“Actual Footage”

Sometimes I see photos that people have posted on Twitter, and they’ll remind me of a Muppet song, so I make a joke about it. It’s happened three times now, which I think qualifies as a running gag, so I’d like to share my immense cleverness with you nice folks over here:

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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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Steve Whitmire Talks New Characters, Big Cats, and More

Gigantic thanks to reader and commenter Sidney who alerted me to the existence of this newly posted interview that Steve gave at Louisville Supercon in either late November or early December. It made my day. Pretty much my whole week, really:

For months (and this isn’t a criticism, just a statement of fact), Steve has been talking in the vaguest of terms about new characters he’s been developing, and now we finally have something more specific. Apparently he made a new character debut in Louisville. Someone commented upon it on Instagram, but I didn’t mention it at the time because I didn’t know any specifics.

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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: Belle

Well, it’s day 9 of the 12 Days of Muppet Christmas. I’ve put it off as long as I can, but it’s time to address the elephant in the room: the character of Belle, Scrooge’s one-time fianceé whom he meets again as one of the shadows shown him by the Ghost of Christmas Past. 

Belle

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Laura Fraser as Belle in Christmas Carol ’99

Belle

Meredith Braun as Belle in Muppet Christmas Carol

In Muppet Christmas Carol, Belle sings a dull, depressing song. In Christmas Carol ’99, Belle does no singing at all, dull or otherwise.

Advantage: Christmas Carol ’99

Well, that was easy!

 

Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas Carol: Nephew Fred

Depending on the interpretation, Scrooge’s nephew Fred can either be the most admirable character in the story or an even more despicable character than Scrooge. Find out how on this, the eighth day of the 12 Days of Muppet Christmas.

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Dominic West as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, in Christmas Carol ’99

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Steven Mackintosh as Nephew Fred in Muppet Christmas Carol

One small but significant difference right off the bat between Muppet Christmas Carol and the 1999 TV movie starring Patrick Stewart is that Christmas Carol ’99 includes Fred’s backstory: he’s the son of Scrooge’s deceased sister (called Fran in Christmas Carol ’99, although the original story has her name as “Fan”). In MCC, Fred is also Scrooge’s nephew, but no mention is made of his parents one way or the other. This is similar to the approach taken in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” (the first “Christmas Carol” adaptation I ever saw and the one by which I judge all others, for better or worse), and perhaps that’s not surprising because nephewism is prominent in both franchises. (Which is fine, by the way; if our choices are nephewism and “cross-promoting,” I’ll take nephewism any day.)

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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.

Ghost of Christmas Present

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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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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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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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Side Effects May Include…

So Kermit has been working the talk show circuit promoting his bizarre, random part in the upcoming Wizard of Oz pantomime in Los Angeles happening this month. (Which, by the way, does sound like a lot of fun. I would go see it if I had any way of getting to Los Angeles). One stop he made was on the Late Late Show with James Corden, which I didn’t watch because I don’t stay up that late late anymore:

I liked the whole “Man or Muppet” bit, I very much enjoyed Matt’s money note, and I’m just thankful Kermit’s little microphone didn’t smack anybody in the eye (as far as we know) when it went flying at the end.

I could do more in-depth analysis about it, but honestly, at this point I’m basically just saying…it is what it is. I can accept this iteration as Kermit, but he’s not “my” Kermit. I can enjoy what he’s doing, but I can’t emotionally invest in him. 

And that could very well change. I have keep reminding myself that it took me six years to fully embrace Steve’s Kermit, and Matt has only been doing it for just over a year.

I’m just grateful that they didn’t sing “Rainbow Connection.” Kermit did sing “Rainbow Connection” on The Talk with his panto co-star Marissa Jaret Winokur. There was no warning, so I didn’t have time to prepare mentally, but I curbed my kneejerk reaction to leap from the couch and turn off the TV, so that’s something, I guess. And it was fine. It was a perfectly lovely performance, and it brought back fond memories of seeing Winokur perform in Hairspray when I was in college. So I’m pretty okay with the whole situation. It’s not bad, it’s not good…but it is what it is.

But now to the real reason I wanted to bring up this appearance on the Late Late Show. I wanted to make a comment about one of the interview segments, and it actually has nothing to do with Kermit at all. It has to do with the closed captions:

At the beginning of this segment Minka Kelly (whoever she is) is talking about her background working as a scrub nurse. Turn on the closed captioning during that part; it’s hilarious. “Craniotomy” becomes “crane yot me” and “hysterectomy” becomes (and this is epic) “‘histoires d’hiver’ recht me,” or…removal of French winter stories, I guess? It reminds me of the time I spent editing speech recognition documents as a medical transcriptionist.

And now you all know what that’s like. You’re welcome. 😉

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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Sesame Saturday: Oscar the Enigma

Part Two of my two-part celebration of Mr. Caroll Spinney and his two most famous characters on the occasion of his retirement, in which I attempt to unravel the fascinating enigma that is Oscar the Grouch.

When I was a kid, I was confused by Oscar the Grouch. While I thought he was funny, I wasn’t quite sure what his purpose was, why there was a character on Sesame Street who was so rude all the time, or whether or not it was okay to laugh at him. 

I was an adult before I realized that Oscar represents the dark side of the street. He’s the rain cloud that helps us appreciate the sunshine. He’s the pinch of salt that keeps all the sweetness on Sesame Street from becoming too saccharine.

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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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