Back From OCon–BEST DAY EVER!!!

Right now I don’t have a lot of time to describe my experience at OCon, but I wanted to say that I went there, and I met Steve, and IT WAS AWESOME!!!

I could tell you that Steve was nice to me, but “nice” doesn’t really do it justice. Take everything you’ve ever heard about how nice Steve Whitmire is and multiply it seven times seven times. That’s how nice he was to me.

He literally treated me like a VIP. He gave me a hug when he met me, he let me hang out at his table, he gave me an autograph for free, and he recommended my blog to a whole room full of people. 

Speaking of which, if anyone who also attended OCon is reading this and has/finds pictures or video of the event related to Steve’s appearance, I’d love to share that stuff here. You can use the “Contact” link to send me an email, or you can tag me on Twitter (@frogoflamancha) or Instagram (@mary_arlene_flm)

Thanks, everybody. I’ll post about the rest of it as soon as I can. Watch this space. 

Interview with Steve Whitmire Ahead of Omaha Comic Con

Steve is appearing at OCon this weekend and gave an interview to the Omaha World-Herald. 

The interviewer makes Steve’s Muppet departure sound more volitional than it actually was, but he gets brownie points for not referring to Steve as a “voice actor.” 

There’s also an interesting sidebar about the 20 “most powerful puppet characters in the world.” It’s kind of funny that the author makes a point of mentioning that Socrates contemplated the question in ancient Greece, but the puppet characters included all seem to be American in origin and date back only as far as the 20th century. 

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Sixty for 60: Ernie

Welcome back to 60 for 60, a celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday coming up later this year. This month is a celebration of Steve’s work as the irrepressible Ernie.

Just as Ernie and Bert are undervalued as one of the great comedy teams of all time, I feel that Steve Whitmire’s work as Ernie is tragically under-appreciated, especially by Muppet fans of a certain age. Whether playing alongside Frank Oz or Eric Jacobson, he’s done some stellar work in skits, songs, and bits that stack up against any of the great Bert and Ernie sketches of the pre-1990 Sesame Street era.

This was the hardest 60 for 60 entry that I’ve put together since I talked about Wembley last November. I could easily devote at least three months of this project to Steve’s work as Ernie. I would run out of months of the year before I ran out of material.

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Fraggle Friday: Why Do I Cry?

Today I was listening to “Just a Dream Away,” and tears came to my eyes. Admittedly a perfectly normal and understandable reaction, but I realized I didn’t know exactly why I was crying.

Why exactly does this song provoke this reaction from me? Is it purely the beauty of the song and the performance? Or is it the dramatic irony of knowing Richard Hunt’s eventual fate? Is it the inherent lovability of Mudwell the Mudbunny? Or is it the contrast between his speaking voice and his singing voice? Is it entirely due to one of these factors, or is a combination of two or more of them?

I still haven’t figured it out yet. Perhaps I never will. 

Maybe it’s better not to know. Maybe if I figured it out, it would break the spell, and the song wouldn’t have the same effect on me anymore. 

Thoughts on the Dark Crystal Prequel Series Trailer

I’ve been really looking forward to the trailer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance despite the fact that, for various reasons that I don’t want to get into right now, I don’t subscribe to Netflix. The Dark Crystal is my favorite non-Muppet creation of Jim Henson’s and I was looking forward to getting at least a peek back into the world of Thra. In a way, it felt like coming home. 

It all looks spectacular, and if anything could convince me to subscribe to Netflix, this would be it. Even if I don’t get to see it, I’m still glad that it exists, and that it seems to be branching off in new directions while remaining rooted within the mythos and ethos of the original movie. 

I do have some specific thoughts about it, however. Most good, some bad…

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Sixty for 60: Homecoming and Farewell

I’d like to thank Steve for unintentionally setting up the theme of this month’s 60 for 60 post. This month I’m examining the complementary themes of homecoming and farewell. Specifically, I’m looking at the home videos that have emerged on YouTube of the time he went back to participate in a concert at his old high school after 10 years of working with the Muppets, as well as his contributions to Jim Henson’s memorial service two years later.

I’ve never actually met Steve in person and I don’t know him well even by internet standards, so what I’m about to say is pure conjecture, but from where I’m sitting as an outside observer, it seems to me that two things keep him grounded: his close connection to his roots in Atlanta, and his loyalty to Jim Henson. Both are on prominent display in the following videos.

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We Need To Talk About Piggy (Part One)

Miss Piggy is a popular character, both in the Muppet fandom and out of it. She is loved for being funny and admired for being strong. Some even regard her as a feminist icon. Nevertheless, I, for one, want nothing to do with Miss Piggy’s particular brand of feminism, nor would I mind having nothing further to do with the character herself.

I find very little, if anything, that is either funny or admirable about Miss Piggy. At best, she is a bully, and at worst, her behavior (particularly toward Kermit) is abusive. It’s a pernicious double standard that I believe needs to be called out.

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Fraggle Friday: A Walkin’, Talkin’, Breathin’ Ball of Fire

As I’m sure you’re all aware, yesterday was the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. But I can never concentrate entirely on Jim Henson on May 16th, because it’s also my niece’s birthday. 

At times, my niece (who just turned 8) is like a ray of sunshine, but more often, in the words of Cantus (and Dennis Lee), I find her to be a walkin’, talkin’, breathin’, ball of fire.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Reasons Muppet Treasure Island Is Better Than Almost Any Other Muppet Movie

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Recently someone on Twitter, and I’m not naming names, referred to Muppet Treasure Island as “garbage.”

Now, if I insist on calling myself a Muppet heretic (and I do), I probably don’t have the right to complain when other people insult Muppet things that I love. But then again, when has not having the right ever stopped anyone from complaining?

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Sixty for 60: Beaker

Welcome back to 60 for 60, a yearlong celebration of Steve Whitmire and his work in anticipation of his 60th birthday later this year. This month we celebrate Steve’s work as Beaker, specifically in the viral videos that the Muppets made for YouTube.

“I get the impression that Beaker is a guy who goes home at night […] he’s a smart guy, he works in a lab, [yet] he probably doesn’t have much of a social life. He’s pretty introverted because he really can’t talk, so his only means of communication is the internet.” –Steve Whitmire

Despite the fact that Beaker is one of my favorite Muppets, I originally hadn’t included him in this project, for reasons that seemed to make sense at the time but that I can no longer remember. Then I watched the viral videos in which he features again and realized what a travesty it was to leave them out, because each of them is completely brilliant, and it’s some of the best and most Muppety content the Muppets have put out in the last 30 years. By all accounts, Steve had a lot of input into the creation of the viral videos, which means that he gets a lot of the credit for their quality and success.

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Introducing Weldon

When Steve introduced his new character Weldon at the Louisville Supercon about four months ago, apparently they promoted it with a Facebook post including a picture. It appears to be the same picture that Steve showed in his Milo Beasley Show interview and mentioned that it had been artificially darkened, but it at least gives us an idea. 

Here it is, for those who are curious:

Thanks to readers and commenters Sidney, who first alerted me to the existence of this post, and Andrew K, who posted a link to it that was accessible to me. Let’s all keep our eyes out, and hopefully we’ll get to see him in action soon!

Sixty for 60: Kermit the Frog

Welcome back to 60 for 60, a yearlong celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his upcoming 60th birthday. This month we celebrate Steve’s work as the most famous and beloved amphibian in the entire world: Kermit the Frog.

“The fact that Steve was there, and that he had the ability to do this [i.e., perform Kermit], was really quite an incredible stroke of luck.” –Dave Goelz

My feelings about Kermit have been raw lately, and it’s hard to know what to say about him. Instead of thinking of something original, let me fall back on my words from 2013:

“[Kermit] is everything I want to be: funny without being mean, smart without being overbearing, and although he sometimes loses his temper, he never says an unkind word. He’s been involved in show business for almost 60 years now, with his integrity still intact. He’s been everywhere and seen everything, and yet he’s never become cynical, never lost his faith in humanity, and always finds something positive to say about everyone. He’s a prince among frogs AND men.”
           — The Muppet Mindset’s “Great Muppet Survey,” published June 3, 2013

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Back to Louisville: Another Steve Whitmire Comic-Con Panel

Approximately two months ago (wow, really?), I posted an interview that Steve gave at the Supercon in Louisville around the end of November, I believe. This week (well, technically last week) I received notification of video of a panel discussion from the same event. 

Couple of noteworthy things about it: 

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Muppet Heresy: The Many Facets of Kermit

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If there’s one thing that Muppet fans agree on, it’s that there are variations to Kermit’s behavior/personality. Many see the differences as a negative and attribute them to the change(s) in performer. Both Steve Whitmire and the writers are frequent targets of this criticism, with fans on forums claiming that the writers and Steve alike have been too “precious” about Kermit, resulting in Kermit’s having become too soft, too bland, or too nice. I understand what they mean, and I understand that “precious” is meant to be a pejorative in this case, but personally, I think that being “too precious” with Kermit and the other Muppets is vastly preferable than treating them like old socks that can be tossed around willy-nilly, as Disney is doing now.*

However, I get the impression (and this is pure conjecture on my part) that Steve had been hearing criticisms in this vein for years and years. No more than one day before Cheryl Henson infamously weaponized the criticisms against him in a Facebook post (which, in her defense, was apparently intended to be private), he made the following statement in a blog entry“[T]here is actually no such thing as Jim’s Kermit and Steve’s Kermit – There is only Kermit.”

In my opinion, the whole issue is a lot more complex than anyone, perhaps even Steve, is willing and/or able to fully acknowledge.

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