Adventures at GalaxyCon Minneapolis, Part 1

This is Steve’s Q&A from GalaxyCon Minneapolis, but I wasn’t there that day so I only saw it for the first time yesterday.

On November 10th, I attended GalaxyCon Minneapolis and met up with Steve again. The only reason I was able to do that is because of my brother Michael. He lives in Minneapolis and allowed me to stay with him while I was in town. If I had had to pay the price of admission plus accommodations, I would never have been able to go. I also would have paid for parking because I wouldn’t have known there was another option.

When I initially planned to go to GalaxyCon, I thought that I would simply ask Michael if I could stay with him while I was in town. But then I thought about it, and I realized that although he’s not obsessive about Muppets the way I am, he still likes them. Not only that, but he’s an enormous Star Trek fan, and there were a bunch of Star Trek actors appearing. So I thought he might enjoy coming along, and that it might be more fun if he was there, so I invited him, and I was right on both counts. Not only that, but I don’t think I would have even made it into the exhibition hall to see Steve if Michael hadn’t been there to interpret the maps of the convention center for me and lead me in the right direction.

My point is that I have Michael to thank for the entire GalaxyCon experience, and if you enjoy what I have to say about it, then you owe him your gratitude as well. (If you don’t enjoy it, well, then leave him out of it because he had nothing to do with that.)

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Cave-In Tease

In case you missed it, last weekend I attended GalaxyCon Minneapolis and had another conversation with Steve. It was sort of a two-part conversation, actually, because I talked to him in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Thus, I thought I would write about it in two blog posts as well. 

I’m in the process of writing those now, and the first part, detailing our conversation of the morning, is nearing completion. However, the thought occurred to me that I might not be able to publish the second part, detailing our conversation of the afternoon, until after the next episode of Cave-In occurs. Since our conversation of the afternoon included intel on what is coming in future episodes, I thought I would provide a brief preview now.

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Joe the Legal Weasel

There’s a new Muppet in town. His name is Joe the Legal Weasel, he is performed by the fantastically talented Peter Linz, and he appears about 20 seconds into this video: 

I love the idea behind Joe the Legal Weasel. He seems to be a way of poking fun at the folks running Disney without them necessarily realizing that they’re being skewered from within, which is exactly what the Muppets should be doing. 

Nevertheless, this particular sketch leaves me cold. And I’m not entirely sure why. 

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Your Input on the Next Article Series

As you know, my year-long 60 for 60 article series is coming to a close next week. I’ve really enjoyed putting it together, and during the process, I’ve discovered that an article series published in monthly increments is a schedule that works well for me. I have several ideas for article series that I would like to do, and now I’m trying to decide which I should do first. 

I’d like to get your input, so here is a Twitter poll, and blog comments are more than welcome as well:

My preference would be to start with the Muppet movies because (a) it’s the 40th anniversary of the original movie and (b) I enjoy the movies infinitely more than the 2015 series.

But then I thought about it, and it occurred to me that if/when Muppets 2015 goes up on Disney+, the powers that be may take it down from the ABC site. I wouldn’t pay money for a Disney+ subscription even if I could, so there may be a window of opportunity to review the 2015 series again that could soon be closing. So I feel sort of obligated to do the 2015 series first even though I really don’t want to. 

I won’t promise to abide by the prevailing opinion, but I would like to know what you think nevertheless. Please share. 

Semi-miked StocktonCon Q&A Panel

The interesting thing about searching for comic con panel discussions is that you don’t always find exactly what you asked for, but sometimes you find things that you would never have thought to look for specifically. 

I checked YouTube today to see if there were any panels from DragonCon available yet. It may be too early for that since it was just this weekend. I didn’t find any new DragonCon content, but I did find a panel from StocktonCon Steve did…*checks*…a month ago already! Wow…

Word of warning before I post it: Like at OCon, Steve and the moderator were miked, but the audience questions weren’t. Why? I have no idea. It seems like a no-brainer to me, but what do I know?

One thing I want to specifically point out about this panel is that Steve talks in glowing terms about Kermit’s interview with Ellen Degeneres. That is also a favorite appearance of mine, and it was surprising to me at the time that Ellen and Kermit had never met before. That, too, seemed like a no-brainer. I really wanted to work that interview into 60 for 60, but the only place I could have worked it in was during the Kermit month, and I opted for the backstage interview instead. If I have a regret about how it turned out, that may be it. 

In the meantime, I’m waiting quite impatiently to see if OCon is going to post video of Steve’s Q&A panel. I asked them via Twitter if we could expect it, but I haven’t received a response. Neither my notes nor my memory are really adequate to talk about it, but if I had the video with the notes to supplement it, I think I could recreate it for you with a reasonable degree of accuracy. 

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.

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(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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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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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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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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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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Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas Carol: Narrators

At long last, it is the twelfth day of Muppet Christmas, and not a moment too soon because my brain has more or less turned into guacamole. But before we wrap up, we must take a look at the narrators in Muppet Christmas Carol and Christmas Carol ’99.

Narrators

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Dominic West (in his role as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred) provides voice-over narration at the end of Christmas Carol ’99

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Gonzo the Great as Charles Dickens and Rizzo the Rat as himself provide narration throughout Muppet Christmas Carol (Gonzo and Rizzo are performed by Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire, respectively)

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Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas Carol: Charity Collectors

We’re in the home stretch now! It’s day eleven of the 12 Days of Muppet Christmas, and we’re looking at the two gentlemen in each production who attempt to persuade Scrooge to donate to charity

 

Charity Collectors

 

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Edward Petherbridge as Foster and Jeremy Swift as Williams, the charity collectors in Christmas Carol ’99

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Beaker and Bunsen as the charity collectors in Muppet Christmas Carol, with Michael Caine and Kermit. (Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker are performed by Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire, respectively)

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Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas Carol: Mrs. Cratchit

It’s the tenth of 12 Days of Muppet Christmas, and I find myself running out of introductory comments to make. This is about the point where I started getting tired and uninspired when I did 12 Days last year as well. Maybe it would work out better for me if I limited myself to ten days of Muppet Christmas, even though there’s not a song about that. While I contemplate that possibility, let’s look at the role of Mrs. Cratchit, Bob’s wife and Tiny Tim’s mother.

Mrs. (Emily) Cratchit

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Saskia Reeves as Mrs. Cratchit (no first name given) in Christmas Carol ’99

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Miss Piggy (Frank Oz) as Emily Cratchit in Muppet Christmas Carol

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