Fraggle Friday: Why Do I Cry?

Today I was listening to “Just a Dream Away,” and tears came to my eyes. Admittedly a perfectly normal and understandable reaction, but I realized I didn’t know exactly why I was crying.

Why exactly does this song provoke this reaction from me? Is it purely the beauty of the song and the performance? Or is it the dramatic irony of knowing Richard Hunt’s eventual fate? Is it the inherent lovability of Mudwell the Mudbunny? Or is it the contrast between his speaking voice and his singing voice? Is it entirely due to one of these factors, or is a combination of two or more of them?

I still haven’t figured it out yet. Perhaps I never will. 

Maybe it’s better not to know. Maybe if I figured it out, it would break the spell, and the song wouldn’t have the same effect on me anymore. 

Thoughts on the Dark Crystal Prequel Series Trailer

I’ve been really looking forward to the trailer for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance despite the fact that, for various reasons that I don’t want to get into right now, I don’t subscribe to Netflix. The Dark Crystal is my favorite non-Muppet creation of Jim Henson’s and I was looking forward to getting at least a peek back into the world of Thra. In a way, it felt like coming home. 

It all looks spectacular, and if anything could convince me to subscribe to Netflix, this would be it. Even if I don’t get to see it, I’m still glad that it exists, and that it seems to be branching off in new directions while remaining rooted within the mythos and ethos of the original movie. 

I do have some specific thoughts about it, however. Most good, some bad…

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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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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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Fraggle Friday: A Walkin’, Talkin’, Breathin’ Ball of Fire

As I’m sure you’re all aware, yesterday was the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. But I can never concentrate entirely on Jim Henson on May 16th, because it’s also my niece’s birthday. 

At times, my niece (who just turned 8) is like a ray of sunshine, but more often, in the words of Cantus (and Dennis Lee), I find her to be a walkin’, talkin’, breathin’, ball of fire.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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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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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“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

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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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