Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Muppets, Jim Henson and Me.

For Christmas, Adam and his wonderful wife The Peanut Gallery (who can be heard yelling at us through out many episodes of the show but is really a sweetheart) gave me the first two seasons of Fraggle Rock.

God I love Muppets.

It's amazing the sheer amount of awesome that Jim Henson and his company created. The Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, The Storyteller, they even had a hand in bringing my beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life on the big screen.

And the best part is a whole new generation is going to be introduced to a bunch of the various Henson creations in the next couple of years.

Let's start with the first group and probably my favorite, The Muppets.

The first thing I honestly can recall watching on television ever is an episode of The Muppet Show. I'm sure I watched programs before I saw this (most certainly episodes of Sesame Street) but for whatever reason, the first program I can ever recall watching was an episode of The Muppet Show that featured John Cleese.

And it just blew me away. I remember Kermit being annoyed at his staff and I remember Cleese playing maracas.

In terms of my creative life, I can pinpoint a lot of my direct influences and the muppets certainly left their mark. I still laugh at Alice Cooper trying to get Kermit to sell his soul to Alice's "boss" and occasionally even quote the episode.

The great thing about the Muppets and the original Muppet Show is a lot of the jokes are timeless despite the fact that the a number of the guests on the show are no longer known to audiences. While kids who are in their pre and early teens may have no idea who Alice Cooper is but they can get the joke.

The Muppet films are still incredibly re-watchable. And the original film has one of the greatest lines in film history.

"Ahh..a bear in his natural habitat...a Studebaker."

Not only that but with people around my age, The Muppets stuck. For instance, the Muppets version of Bohemian Rhapsody. It hit the internet somewhat quietly a month ago and then it was like an atomic bomb went off. Everyone I knew had seen it, posted about it and shared it. Dozens of status updates on Facebook and for once, I didn't mind.

The Muppets are now on youtube for the time being. Disney has been really smart with them since they purchased the characters a few years ago. After a few not so good movies, the Muppets were placed on the shelf for a bit and are being slowly reintroduced to the world through youtube. The reason why?

There is a new Muppet movie in the works. The writers have promised it will bring back the glory of the early Muppet films complete with celebrity cameos.

Looking forward to it.

For the record my favorite Muppets are Kermit, Animal and Gonzo and my favorite episodes are the Mark Hamill and Alice Cooper episodes.

And of course, Muppet Labs was always good.

Sesame Street is still a fixture in the lives of children and at this point it's hard to remember a time.

Well okay, I wasn't alive before Sesame Street began to air but the fact of the matter is, Sesame Street essentially created educational children's programing as we now know it. No Sesame Street, no teletubbies, Barney or anything else along those lines.

I'm glad to say despite it's competition, Sesame Street is still alive and well with it's mix of education and fun. The cast is still multi-cultural and the show has not been dumbed down.

Now for those of you who are curious, Disney does not own the Sesame Street characters, they were sold separately a few years before. The kicker being is that the deal is such that Muppets that appeared on Sesame Street (Kermit for example) before the Disney deal can still appear and vise versa.

Favorite Sesame Street character; Grover without a doubt. He was also a superhero. I'm also a fan of Bert and Ernie...and celebrity cameos. It's a show that got Jeremy Irons to sing and dance.

Now Fraggle Rock is kind of in an odd spot for me. It was for me what I termed a Sunday Cottage Show. It was on Sunday nights and during the summer it'd be one of the shows I would see on one of the two channels we got up at the cottage, right before we packed up to go home.

As a result, I really ever saw bits and pieces of the show when I was a kid. I've now seen more of it and as I am older I can now realise how ambitious a project this was. You have different scales of puppets, remote controlled pieces, live actors, live actors in giant suits, the whole nine yards. Not to mention each episode had a song or two.

The show was also developed in part, to be easily localised. The live action segments would be changed in different regions and the puppets themselves made for easy re dubbing. And the idea worked and the Fraggles not only did well in North America but around the world.

Fraggle Rock tends to be forgotten. Part of that is due to it's syndication. While I don't have hard facts, I don't ever remember Fraggle Rock be re-ran that much in Canada. Certainly not to the extent of The Muppet Show.

But that may soon change.

Fraggle Rock has been getting increased exposure over the last five years. First with the release of show on dvd and then with rumblings of a Fraggle Rock movie.

The Henson company held on to the rights to Fraggle Rock when making the Disney deal and we may see the film sometime in 2011. Apparently Ahmet Zappa (one of Frank's sons) is heavily involved.

As for a lot of the other Henson built properties?

The Creature Shop is still in business, their latest major work being the amazing suits in the film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are.

I wouldn't be surprised if we see something to do with The Dark Crystal in the next couple of years. There's been work done on a sequel since 2005 but by the sounds of things the major problem is financing. The Dark Crystal was one of those movies that portions of which really frightened me as a child but yet somehow I look forward to seeing the story continue.

I love the Muppets. They and their brethren from the Henson company have been a key component in my media viewing life for as long as I can remember. I can't wait to see more of my favorite Muppets. They have such a timeless quality but yet can stay current. Look at their yotube channel for instance. If you watch all of the videos in order it's esentially a new version of the original Muppet Show. But it's been updated to fit the format.

I wonder if I can get a cameo in the new movie...

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