Sixty for 60: Live Appearances by Muppets

Welcome to the final regular installment of 60 for 60, a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday next month. This month’s theme is live appearances by Muppet characters.

Kermit TED talk

“The trick to the show [Muppets 2015], if it works, is to make it feel for the first time that you’re seeing the Muppets in our world.” –Bill Prady, SDCC Panel 2015

Of the many strange and perplexing things that happened in conjunction with the Muppets’ 2015 series, one that I found to be among the strangest and most perplexing was this bizarre statement by Bill Prady, that it would be the first time that the Muppets were in our world. How are they not in our world? Not only have six of their eight movies been set in our world, but the Muppets make live appearances in our world all the time. And when they do, it results in some of the best and most entertaining material because they’re usually a little freer to do some ad libbing and to be themselves, insofar as the Muppets have selves, which is a deep philosophical dive that I don’t think I’m ready to take at the moment and would probably require a whole other entry even if I were.

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Michigan Publication Interviews Steve, Fixates on Voices

This last weekend Steve was at Michigan Comic Con in Detroit, where he was gracious enough to give an interview for a publication based there, taking great care to emphasize the puppetry aspect of his work and that he’s not a voice person. 

So of course, the entire written interview is all about voices, with the puppetry mentioned only as an afterthought. 

Therefore, I recommend the accompanying YouTube video of the interview over the written version. Even though it looks like it’s been edited down somewhat, at least Steve gets to express himself in his own words: 

This video is actually really exciting, though, because Steve explains a bit more about his live-stream concept with Weldon. This is information that Steve actually told me when I met him in Omaha, but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to talk about it, so I erred on the side of caution in not mentioning it. But now he’s expressed it publicly, so I guess it’s okay for me to talk about it. 

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Sesame Saturday: A Panel Discussion With Sesame Street’s Gordon and Alan

Yesterday I mentioned the existence of full panels from last year’s OCon on YouTube, but what I failed to mention was that one of them featured Sesame Street actors Roscoe Orman (aka Gordon) and Alan Muraoka. I thought about it today and realized that might be of interest, so here it is:

Also, it appears from this that OCon just doesn’t provide microphones for audience questions at all, which seems to be very unusual. Nevertheless, given how hard it is to hear the audience questions on the video, it makes me very glad that I have notes of Steve’s Q&A, although it remains to be seen how helpful they will be. 

Brief Footage of Steve Whitmire’s OCon Q&A

If the pattern holds true, it looks like the full video of Steve’s OCon Q&A may be going up within a few weeks. I don’t know for sure that that is the case, but they have full panels from last year that went up in early September, so that’s reason to hope. 

Because my memories of the Q&A are so sketchy, even with my notes, I’m going to hold off publishing my impressions of it for now. 

To tide us all over in the meantime, I found this highlight reel of the days’ events. A few moments of Steve’s Q&A, sans audio, are shown at about 43 seconds in: 

I looked to see if I could see myself in the background of any of these clips, but I didn’t, not at the Q&A or in any of the other footage.

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Sixty for 60: Interviews

Welcome back to 60 for 60, a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday in a couple months. The theme for this month is interviews of Steve (not his characters), and it is unique in that not all five examples are available in video form. As a matter of fact, most of them are not.

Steve_Dave_stage

(Technically not a picture of an interview, but one I happen to like.)

I planned out the themes for each installment of 60 for 60 ten months ago. At that time, of course, I had no idea that I would actually have met Steve by this time. A lot has changed since I planned out this project, and the plan for this month has changed more than any other in the interim as I re-evaluate interviews that I was going to use and new interviews emerge. But what hasn’t changed is my wish to celebrate Steve himself rather than just his characters, although they’re important too.

I’m not a Muppet performer, and I’m not really a puppeteer despite a brief amateur stint. So I can’t say that I really know what it’s like, but I imagine that it must be an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, the anonymity that it affords you could be very valuable, but on the other hand, I can imagine that it would sometimes get frustrating to be part of something that is so popular and well known but only rarely get credit or recognition for it.

This month is all about that recognition.

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Emphasis

Today I received a comment on my previous entry from Dane Mychal, one of the hosts of the CF3 podcast. I want to pull out a quote from that comment for emphasis:

“Steve, as you know much more than I, is an incredible talent and wonderful human being, but I wanted to give this specific anecdote for perspective: This was early Sunday morning on the last day of a 3-day convention. Media guests tend to get burned out by Day 3 and 4 of these things and start to just mail it in. The MAC had been open for an hour that day by the time we came up to see Steve. Out of the 10 or so celebrities in Media Guest Row, he was the ONLY one there promptly at the prescribed time and remained the only one there for quite a long time. It was just about the first thing we discussed with him before we had even turned the recorders on. This man is a professional and puts his best effort into everything he does. We also requested to pay him for his time because we believe in compensating talent for such things. He was floored and insisted that we take autographed photos with us, which I am happy to have!”

This was the first convention of this kind that I’ve ever attended, so I don’t know what the norms are, but I can confirm that Steve was the first media guest on the floor that morning, the only one on the floor for some time thereafter, and although I wasn’t paying a lot of attention at the end of the day, I know that there were several who left before he did. 

Thank you, Dane, for the benefit of your perspective!

CF3 Podcast Interviews Steve Whitmire (and I WAS THERE!)

In the first part of my OCon “saga,” I talked about how Steve was in the midst of a podcast interview when I met him. The podcast is called CF3 (Cult Fans, Films & Finds), and the episode just went up. In addition to Steve’s interview, it also includes an interview with Gigi Edgley, a review of The Dark Crystal, and some other stuff.

A word of caution before I post a link to the content: while the interview segments are safe and appropriate for everyone, the rest of the episode contains some explicit language. I don’t think I’m able to link right to one particular segment, unfortunately.

Oh, and by the way…I’M IN THIS PODCAST! They paused it briefly so Steve could talk to me but resumed it when they realized that we were acquainted. So you can hear me say hi to him (which I have NO MEMORY of doing, by the way), and then you can hear me getting giggly from nerves when Steve compliments my blog.

For some reason, the embed function isn’t working, so here’s the web address:

http://cf3pod.com/022-the-dark-crystal-1982-w-steve-whitmire-gigi-edgley

I’ve been told that it is also available through the various podcast apps, if that’s more convenient. 

I wanted to give you timestamps to help you find the most relevant content on your own, but for some inexplicable reason, the points where I’m finding the content are different every time I try to seek them out, so I can only give you approximate time stamps:

  • Start of Steve’s interview: Approximately 5 minutes (plus or minus 15 seconds)
  • My brief contribution: Approximately 6 minutes (plus or minus 40 seconds)
  • Steve’s rating of The Dark Crystal: Approximately 1 hour (plus or minus 6 minutes)

It’s not ideal, but that’s the best I can do.

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Mark Hamill Reveals Skeksis Scientist Voice

Well, I decided to follow Mark Hamill on Twitter just in time to hear his version of the Skeksis Scientist’s voice as he plugs the Dark Crystal panel at San Diego Comic Con.

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Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 3: Basking in Reflected Glory

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I took notes at the Q&A so I could talk about it in detail regardless of whether or not any video of it shows up online. I intend to do that in a separate post, but here I’d like to give just a brief overview and mention the parts that are relevant to the rest of my story.

Before I talk about Steve’s Q&A, I need to back up a bit to talk about one of his visitors from the morning. I mentioned her briefly in one of my other posts. She was the lady who was part of her church’s puppet troupe, and she brought along a Whatnot for him to sign (one of those ones that Disney marketed and sold for a while). She was accompanied by two teenage kids, but of the three of them it was pretty clear that she was the one most excited to meet Steve (not that the teenagers were entirely disinterested). Her Whatnot was one that they allowed new puppeteers in their group to practice on and learn with, so Steve not only signed it across the back of its head, he also wrote a short message of encouragement.

The autographed Whatnot was one of several puppets present at the Q&A. Scrubby was there with Ethan, and the lady and the baby were there with their Wembley, and there was also a guy there with a Kermit. I’m not sure if it was a fan-made Kermit or a toy that he’d bought, but they appear briefly in the following video alongside Steve (and Mitzi):

Also, it wasn’t a puppet per se, but there was someone there with a very detailed plush toy of Rizzo. I meant to ask the guy where he acquired such a thing, but then I didn’t get around to it.

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Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 2: “Nice” Is Not the Word I’m Looking For

This is Part 2 of a series of at least three. Click here for Part 1.

Steve’s booth was next to Gigi Edgley’s, who was also making an appearance at OCon. I had seen that that was the plan and wondered if that was going to be awkward, given her close association with Brian Henson. But I didn’t want to ask Steve if it was awkward, because I thought that that somehow might make it more awkward. However, Steve brought up the subject of her appearance, asking me if I was familiar with her work. I told him that I’d never seen Farscape but that I had watched Creature Shop Challenge. He said that he hadn’t met her before this convention and wasn’t familiar with her work, but that he’d gotten acquainted with her over the course of the convention.

Clearly there’s no bad blood there.

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Men in a Tub Interview Steve Whitmire

But first the bad news: I’m having some sort of issue with my left wrist, so trying to lay off typing for a while, which means a delay in the rest of my OCon saga. 

And now the good news: Whatever was going on with my wrist last week seems to have resolved, so I can now talk a little bit about this interview, although I don’t have that much to say about it.

I really appreciate that this interviewer purposely tries to delve into the more obscure stuff. I mean, I knew that Dreamchild exists, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about it before. 

However, I don’t like the fact that, when searching for stock Kermit images, they decided on a screen grab from the first Vogel!Kermit video. I imagine that it wasn’t intentional, but now it seems like Simula-Kerm is looking over Steve’s shoulder and mocking him. I wonder if Steve noticed what graphic they were using at the time. 

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to scour YouTube for more videos or other content from OCon. If anyone has any or knows of any, please let me know. Thanks. 

Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 1: An Old Friend I’ve Just Met

Before you begin reading, I should warn you: This is an extensive, detailed, impressionistic, lengthy, and potentially incoherent account of my trip to Omaha Comic Con to meet Steve Whitmire. I’m writing it in such great detail not because I think it will be interesting to you (although I hope it will be!) but mostly to fix my own memories of it as firmly in my mind as possible.

If you want the tl;dr version, the entire experience can basically be summed up in five emojis:

😱🤩🤗😊😂

I knew that meeting Steve at OCon was going to be an emotional experience. I anticipated that, as a result, I was going to have difficulty controlling my tears, that all the feels were going to turn my brain into guacamole, and that I was going to have a hard time talking to him as a result.

I tried to prepare myself beforehand to counteract these effects. I made notes about what I wanted to say, and I tried to imagine what would happen when I met him. When it happened for real, I was successful in the former regard (controlling my tears) but had less success in the latter (communicating articulately). All things considered, I think I did pretty well, because there was NO WAY I could ever have predicted or prepared for what actually happened.

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Observed Interactions Between Steve Whitmire and Fans at OCon

Before I get into my immersive, detailed, and probably incoherent description of hanging out with Steve Whitmire at Omaha Comic Con, I want to talk specifically about the interactions I observed between him and the fans. I was at Steve’s booth most of the day, and so I got to witness the interactions firsthand. 

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