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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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.

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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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Muppet Mindset’s “ALL NEW Great Muppet Survey”: My Responses

In June 2017, The Muppet Mindset published questions for the “ALL NEW Great Muppet Survey,” an updated version of their previous “Great Muppet Survey,” which I had filled out in 2013 and revisited in 2018. They published two sets of responses to the “ALL NEW Great Muppet Survey” but have never mentioned it since, as far as I can tell. This was approximately a month before they, along with ToughPigs, broke the news of the Schism, but whether they abandoned the project as a direct result of the world turning upside down and sideways, I do not know. 

I recently discovered the “ALL NEW” survey questions and thought, “I have access to these questions and I have a blog; why don’t I just answer the questions on my blog instead of submitting them and waiting to see when and if somebody else decides to publish them?” So that’s what I’m doing. Thanks to Jarrod Fairclough for the questions, and I hope you don’t mind me taking matters into my own hands. 

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Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas Carol: Tiny Tim

Day seven of the 12 days of Muppet Christmas is Kid-Appeal Character Day with a look at the small but significant character of Tiny Tim as portrayed in Muppet Christmas Carol and the 1999 TV movie starring Patrick Stewart.

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Ben Tibber as Tiny Tim in Christmas Carol ’99

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Robin the Frog (Jerry Nelson) perched atop Kermit’s shoulder as Tiny Tim in Muppet Christmas Carol

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Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas Carol: Ghost of Christmas Present

At the present time, it is day 5 of the 12 days of Muppet Christmas, and the time is ripe to consider the Ghost of Christmas Present as he appeared in The Muppet Christmas Carol as well as Christmas Carol ’99.

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Desmond Barrit as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Christmas Carol ’99

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Jerry Nelson (voice and puppetry) and Don Austen (body) as the Ghost of Christmas Present in Muppet Christmas Carol

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Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas Carol: Marley Ghost(s)

One of the few departures Muppet Christmas Carol made from the source material is that it added another Marley ghost to the mix. But do two Marleys make for a better adaptation than the 1999 TV version starring Patrick Stewart? Find out on this, the third day of the 12 Days of Muppet Christmas.

 

Jacob (and Robert) Marley

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Statler (Jerry Nelson) and Waldorf (Dave Goelz) as Jacob and Robert Marley in Muppet Christmas Carol (Yes, I flipped the image so that my captions would match up; deal with it)

Bernard Lloyd - - Jacob Marley - A Christmas Carol (1988) - The Many Ghosts of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Bernard Lloyd as Jacob Marley in Christmas Carol ’99 (Only one ghost, but three different scenes)

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Muppet Heresy: “When Love Is Gone” Represents Everything I Don’t Like About Muppet Christmas Carol

 

When love is gone

Why do you delight in torturing us?…JUST GO ALREADY!!!

 

I first saw Muppet Christmas Carol in December 1993 when we got the VHS as a Christmas present. Suffice it to say, the initial impression it left on me was not favorable. In fact, it was so unfavorable that it was approximately 20 years before I could watch it again.

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Sesame Saturday: Wild About Herry

The official Sesame Street Twitter account retweeted the following videos as part of a larger thread:

I cannot tell you how delighted I am to see Herry Monster back on the Street again. Of all the Sesame Street monsters, Herry is probably my favorite.

I mean, I love Grover and Cookie Monster, of COURSE I do, and I also have a great deal of affection for the Two-Headed Monster and for Telly…but Herry is something really special to me.

I actually seem to remember being a little scared of Herry when I was quite young. It’s understandable, of course; he had that gruff voice and that gigantic eyebrow, and in the early days, Jim Henson et al. purposely invoked his intimidation factor, only to subvert in the punchline of some of the first inserts to feature Herry. Perhaps some of those early inserts were still in circulation in the early ’80s when I was watching as a very small child.

But no one could ever watch Herry’s interactions with John-John and remain afraid of him. I don’t specifically remember the first time I saw a Herry and John-John insert, but Herry has had a special place in my heart ever since.

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Torchbearers Redux

I have some more thoughts that I edited out of my post from yesterday on the grounds that it was still supposed to be a post for Matt’s birthday, and I felt some of what I wanted to say wasn’t necessarily very sensitive. Maybe it would have been okay, but I wanted to err on the side of caution.

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Walter and Robin

Based on his appearances in the “Muppet Thought of the Week” videos on YouTube, Walter has now become one of the funniest Muppets. Does that qualify as irony?

Prior to last summer, Walter was sometimes paired with Robin the Frog (as performed by Matt Vogel) in “Thoughts of the Week” and other short videos, a pairing that works pretty well, given that they’re both characters who are supposed to be a little younger. Check ’em out:

However, since Matt started performing Kermit, performing Robin as well would have been difficult, particularly during those live shows that everyone seemed to enjoy so much. Peter Linz now describes himself (on his Twitter profile and elsewhere) as the performer for Robin, so I guess that recast is now official.

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Sesame Saturday: Sesame Monsters Versus Letter People–Who Sang It Best?

I was recently introduced to a Sesame song/skit that I didn’t remember seeing before, in which Cookie Monster and Herry find a letter M sitting around, (as you do), and sing a song about all the foods they like that start with M:

It reminded me of another beloved PBS puppet show that I remember fondly from my childhood, “The Letter People,” which was divided into 15-minute episodes and focused on phonics. Mr. M is featured in the first episode and sings his signature song, which also includes a litany of foods that start with the letter M, because Mr. M has a Munching Mouth, and that’s where he gets his sound:

Hmm…Cookie Monster also has a Munching Mouth. I wonder if he and Mr. M would be friends or if they wouldn’t get along because they’d be in competition with one another.

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Fraggle Friday: “Tree of Life”

“Beyond the Pond” is an underrated episode of Fraggle Rock that had the misfortune to fall between two exceptionally memorable episodes: “River of Life” and “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”  Having a similar theme to “River of Life,” but a considerably lighter touch, I think it tends to get lost in the shuffle.

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Sesame Saturday: A Sesame Special and a Searing Scratch

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On April 7, 1989, I suffered an abraded cornea.

(“Abraded” is a fancy medical term for “scratched” that I didn’t learn until much later.)

I was 8 years old and in second grade.  It was a Friday, and unusually windy even by South Dakota standards.  The wind was out of the east and blowing so hard that it was almost horizontal.  After school, I had to walk directly into the wind to get to my carpool that would take me to my weekly Girl Scout meeting, and the wind blew some dirt or debris of some kind into my left eye.

All my life, people had told me not to rub my eyes, but no one had ever tried to explain why.  And I didn’t know any other way to dislodge foreign objects from my eye, so I just kept rubbing it, and it just kept hurting, and so on in a vicious cycle. 

So on the off-chance that there are any little kids reading this, let me pause for this public service announcement:  Don’t rub your eyes, kids, because you could accidentally scratch your eyeball, and that really, really hurts.

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