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Muppet

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Muppet

This article is about the puppet characters. For the 2011 film, see The Muppets (film).

The Muppets
250px
Logo used since 2011
Creator Jim Henson
Original work Sam and Friends
Print publications
Comics Comics list
Films and television
Films Film list
Television series Television list
Games
Role-playing Disney Universe
Video games Video game list
Audio
Soundtracks The Muppets discography
Miscellaneous
Web series Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony
The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora
Theme parks Muppet*Vision 3D
Muppet Mobile Lab

The Muppets are a group of puppet characters known for an absurdist, burlesque and self-referential style of variety-sketch comedy. Created in 1955 by Jim Henson, they are now the namesake for the Disney media franchise that encompasses films, television series, music recordings, print publications, and other media associated with The Muppet Show characters.

Henson once stated that the term "Muppet" had been created as a portmanteau of the words "marionette" and "puppet", but also claimed that it was actually a word he had coined.[1] The Muppets debuted on the television program Sam and Friends, which aired locally on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. from 1955 to 1961. After appearing on skits in several late night talk shows and advertising commercials during the 1960s, Henson's Muppets began appearing on Sesame Street when that show debuted in 1969. The Muppets then became the stars of multiple television series and films, including; The Muppet Show (1976–1981), The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). After Henson's death in 1990, The Muppets continued their presence in television and cinema with Muppets Tonight (1996–1998), a series continuation of The Muppet Show, and three films, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets From Space (1999), the former two were co-produced with Disney, who sought to acquire the characters since the late 1980s. In 2004, The Walt Disney Company purchased the rights to The Muppets (except for the Sesame Street characters, which are separately owned by Sesame Workshop),[2][3][4] and later formed The Muppets Studio, a division created specifically for managing The Muppets franchise.

Disney underwent an extensive re-branding of the franchise beginning in 2008, in anticipation of the seventh film; The Muppets.[5][6] The film, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller and directed by James Bobin, was released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 23, 2011, and met with critical acclaim and commercial success.[7] An eighth film, Muppets Most Wanted, will be released on March 21, 2014.[8]

Physicality

Appearance and design

A common design for a Muppet is a character with a very wide mouth and large protruding eyes.

The puppets are often molded or carved out of various types of foam, and then covered with fleece, fur, or other felt-like material. Muppets may represent humans, anthropomorphic animals, realistic animals, robots, anthropomorphic objects, extraterrestrial creatures, mythical beings or other unidentified, newly imagined creatures, monsters, or abstract characters.

Muppets are distinguished from ventriloquist "dummies"/"puppets", which are typically animated only in the head and face, in that their arms or other features are also mobile and expressive. Muppets are typically made of softer materials. They are also presented as being independent of the puppeteer, who is usually not visible—hidden behind a set or outside of the camera frame. Using the camera frame as the "stage" was an innovation of the Muppets. Previously on television, there would typically be a stage hiding the performers, as if in a live presentation. Sometimes they are seen full-bodied. This is done by using invisible strings to move the characters' bodies and mouths, and then adding the voices later.[9]

Muppets tend to develop, as writer Michael Davis put it, "organically", meaning that the puppeteers take time, often up to a year, slowly developing their characters and voices. Muppets are also, as Davis said, "test-driven, passed around from one Henson troupe member to another in the hope of finding the perfect human-Muppet match".[10]

When interacting with Muppets, children tended to act as though the Muppets were living creatures, even when they could see the puppeteers.[11]

Operation

The puppeteer, often dubbed as the "Muppet performer"or "Muppeteer", holds the Muppet above his head or in front of his body, with one hand operating the head and mouth and the other manipulating the hands and arms, either with two separate control rods or by "wearing" the hands like gloves. One consequence of this design is that most Muppets are left-handed as the puppeteer uses his right hand to operate the head while operating the arm rod with his left hand. There are many other common designs and means of operation. In advanced Muppets, several Muppeteers may control a single character; the performer who controls the mouth usually provides the voice for the character. As technology has evolved, the Jim Henson team and other puppeteers have developed an enormous variety of means to operate Muppets for film and television, including the use of suspended rigs, internal motors, remote radio control, and computer enhanced and superimposed images. Creative use of a mix of technologies has allowed for scenes in which Muppets appear to be riding a bicycle, rowing a boat, and even dancing on-stage with no puppeteer in sight.

History

Jim Henson era

The Muppets were created in the 1950s, beginning with Kermit the Frog, who would become Jim Henson's signature character. Jim Henson said the word "Muppet" predated Sam and Friends, the first television program featuring the Muppets. Oftentimes, Henson would tell people the term had been created by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet", but also claimed that it was actually a word he had coined.[1] During the 1960s, the characters (notably Kermit and Rowlf the Dog) appeared on skits in several late night talk shows and advertising commercials. Rowlf became the first Muppet with a regular spot on network television when he began appearing as Jimmy Dean's sidekick on The Jimmy Dean Show. After the debut of Sesame Street in 1969 (for which Henson designed and performed several characters), Henson decided to pursue the creation of a television program that would be aimed towards adults and children. By 1976, The Muppet Show, a sketch comedy variety series debuted, introducing new characters such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and Animal, as well as showcasing regulars Kermit and Rowlf. The Muppet Show became increasingly popular due to its unique brand of humor and prolific roster of guest stars. The show's success allowed Henson Associates to produce three theatrical features based on the group; The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan that followed in 1979, 1981 and 1984, respectively.

Disney era

By the late 1980s, Jim Henson entered discussions with The Walt Disney Company, in which the latter would acquire Jim Henson Productions and in turn, own The Muppets franchise.[2] However, due to Henson's death in 1990, solid negotiations never materialized. Still interested in the franchise, Disney co-produced the fourth and fifth Muppet films; The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, with Jim Henson Productions in 1992 and 1996, respectively. Following that, the characters starred in Muppets Tonight which ran from 1996 to 1998 and a sixth film, Muppets From Space, released by Columbia Pictures in 1999. Eventually in 2004, The Walt Disney Company purchased The Muppets intellectual properties, consisting of rights and trademarks to The Muppet Show and Bear in the Big Blue House characters.[2][3][4] Exceptions included characters created specifically for Sesame Street (as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop) and the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock (which are still owned by the Jim Henson Company). Although the term "Muppet" is often genericized to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show, the term is a legal trademark owned by Disney in reference to the original characters created by Henson. The trademark is currently held by The Muppets Studio, a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney responsible for managing the Muppet characters, although Sesame Workshop continues to use the term for their characters (and archive footage of Kermit the Frog) under license from Disney.

The Jim Henson Company retains the rights to a number of productions featuring the Disney-owned Muppet characters, including Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, The Christmas Toy, Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting, Henson's Place, Billy Bunny's Animal Songs, the original Dog City special, and Donna's Day. While some of these specials have since been released uncut, current releases of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Christmas Toy have removed the appearances by Kermit the Frog.

Revival

Disney began gradually reintroducing the franchise to the mainstream in 2008.[5][6] As a method of regaining a wider audience, Disney began to produce and air their own comedy shorts on YouTube.[12] After the "Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody" was posted on the Muppet Studios' YouTube Channel, it ultimately gained 25 million views and took home two Webby Awards. Videos are being posted on the site regularly.[13] Recently, the Muppets starred in an online web series with Cat Cora called "The Muppets Kitchen With Cat Cora", where they show people how to cook several items.

A television special, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, premiered on NBC on December 17, 2008. It was released on DVD on September 29, 2009.[14][15] A Halloween special featuring the Muppets was expected to air on ABC in October 2010,[16][17][18] but was shelved.[19]

On March 31, 2008, First Showing revealed details about a seventh Muppet film.[20] It was announced at Disney's D23 Expo that the title would be The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made.[21] The title was later referred to as The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time.[22] In January 2010, James Bobin signed on to direct The Muppets, the newly renamed film which already had Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper cast as the film's main characters, and Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie serving as music supervisor.

Filming wrapped up in February of the following year and The Muppets was released on November 23, 2011. The film was met with a positive reception, commercial success and an Academy Award win for Best Original Song ("Man or Muppet"). In December 2011, Google released a video of the Muppets as a way to promote their social networking site; Google+.[23]

On March 20, 2012, the Muppets received a collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The ceremony featured such notables as former Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross, The Jim Henson Company's Lisa and Brian Henson, and incumbent Muppeteers; Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Eric Jacobson, Bill Barretta, Peter Linz, David Rudman and Matt Vogel. That same year, the Muppets hosted a Just for Laughs comedy gala in Montreal.[24]

After the film's successful performance, Disney greenlit a new film in March 2012, with Bobin and Nicholas Stoller returning to direct and write, respectively, a new installment titled,[25][26] Muppets Most Wanted slated for release on March 21, 2014.[8] The comedy caper will star Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell.[27]

Characters

Famous Muppets from The Muppet Show and related spin-offs include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Pepe the King Prawn, Rizzo the Rat, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Scooter, Johnny Fiama, Clifford, Bobo the Bear, Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef, Sal Minella, Sam the Eagle, Sweetums, Robin the Frog (Kermit's nephew), Walter, Annie Sue, Pops, Lew Zealand, Beauregard, and the band Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem featuring Dr. Teeth on keyboard, Animal on the drums, Floyd on bass, and Janice on lead guitar, Zoot on saxophone, and Lips on trumpet. Other well-known Muppets include Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Cookie Monster, and the main characters of Fraggle Rock.

Television shows featuring Muppets have included The Jimmy Dean Show, Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, Bear in the Big Blue House, The Jim Henson Hour, The Ghost of Faffner Hall, Dog City, Secret Life of Toys, Muppets Tonight, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony. A recurring adult-oriented cast of Muppets (in a setting known as The Land of Gorch) were featured throughout the first season of Saturday Night Live.

Guest stars on some of these programs have occasionally had Muppet versions of themselves. It was a regular practice for the first few episodes of The Muppet Show, and ZZ Top, among others, have appeared as Muppet versions of themselves on Sesame Street. Muppet versions of real people have also appeared in other shows, such as in 30 Rock, when one of the characters, Kenneth Parcell, views his co-workers as Muppet-versions in episode "Apollo, Apollo" of March 26, 2009.

The puppet characters of Farscape, The Storyteller, Mother Goose Stories, The Hoobs, Construction Site and Dinosaurs, as well as from the films Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Buddy, The Country Bears and The Dark Crystal, are not considered Muppets,[28] as they were made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, rather than by Henson's Muppet Workshop. The puppet casts of Puppet Up! and Tinseltown are also not considered Muppets as they were made by The Jim Henson Company after the sale of The Muppets in 2004. The Star Wars character Yoda was voiced by Frank Oz, one of Henson's regular performers, and is often referred to as a Muppet in media and reference works; he is not, however, a Muppet and Henson's organization was not involved in the character's creation nor design.[29][30]

The Muppets' popularity has been so expansive that Muppet characters have been treated as celebrities in their own right. The Muppets have presented at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards;[31] made cameo appearances in such feature films as Rocky III,[32] An American Werewolf in London[33] and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium;[34] and have been interviewed on the news magazine 60 Minutes. Kermit the Frog was interviewed early on in Jon Stewart's run on The Daily Show,[35] guest hosted The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, America's Funniest Home Videos and an April Fools' Day edition of Larry King Live;[36] and has served as Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade.[37] The characters also appeared in-character on such sit-coms and dramas as The Cosby Show, The West Wing and The Torkelsons. The music video for the Weezer song "Keep Fishin'" is premised on the band performing on The Muppet Show and features appearances by several characters. On September 28, 2005, the United States Postal Service released a Jim Henson and the Muppets postage stamp series.[38] The Muppets also appeared on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve for the 2008 countdown on December 31, 2007. Kermit, Rizzo and others welcomed in the new year with a series of messages to welcome viewers back from the advertising breaks. After one such segment, with Kermit in Time Square, co-host Ryan Seacrest thanked his pal "Kerms" for the help bringing in '08.[39] Miss Piggy has appeared as a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Kermit the Frog appeared on Hollywood Squares and as one of the celebrity commentators on VH1's I Love documentary series. They appeared on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as special hosts on January 3, 2010. In September 2010, the Muppets launched a new online cooking show called "The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora".[40]

On July 25, 2007, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta announced the opening of a new Jim Henson Wing, which will house anywhere from 500 to 700 retired Muppets. The new wing will also include films, sketches, and other materials from the Jim Henson Company archives. The wing was originally slated to open in 2012, but has been delayed by a lack of funding and rescheduled for a possible 2014 or 2015 debut.[41][42]

Filmography

Theatrical films

Film Release date Director Producer(s) Distributor
The Muppet Movie James Frawley Jim Henson, David Lazer, Sir Lew Grade, Martin Starger Associated Film Distribution1
The Great Muppet Caper Jim Henson David Lazer, Frank Oz, Bruce Sharman, Martin Starger Universal Pictures1
The Muppets Take Manhattan Frank Oz David Lazer TriStar Pictures
The Muppet Christmas Carol Brian Henson Brian Henson, Martin G. Baker, Jerry Juhl, Frank Oz, David Barron Walt Disney Pictures
Muppet Treasure Island Brian Henson, Martin G. Baker
Muppets from Space Tim Hill Columbia Pictures
The Muppets James Bobin David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Martin G. Baker Walt Disney Pictures
Muppets Most Wanted
Reception
Film Rotten Tomatoes Box office gross
The Muppet Movie 89% (44 reviews)[43] $76,657,000 2
The Great Muppet Caper 79% (19 reviews)[44] $31,206,251[45]
The Muppets Take Manhattan 81% (21 reviews)[46] $25,534,703[47]
The Muppet Christmas Carol 69% (35 reviews)[48] $27,281,507[49]
Muppet Treasure Island 70% (23 reviews)[50] $34,327,391[51]
Muppets From Space 63% (56 reviews)[52] $22,323,612[53]
The Muppets 96% (204 reviews)[54] $158,431,237[55]
Average Rating / Total gross 78% $375,761,701

Television films

Film Release date Director Producer(s) Distributor
It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie Kirk Thatcher Warren Carr, Martin G. Baker Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Bill Barretta Fox Television Studios

Television series

# Title Premiere date End date Network
1 Sam and Friends WRC-TV
2 The Muppet Show CBS
3 Muppet Babies CBS
4 Jim Henson's Little Muppet Monsters CBS
5 The Jim Henson Hour NBC
6 Muppets Tonight ABC

Direct-to-video releases

Film Release date Director Distributor
Muppet Classic Theater David Grossman The Jim Henson Company
Kermit's Swamp Years David Gumpel Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Web series

# Title Premiere date End date
1 Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony
2 The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora 2010

Television specials

# Title Release date
1 The Muppets on Puppets
2 Hey, Cinderella!
3 The Great Santa Claus Switch
4 The Frog Prince
5 The Muppet Musicians of Bremen
6 The Muppets Valentine Show
7 The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence
8 Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
9 The Muppets Go Hollywood
10 John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together
11 The Muppets Go to the Movies
12 Of Muppets and Men
13 The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show
14 Rocky Mountain Holiday with John Denver and the Muppets
15 The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years
16 The Tale of the Bunny Picnic
17 The Christmas Toy
18 A Muppet Family Christmas
19 The Song of the Cloud Forest
20 The Muppets at Walt Disney World
21 Disneyland's 35th Anniversary
22 The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson
23 Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree
24 Studio DC hosted by Dylan and Cole Sprouse
25 Studio DC hosted by Selena Gomez
26 A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
27 Lady Gaga & The Muppets' Holiday Spectacular[56]

Other appearances

Title
The Mike Douglas Show
The Ed Sullivan Show
Saturday Night Live
60 Minutes
The Tonight Show
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
Dancing With The Stars
America's Funniest Home Videos
The Daily Show
Larry King Live
So Random!
WWE Raw
The Colbert Report
The Voice
30 Rock
Ellen
Comic Relief
Good Luck Charlie

Discography

Main article: The Muppets discography

On September 17, 2002, Rhino Records released The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More, a compilation album of music from The Muppet Show and subsequent film outings.

Under Disney ownership, albums featuring "The Muppets" characters, have since been released by Walt Disney Records, including Best of the Muppets: The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005), The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas (2006) and Muppets: The Green Album (2011), and The Muppets: Original Soundtrack (2011). Legal rights to Muppet-related songs such as "Rainbow Connection" and the "The Muppet Show Theme", are controlled by Fuzzy Muppet Songs and Mad Muppet Melodies, divisions of Disney Music Publishing.

Other media

Print publications

Since the late 1970s, numerous Muppet-related comic books have been released over the years. The first comic strips based on The Muppets appeared on September 21, 1981, in over 500 daily newspapers, just months after The Muppet Show ended its five-year run. The Muppets Comic Strip was printed daily from 1981 to 1986. By the end of its initial run, the comic strip was seen in over 660 newspapers worldwide. Special strips were also created in color, exclusively for issues of Muppet Magazine.

The only film in the franchise to see a comic book adaptation was The Muppets Take Manhattan. The comic book series was adapted by Marvel Comics in 1984, as the 68 page story in Marvel Super Special No. 32, August. The adaptation was later re-printed into three limited series issues, released under Marvel's Star Comics imprint (November 1984 – January 1985).

In the wake of the success of the Muppet Babies television show, Star Comics began releasing the Muppet Babies comic book title on a bi-monthly basis. These were original stories, not adaptations of the show's episodes.

In the final Disney Adventures issue, with a cover date of November 2007, a one-page story single strip focusing on Fozzie Bear, Smedley, Statler, and Waldorf (with a cameo by Scooter) was released. Roger Langridge wrote and drew the comics intending it to be more long running.

In 2009, Boom! Studios began publishing The Muppet Show, a mini-series based on the eponymous television show and written and drawn by Roger Langridge. An ongoing series titled The Muppet Show: The Comic Book followed and ran for eleven issues. Additionally, Boom! Studios also published Muppet fairy-tale comic adaptations similar to The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. In 2012, Marvel Comics took over the publishing duties for the series.[57]

A comic strip by Guy Gilchrist and Brad Gilchrist circulated in newspapers during the 1980s. Many of the strips were compiled in various book collections.[58]

Muppet Magazine was published from 1983 to 1989. The magazine took on the format of being "by" the Muppets more than about them, and had such features as celebrity interviews and comic stories. [59]

Theme parks

Main article: Muppet*Vision 3D

The Muppet Show characters have been making worldwide appearances at Disney theme parks and the Disney Cruise Line since 1990. Their first attraction, Here Comes the Muppets, was a live stage show that opened shortly after Jim Henson's death and ran at Disney's Hollywood Studios (known then as Disney-MGM Studios) for a year. Muppet*Vision 3D opened on May 16, 1991, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and is notable for being the final Muppets project to be produced by Jim Henson, the attraction had a subsequent opening on February 8, 2001, at Disney California Adventure Park, part of the Disneyland Resort. Directed by Henson and written by Bill Prady, the show is a 3D film featuring the Muppets in a plot similar to what was seen on The Muppet Show.

Walt Disney Imagineering designed the Muppet Mobile Lab, a free-roving, audio-animatronic that was later tested at Disney California Adventure Park and at Epcot at Walt Disney World. It is currently deployed at Hong Kong Disneyland[60]

Video games

A number of video games featuring the Muppets have been produced since the 1990s.

In popular culture

Muppet-like and Muppet-inspired puppets star in the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q (which disavows any relationship with Sesame Workshop or the Jim Henson Company, possibly to avoid lawsuits from the two companies). Peter Jackson's film, Meet the Feebles is another parody of the Muppets. A vomit-spewing Kermit the Frog was a recurring character on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the Muppets were frequently preempted at the beginning of episodes for the Canadian series You Can't Do That on Television. Seth Green's short-lived show Greg the Bunny was about sentient hand-puppets working in a Muppet-like children's show. Many other films and television shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, The West Wing and Robot Chicken have referenced The Muppets.

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Reissued as a Walt Disney Pictures release since 2005.
  2. ^ Some estimates have the film's gross total $76,657,000,[61] whereas Box Office Mojo reports a gross of only $65.2 million.[62]

References

External links

  • Official U.S. site
  • Official U.K. site
de:Muppets
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