The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by Jim Henson. Individually, a Muppet is properly one of the puppets made by Jim Henson or his company's workshop. Although the term is often used erroneously to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street characters, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark linked to the characters created by Henson.
The word "Muppet" itself was said by Henson to have been created by combining the words "Marionette" and "puppet"; however, Henson was also known to have stated that it was just something he liked the sound of, and he made up the "marionette/puppet" story while talking to a journalist because it sounded plausible.
After earlier unsuccessful attempts, The Walt Disney Company finally bought the Muppets in 2004. Exceptions include characters appearing on Sesame Street (as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop), the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock (which are still owned by The Jim Henson Company), along with the above-mentioned non-"Muppet"-brand characters. The legal trademark on the term "Muppet" is currently held by The Muppet Holding Co., LLC (now The Muppets Studio, LLC, a division of the Walt Disney Company); although Sesame Workshop and the Jim Henson Company continue to use the term on their characters with certain permissions.
After nearly a decade, a new movie is in the works. Disney recently enlisted Jason Segel and Nick Stoller to create the next Muppet movie for the studio. This will be the first Muppet theatrical film since Muppets From Space.
A common design for a Jim Henson Muppet is a character with a very wide mouth and large protruding eyes. The puppets are often molded or carved out of Foam rubber, and then covered with fleece. Muppets may represent humans, anthropomorphic animals, realistic animals, robots, extraterrestrial creatures, mythical beings or other unidentified, newly imagined creatures, monsters or abstract characters.
Muppets are distinguished from ventriloquist "dummies", which are typically animated only in the head and face, in that their arms or other features are also mobile and expressive. Muppets are typically made of softer materials. They are also presented as being independent of the puppeteer, who is usually not visible—hidden behind a set or outside of the camera frame. Using the camera frame as the "stage" was an innovation of the Muppets. Previously on television, there would typically be a stage hiding the performers, as if in a live presentation.
The Muppeteer typically holds the puppet above his head or in front of his body, with one hand operating the head and mouth and the other manipulating the hands and arms, either with two separate control rods or by "wearing" the hands like gloves. One consequence of this design is that most Muppets are left-handed as the puppeteer uses his right hand to operate the head while operating the arm rod with his left hand. There are many other common designs and means of operation. In advanced Muppets, several puppeteers may control a single character; the performer who controls the mouth usually provides the voice for the character. As technology has evolved, the Jim Henson team and other puppeteers have developed an enormous variety of means to operate puppets for film and television, including the use of suspended rigs, internal motors, remote radio control, and computer enhanced and superimposed images. Creative use of a mix of technologies has allowed for scenes in which Muppets appear to be riding a bicycle, rowing a boat, and even dancing on-stage with no puppeteer in sight.
- See also: Category:Muppet characters
Famous Muppets from The Muppet Show and its numerous spin-offs include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Janice, Gonzo, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Scooter, Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, Sweetums, Pepe the King Prawn, Rizzo the Rat and Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. Other well-known Muppets include Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Zoe, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Abby Cadabby and The Count, as well as the main characters of Fraggle Rock.
The most widely known television shows featuring Muppets have been Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and Bear in the Big Blue House. Other series have included The Jim Henson Hour, The Ghost of Faffner Hall, Dog City, Secret Life of Toys, Muppets Tonight, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony. A recurring adult-oriented cast of Muppets (in a setting known as The Land of Gorch) were featured throughout the first season of Saturday Night Live.
Guest stars on some of these programs have occasionaly had Muppet versions of themselves. It was a regular practice for the first few episodes of The Muppet Show, and ZZ Top, among others, have appeared as Muppet versions of themselves on Sesame Street.
The puppet characters of Farscape, The Storyteller, Mother Goose Stories, The Hoobs, Construction Site and Dinosaurs (TV series), as well as from the films Labyrinth (film), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Buddy (film), The Country Bears and The Dark Crystal, are not considered Muppets, as they were made by Jim Henson, rather than by Henson's Muppet Workshop. The puppet casts of Puppet Up! and Tinseltown are also not considered Muppets as they were made by The Jim Henson Company after the sale of The Muppets in 2004. The Star Wars character Yoda was voiced by Frank Oz, one of Henson's regular performers, and is often referred to as a Muppet in media and reference works; he is not, however, a Muppet and Henson's organization was not involved in the character's design.
The Muppets' popularity has been so expansive that Muppet characters have been treated as celebrities in their own right. The Muppets have presented at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards; made cameo appearances in such feature films as Rocky III, An American Werewolf in London and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium; and have been interviewed on the newsmagazine 60 Minutes. Kermit the Frog was interviewed early on in Jon Stewart's run on The Daily Show, guest hosted The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and an April Fool's Day edition of Larry King Live; and the frog has served as Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade. The characters also appeared in-character on such sit-coms and dramas as The Cosby Show, The West Wing and The Torkelsons. The Music video for the Weezer song "Keep Fishin" is premised on the band performing on The Muppet Show and features appearances by several characters. On September 28, 2005, the United States Postal Service released a Jim Henson and the Muppets postage stamp series. The Muppets also appeared on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve for the 2008 countdown on December 31, 2007. Kermit, Rizzo and others welcomed in the new year with a series of messages to welcome viewers back from the advertising breaks. After one such segment, with Kermit in Time Square, co-host Ryan Seacrest thanked his pal "Kerms" for the help bringing in '08. Miss Piggy has appeared as a guest on The Late Show and Kermit the Frog appeared on Hollywood Squares.
Greatest Hits CDRectify
On September 17, 2002 Rhino released The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More-the 25th Anniversary Collection. In addition to the many Sesame Street and Muppets movie soundtracks available, this collection compiles music from various Muppets sources. It includes the rare song Rainbow Connection which was previously available on CD only on the soundtrack for The Muppet Movie. The tracklisting is as follows:
- The Muppet Show Theme - featuring The Muppets
- Mahna Mahna/Lullaby Of Birdland - featuring Mahna Mahna & The Two Snowths
- There's A New Sound - featuring Scooter
- The Amazing Marvin Suggs And His Muppaphone Play "Lady Of Spain" - featuring Marvin Suggs & His Muppaphone
- Trees - featuring Wayne & Wanda
- A Monologue By Fozzie Bear - featuring Fozzie Bear & Kermit The Frog
- Bein' Green - featuring Kermit The Frog
- Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear - featuring Scooter & Fozzie Bear
- Tenderly - featuring Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem
- Wishing Song - featuring The Great Gonzo
- What Now My Love? - featuring Miss Piggy
- Happy Feet - featuring Kermit The Frog & Frog Chorus
- We Got Us - featuring The Muppets
- Closing Theme (instrumental)
- Rainbow Connection - featuring Kermit The Frog
- Movin' Right Along - featuring Kermit The Frog & Fozzie Bear
- Can You Picture That? - featuring Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem
- Finale: The Magic Store - featuring The Muppets
- Hey A Movie! - featuring Kermit The Frog, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo & Muppets
- Happiness Hotel - featuring The Muppets
- The First Time It Happens - featuring Kermit The Frog & Miss Piggy
- Together Again - featuring Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear & Muppets
- I'm Gonna Always Love You - featuring Miss Piggy, Kermit The Frog, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf, Scooter & The Great Gonzo
- He'll Make Me Happy - featuring Miss Piggy & Kermit The Frog
- One More Sleep 'Til Christmas - featuring Kermit The Frog
- Love Led Us Here (Muppets version) - featuring Kermit The Frog & Miss Piggy
- I'm Going To Go Back There Someday (Muppets From Space version) - featuring The Great Gonzo
- The Muppet Movie (1979)
- The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
- The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
- Jim Henson (1991)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
- Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
- Muppets From Space (1999)
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
- The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)
- Sam and Friends (1955-61)
- Sesame Street (1969-present)
- Saturday Night Live (1975-1976)
- The Muppet Show (1976-1981)
- Fraggle Rock (1983-87)
- Muppet Babies (1984-1991)
- The Jim Henson Hour (1989)
- Dog City (1989 special on NBC, regular show on Fox from 1992-1995)
- Secret Life of Toys (1994-1996)
- Muppets Tonight (1996-1998)
- Hey Cinderella! (1970)
- The Frog Prince (1971)
- The Muppet Musicians of Bremen (1972)
- The Muppets Valentine Show (1974)
- Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)
- The Muppets Go Hollywood (1979)
- John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979)
- The Muppets Go To the Movies (1981)
- Of Muppets and Men (1981)
- The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show (1982)
- Rocky Mountain Holiday with John Denver and the Muppets (1983)
- The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1985)
- The Christmas Toy (1986)
- The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986)
- A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
- Song of the Cloud Forest (1989)
- The Muppets at Walt Disney World (1990)
- The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson (1990)
- Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree (1995)
- Studio DC: Almost Live (2008)
- Muppet Classic Theater (1994)
- Kermit's Swamp Years (2002)
- Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony on Movies.com (2005-2006)
- Stars & Stripes FOREVER! (The Muppet Variation) on Youtube.com. Features Sam the Eagle, Beaker, Animal, Bobo the Bear and Swedish Chef. (posted June 27, 2008)
- Ode to Joy on Youtube.com. Features Beaker. (posted July 16, 2008)
- Habanera on Youtube.com. Features Beaker, Swedish Chef, and Animal. (posted July 16, 2008)
- Classical Chicken on Youtube.com. Features Gonzo, Camilla the Chicken, and her chicken friends. (posted July 16, 2008)
After the consensus was reached that The Muppets' Wizard of Oz failed to deliver critically, the question hung in the air if whether or not another Muppet film would be made. A new film has been confirmed by Jason Segel and Nick Stoller, who both plan to produce the next Muppet film. They have also stated that they will both write the next picture, but only Stoller will direct. Coming Soon reported similar news. After an interview with Jason Segel, First announced, "it's going to be incredibly old-fashioned, with the familiar Muppet characters putting on a show to save an old theater. The danger? An evil character wants to tear the place down to get at the oil underneath." Segel stated that he was the most enthusiastic about the project, also stating, "I just remember being 10 years old and for me Kermit was Tom Hanks. Kermit is like the original Everyman and I remember watching the old Muppets with my parents and seeing Peter Sellers and people like that on. I've always had Muppet pictures and figurines all through my house. Now that I'm getting to write it, I feel like all of my dreams are coming true."
Muppet-like and Muppet-inspired puppets star in the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q (which disavows any relationship with Sesame Workshop or the Jim Henson Company). Peter Jackson's film, Meet the Feebles is another parody of the Muppets. The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken and many other television shows and movies have referenced The Muppets - for a more comprehensive list, see Muppet Wiki. They also make an appearance in the band Weezer's music video for "Keep Fishin", and the new music based Improvisational comedy "Crayons and Fun" on Will Ferrell's live streaming video website Funny or Die features a medley parody inspired by Muppets (which also disavows any relationship with Sesame Workshop or the Jim Henson Company).
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- Muppet Central - fan site
- The Muppet Newsflash - blog
- Tough Pigs - blog
- Muppet Wiki - encyclopedia
- MuppetCast - podcast
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