Back in the spring, the Henson Company released the clunkily titled short-form series “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” I reviewed the first episode and didn’t expect to watch any more, but someone kept posting bootleg copies on the Cave-In Discord server. Curiosity got the best of me, and since each episode is less than 10 minutes long, I thought, “What the hey?” and watched them all.
About a month ago now, I guess, a new short-form series featuring the Fraggle Rock characters was announced. Redundantly titled Fraggle Rock: Rock On!, it premiered its first five-minute episode three weeks ago. Premise: the Fraggle Five use new radish-based technology in the form of “Doozer tubes” to communicate with each other, and with Traveling Matt, remotely.
Before the series premiered, I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, Fraggle Rock is precisely the right content for this peculiar moment in history because it’s all about meeting adversity with courage, compassion, and yes, even joy. On the other hand, one of the most wonderful things about the original Fraggle Rock is that it’s almost completely timeless. If they make a new, obliquely topical Fraggle Rock series, I wondered to myself, isn’t it going to lose that timeless quality?
Obviously, from a practical, Doylist perspective, I completely understand the need for the puppeteers to work distantly from one another. But from a Watsonian view, why would the Fraggles have to be in isolation? Wouldn’t you think that living underground would be an effective quarantine?
Then, of course, there was the big question: What of Wembley?
I watched the first episode online, and it answered a lot of my questions and alleviated some of my misgivings. But only some.
I originally drafted this back in August but held off posting it in hopes that the OCon organizers would post video of the Q&A. They have yet to do so, but I revisited this entry and discovered that it is as complete as it can be under the circumstances, so I’m posting it now.
When I first met Steve on that Sunday morning in
Omaha Council Bluffs, one of the first things we talked about was the Q&A that he was scheduled to do at noon that day. I told him that I intended to take notes at the Q&A so I could write about it on my blog later. I also pointed out that I’d never really done anything like that before, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.
If I’d been more savvy and better organized, I would have tried to record it rather than taking notes. That way, even if I wasn’t able to post the video online, I would still have it as a reference and memory aid to help me write it.
Nevertheless, my notes of the Q&A probably would have been sufficient if I hadn’t spent the day at Steve’s booth and then devoted most of my mental energy towards remembering everything else that happened there. I should have reviewed my notes a few times in the immediate aftermath to encode those memories properly. Alas, I did not.
All of which is just to say that even with the benefit of notes, my memory of the Q&A is woefully incomplete. There are multiple phrases included in them that I have no idea what they mean. So unfortunately, (and ironically) my account of the Q&A is going to be less detailed than those of the rest of my day. I apologize. I’ll know better next time.
Boy, did I discover an unexpected Christmas gift today! I was on YouTube, and one of the videos recommended to me was a Q&A from GalaxyCon Louisville back in November featuring Steve Whitmire and Kirk Thatcher:
It’s so great and entertaining and informative just in general, but here is what I particularly like about it:
Merry Christmas, all! By the time I post this, it will technically be Christmas Day, but in my mind, at least, it is still Christmas Eve. This evening I watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street and “The Bells of Fraggle Rock” back to back. I decided to do that merely because I hadn’t watched either of them yet this season, but in the process I found that they are more closely related thematically than I ever realized, and probably more so than anyone involved intended.
I have some deep thoughts about that, and I’d like to share them, but it’s really late right now (or early, depending on your point of view), and I am tired. So I’d just like to observe that if Cantus had been on Sesame Street while Big Bird was having his crisis of faith, he probably could have explained to Big Bird how Santa gets down the chimneys.
However, knowing Cantus, he probably would have done so in an oblique, metaphorical way that would probably just have confused and frustrated Big Bird, so he probably would have ended up on the roof anyway.
Nevertheless, that’s a scene that I wish existed, because I would love to see it.
Happy 60th birthday, Steve Whitmire! And welcome, everyone, to the final installment of 60 for 60. Every month for a year I’ve been celebrating Steve and this milestone by posting five examples of his work per month (mostly in the form of videos, but not exclusively) and making commentary about it. At this point, I’d like to take a look back of the year and choose the best from each month for a “Best of the Best” feature.
(As always, “best” in this case is subjective.)
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.
Welcome to the final regular installment of 60 for 60, a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday next month. This month’s theme is live appearances by Muppet characters.Of the many strange and perplexing things that happened in conjunction with the Muppets’ 2015 series, one that I found to be among the strangest and most perplexing was this bizarre statement by Bill Prady, that it would be the first time that the Muppets were in our world. How are they not in our world? Not only have six of their eight movies been set in our world, but the Muppets make live appearances in our world all the time. And when they do, it results in some of the best and most entertaining material because they’re usually a little freer to do some ad libbing and to be themselves, insofar as the Muppets have selves, which is a deep philosophical dive that I don’t think I’m ready to take at the moment and would probably require a whole other entry even if I were.
This last weekend Steve was at Michigan Comic Con in Detroit, where he was gracious enough to give an interview for a publication based there, taking great care to emphasize the puppetry aspect of his work and that he’s not a voice person.
So of course, the entire written interview is all about voices, with the puppetry mentioned only as an afterthought.
Therefore, I recommend the accompanying YouTube video of the interview over the written version. Even though it looks like it’s been edited down somewhat, at least Steve gets to express himself in his own words:
This video is actually really exciting, though, because Steve explains a bit more about his live-stream concept with Weldon. This is information that Steve actually told me when I met him in Omaha, but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to talk about it, so I erred on the side of caution in not mentioning it. But now he’s expressed it publicly, so I guess it’s okay for me to talk about it.
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.
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.
I’m going to make two points about this episode. They may seem unrelated, even contradictory, but there is a method to my madness.
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.
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.
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.
Approximately two months ago (wow, really?), I posted an interview that Steve gave at the Supercon in Louisville around the end of November, I believe. This week (well, technically last week) I received notification of video of a panel discussion from the same event.
Couple of noteworthy things about it: