Archive for the Muppets Category

Happy Birthday Kermits

Posted in Muppets with tags , , , , , , on September 23, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

September the 24th, 2011 marks what would have been the 75th birthday of the late Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. Henson passed away in 1990 at the age of just 53 after ignoring flu-like symptoms and developing a form of bacterial pneumonia. If spending the better part of three months writing a book on Henson’s most famous creations has done nothing else, it has confirmed one thing I already knew; this should never have been allowed to happen. The word visionary barely manages to do justice to a man who single handedly brought puppetry into the modern age, who helped change the face of educational television, who predicted the rise of reality television, who envisioned a children’s series that would bring about world piece, and who did more in his fifty-odd years than most people could achieve in 200. The world is lesser place for his not being in it.

Jim with Kermit on The Tonight Show back in 1975.

What is often overlooked, however, is that September the 24th also marks the birthday of the second man to bring life to Kermit the Frog, Steve Whitmire. Whitmire was an experienced and versatile puppeteer when he took over the role in 1990 and since then has done an admirable job of keeping Kermit’s green spirit alive. Yes his voice is different, but his soul remains in tact. Nobody on the planet could do a better job.

Steve Whitmire performs Ernie in this behind-the-scenes peek at Sesame Street.

Announcing ‘Muppet Reasons’

Posted in Muppets, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Yes, I’m announcing a new blog. This time on tumblr. Muppet Reasons is intended to provide the discerning puppet fanatic with a daily dose of Jim Henson’s fantastic creations. With a new movie on the horizon and a covers album currently going viral, I predict the next year to be the year of the Frog. To this extent my goal is to provide the world with 365 reasons to love the Muppets. It’s an easier task than you’d think and one which I hope will be made easier by the fact that readers can submit their own Muppety reasons via a submissions box.

More exciting than this, however, is the fact that this new blog is also intended to help generate interest in my NEW BOOK! Yes, some poor sap has agreed to publish my second tome and it is going to be a comprehensive guide to Kermit, Piggy and the gang. Entitled Frogs, Hogs, Weirdos and Whatnots, the book will be released in April 2012. If you like Muppets or have ever enjoyed something I have written, I’d be very greatful for pre-orders. The book may be a while from publication, but think of the pre-order as buying a present for your future self. Conquer time laws of time and space by ordering a copy of Frogs, Hogs, Weirdos and Whatnots today.

Dearth Nadir?!

Posted in Muppets, Ramblings, Sites of Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

Another month, another contribution to Tachyon-TV. This time I take a look at the Mark Hamill episode of The Muppet Show. It’s one of the strangest episodes of the series and, given that we’re talking about the Muppets here, that’s saying something! You can read the article by clicking this link.

When Scenes Have Gone

Posted in Muppets, Ramblings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by Andrew T. Smith

muppet-christmas-carol-posters

The Muppet Christmas Carol is one of those perfect holiday films that ranks alongside classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, Scrooged and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Year after year I have continued to be entertained by the film’s wit and charm but one thing has bugged me ever since I first bought the DVD; there is a scene missing. Before we all jump on our high horses and bemoan the butchery of our film heritage there is one thing to add – the scene in question was never included in the theatrical release.

The story goes like this. The bitter sweet ballad When Love Has Gone was written for the film by composer Paul Williams, performed by an orchestra, recorded by the actors, filmed and then edited into the film. However shortly before the film’s theatrical premiere the decision was made to cut the scene for timing reasons. Nobody  ever saw this musical number as part of the film during the official release but when it came time to offer The Muppet Christmas Carol for sale via VHS the decision was made to reinstate this footage. Having never seen The Muppet Christmas Carol at the cinema this home video version was the version of the film I, and a great many others, grew up with at home and whenever I see the theatrical cut now on DVD or television it always feels as though a chunk of the film’s soul has been removed.

In the sense that it was felt that the film was running too long for theatrical exhibition it is easy to see why this particular scene was cut.  For about three and a half minutes the film asks the audience to do without the beloved Muppet characters and enjoy a ‘straight’ song – there is nothing festive or jolly about When Love Has Gone. But in removing this scene the filmmakers stripped The Muppet Christmas Carol of one of its most moving and essential moments.

The film, as per Charles Dickens’ classic novella, tells the story of Scrooge’s rebirth as a caring compassionate human but this over night change is so sudden that the filmmakers have to take care not to make the character’s motives seem selfish. In The Muppet Christmas Carol adaptation of this story there are four key events that help turn scrooge around; hearing how is viewed by his own relatives, seeing the day his lost love Belle left him, learning of the fate of his employee’s son Tiny Tim and discovering his ultimate fate. Of these four reasons three, on the surface, seem self motivated. Scrooge’s change can be seen to be a cynical attempt to stay alive for as long as possible, he is threatened rather than truly rehabilitated. In the extended Muppet Christmas Carol there is a key difference that makes confirms his change of heart as a moral rehabilitation.

In the theatrical cut of  of The Muppet Christmas Carol the elderly Scrooge is taken back in time to the moment Belle left him. He sees his younger self being emotionally cold and when she tells him that their love has diminished over time she leaves leaving both incarnations of the Scrooge behind. The elderly man cries for what he has lost, accusing the Spirit of Christmas Past of torturing him.

The extended version of this scene makes a big difference as can be viewed below.

Not only is this a beautiful little song but also the positioning of the characters affects our perception of Scrooge’s motivation. In this version of the scene Belle is left behind when her emotionally cruel and distant lover leaves during her song. Scrooge is allowed the chance to see how is actions affected her and cries not only for what he has lost but also for the grief and sorrow he has caused another human being. It is a key turning point in his journey to salvation and serves to alter our impression of Scrooges disappointment with how his nephew has come to see him.

It should also be noted that the brief moment in which Michael Caine as Scrooge duets with Meredith Brown as Belle is one of the most perfectly played pieces in the film. Their shot together is intensely intimate and tender despite the fact that they can not interact.

If you’d like to see this scene as part of the film the only option is to purchase the Kermit’s 50th Anniversary Edition DVD from America. The theatrical cut is presented in widescreen while a secondary pan and scan, cropped version of the film retains this song. It’s a shame that the scene has never been released in Widescreen but one can hope that with an inevitable Blue Ray edition on the way that a decent presentation of the extended film will emerge.

Thanks for sticking with this extended ramble!