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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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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Sixty for 60: Bean Bunny and Lips

Welcome back to 60 for 60, a yearlong celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday coming up in September. This month is a bit of a departure; instead of a post focusing entirely on a major character, this one features two relatively minor characters of Steve’s: Bean Bunny and Lips.

cold bean bunny

I’ve been trying to feature Steve’s characters in rough chronological order of when he started playing them. (Thus far they’ve all been original characters of Steve’s but that will change in the near future.) I’m changing up the pattern slightly because Lips was introduced in 1980 and Bean Bunny was introduced six years later, but in the late ’80s, Bean Bunny was a more prominent character, so therefore he figures more prevalently here. 

Though relatively minor characters, Bean Bunny and Lips are each awesome in their own ways. Lips is a literal rock star with a cool hairdo and an air of mystery about him, while Bean Bunny is an adorable badass pacifist.

If I tried, I could probably find enough clips to devote one month each to Lips and Bean Bunny, but there are a lot more characters to get to and only six months left in this project (not counting the culmination in September). 

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Sixty for 60: Sprocket

Welcome to the first 60 for 60 entry of 2019! For those just joining us, this is a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday later this year. This month is devoted to Sprocket, the dog that Steve played on Fraggle Rock. Interestingly enough, it fits in well with something Steve said in the interview I posted yesterday about making a puppet believable by mimicking the movements of real-life creatures, be they animal or human.

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“With Sprocket, Steve manages to get a performance that is both very dog-like and somehow more than human.”–Jim Henson

I made a point of including Sprocket in this project because it’s very easy for me to forget that he’s a not real dog, and that is thanks to Steve’s talent and commitment. I said once that Big Bird is miraculous in his mundanity; Sprocket is even more mundane which, arguably, makes him even more miraculous.

That being the case, it’s hard for me to think of things to say about him in the following clips apart from things like, “Wow, he’s just like a real dog! Oh, he’s so doglike!” Nevertheless, if you’ll bear with me, I’m willing to make the effort.

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Sixty for 60: Christmas Productions

“Bless us all, that as we live / We always comfort and forgive”–The Crachit family, singing lyrics by Paul Williams in The Muppet Christmas Carol

As a non-Muppet, but no less beloved, pair of amphibians once sang, Merry Almost Christmas! And welcome back to 60 for 60, my yearlong tribute to Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday next year. In keeping with the season, the theme for this month is Christmas productions.

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Sixty for 60: Wembley Fraggle

Welcome back to 60 for 60, my year-long celebration of Steve Whitmire’s work and characters in anticipation of his 60th birthday next year. This month we focus on Wembley, decisively the most lovable Fraggle in the Rock.

“Steve with that manic, fragile Wembley. So human, so utterly…you know, you just wanted to hug the guy and say, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry; it will be all right.'”–Eric Till, director on Fraggle Rock

When it comes to Fraggle Rock characters, I aspire to be Cantus, I identify most with Mokey, and I’m probably more of a Boober than I care to admit…but Wembley is the one I love most of all. As I put it to Steve in a comment on his first blog entry approximately a century ago (at least, that’s what it feels like), Wembley is “the funniest, sweetest, most excitable, naive, lovable little furry creature in all of Fraggle Rock, if not the entire Universe.”

I like Wembley because he makes me laugh, but I love Wembley because he makes me cry. Therefore, the five Wembley clips included below skew slightly to the more poignant side of the spectrum.

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Sixty for 60: Rizzo the Rat

In anticipation of Steve Whitmire’s 60th birthday next year, I’m celebrating his work and his characters one month at a time in this year-long series, 60 for 60. This month, the spotlight is on Steve’s first major Muppet character, Rizzo the Rat.

“I’m going to make that rat a star.”–Jim Henson

Who is Rizzo the Rat? According to TV Tropes, Rizzo is a Big Eater, a Lovable Coward, and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, all of which seems accurate and consistent to me.

Personally, Rizzo strikes me as a savvy, street-wise opportunist with a talent for self-preservation. However, he has standards, and even though he was born in the sewers, there are depths to which he will not sink. For example, he’s not above taking advantage of his friends, but he’ll never sell them out completely, and he’ll always be there for them in the clinch. 

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Sixty for 60: The Best of Steve Whitmire

(I know that today is also Jim Henson’s birthday, and I have something special and separate planned for him on Saturday.)

I am sure you are already aware that today, September 24th, 2018, is Steve Whitmire’s 59th birthday. It sort of sneaked up on me, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do to commemorate the occasion. I thought of showcasing some of his best work as some of his most prominent characters via YouTube video, etc. Then I thought, “Next year is his 60th birthday; maybe something like that would be more appropriate for the milestone?”

Then I realized, with Steve having worked with the Muppets for nearly 40 years, there’s a wealth of stellar material to showcase. Rather than try to confine it all to one day, why not spread it out over the course of a full year? 

Here’s my idea: from now until September 2019, I’ll showcase five examples (be they videos or whatever) of Steve’s best work on the 24th of each month. Each month will feature a specific character or unifying theme. Then the project will culminate next year on Steve’s 60th birthday with a compilation of 60 examples of his best work. 

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