Three years ago, the Muppets were featured on “A Capitol Fourth,” the yearly Independence Day special that airs every July 4th on PBS. In order to promote the special, Kermit the Frog and host Tom Bergeron did a series of satellite interviews with local TV new programs. One of these was an affliate in Omaha, Nebraska, which is about 175 miles, or a 2-3/4 hour drive, south of where I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota:
In the interview, Kermit mentioned the zoo in Omaha, and I freaked out: “OHMYGOSH! Kermit the Frog just mentioned the name of a place that is relatively close to where I live, and that I’ve actually visited!!!”
These are the scraps that you have to console yourself with when you’re a Muppet fan who lives in South Dakota. Although, there may be an obscure Muppet connection for those of us to live in Sioux Falls: Raven Industries is based here in town; their main thing is the manufacture of balloons and inflatables, including some of the big balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and that sort of thing. I’m not able to verify it now, but I think I remember hearing once that Raven Industries had made the Kermit the Frog balloon that appeared in the parade from 2002-2012. I haven’t been able to confirm it yet, but it’s certainly possible.
Anyway, getting back to Omaha: what really impressed me is not only that Kermit mentioned the Omaha zoo, but he actually called it by its proper name: the Henry Doorly Zoo. I think that was the first time I’d ever heard someone not associated with the zoo call it by its real name; most people just call it “the Omaha zoo,” as I have done all throughout this post.
I asked Steve Whitmire, in a comment on his blog, if he had ever actually been to the zoo in Omaha. He didn’t respond at the time, so I still don’t know, but I am not without hope that he will be able to address it someday.
But anyway, the other reason that I wanted to post this interview is because it’s really a beautiful example of the lovely, fluid, dynamic facial expressions that Steve gives Kermit when he performs him. It really makes Kermit alive and vibrant.
We don’t have footage of five consecutive minutes of Matt Vogel performing simula-Kerm yet, (at least, not through official channels) so I’m not yet able to make a fair comparison, but thus far simula-Kerm’s face seems very static.
I’m also a big fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and there’s a phrase related to that show that keeps running around in my head. When Bill Corbett took over performing Crow T. Robot from Trace Beaulieu at the beginning of Season 8, he had not done a lot of puppeteering before, and he apologized for the resulting mediocre performance by telling people, “Crow has had a stroke.”
And I’ll just say that, if I didn’t know what was going on with the Muppets and Disney and Steve and the whole thing, if I looked at those videos with Matt performing Kermit without knowing what was going on, I would have said, “What’s the matter with Kermit? It looks like he’s had a stroke.”