FAQ About the Disney/Whitmire Schism

Well, folks … here we go again. 

I don’t think Disney purposely timed its promotion of the new streaming Muppet series on Disney+ to coincide with the anniversary of the kerfuffle over the Schism three years ago. Nevertheless, a lot of casual fans are somehow still confused over the recast, and so the story is getting rehashed again in the press, sometimes fairly accurately and other times considerably less so.

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Muppet Guys Talking Livestream Event Honoring Jim Henson

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this Saturday, May 16th, marks the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. To commemorate the occasion, the four surviving performers involved in Muppet Guys Talking are holding a livestreaming event at 4:00 p.m. ET that afternoon.

You can register for free by clicking the following link:

http://www.MuppetGuysTalking.com/jim

Once you register, you will also have the opportunity to submit questions, which I presume they will make an effort to answer during the conversation.

According to the confirmation email, those who register will receive a special viewing link via email the day before. It also says that it will be available for replay to those who register, regardless of whether or not you view the original livestream.

Registration is free, but the registration page also says that the livestream will be a COVID-19 fundraiser. Not sure how that’s supposed to work, but I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.

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Your Favorite Jim Henson Moments?

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I had so much fun doing 60 for 60 last year for Steve’s birthday that I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something similar in honor of Jim Henson—who was, after all, the founder of the feast. The year 2020 not only marks the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson’s death (as unbelievable as that seems), but it also would have been his 84th birthday. Now, 84 is not a milestone the way we usually think of it, but it is divisible by 12. So in theory, I could do what I did for 60 in 60, only with seven pieces a month instead of five. 

Nevertheless, it’s a daunting prospect. Jim was so prolific that even with an extra two pieces a month, it would be difficult to cover everything. I could make an entire year-long tribute out of Sesame Street clips alone. Also, so much of his career happened before I was born, and there’s a lot of material that I have never even seen. 

I haven’t decided yet if this is an idea I will follow through on, but it got me wondering: What are your favorite Jim Henson moments, friends? What are the songs and skits that make you laugh or cry? What would you cite to represent the best of him and his work? Why do you gravitate toward the productions that you do? What about a specific work resonates with you?

Share your ideas in the comments, and please feel free to include video clips as well!

Adventures at GalaxyCon Minneapolis, Part 2

(Although I’m only finishing and publishing this now, I started drafting it well before the sad tidings of Caroll Spinney’s death. So if it seems inappropriately light-hearted in tone, that’s why.)

George Takei’s Q&A finished at about 1:00, and my brother Michael suggested that we find something to eat (“forage for food” were his exact words). I had been just about to make the same suggestion.

Like the Mid-America Center where OCon had been held, the Minneapolis Convention Center doesn’t allow outside food. Since it was cold and snowy, and since we had parked several blocks away, and since I didn’t have an extra $5 to check my coat again, there was nothing for it but to purchase overpriced lunch items from one of the several concession stands spread throughout the center. In addition to his wrap, Michael purchased a cookie and offered me half, and it reminded me of my favorite Cookie Monster sketch on Sesame Street:

After we finished eating lunch, Michael wanted to look around the vendors’ area, so we did, and I found that the vendors, though equally polite, weren’t as aggressive as they had been at OCon, meaning that we could pause by their tables without having to listen to pitches, which was a relief.

As we were walking around, we ran into three people that Michael knows in short succession. The first was a guy named Bruce (I think) who made a joke about Michael “dragging” me along to GalaxyCon, or words to that effect. I suppose I should have been annoyed by the implication that “gurls” don’t like nerdy stuff, but I just laughed and informed him, truthfully, that coming to GalaxyCon had been my idea in the first place. Michael tried to say that I was in a fandom, but at first he said that I had a fandom, and I wondered if that might actually be true from a certain point of view. I ultimately decided that it would be most accurate to say that I am in a fandom and within that fandom, I have a following. (And thanks for that, by the way!)

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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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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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Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 3: Basking in Reflected Glory

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I took notes at the Q&A so I could talk about it in detail regardless of whether or not any video of it shows up online. I intend to do that in a separate post, but here I’d like to give just a brief overview and mention the parts that are relevant to the rest of my story.

Before I talk about Steve’s Q&A, I need to back up a bit to talk about one of his visitors from the morning. I mentioned her briefly in one of my other posts. She was the lady who was part of her church’s puppet troupe, and she brought along a Whatnot for him to sign (one of those ones that Disney marketed and sold for a while). She was accompanied by two teenage kids, but of the three of them it was pretty clear that she was the one most excited to meet Steve (not that the teenagers were entirely disinterested). Her Whatnot was one that they allowed new puppeteers in their group to practice on and learn with, so Steve not only signed it across the back of its head, he also wrote a short message of encouragement.

The autographed Whatnot was one of several puppets present at the Q&A. Scrubby was there with Ethan, and the lady and the baby were there with their Wembley, and there was also a guy there with a Kermit. I’m not sure if it was a fan-made Kermit or a toy that he’d bought, but they appear briefly in the following video alongside Steve (and Mitzi):

Also, it wasn’t a puppet per se, but there was someone there with a very detailed plush toy of Rizzo. I meant to ask the guy where he acquired such a thing, but then I didn’t get around to it.

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Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 2: “Nice” Is Not the Word I’m Looking For

This is Part 2 of a series of at least three. Click here for Part 1.

Steve’s booth was next to Gigi Edgley’s, who was also making an appearance at OCon. I had seen that that was the plan and wondered if that was going to be awkward, given her close association with Brian Henson. But I didn’t want to ask Steve if it was awkward, because I thought that that somehow might make it more awkward. However, Steve brought up the subject of her appearance, asking me if I was familiar with her work. I told him that I’d never seen Farscape but that I had watched Creature Shop Challenge. He said that he hadn’t met her before this convention and wasn’t familiar with her work, but that he’d gotten acquainted with her over the course of the convention.

Clearly there’s no bad blood there.

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Observed Interactions Between Steve Whitmire and Fans at OCon

Before I get into my immersive, detailed, and probably incoherent description of hanging out with Steve Whitmire at Omaha Comic Con, I want to talk specifically about the interactions I observed between him and the fans. I was at Steve’s booth most of the day, and so I got to witness the interactions firsthand. 

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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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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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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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