk shows, commercials, magazines, bus stop ads, The Disney Store, they were everywhere and in 2014 they returned with another movie... again. 

In 2015 after almost twenty years the Muppets also returned to prime time TV with their own weekly show. Sadly The Muppets have still not been renewed for a second season but remember this, Prison Break is airing Season 5 eight years after Season 4 ended, who is to say The Muppets can’t take a year or two off to concentrate on themselves before returning for a better and even stronger second season. Give Kermit some time to think and sing his troubles away at the swamp with his nephew Robin and for Miss Piggy to go on an around the world shopping spree with her new BFF Uncle Deadly. Meanwhile the rest of the Muppets can band together without their two leaders and refurbish and rebuild the old Muppet theatre with the help of the Theoretical Mafia. As a Muppet Fan I prefer to hold out hope for a season two renewal as opposed to hoping for another movie or even another TV Show a few years down the line. When Muppets Tonight ended I never thought it would take this long for us Fans to get another TV Show, it took about twenty years, I don’t want to take the same risk twice.

After The Muppets (2011) became a hit with audiences (including me) we were ready for a new Muppet show, one that reminded us of the original not so much because we felt nostalgic but rather because The Muppets first movie in over twelve years got us excited and hyped for them to get back together and put on a show again. Their next movie had the Muppet take their show across the globe on a grand world tour, that alone in my opinion would have been a good premise for the follow up film. The plot involving Constantine would have made a great two part episode arc for the TV Series and would have allowed Constantine to make occasional appearance as Kermit’s doppelganger foe throughout. Although my personal preference would have been to continue the pattern that no Muppet movie is connected to each other. 

I remember when I was a kid and watching The Great Muppet Caper I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Kermit and Miss Piggy didn’t know each other, they had met in The Muppet Movie, how did they not remember each other now? Kermit points out various times that this was a movie but as a child that would go over my head. I was used to the pattern that sequels continued the story where the first one ended so this did not make sense to me. As I grew older I realized each movie was its own individual standalone story, I’m glad the Muppets broke that pattern of thinking for me. Perhaps this is why The Muppets have made seven sequels and still keep the quality in storytelling, they have no guide lines to follow. For the first time Muppets Most Wanted (2014) continues exactly where the previous movie left off and again we are hyped at the fact that the Muppets are together again planning to put on a show. The anticipation over three years is too much, finally perform a full Muppet Show for us already.

In 2014 we learn the Muppets have been picked up for their own TV show, sadly many did not get what we were expecting. I understand trying new things but one of the biggest criticisms about Muppets Tonight was the fact that Clifford was the host and not Kermit, I understand why Miss Piggy had to be the host but in my opinion it was Kermit who should have been hosting whatever show they were planning. This is why I am excited for a second season because the way the last few episodes played out they were hinting that this is what we would get. Unfortunately the introduction of Muppet sketches including the return of Vets Hospital as well as a combination of The Swedish Chef’s Kitchen and Muppet Labs was introduced to late in the season. The grand return of many classic Muppet characters filling up the Muppet cast greatly happened in the last two episodes, they should have been there since the beginning. 

I think The Muppets Season One would have worked much better had they implanted the ideas at the end at the beginning and those at the beginning at the end. For example we should have had a whole season to get to meet a huge cast of Muppets whilst Kermit and Miss Piggy should have broken up in the last two episodes, not before the show even premiered. The Muppets should not only take advantage of their wide selection of characters but they must also remember how important Muppet Whatnots are to the franchise as well. It should be clear that in the world of The Muppets you can call a plumber and either a Human, a Muppet Whatnot or even a Muppet Rat will arrive to do the job for you yet a group of around thirty Muppets band together as a team to put on a show in a world full of Muppets. Most of the Muppets introduced after The Muppet Show tend to disappear after a few years, why introduce new characters only to forget about them later? Luckily Pepe, Bobo Bear, Big Mean Carl, Yolanda Rat and Bean Bunny did not suffer this fate but unfortunately so far Walter is nowhere to be found. Walter is the Muppet of the people, the new generation of fans, the Muppets light to Statler and Waldorf’s darkness. A fan of everything not just The Muppets, uncontrollable OCD, Walter is the perfect character to use when explaining past Muppet moments or current new trends, why forget about such a great and useful character within the Muppet community. 

Kermit and Miss Piggy’s estranged relationship should be further explored and not simply ignored. If not through their TV Show have them return to talk shows discussing their relationship, fight about it or at least reunite at a public event, this is something that needs to be dealt with before any other production is produced besides The Muppets Season Two. The video below is one of my favourite Kermit and Miss Piggy guest appearances throughout the years, I would really like to see more of this.


What I’ve come to learn when people try to help is that most people simply criticize, at times that can be helpful but if you truly want to help think about what can be done next, think not about the past but about the future, as a fan my future for the Muppets is a hopeful season two renewal. I could start an online campaign, I could write an article about Muppet toys, I could share a funny Muppet video on my Facebook wall but as Fans we can also share our ideas in the hopes at a bright future for The Muppets. The way I see it at this moment the Muppets need to continue being relevant and mainstream on practically a daily basis, after struggling for seven years to reach this point it would be a shame to slowly lose those new fans. How to keep the Muppets strong without fading away from their current popularity and without the help of a new movie or TV series to place them back in the spotlight?

The Muppets need to take over the world wide web, they generally tend to be funnier, more entertaining and at their best for non-Muppet fans when served in smaller doses. This is why the YouTube videos work so well, that is why The Muppet Show format worked so well. People use the internet more than they use the bathroom, the Muppets need to keep in contact with their audience, they have a YouTube channel, a Facebook page and a Twitter account and probably a website somewhere, online is where they need to concentrate on at the moment. Some of my most enjoyable Muppet content from the last few years have been the YouTube videos, I’m particularly fond of Jungle Boogie, Flowers On The Wall and Kodachrome. The Muppet YouTube channel would be best used in my opinion to provide new content whilst the Muppets Facebook page would be better off focusing on classic Muppet productions/sketches which for most younger fans will appear to be “new” Muppet videos whilst older fans can smile whilst reminiscing about their childhood. I would be excited to see a random old Muppet show sketch pop up on my Facebook wall thanks to The Muppets. Some examples would include Mahna-Mahna, Java, Hugga-Wugga, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Put The Lime In The Coconut, Octopus’s Garden, Time In A Bottle and Two Lost Souls just to name a few.

Last year marked the grand return of the Swinetrek Crew and with only two out of four episodes available on YouTube I hope we see them again soon. As a fan this is what excites me the most, this is what I want to see more of and as a non-fan a two minute Muppet video seems more appealing than watching an entire episode or movie. I hope this pattern continues and that other classic The Muppet Show sketches continue to make a revival on YouTube. They have so many options including but not limited to Bears on Patrol (poking fun at today’s ridiculous justice system), Vets Hospital (poking fun at today’s silly health scare problems), Muppet Labs (poking fun at the future we’re heading for) and The Swedish Chef’s Kitchen (the world needs more talking Burgers).

Gonzo’s Wild Stunts, Fozzie’s Comedy Acts, Pepe’s Celebrity Interviews and Muppet Newsflash segments poking fun at today’s world happenings with a light hearted Muppet touch to it. The important thing here is that the sketches need to be clever and entertaining enough that the fact that a Muppet character is hosting is not necessarily the “share this video” reason for it. Perhaps these sketches can eventually be combined to create a ten minute The
Muppet Web Show where Kermit would introduce three sketches with at least one of them featuring a celebrity guest star.

The Muppets should also make it a new tradition to take over Christmas every year, for some reason Christmas is one of the Muppets biggest strengths, they both work so well together. 

The Muppets have quite a selection of Christmas productions available but when you consider the fact that A Muppet Family Christmas contains characters from Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock that is one less Muppet Christmas production we’re likely to see. Seeing as how Disney doesn’t own the rights to release John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together or It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie that leaves them with only two Muppet Christmas productions. The Muppets Christmas Carol and The Muppet’s Letters To Santa, a new Muppet Christmas special to look forward to watching with the family every year would be a great Christmas gift for us fans, Disney should expand on their Muppet Christmas library. 

Moving away from the Christmas theme Muppet specials in general have always worked very well in the past and I’m surprised we have not seen more of them even if they are released directly to DVD. 

Speaking of DVD’s where are The Muppet Show Season 4 and 5 DVD Sets? Whilst we’re at it where is the rerelease of The Muppet Show Seasons 1-3 on Blu-Ray and the complete collection for Muppets Tonight? Let’s assume it’s due to music right or even low sales and perhaps if the latter that is why other classic Muppet content has not been released on any format since Disney purchased The Muppets. If these production aren’t going to be released any time soon why not share them online? I think the Muppets need to take advantage of the Luke Skywalker, C3P0 and R2D2 episode of The Muppet Show around the same time Star Wars Episode 8 premiers. I’m not really into Star Wars but I do know much of the anticipation for Episode 8 is the return of Luke Skywalker. If The Muppets aged in real life and I had the chance to see something I had not seen before in which Kermit had been part of in his younger years and playing the character I most remember him as rather than himself then you can be sure I’d go crazy over it, I imagine the same thing applies to Star Wars fans. I think many Muppet fans both old and new would find each of the six individual Muppet Classic Theatre fairy tales both entertaining and new as these have not been seen in years. These could be made available for Fans via the Muppets YouTube Channel or even as a random surprise posted by The Muppets on their Facebook page.

There are many Muppet productions I hope get the Blu-Ray treatment but since all we ever seem to get is rereleases of the various Muppet movies I’ll ask only one thing, no more The Muppet Movie Golden Camilla Edition’s. If you’re going to give us another The Muppet Movie release please do it right, otherwise I can’t justify buying yet another copy. 

The Muppet Movie: The Rainbow Connection Collection Bonus Features Include: The Muppets Go Hollywood – Miss Piggy’s Hollywood Various versions of The Rainbow Connection – Muppets Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony Commentary by Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie,owlf, Scooter, Floyd and Walter – Deleted Scenes Commercials – Interviews – Walter’s Muppet Film History – Backstage Footage The Muppet Show Episodes Guest Starring: Paul Williams, Bob Hope, Milton Bearl, James Coburn, Edgar Bergen, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman and Dom DeLuise.

The nostalgic factor is very important and nowadays it seems like every franchise is using this sneaky technique to get us to spend our money and I’m glad it’s working, for the most part I’m enjoying it. In the case of The Muppets they’ve been around for years, they’ve never stopped. When you’re a Muppet it’s hard to become nostalgic but certain aspects of these characters are able to be such as any time Kermit sings The Rainbow Connection. In my opinion the nostalgic factor the Muppets have going for them are the red curtains, the classic sketches, the variety show format, the two old men heckling from their balcony box and perhaps even Muppet guest spots. At one point parents who had grown up as kids watching The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) were excited to take their own kids to the theatre to see the latest Muppet movies to be realised once they grew up. 

Those kids who were dragged by their parents to the cinema to watch The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996) and perhaps even Muppets From Space (1999) are the kids who have now grown up and took their own kids to watch The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014). I am a 90’s kid and so the first Muppet film I remember watching in the cinema was Muppet Treasure Island and thanks to The Disney Channel The Muppets Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island played enough times to become important to other kids who also watched The Disney Channel during the 90’s... if there were any others besides me watching. Seeing the Muppets dressed up and taking on roles from literature is what at this moment most adults my age consider a nostalgic Muppet factor alongside the red curtains. I remember as a kid I was opposed to the idea of the Muppets playing other characters but now I actually welcome the idea. A new series of books titled Muppets Meet The Classics was recently announced with the first book in the series allowing Uncle Deadly to take on the starring role in The Phantom of The Opera. I am very excited to read these, the most exciting part is imagining which Muppet will play which character.

We might have lost the giant Kermit balloon at MGM Studios, the Muppet fountain might be under refurbishment yet slowly The Muppets are making a bigger presence at Disney World and that will always be a good thing. I remember excitedly rushing into MGM Studios when I was thirteen years old hoping to spot Muppet Vision 3D before my parents decided to sit us down for lunch. The best thing about The Muppets is that unlike Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck the “real” Muppets can be introduced to guests at the park rather than having walk-around versions of the characters. 

When I went to Disney World it was exciting seeing all these
Disney characters including Kermit and Miss Piggy walking around the park. It was nowhere near as exciting nor as realistic as when I entered the Muppet Vision 3D theatre and saw Statler and Waldorf heckling live from their balcony box or when Sweetums walked into the theatre searching for Bean Bunny. Last year Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and Sam the Eagle made the move to Disney World and take part in a live show at the Magic Kingdom titled The Muppets Presents... Great Moments in
American History. 

I’m thrilled that this is happening, more Muppets at Disney World is always a good thing but from what I’ve seen of the show it feels a little slow and I would personally prefer it to be a little more interactive with its audience. Perhaps Kermit shaped gold chocolate coins could be tossed out the window by Fozzie and Gonzo against Sam the Eagle’s wishes allowing the children watching to excitedly gather the coins. Audio-Animatronic versions of Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker also reside at Disney World travelling across the park in their 2007
invention Muppet Mobile Labs. 

I think this is a very clever way to have The Muppets interact with the guests throughout the park without having to solely rely on puppets and ways of hiding the puppeteer from the park guests. 

More of these would be very welcomed, imagine The Electric Mayhem Bus travelling around MGM Studios with either audio-animatronic or old fashioned puppetry used to bring The Electric Mayhem to life playing their instruments out the window whilst providing music around the park. This idea would also work with Gonzo stuck inside a canon being pushed around by Sweetums and with Kermit and a group of Frog singing songs and interacting with guests from a fountain swamp type setting.

Rizzo has also opened up a small business within Disney World and now after watching Muppet Vision 3D you can dine at PizzeRizzo. 

Sadly other than the name and a few Muppet pictures hanging on the wall it doesn’t really feel like a Muppet restaurant, having real Rats wearing bowties serve your food would be a step in the right direction. Imagine having a kitchen window closed off by shutters, when these shutters open what appears to be a window leading into the kitchen is actually a giant television screen. Each time the shutters open something different is visible through the kitchen window such as Muppet Rats preparing your pizzas or even The Swedish Chef fighting off Italian Meatball Mobsters. Lastly before leaving Disney World and having to wait for the bus make sure to finish your magical Disney World experience by visiting Gonzo’s Royal Flush. How come Miss Piggy has still not been crowned a Disney Princess? Should Janice be crowned first Miss Piggy would go mental.

It’s clear that so many generations have grown up with The Muppets that when a new movie premieres the cinemas will be packed with parents and their children, now getting the children
excited to be taken to see the movie is another thing. Toys and Apps this is the best way for Muppets to reach out to kids these days, I’m not much for games but last year I downloaded my first game and spent over six weeks hurdling angry birds at green pigs and because of this I found myself excited to watch The Angry Birds Movie.

After playing Angry Birds I soon discovered Flappy Bert Warning: after playing this game the name Ernie will forever frustrate you. Happy Penguins, Crazy Chickens, Hungry Rats, Build A Muppet Whatnot Village, Gonzo’s Weird Stunts, Fozzie Bear’s Bad Joke Tomato Dodger, Marvin Sugg’s Muppaphone Musical Challenge, so many ideas for simple games that would hopefully get kids excited to see these characters within future Muppet productions. Mahna-Mahna: Doo-Doo-Do It would find Mahna-Mahna singing along jumping over a row of coloured Snowths, each coloured Snowth makes a different noise, the first level would obviously be easy and based to the tune of Mahna-Mahna meaning Mahna-Mahna (character) would only have to jump on pink Snowths to get the correct sound for his song. Muppet Toys! 

I wrote a whole article about this over a month ago. We have plenty of toys coming our way but you know what I think is lacking? Muppet soft toys. Are background characters from Monsters Inc. more deserving or even recognisable in a few years in plush form compared to Sam the Eagle, Floyd, Dr Teeth, Janice, Zoot or Sweetums amongst others? Having a wide selection of Muppet characters to choose from does not only make fans happy but allows Disney to observe which characters are more popular than others, they are nowhere near as expensive to make as action figures, it’s easier to find shelf space in stores and damn it I want a Sweetums plush.

Spin-Off shows are very popular these days and in 2018 The Muppets will be taking advantage of this by reintroducing the Muppet Babies to a new generation of kids. This sounds like a great idea and from what I can see in the picture above it’s moving in the right direction. I do hope this new show is not just limited to a select group of Muppet characters represented as babies. 

Something The Muppets need to remember is that they have a large cast of characters and the more characters you throw at people the better chance you have that they’ll find a favourite. Up Late With Miss Piggy was also a good idea for a show perhaps it would have worked better as an actual show rather than a show within a show. Up Late With The Muppets, now that is something I would stay up late to watch every night, if not why not give Sweetums a go at his own show, Up Late With Sweetums. The host is the face of any late night talk show but when you can place a team of various individuals inside a Monster then that face is always there but the work load is much lighter. In 2001 the Muppets performed The Muppet Show Live and in 2016 The Electric Mayhem performed their first live concert at Outside Lands Music Festival and this September The Muppets are heading to the Hollywood Bowl. This is exactly what the Muppets can do that no other non-human franchise can, they can make live appearances and should take advantage of this more often. 

Was there not a rumour a while ago that The Muppets were heading for Broadway? That sound like a very logical next step if you ask me, if Shrek can make it work on Broadway I’m sure The Muppets can make it too.

Nicholas Napoli

Screenrant Exclusive: First Look at the 'Muppet Guys Talking' Poster

From Screenrant

Screen Rant is proud to present the exclusive premiere of the Muppet Guys Talking poster. Following the delightful documentary’s world premiere at SXSW, its subjects and stars Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, an
d Fran Brill along with producer Victoria Labalme sat down with us to share its origin story, which involves Pixar luminaries, a treasured snapshot of the late Jerry Nelson (who also appears in the film), and a versatile medical illustrator.

Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched offers a never-before-seen extended conversation between the pioneering Muppeteers who defined the world of Kermit and the gang from the earliest days of Jim Henson and beyond his passing. The doc was in the can before Nelson (who played Count Von Count and Mr. Snuffleupagus, among many other Muppets) passed away in the summer of 2012. And Goelz (The Great Gonzo and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew) wanted the poster to represent each of them in a way that spoke to the performers hidden beneath the magnificent monsters and Muppets they puppeteered.

Goelz explained the reasoning behind the poster’s design as follows:

“It was just how do we convey the idea that you’re going to hear from the people under the characters. So, there were two levels of it that intrigued me. I did a lot of sketches of ideas. Hands are an obvious gateway. But if there’s nothing on the hands, there’s no puppet covering it, all of a sudden it’s unmasked. And then if the hand is coming out of a box of some kind, and we’re going to peek into the box, we’re going to find out the story of what makes the hands move.”

But not just any hands would do. Every living cast member pitched in, snapping a series of shots of their own hands in different Muppet performance positions, then sending them to Goelz. From there, a string of Pixar people cam into assist. Friend of the Muppeteers Pete Docter (Up) suggested Ratatouille composer Michael Giacchino, who suggested The Good Dinosaur director Peter Sohn for help composing this poster (see below). “Peter Sohn over at Pixar drew the safe for us,” Goelz said. Then Sohn took the hand shots of the cast, and began to fiddle in photoshop to pull them together into a pleasing picture. “Then he ran up against the wall of his photoshop skills, in terms of getting the color balance of the light sources working and everything,” Goelz explained.

Jerry Nelson’s photo proved a special challenge. By the time the cast snapshots were being taken, Nelson was gone. Thankfully, Baretta (Pepe The Prawn, Bobo) found a photo he’d taken years before that had Nelson and Goelz crouching under a golf cart, the former’s bare hand raised in a Muppet pose for the camera operator’s reference. The original photo had been lost, but the scanned digital copy seen in Muppet Guys Talking allowed Nelson’s history-making hand to be added to the mix. Still, the low-res quality of the scan coupled with it being black and white meant Sohn was at a loss.

Goelz considered perhaps having the hands sketched like the safe, perhaps white on a black background. But Oz (Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear) pushed for the pictures, and a vibrant yellow backdrop. “And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know how you’re going to tie that together,'” Goelz recalled. “How are you going to tie photographs and an ink drawing and a yellow background? But it’s worth trying, so we went down that road.” But to get down that road, they needed one last favor. Goelz shared:

“I got this friend of mine who is a medical illustrator (Cindy Woolley)…medical illustrators illustrate medical textbooks and publications. They might look at a cadaver and draw what’s going on. They might look at a skeleton and do a graphic version of how a joint replacement works, that kind of thing. So she’s really good at drawing people. She’s really good at figuring out how to save a bad photoshop job. So she took the photoshop and just took a whole weekend figuring out how to work it, to get the colors to work. I think when Peter was working on it I switched a couple of arms so they’d be talking to each other. And between Peter Sohn and this lady, Cindy Woolley, they pulled it together. It took a lot of work.”

And all of it was volunteered, Oz noted. “What’s cool is all of these people also helped us for free,” Oz marveled. “They just wanted to be part of it. Dave had such a great idea. And then he talked to Pete, and Pete suggested Michael, who suggested Peter Sohn, and Dave had his friend (Wolley). And that all of this came about like it did is wonderful.”

“It ended up feeling pretty good,” Goelz concurred. “It felt like it worked pretty well.” He shared the credit with his fellow Muppeteers as well, saying, “All this comes down to the value of a collaboration and how much we love working together.” But for Oz, it’s Goelz who deserves the credit. He said simply, “It’s Dave’s poster and we love it.”

"The Muppet Guys Talking: The Secrets Behind The Show The Whole World Watched” Report

Frank Oz's documentary film, "The Muppet Guys Talking: The Secrets Behind The Show The Whole World Watched” premiered over the weekend at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Film Interactive Festival 2017.

TRT World’s Andre-Pierre du Plessis is in Austin, Texas, at SXSW and has this report.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

'The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited' Will Make its World Premiere at MoPOP on May 20th

The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is excited to announce The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited. Organized by the Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI), the traveling exhibition will make its world premiere at MoPOP on May 20, 2017 and remain on view through January 3, 2018. The traveling exhibition will open in advance of MoMI’s permanent gallery dedicated to the renowned puppeteer, director, and producer, which will debut this year.

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited is a dynamic new visitor experience exploring Jim Henson’s groundbreaking work for film and television, and his transformative impact on popular culture. This comprehensive exhibition reveals how Henson and his team of builders, performers, and writers brought to life the enduringly popular worlds of The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and much more.

The exhibition features a broad range of artifacts related to Henson’s unparalleled career, including more than 20 puppets, character sketches, storyboards, scripts, photographs, film and television clips, behind-the-scenes footage, iconic costumes, and interactive experiences that allow visitors to try their hand at puppeteering on camera and designing a puppet.

Imagination Unlimited begins with a brief look at Henson’s early life through images of Henson as a young man and reproductions of some of his early drawings and sketches, and then follows his steady rise and immense contributions to the art and industry of the moving image. Highlights include a Kermit the Frog puppet from 1978; handwritten scripts from Henson’s first television series, Sam and Friends (1955–1961); a clip from his Academy Award-nominated experimental film Time Piece (1965); Jen and Kira puppets from The Dark Crystal (1982);familiar Sesame Street puppets including Grover, Ernie and Bert, and Count von Count; plus Jareth and Sarah’s ballroom costumes from Labyrinth (1986).

The exhibition prominently features an exploration of The Muppet Show from a concept Henson first developed in the early 1960s to an internationally beloved series. This section features iconic puppets that helped define this world-wide brand, including Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, and Scooter, as well as material from the Muppets’ transition to the big screen, with set models and storyboards illustrating how sets were designed to accommodate puppets and performers.

The Jim Henson Exhibition: Imagination Unlimited is a traveling exhibition organized by Museum of the Moving Image (Astoria, New York) in cooperation with The Jim Henson Company, The Muppets Studio LLC, and Sesame Workshop. The exhibition features puppets and other objects donated to the Museum by the family of Jim Henson, plus works on loan from The Henson Company’s archives. Later this year, the Museum will open The Jim Henson Exhibition, a permanent gallery and exhibition dedicated to the life and work of Henson, at its home in New York.

For more details, visit

Thursday, March 09, 2017

THIS WEEKEND: "Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched"

Muppets. They taught us to count, the value of diversity, and what vaudeville was. They took us to Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock, to the storyteller’s fireplace and the world of the Dark Crystal. In his documentary Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched, Muppeteer-turned-director Frank Oz takes a rare look back at a life under felt. He said, “It was wonderful, but because I was living it, I didn’t understand how wonderful it was.”

As a filmmaker, Oz has been responsible for screwball comedies like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and hard-edged crime caper The Score. Yet this is his first documentary, a lo-fi, long-form interview with four of his fellow Muppeteers. Culled from a single nine-hour, sit-down reunion, it’s just Oz, his cohorts, and occasional shots of the crew – mostly friends and volunteers, eager to be there – cracking up at these unheard anecdotes. “I shot it dirty on purpose,” he said. “I could have shot it with beautiful lighting, I could have shot it with nice camera moves, but that would not reflect the rebelliousness of the Muppets.”

The quartet of co-interviewees represents what Oz described as “the key people, so I wanted to make sure that they got their due.” Each was responsible for a cavalcade of popular characters: Jerry Nelson, who joined the team in 1965, was Count von Count, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Kermit’s nephew Robin; Bill Barretta, a 20-year veteran who Oz still calls “the new guy,” succeeded Muppet creator Jim Henson as beloved figures like the Swedish Chef, while also originating new favorites like Pepe the King Prawn; Fran Brill gave life to young monster Zoe and pageant-fixated Prairie Dawn; while Dave Goelz won hearts forever as the unstoppable underdog Gonzo the Great, and chivalrous canine Sir Didymus in Labyrinth. That’s just scraping the surface of their résumés and on-set experiences. Oz said, “That’s the first time any of us have sat down together – not even on film, but privately – and talked like this. So there were things they brought up I had no idea about.”

Oz gives credit for the documentary to his wife, Victoria Labalme, who spent a year and a half encouraging him to talk about the camaraderie created by Henson. He explained that she told him, “All these people know about Jim, but nobody knows about these guys, and the spirit they have because of Jim.” Originally, he wanted to take a strictly narrative approach, but she saw an important theme. As a business consultant, he said, “She deals with large companies that don’t have a sense of play, that don’t have a sense of enjoyment of each other, that often work in fear or often work with suspicion of politics. That’s never something we did, and because we didn’t, and because we played, our work got better. She wanted people to know that one can have a working culture that creates great things if one is really not so uptight and fearful.”

Just as his wife inspired him to make the documentary, he credits the forward motion of his career to Henson. “It was always Jim in the background, supporting me and giving me opportunities.” Yet while he lauds Henson as the hard-working heart and hard work of the Muppets, their 27 years of collaboration and friendship was a unique and enduring double act that gave their characters a special life. Sesame Street’s most abiding friendship was between Henson’s amiable Ernie and Oz’s irascible Bert. Equally, while Henson made Kermit the Frog into the Muppet’s green face before there were even Muppets, it was Oz, in dual roles as dutiful best friend Fozzie Bear and self-obsessed love interest Miss Piggy, that gave him true depth. Oz described their bond as “a very rare and wonderful relationship, and I don’t know how to explain it.”

It seemed an unlikely pairing: When they first worked together in 1963, 19-year-old Oz was an amateur puppeteer, and planning a career in journalism, while Henson was in his late 20s, married, with a successful business providing puppets for TV commercials. Oz said, “Jim and I were complete opposites, not unlike Bert and Ernie, but at the same time we both had the same spirit. I can’t really explain why, but somehow after a take, on The Muppet Show or Sesame Street or a variety show, and Jim and I would look at each other and we didn’t have to talk. We would know why we had to do the take over again.”

Nobody could have thought that this little puppet troupe making ads for Tastee-Freez and Linit Fabric Finish would ever reach its fuzzy hands around the globe. Back then, it was four people – Henson, Oz, writer Jerry Juhl, and Muppet builder Don Sahlin – crammed into two rooms in New York. “Then we got a bit more successful because of the commercials, and then it was four rooms.” However, he said, “None of us did any of this to make money. We performed and we worked hard, and as a result whatever money there was came. But that was never the purpose for any of us.”

Yet even as Oz concentrated on bringing life to dozens of creatures and creations, it was impossible to ignore that he was in the middle of a cultural phenomenon. He said, “You have a slow awareness of it. You can’t avoid seeing the reactions of people, the reactions of the fan mail, and reactions of the hundreds of millions of people that saw it, but speaking for myself, my head doesn’t go there. It affects me in the fact that I’m grateful. But I care only about the work.”

Henson died in 1990, but he remains the real rainbow connection, and Oz sees the same rambunctious, rebellious joy he created on-set to this day. After all, Henson wasn’t just a guy who found people with whom he could play; it was playfulness with purpose. Oz said, “It was never chaotic. Jim created a space for us to have a sense of abandon in performing. Chaos is confusion. We knew what we were doing all the time, to the point that once we were allowed to do it, we felt free because of Jim’s support and how Jim worked. ... Even though the Muppets got large, that spirit never changed.”

Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched

Sunday, March 12, 11:15am, Paramount
Monday, March 13, 6pm, Alamo South Lamar
Thursday, March 16, noon, Paramount
Tuesday, March 14: A Conversation with Frank Oz and Leonard Maltin, 2pm, ACC Room 18ABCD

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

David Bowie and Trevor Jones’ "Labyrinth" Getting Vinyl Reissue

According to The Vinyl Factory, Bull Records will reissue Jim Henson's original "Labyrinth" soundtrack on vinyl.

The soundtrack for "Labyrinth" originally saw a cassette and vinyl release in 1986. The vinyl reissue is currently available for preorder on Bull Records’ website. David Bowie and "Labyrinth" fans can preorder the release for $17.97, $2 down from the original list price. The album will be released on May 12th, and Bull Records will ship the vinyl record a day earlier. Per Modern Vinyl, original soundtrack pressings can go between $80 to $120 in the UK. In fact, according to Modern Vinyl, the album never saw an official United States release.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Press Release: The Jim Henson Company's Special Performances of 'Puppet Up!

HOLLYWOOD, Calif., Feb. 17, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Brian Henson invites you to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Hollywood premiere of Puppet Up! – Uncensored, on Saturday, March 11th, 2017, at 6pm and 9pm. For the first time, the public is invited to attend this critically-acclaimed and internationally-renowned live stage show at The Jim Henson Company's historic Hollywood studio lot, providing an unforgettable and hilarious evening in a truly unique and treasured location.

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson ("Muppet Christmas Carol", "Muppet Treasure Island"), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow ("Ellen," "Seinfeld," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience, expertly combining dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy and outrageous story lines with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers. Puppet Up! – Uncensored is never exactly the same show twice. Guests may choose to interact with the show through real time suggestions or just sit back and enjoy the ever-changing antics presented on stage.

Over the years, the revolving cast of world-class puppeteers and over 80 unruly puppets have been entertaining audiences, selling out shows, and thrilling critics from coast to coast and around the world. In 2005, the show toured several international comedy festivals and finally in 2007, it premiered in Hollywood where it has since built an enthusiastic following.

"For the first time ever, we are giving our loyal Hollywood fans the opportunity to spend an evening on our historic lot while enjoying hilarious uncensored mayhem," said Brian Henson, show creator and Chairman of The Jim Henson Company.

General Admission tickets for the event can be purchased by visiting or by calling 800.595.4849. Tickets are $60.00 and will be available for pick up at will call. A limited amount of VIP Parking on The Jim Henson Company lot is available for advance purchase only for $15.00. A full cash bar will be available an hour before the show, and the house opens for seating 20 minutes prior to show time. Puppet Up! – Uncensored is not recommended for ages 16 and under.

Visit us at or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @puppetup.