Muppet Fans Who Grew Up

Friday, October 31, 2008

 

Ernie: The Crumby Choice


by Joe Hennes


First, let me say thank you to ToughPigs.com for hosting this debate, and thank you to Mr. Strand for having the courtesy to attend. While I respect Mr. Strand’s arguments of the benefits to an Ernie/Bert Presidency, I cannot sit idly by while American voters are being swayed by two young men with a history of trickery, blatant deceit, and a track record of illegal activity. Aside from the fact that Gobo Fraggle would make a brilliant President, Ernie has proven to the American public time and time again that he can’t even be trusted with a plate of cookies, let alone the national budget.

Ernie’s, for the lack of a better word, “jerkitude” has been well documented. Generally, Ernie’s jerk-like tendencies have been directed at his roommate, better known as his running mate, Bert. The candidate from Sesame Street has reportedly convinced his running mate to say that he “8 the sandbox,” to talk to elephants on a banana, and to be chased by four-eyed monsters. Ernie has woken Bert up from deep sleeps to be reminded to take a nap, to play his radio, to tell him that the room has gone quiet, to count sheep, to count fire engines, to count balloons, to play his drums, and to invite a team of sheep into their bedroom for a musical number.

Ernie has posed as a doctor to examine Bert on several occasions without receiving a medical degree. He has gotten Bert kicked out of movie theaters after he himself made too much noise. He has lured Bert into playing games and singing songs, only to cruelly quit once Bert starts to enjoy himself. He has flooded their apartment more than once, put a fish in Bert’s cowboy hat, eaten Bert’s share of pizza, eaten Bert’s share of licorice, eaten Bert’s share of cookies, and eaten Bert’s share of cherries (nature’s gumdrop).

If this is the way he treats his best friend and running mate, how will he treat the American public? Do you really want a President who will get cookie crumbs in your bed?

His running mate, Bert is hardly worthy of the White House himself. According to sources, he can’t even beat a pigeon at a simple game of checkers. He has a history of cross-dressing, not just in the privacy of his own home, but also on stage in front of an audience (while Gobo and Red support alternate lifestyles, a lifestyle like Bert’s should not be kept a secret from his constituents). Perhaps most importantly, Bert serves as the president of a secret organization dedicated to the love of W, of which Ernie is also a member. W has given us eight years of difficulties, including economic crisis and war, and Bert is not only a supporter of W’s administration but a dues-paying member!Ernie has a history of waffling. In 1969, he declared that his favorite number was 2. Immediately after, he changed his mind and announced that his favorite number was 7. Just a few years later, he stated that his favorite number is 8,243,721. Can we afford to elect a President who chooses favorite numbers so willy-nilly? Why, I feel dirty just pluralizing the term “favorite numbers.”

Ernie has also been seen fraternizing with a man only known as “Lefty.” This man is guilty of grand larceny (for stealing the golden AN), alphabet trafficking, and conspiracy. We have film footage of Ernie buying certain letters of the alphabet from Lefty, as well as empty boxes, city property (such as stop signs), and invisible desserts. Who knows what other sorts of illegal dealings with which Ernie has involved himself. And that’s not to mention his perception of the value of a nickel.

Public planning is not one of Ernie’s strong suits. In one notable example, he double-booked his own bathroom for both Bert’s bath and a street-wide sing-along session. When confronted with this issue, Ernie blatantly ignored the pleas of his helpless running mate and commenced with the singing and public embarrassment.

According to paleontologists, Ernie and Bert have lived since the time of cavemen. That would make them thousands of years old. Are they too old to be able to relate to the common American man or woman? Are they out of touch with the needs of 99% of the country? In a word: Yes. In two words: Yes Yes.

It is our duty as Americans to choose the best candidate for the Presidency, and the best person in this race is an easy choice: Gobo Fraggle. Between Ernie’s sharing issues and his utter disregard for his fellow man, he would prove to be an incompetent world leader. But where his flaws start, Gobo’s strengths begin. Just look at his bond with his fellow Fraggles for proof. While Ernie can’t manage to share one stick of licorice, the Fraggle share their dreams. While Ernie plays cruel, pointless tricks on his buddy Bert, Gobo often leads his friends out of dangerous situations and back to the comfort of the Rock. We deserve a President who will lead us home, and that man is a Fraggle.Special thanks go out to Anthony Strand, who did just as much work on the ToughPigs election special as I did!

Head on over to the ToughPigs forum to cast your vote for the candidate you think would make the best President! Polls close at 9pm EST on November 4th! And be sure to vote in the for-real election on the same day!

Click here to talk trash about the guy who taught you the alphabet on the ToughPigs forum!
joe.toughpigs@gmail.com

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

 

Gobo? NO!


by Anthony Strand

My esteemed colleague, Mr. J. M. Hennes, argued earlier this week in favor of a Gobo Fraggle Presidency. He worked hard to paint Gobo as someone who will strengthen the United States and extend a radish leaf of peace to all the nations of the world. It’s a commendable thought, and I certainly respect Joe’s right to feel that way. But the truth of the matter is this – Gobo Fraggle is completely unfit for the job of President.

Now, I could go down the expected path and paint Fraggle society as Socialistic. I could even make an unfair comparison between the name of Gobo’s running mate and the symbolic color of Communism, as seen in ugly propaganda like this:


But I’m not that person. There are many things about Fraggle culture that I admire and respect. I think one day this country would do very well to elect a Fraggle as President. But today is not that day, and Gobo is not that Fraggle. Simply put, the man is selfish and full of himself. He has frequently boasted of his self-reliance and the uselessness of relying on others. “I knew I was good,” he says proudly, with an egotistical grin.

His running mate isn’t much better, proclaiming for all to hear that, “All I need is me, me, me!” She has also shown a fool-hardy obliviousness to the achievements of others. When the Minstrels made their first appearance in Fraggle Rock, she cared only that she was the first one in the pool. Are these the type of people you want running your nation? People who put themselves first and have, in the past, bickered between themselves over who is “the leader”?

I don’t mean to dwell on Red Fraggle’s character, but she has shown an unfortunate willingness in the past to change her personality in order to win the affection of others. Ernie’s running mate, on the other hand, is very proud of being square, and wouldn’t change who he is for any reason.

I’d like to talk for a moment about Mr. Hennes’ specific claims. He mentioned the Last of the Lily Creatures in his pitch. Red’s treatment of that very important animal shows exactly how she and Gobo will treat the rest of this country. She promised she would come back to look after him, but the record shows that she never, ever did.

Mr. Hennes also stated that Gobo would end reliance on foreign radishes. Yet when has Gobo ever attempted to start a radish farm? His entire life has been spent stealing them from the Gorgs or, in the form of Doozer sticks, the Doozers. The Gobo/Red platform is built on empty promises, and there’s no indication that this will change in the future.

His claims that Gobo has a solid track record on foreign policy are simply ridiculous. Gobo spent years treating Doozers like scum and cowering in irrational fear of the Gorgs. A sudden change of heart at the end doesn’t erase that. He has also never taken a clear stand on the environment, switching back and forth between positions based on what his close advisor Convincing John told him to do. This long-standing ignorance is frightening, and sure to be repeated during his Presidency.

Convincing John, of course, is hardly the worst of Gobo’s advisors. Mr. Hennes very proudly stresses Gobo’s connection to his uncle, “Traveling” Matt Fraggle, calling him a capable explorer. Surely even Gobo’s most ardent supporters can see that the man is an embarrassment, a loose cannon and a huge albatross around the campaign’s neck. He thinks chewing gum makes your tongue explode. I can’t stress that enough.


Even some within Gobo’s own ticket have spoken out against Matt. Before the campaign started, Red frequently spoke out against him and refused to listen to his gibberish letters from “outer space.” She teased Gobo about the connection, saying “You’re as crazy as your uncle Matt.” What if he is? Are the American people willing to take that risk?

As I mentioned, Gobo genuinely believes that his uncle Matt is exploring outer space. In fact, he is exploring the Earth. Gobo Fraggle cannot tell the difference between:

Outer Space


And the Earth

Think about that.

Now, Gobo Fraggle is certainly an appealing figure. He’s youthful, he’s enthusiastic, and he has big plans. It’s easy to be tempted to vote for him after his rousing speeches and memorable songs. But at heart, Gobo Fraggle will always put Gobo Fraggle first. We need a President who’ll put the American people first, and Ernie is it.

Seriously, though, I’d like to thank our own Joe Hennes for making all of the photoshopped images for this series of articles. That’s all Joe, folks. I tip my hat to him.

He'll be back tomorrow with some preposterous anti-Ernie slander.

Click here to cower in fear of the Gorgs on the Tough Pigs Forum.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

 

Ernie/Bert '08


by Anthony Strand

Yesterday, Joe posted his arguments in favor of a Gobo Fraggle Presidency. On Thursday and Friday of this week, we will refute each other's statements. Be sure to come back for that.

Ernie. He knows how to dream big. The most remarkable thoughts he thinks have a way of being true. Ernie is the only candidate in this race who can mold reality to his will. Now he’s ready to take that large imagination and dedicate it to the United States of America. With his running mate Bert, he’ll do whatever it takes to lead this country into a bright and shining new era.


Ernie is a man of conviction. He can’t imagine anyone he’d rather be other than Ernie, and he’s known for seeing his plans through to the end, even if those around him can’t immediately see the value in his actions. He’s no self-absorbed fanatic, however. When he has to, Ernie is more than willing to put down the Duckie in favor of serving the greater good. As President, he’ll do what’s best for the people of the United States, not what’s best for himself. By the hilarious musical sting at the end of his first four years, he’ll have carried out big plans on these issues and more:


The Economy

Ernie hails from Sesame Street, and he knows how to cut government spending. He and Bert have shared an apartment for nearly forty years, and they haven’t spent a dime – not on food, not on utilities, and certainly not on earmarks. Also, both Ernie and his running mate have experience in helping workers see the value in their jobs. Ernie, during his stint as Old King Cole, showed his fiddlers three how to form a trio and Bert taught sheep how blankets are made. They’ll continue this commitment to the American worker from the White House.


Education

Education is not even an issue in this campaign, because my candidates are so far ahead of the other platform. They have a collective 78 years of experience in early childhood education, having dealt with subjects ranging from sharing to counting to keeping your room clean. Even with their decades of experience, they aren’t senile or out-of-touch. They’re veterans, but they’re as youthful – and as eager to help the children of America – today as they were in 1969.


The Environment

Ernie is an avid gardener, and he and Bert have spent time on America’s farms, even briefly running one of their own. VP candidate Bert has shown a remarkable vigilance in aiding our feathered friends over the years, even teaching one special bird how to play checkers. They will ensure that our precious natural resources – both our flora and our fauna – get the love and attention they so richly deserve.


Foreign Policy

Ernie and Bert have real, tangible international experience. In their careers, they have adapted to dozens of different cultures – Egypt, The Netherlands, and Brazil, to name only a few. They’ve not only visited, they’ve taken the time to learn local language and customs fluently. This international focus doesn’t mean they’re light on homeland security. Ernie defeated a dragon – the ultimate terrorist – just by saying “Mr. Dragon, you better behave.” And the dragon was so scared of him that it ran away, and the Kingdom was free. Ernie’s simple, decisive tactics will keep this nation safe.


Health Care

Ernie has a unique solution to the current health care situation – instead of relying on insurance companies, the American people should learn to take better care of themselves and each other. He demonstrated how to care for a sick friend when Bert came down with a cold, and he taught Cookie Monster how to eat a healthy breakfast. We don’t need to wait until after something bad has happened, he says. We can prevent it from ever happening in the first place. With the help of President Ernie, we can get free of the suffocating gasp of insurance and breathe freely.


Immigration

As you may expect from a man with his experience in world travels, Ernie welcomes immigrants to Sesame Street, and he’d do the same for the nation at large. For decades, he has allowed a thriving community of Twiddlebugs to reside in his window sill. They live independently, according to their own cultural customs, but they enjoy all the rights and freedoms of any other Sesame Street resident. He’ll take your tired, your poor, your Twiddled masses, and welcome them with open arms.


Space Travel

As he has stated many times, Ernie would like to visit the moon on a rocketship high in the air. Outer space – the real outer space, not his opponent’s cockamamie name for the Earth – is this nation’s future, and Ernie knows it. He knows that commercial space travel is the next logical step in this country’s development, and he won’t stop until someone like himself with no formal training can easily take that trip.


Ernie. He’ll spend all day developing innovative ways to attack this nation’s problems head-on, and he’ll keep his vice president up all night if that’s what it takes to see them through to completion. Can we afford anything less?



Click here to imagine an Ernie presidency on the Tough Pigs Forum.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

 

Gobo/Red '08


by Joe Hennes

Over the next several days, ToughPigs will be posting a series of articles related to next week's big Presidential election: Ernie and Bert vs. Gobo and Red. At the end of the week, go to the ToughPigs forum to vote for your favorite candidate!

Our country is currently in a state of crisis. The stock market continues to drop, unemployment is at an all-time high, and our fellow citizens are in constant fear of being thwomped by a Gorg. This is a time for change. And that change goes by the name Gobo Fraggle. Along with his running mate, Red Fraggle, he will end our reliance on foreign radishes, promote the “30-Minute Work Week” program, and reach out an olive branch to Inkspots, Poison Cacklers, and Ditzies throughout the Rock.

Economy
Many patriotic citizens already take part in the 30-Minute Work Week, including the Pipebangers, the Moon Greeter, and the Minstrels. Gobo and Red will invite all creatures, both Silly and otherwise, to participate, leaving more time for singing and dancing and playing games. In time, our country will run much more smoothly, and we will have the opportunity to set aside Doozer Sticks in high interest savings accounts for our futures and the futures of our children.

Education
As the candidates from Fraggle Rock know, there is no better education system than that of experience and tradition. Our children will learn about government through the semi-annual Ruler of the Rock Day. They will learn about physical fitness at the Fraggle Pond. They will learn vital communication skills on Joke Day. The limits to what they will learn and share with each other are as endless as the depths of the Echo Hole.

Environment
Fraggles such as Gobo and Red care more about our fragile environment more than anyone. Through his explorations, Gobo has taken appreciation of all types and sizes of species. From fauna like the Blustering Bellowpane Monster to flora like the Grapes of Generosity to minerals such as the Belching Boulder, Gobo has taken steps to allow for every plant, animal, and cavern to thrive in their own environment. Red Fraggle has even made a personal mission to preserve the Last of the Lily Creatures so he may live his life with the dignity he truly deserves.

Foreign Policy
With the close guidance of Marjory, the all-knowing Trash Heap, Gobo and Red will continue to strengthen relationships between the Fraggles, Gorgs, Doozers, and Silly Creatures. It cannot be denied that certain members of the Gorg clan have been shown to harbor terrorist tendencies, but Gobo promises to send troops into Gorg territory to clear the air of all ill thoughts toward creatures of different beliefs. He will also be utilizing his Operation: Radish project in order to show the codependency of our very different, yet interweaving, cultures. Having been incarcerated within Gorg country in the past, Gobo has the experience necessary to deal with the Gorgs as both a threat and an ally. His running mate, Red, will use her diplomatic connections to create a peaceful connection the Doozer community, while his Uncle Traveling Matt will carry on his exploratory mission through Outer Space as he makes continued contact with all types of Silly Creatures. Together, they will build bridges across the species barrier and bring a unity to the Universe.

Health Care
Continuing with his effort of employing people of great talent to his personal staff, Gobo has brought Boober Fraggle into his inner circle to council on the constant threats of disease, pestilence, phobias, death, paranoia, and superstition. Through proper diet and sterilization, he will make sure to keep people everywhere healthy and happy. He will also implement a national program to enforce mandatory Baloobius testing in public schools. As long as he serves in Gobo’s cabinet, he will ensure that there will never be another occurrence like the great Pebble Pox outbreak of 1985.

Immigration
Always an explorer at heart, Gobo encourages everyone to find a home wherever they feel most comfortable, whether it be locally or abroad, and whether it means leaving the Rock or becoming a citizen in another land. People may want to find a cave of one’s own, perhaps in the Caves of Boredom or the Cavern of Lost Dreams, or they may even move to an undisclosed desert location. Likewise, the door to our country will always be open to anyone small enough to fit through it.

Space Travel
After succeeding in his duty to capture the moon, Gobo has turned his sights elsewhere to further our knowledge of what lies beyond the Rock. He has employed the capable (and not at all clumsy) Traveling Matt to explore the entirety of Outer Space and report back to his nephew on a regular basis. If the success of his travels continues, Gobo, Red, and their cabinet may soon partake on an Outer Space mission themselves by the year 2010.

When you go to the voting cave on Election Day, remember Gobo and Red Fraggle. They will vow to use the experience they gained in the Fraggle Wars, the Finger of Light campaign, and the All-Day, Cross-Cave Beanbarrow Race Finals for the betterment of every rock, cave, and workshop within their reach. Don’t Wemble, perform the Solemn Fraggle Oath and vote for the best Fraggles for the job: Gobo/Red ’08!Come back tomorrow to read Anthony Strand's campaign promises for candidates Ernie and Bert!

Click here to discuss the Radish Party on the ToughPigs forum!
joe.toughpigs@gmail.com

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

 

News and Other Goings-On


by Ryan Roe


There has been a heck of a lot of news in the Muppet universe lately. If you're interested in the Muppets, Sesame Street, or the Jim Henson Company, read on for a delightful collection of links, and click away for more info. If you're not interested in any of those things, why are you on this website?

FAO Schwartz Muppet Whatnot Workshop
This is exciting. Have you ever wanted to design your own Muppet, then sit back and relax while somebody else builds it for you? Well, now you can. Sure, it'll cost you 90 bucks, but it'll be worth it when you and your buddies bring your Whatnot puppets to work and put on a variety show in the break room. Also cool: The website for the Workshop has a video of Kermit and Piggy explaining what Whatnots are.

Pepe on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
The Muppet Newsflash is reporting that Pepe the King Prawn will be on Craig Ferguson's late night talk show on CBS this Tuesday, October 28th, to promote his new book It's Hard Out Here for a Shrimp.

Street Gang website
Street Gang is a behind-the-scenes history of Sesame Street, which we'll be talking about more in weeks to come. For now, check out the official website of the book.

Emmet Otter musical has been cast

We've been waiting for more details on the new Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas stage musical that's premiering in Connecticut this winter, and now the cast has been announced. No word yet on whether Yancey Woodchuck dolls will be available for purchase.

Elmo and Bloomberg dig Queens
Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, New York, where Sesame Street is taped, is expanding, and Elmo was there with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the groundbreaking.

New live Puppet Up shows
The Jim Henson Company's Puppet Up improv comedy thingy has some live shows coming up in the Los Angeles area.

The Happytime Murders
The Hollywood Reporter and various other sources are reporting that Brian Henson will direct a "puppet noir" movie called The Happytime Murders, a murder mystery that takes place in a world where humans and puppets co-exist, but puppets are considered inferior. Entertainment websites and blogs have been reacting in typically under-informed fashion to this announcement, with lots of people assuming that this somehow means it'll be a movie about Fozzie shooting Kermit, or something.

Oscar is green
Of all celebrities who live in trash cans, Oscar the Grouch has to be one of the ten most famous. Which is why he's the spokesperson for Waste Reduction Week in Canada. The link above features a video of Oscar.

That'll do it for now. Keep checking back here in the coming weeks for more Muppet-related news... unless absolutely nothing notable happens, in which case never mind.

Click here to talk about stuff on the Tough Pigs forum!

ToughPigsRyan@yahoo.com

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

 

Muppets on YouTube, Dogs on Skateboards


by Ryan Roe

A few months ago, we wrote about the new Muppet videos that popped up on YouTube. (Those articles are here and here.) Now they're popping again: Fozzie and Rizzo have started their own YouTube accounts, joining Beaker, the Swedish Chef, Sam, Gonzo, and Statler & Waldorf.

Fozzie's video is "Rolling with the Skateboarding Dog"...



...and Rizzo's is a video response to Fozzie's, called "Skateboarding Dog gets served."



So these are pretty exciting, especially given the prominence of Rowlf, even if Bill Barretta's Rowlf still sounds a lot like Bobo. Here's what I find interesting about these new clips (other than the fact that we've yet to see Kermit and Piggy): Those other videos they posted -- Stars and Stripes Forever, Habanera, etc. -- were all presented as performances by the Muppets, whereas these look like the characters were bored on a Saturday afternoon, so they picked up their camcorder and went to the beach to see if anything happened.

As Peter mentioned in his review, there was something about the Studio DC specials, with the Muppets squeezed uncomfortably into a show starring fresh-faced preteens, that made the Muppets seem old. I was a little worried there for a while... Does Kermit's unfamiliarity with text message shorthand mean he's over the hill, out of touch, and completely irrelevant to anyone too young to vote, drink, or buy cigars?

But now we see that the Muppets not only have YouTube accounts, they also go out and shoot random, pointless, shaky, handheld video to post online. Suddenly they're more contemporary than ever!

Welcome to the internet age, Muppets. Just don't pay too much attention to the Comments.

Click here to discuss this article, and how funny it is to see Rizzo's legs,
on the Tough Pigs forum!

ToughPigsRyan@yahoo.com

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Monday, October 20, 2008

 

This Almost Studio Live Thingy Show


by Ryan Roe

The following article was written by Tough Pigs' close, personal friend Peter Papazoglou. Thanks for the review, Peter!


As a loyal and - let's face it - masochistic fan of the Muppets, you have no doubt had the pleasure of reading my girlfriend Leah's review of Studio DC: Almost Live. So it should come as a surprise of John-McCain-endorses-Barack-
Obama proportions to find out that Leah agreed to host a viewing of the show's second installment for some cable-deprived fellow Tough Pigs.

So how does the latest episode fare?

Unfortunately for Studio DC, it blew its guest star load in the series' first installment. Hosts Cole and Dylan Sprouse notwithstanding, Miley Cyrus, Ashley Tisdale, and the Jonas Brothers have actually made the transition from Disney Channel teeny boppers to MTV Video Music Award teeny boppers. Like it or not, they're the biggest names that the Muppets have worked with since, well, Ashanti.

In this episode, though, the Disney Channel trots out its second string: host Selena Gomez, The Cheetah Girls (sans, of course, Raven-Symoné), and the cast of The Wizards of Waverly Place. If this were an episode of The Muppet Show, it would be hosted by Miss Mousey and featuring musical act the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband.

Which makes this a show with a chip on its shoulder. Within a space of 45 seconds, both Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato separately "consider" plugging their upcoming Disney Channel Original Movie Princess Protection Program. Later on, David Henrie slips a mention of his upcoming DCOM Dadnapped into an "improvised" song with Floyd. The only two musical numbers this time around are from The Cheetah Girls: One World and Camp Rock. Camp Rock, I served with High School Musical. I knew High School Musical. High School Musical was a friend of mine. Camp Rock, you're no High School Musical!

Which is, like, really really sad.

Oh, wait. The Cheetah Girls: One World, I didn't mean to leave you out. You suck too.

You know what also sucked? Grease 2. A musical sequel tied to the original in theme and setting only but featuring a brand new cast of kids with a handful of adults carried over for continuity's sake, Studio DC hosted by Selena Gomez is Grease 2 with Kermit and Piggy as Coach Calhoun and Principal McGee. And these kids know they're no John Travolta or Olivia-Newton John. They just hope that in ten years one of them might turn out to be Michelle Pfeiffer. They rehearse sketches like "Banana Montana" and "High Stool Musical." They talk about how cute the Jonas Brothers are (Kermit and Rizzo: "Ditto!"; Jasons Dolley and Earles: "No homo!"). Kermit gets text messages from Ashley Tisdale; Miss Piggy continues her quixotic pursuit of "Zacky" Efron. These kids may be nobodies, but they're gonna be stars, goshdarnit. Sing out, Louise! Smile, Baby! Hurry, before the pubes come in!

Which, to be fair, makes them kind of like the Muppets. Hardscrabbled, bootstrap-lifting gypsies, hoofers, and chickens and things. Now, I know what you're thinking: What about the Muppets. And you're right. What about the Muppets? Well, nothing falls quite so flat here as the Suite Life sketch, but then again, nothing shines quite like "Bop to the Top" (although I must admit that Demi Lovato shows genuine chemistry with Beaker in their duet of the blandly inoffensive "This Is Me.") The plot, which remains essentially the same, is on the one hand more comprehensible this time around, but on the other, essentially the same.

Still, there are highlights. There's a cute puppetry bit in which Kermit waddles through the set in snowshoes. A penguin tugs gently at someone's scarf. A blinged out Rizzo raps while Pepe yodels. Gonzo makes a funny turkey gobbling noise. Yeah, it's that kind of show, the kind that you rewind to listen to Dr. Teeth and Floyd's one line apiece (Scooter gets two) and argue about the quality of the recasts (they're all pretty good, by the way).

But nothing in this middling special quite makes up for seeing the Muppets show their age next to today's tween stars. Kermit doesn't know what ROTFLOL means. Piggy is sidelined by the Cheetah Girls and, when she finally forces herself into their number, is too tired to finish. Statler can't even high five without breaking his wrist. And even though (or maybe because) I know that the Muppets are resilient and have survived this kind of mess before, by the time the too-long half-hour comes to an end, I find myself identifying with the unseen, omnipresent director: "He'll be fine, me not so much...wake me when it's over."

Click here to comment on this article on the Tough Pigs forum!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

 

My Week with Steve: Day 5


by Joe Hennes

Here we are, the final day of our week-long interview with Steve Whitmire, and boy are my arms tired! Be sure to clickity-click here to read parts one, two, three, and four!


ToughPigs: On Studio DC, the Ashley Tisdale segment, I thought that was one of the only redeeming segment of the whole special. The choreography that Kermit was doing: how did you do that?

Steve Whitmire: It was SO HARD. There were two of us, a guy named Bruce Lanoil and myself. I was in the head and he did both hands almost throughout. I was just so afraid of it because at that point, I wasn’t familiar with the number. We were trying to match the original. When I first heard the song, I thought it was out of character for Kermit, but in the context when we actually did it, it was totally fine. [Ashley] of course knows the number by heart, she’s done it a thousand times, and was perfect the first time, but I kept having to stop her. We had a great choreographer, Bonnie Story, who choreographed the original. We had to do it in slow motion, and I had to ask Ashley, “show me what you just did in slow motion,” and she would do the moves in slow motion and Bruce would do the arms, and then we’d try it with the music track and it was ten times faster than we remembered. It was really hard. And Bruce is considerably shorter than me, so I was just dragging the poor guy all over the sound stage. He was just floating above the ground trying to keep up. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done from a manipulation standpoint. And it was saved by the edit, because we’d obviously stop-and-start. Very tough one, but also something to be proud of.

TP: So that was just a normal Kermit puppet with arm rods.

SW: Yep, normal Kermit puppet. And one of the things that Disney wants to do, and it’s very expensive, but they do it on virtually everything we do, is they digitally remove the rods. You see Piggy sitting in a chair on that special and motioning, and there’s no arm rods. It throws me sometimes, I expect to see the arm rods, but they removed every one from that piece, so Kermit’s just leaping through the air.

TP: Do you think that’s a good decision?

SW: I like it. Jim would have liked it too. Whatever new technology there was, he always wanted to jump right in the middle of it. He would have been fine with all that stuff. He was surprisingly not terribly precious about the characters, he was willing to just, you know, do things, just experiment. And in many ways, that’s the reason why he and Frank balanced each other so well. Because Frank is extremely intense and analytical about the characters, and Jim is much more whimsical and free-spirited. The balance of that is what defines the Muppets to me, and that’s what I always tried to learn in the early days when I showed up as this 18-year-old. I had the best teachers in the world, I had Jim and Frank and Jerry and Richard and Dave. Jim was the overseer, he could see the big picture. He would look at a frame and he was seeing the whole thing, almost squinting, and he’d say “We need a puppet up here.” He was never just watching Kermit or his character, he was looking at the whole thing all the time. Frank was very focused and analytical about character and comedy and what’s funny and precise. Dave was extremely precise as a manipulator. Every move was sharp and perfect. Like, if a puppet had to spin in place, obviously we have to run around in a circle, everything was precision and I love that. Jerry was this guy who had these incredible characters that just came out of nowhere. One thing I noticed about Jerry is that he wasn’t afraid to use just his own voice. He’d just do a little thing to it, it wasn’t some extreme character voice. Richard was a lot about justice. He was always about the underdog. He’d bring people in and help them and show them and give tours of the workshop. He was a great diplomat for the Muppets as much as anything. All of that together, and being able to take the best of the little pieces and integrate it into something was very important to me.

TP: Have you seen the Muppet parodies like Sad Kermit or BeakerRoll on the internet?

SW: Yes. It’s a little sad. I had people send me some of the pieces that have been edited for YouTube, and I don’t find any of that stuff really offensive, but I kind of understand it. We sort of live in this deconstructionist world these days where the best way to pay tribute to something is to take it and break it down into little pieces and put it back together the way they like it. And I also think part of that is because we’re not doing very much. If our stuff was out there, there wouldn’t be a void to have the Muppets. Again, I’m not offended by it, I’m not a puritan, it’s art. And some of them are done so well. The lip sync is perfect. So I kind of giggle at it and shake my head, there’s no point in being offended by it. At the same time, I don’t think Jim would have been offended by it either. As an aside, when we were doing Fraggle Rock, Jim was in Toronto, and I went out to lunch one day. I went across the street and someone had made these Muppet hot pads for your oven. And it was this knitted Ernie head. It was pretty terrible. And it was $10, so I bought it. I took it back and I said “I got you something over lunch,” and Jim smiled and I handed it over to him, and the look on his face… it was really devastating to him. And he said “Do I have to take that?” And he was serious, so I said, “No, of course not!” And I realized, he never had a problem, he almost let people rip him off if it was good. When people made things that he didn’t feel were up to par, then it upset him. I don’t think he took a lot of legal action against things like that, but he wanted it to be at least complimentary. So I can’t really say what he’d think about [the videos]. I don’t think anyone confuses that for us. Nobody’s going to think we’re going to do that. But again, the more we do, maybe the less room there will be for it.

TP: Right, as we’ve seen from the official viral videos.

SW: Yeah, and it’s interesting, another thing I noticed about that is we only did the four, and we haven’t had time to do any more, we’ve been busy with other things. But I’ve noticed, for a while there, you’d go to the main YouTube page and they were being recommended there for people to see. Now when you go there, occasionally you’ll see a Mahna Mahna or another Muppet video, and it’s like there’s a hunger for that. And we’re not filling that void, but we’d like to, and we will once we get back on track.

TP: I’ve noticed that there tends to be trends on blogs related to Muppet videos, where for a few weeks every blogger will be posting the Mahna Mahna video, and then a few weeks later it will be something else, like The Leprechaun Brothers. It’s exciting for us, because people other than us are talking about the Muppets.

SW: People want the Muppets out there. I know when Charles Schulz died, I was a huge Peanuts fan when I was a kid, before the Muppets, I think his family decided it wasn’t going to go on, nobody else was going to draw the strip. And it really upset me. It wasn’t because I would pick up the newspaper and read Peanuts every day, but I just sort of knew that they were there, and soon they weren’t going to be. I’d like to think that [the Muppets] are a part of our culture, and I think people think the same way. Yet, we go out there and we do a series, and it’s hard to keep it on the air. We have our fans, and I think Disney has strategies that will build us up. If we do another series, and I hope we will, by the time we get there, I hope we will have found our following again. To that end, I think the Disney Channel specials serve a really good purpose, just to draw that group in. We were kind of on the periphery of them in a way. They weren’t Muppet specials, it was just a lot of stuff with the stars that were already there. At least we got that audience, and apparently, that show rated extremely high for Disney Channel.

TP: So you think there would be a big marketing push behind a new series?

SW: Oh, I think there would be. Things move very slow in a company like Disney, but they move. And a lot of it has been about establishing the Muppets within Disney. We’re trying to reach the other departments in Disney and say, “Hey, we’re here, and this is what we can do.” It’s a lot of reproving who the Muppets are and now there’s a lot of interest because we’ve had some recent successes between the viral videos and the Disney Channel.

TP: I’d [Ryan] actually seen you once before, in Hondo, Texas, in Extreme Makeover. How involved were you in the making of that episode?

SW: As it turned out, pretty involved in the making of it. It was one of those Disney-ABC connections. At the time, the producer was a pretty big fan of the Muppets. It was great, I had such fun. I guess a lot of that show was ad-libbed anyway. We had a vague outline of what we were going to shoot, and I ad-libbed the whole thing. I had so much fun on that show. I love it when Kermit’s in unexpected places, like Hannity and Colmes. Nobody expected Kermit to be there, we did it a couple of times, it didn’t make any sense. Nightline’s a good example of that, and Extreme Makeover worked the same way. It was just great fun. Having him ride around in the John Deere vehicle, I have one of those at home, so it was perfect (laughs). One of the fun things was, I guess Ty [Pennington] always runs around with his own camera, and they built one for Kermit, and it was an actual camera! So I was really running the camera, and I could turn it around and have Kermit film himself. I had two monitors, one of the camera on me, the broadcast version, and one for Kermit’s camera.

TP: When you do a shoot like that, when it’s just Kermit, how much crew do you have with you? Is it just you and a puppet wrangler?

SW: Usually, somebody from our studio is there and somebody like [puppet designer] Jane Gootnik, Jane herself if possible, though she wasn’t on that shoot. Jane was hired a month after I did, so she’s got a 30-year history with the Muppets too. It’s especially important, especially if it’s on location like that, for someone to be able to just dive in and do something in a hurry, like a rigging thing, because there’s just no time. But in that case there was just four of us, including Carmen Osbahr who puppeteered Kermit’s right hand for us. And then I think Jim Lewis probably contributed ideas from Los Angeles for the writing. On that shoot, I was literally in the bus, and Kermit was driving it. And that was really scary, because no one could see. I just put the thing in drive, hit the gas, went fifty feet and hoped it stayed on the road. They said, “The only thing that could happen is you could run into the ditch,” and I said, “I know! I could run into the ditch!” (Laughs)

TP: How about when it’s a talk show appearance? Do you have stuff pre-written?

SW: Almost always. Usually we’ll have Jim Lewis write something, I always try to get Jim to write for Kermit if I can because he has such a great sensibility for Kermit, in the way that Jerry Juhl did for Kermit on The Muppet Show. I think Jerry wrote most of Kermit’s stuff on The Muppet Show. So, usually he’d write several pages of talking points, and I can rely on those. And it’s a mix, he gives me three choices for every answer, and sometimes it’s ad-libbed. Occasionally we’ll have an interview where they’ll go straight down the script and I’ll just read the answers while trying not to sound like I’m just reading them.

TP: I remember seeing Kermit and Fozzie being interviewed and hearing some funny responses when asked about the Jason Segel movie, like they hadn’t heard about the movie.

SW: Yeah, we had to come up with something to say, because we kept getting asked.

TP: Was that written by Jim Lewis?

SW: No, that was just Eric and me being silly. We did 100 interviews around then and we try to do something different for each one, even though it doesn’t really matter. And that was the first satellite media tour we did with just Kermit and Fozzie, with Eric and me. And it was great, the two of them haven’t been seen together all that much, so it was nice to have Kermit and Fozzie back together instead of it always being Kermit and Piggy. It gets a little old after a while. We’d always get the same three questions. “Are you married?” Oh no, we’re not married, or maybe we are. We’d really like to move beyond that, but we can’t because that’s what everyone wants to know. But it’s great to have that Kermit and Fozzie dynamic back. Two pals, two buddies. And in the same way, it’s great to have that little core group: Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter. To have those main Muppet Show characters back in a way is also nice.

TP: Do you feel like there’s a different dynamic there between you and Eric and you and Frank?

SW: A little. Eric’s just so darn close to Frank, it’s really incredible. His voice is so close, and obviously the other part of that is the character. And I would have to say that in the last few months, he has just gelled as Piggy. We did a satellite media tour not too long ago, and she was like she’d never been before. And the challenge for Eric has been that it’s so easy for her to always be angry. Because that’s sort of the default position: she gets mad, she hits somebody, she storms out. But to play her as anything other than angry, you really have to dig into the character. And he gets in there so well, and that takes a long time. If we can get through an interview without Piggy getting angry, then I think it’s a great thing (laughs). It’s different than Frank, but less different. It just takes a long time. Frank’s characters are so deep, there’s so much to them, it’s just a hard thing to do. Eric hasn’t really worked with Frank on the characters, so he’s just kind of taking the character from what he sees.

TP: When was the last time you worked with Frank Oz?

SW: The last time we worked together was… (thinks) a while ago. I’m not even sure I can remember. It’s been quite a while. Probably the last thing was Sesame Street. Every so often, he’ll come in and do Bert. And that’s a little weird for me, with them both doing the character, but it’s Frank. You can’t say no to Frank. If Frank said he wanted to come back and do Piggy for something, he should do it, and I think Eric would be totally fine with it. (Laughs) I don’t expect that to happen.

TP: I think that’s all we have. Thank you so much, Steve, for taking the time to talk with us.

SW: You’re so welcome. As you know, as we’ve said repeatedly and repeatedly, we love reading ToughPigs because you’re our best critics (laughs).

TP: Well, we’ll continue to criticize you as long as you continue to make stuff.

SW: Exactly, it’s a reciprocal arrangement. I said this back at MuppetFest, and I think the crowd got it, but it feels like we’re in this sort of partnership, we’re kind of in this together. Especially with the Muppets, and I don’t know if other actors feel this way, but with us doing these characters that are ongoing for years and years and years, the fans contribute nearly as much to this as we do in keeping it alive, especially during the slow times.Once again, super special thanks go out to Steve Whitmire for taking the time to chat with us, plus being an extra cool guy!

And thanks to all of our dedicated ToughPigs readers for sticking it out for this entire week. As Steve said, he can't do this without us, and we can't do this without you!

Click here to sing the praises of Steve on the ToughPigs forum!
joe.toughpigs@gmail.com

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

 

My Week with Steve: Day 4


by Joe Hennes

Back for more of your daily Steve Whitmire interview? Don't forget to check back to parts one, two, and three!


ToughPigs: Feel free to not answer this question, but how does your relationship with Disney work, contract-wise? If they decide to make a Muppet production, are you contractually obligated to perform?

Steve Whitmire: No, we’re freelancers. We’re still freelancers, just as we were with Henson. And that’s nice. Jim was always about a handshake, and while things would certainly be more formal with a big corporation like Disney, but it’s very laid-back, very easy-going in that respect.

TP: And you have a similar relationship with Sesame Workshop?

SW: Yeah, we’ve always been freelancers.

TP: There’s one glaring omission from the recent Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock DVD sets that have been coming out over the last few years, and it’s that there’s no commentary. If they would have asked you, would you have contributed commentary to a few episodes?

SW: That would have been fun, yeah.

TP: Too bad they didn’t ask then.

SW: Treasure Island, we did one, I think. And Muppets From Space.

TP: When Elmo makes public appearances, he makes reference to the fact that he doesn’t know he’s on a TV show. Is that a Sesame Workshop decision?

SW: I think on Sesame Street, they try to play it off like it’s a real street, that that’s really real life for those guys. And I think for Sesame, it kind of makes sense. Because Elmo’s so young, he’s meant to be young, in our world he really is, but I mean he’s meant to be a little kid. So Kevin just tries to keep him like a little kid. But I’ve heard Kevin do interviews with more funny, adult things, not just adult humor but in adult interviews where Elmo breaks out of character a little bit, and it’s always funny.

TP: Yeah, we saw him at the Long Island Huntington event where Gonzo was flirting with Zoe, and Elmo was kind of in the middle of that. It was the kind of thing you’d never see on Sesame Street.

SW: (Laughs)

TP: I have a few questions from some of the ToughPig forum members that are not Muppet related. Anthony wants to know who your favorite superhero is.

SW: Oh my god. Probably Batman. And probably the original, the original being the Adam West show. By all means. And it’s really funny, we’ve had the opportunity to run into him a couple of times and Eric Jacobson and I are like drooling groupies. You know, we did the TV Land Awards a few years ago and Eric and I were like stalkers. There was an interview online with Adam West later where you see my hand reach out from behind and I snap a picture with my phone. Very nice guy, we met him and talked to him. And I started thinking about it, and you know, Batman, when I was 10 years old, he’s this guy who has this true identity, which is a little like us when you think about it. He puts on his mask, we put on these puppets and nobody knows who you are. Maybe that was part of the warped childhood I had that led me here (laughs).

TP: Carolyn from our forum wants to know, “How is your work with cats going?”

SW: That’s a good thing to mention, especially since we’re online. I’m on the board of this place called the Shambala Preserve, which is Tippi Hedren’s place. She’s a very dear friend, I’ve probably known her for 15 years now. I do a lot of video editing for them. In my spare time with her in LA, I go to the preserve and I shoot, which is fun for me, I shoot all this video and edit it into these little pieces they can use for fund raising. In fact, I’m in the middle of one that we’ll put on YouTube once we’re finished with it. So you ask me if I work outside of Muppets: Yes, I’ve got my volunteer work at Shambala. But that’s big cats. My wife Melissa and I did almost a year of intensive work at a local humane society outside of Atlanta in 1987. We had almost that whole year off from Muppet work. Really hands-on work, cleaning the cat cages and giving injections to the cats. At the end of that, we had 13 cats of our own. And at one point, we had 36 cats that we were fostering (laughs). We were crazy, we were insane.

TP: Did you name them all?

SW: They all had names, but they all had stupid names, because we knew people were going to adopt them. It was a ridiculous thing to do, but good for the cats. So I don’t do that stuff so much anymore, but I still do the Shambala stuff when I can.

TP: Speaking of your wife, Melissa, I noticed on the Muppet Wiki that she’s puppeteered a few times with the Muppets. I don’t know much about her; is she a professional puppeteer as well?

SW: I don’t think she’d think of herself as a professional. She’s not one of those people who decided she wanted to work with the Muppets when she was a kid like us. She basically decided to do it because she’d be sitting around on set in the early days, and it just sort of made sense. It’s something she kind of picked up, we needed extra people and she never had any aspirations to be a big Muppet star with a main character, so sometimes we’d need people to do background characters. She worked intensively on The Dark Crystal with Kathy Mullen. She was Kira’s right hand for the whole film. So any time you’d see Kira’s right hand, that was Melissa. And she worked on Muppets Take Manhattan as one of the background puppeteers. Kermit’s Swamp Years I think she puppeteered a little bit. And she worked on a few things where she didn’t get credit in the end.

TP: If you let us know what they were, we can make sure she gets credit for them on the Wiki.

SW: I’ll let you know, I can’t remember offhand (laughs).

TP: Kynan from our forum wanted to ask you about tractors. Care to explain?

SW: (Laughs) Kynan cruised through LA and we met, and we owed him a slight debt of gratitude [for the Save the Muppets campaign]. Tractors, yes. I have several. I’m a farm guy. Not a legitimate farm, but I do a lot of mowing when I’m not with the Muppets. I’m a bit of a homebody. I mow about six acres a week. So John Deere is very important to me. (Laughs) Hard to imagine, I guess, but that’s what I do when I’m not working. They’re green, the John Deere tractors.

TP: What other interests do you have besides puppetry?

SW: There’s an author named Ken Wilber who most people haven’t heard of, but he’s the most translated author in the world. He’s an amazing guy, he’s just a thinker. And for the last few years, he’s written on what he calls “integral theory.” It’s the idea that everyone is right on some level, whether it’s politics, math, science, the world at large, puppets, showbiz, being a lawyer, whatever. Everybody brings a piece of the puzzle that makes the world up to the same table. And it’s a matter of choosing those things and integrating all of that together, which is a huge part of what’s happened to Disney in the last five years. And I’ve been reading his stuff for maybe 8-10 years, and I met him a couple years ago, and he’s a terrific guy. And his stuff is extremely academic to wade through. But yet, it’s a pretty simple idea. It’s the idea that the more you can integrate things together in your life, the better chance you have at getting through your life. And he calls himself a mapmaker. And he literally has taken every discipline in the world, and I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but he’s brought all that into one place, and he’s integrated it together in his books. It’s not conservative, it’s not liberal, it’s every point of view. And it goes all the way from the lowest levels of everything up to these spiritual places. It fits the Muppets perfectly. And I can look at the characters that we’ve created, and that Jim created, and they all fall under these different levels of development. It’s not something any corporation will look at and say, “We should look at that map,” but for me, and from the Muppet point of view, I use it every day.

TP: So where do Kermit and Rizzo fall on that level of development?

SW: Well, now we’re really getting complicated. Rizzo is very egocentric, in that he is very much about himself. There’s all these levels of development: there’s egocentric, ethnocentric, world-centric. As people develop through their lives, they go from being totally focused on themselves to being focused on their immediate family or group to being focused on the entire world, where they slowly accept that we’re all a part of this big machine, and beyond, whatever that might be. So Kermit’s a little bit by the world-centric and above level, while Rizzo is much more egocentric. It’s a great dynamic to play for these two guys.

TP: It’s too bad you can’t have them interacting with each other very often.

SW: Exactly. I tried that yesterday, it’s impossible. We were just being silly, because we needed as many puppets on screen as possible, so I had one on each hand. I can’t even make them look in the right place when I do that. I was having them talk to Madison, this little girl on set, and I got confused, I got it backwards. (Laughs)We're almost at the end! I know, it's quite sad. Click here for the final part of our interview with Steve where you'll see him talk about Kermit choreography, his fellow Muppeteers, and how to make a frog drive a truck.

Click here to talk tractors on the ToughPigs forum!
joe.toughpigs@gmail.com

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My Week with Steve: Day 3


by Joe Hennes

Are you ready for part 3 of our interview with Steve Whitmire? Feel free to refresh with part one and part two!

And special thanks to Rick Lyon for the use of the image at the top of this article!


ToughPigs:
So, you recently took over performing Statler and, more recently, the Newsman. What is that like? And how did you prepare for those?

Steve Whitmire: For Statler, I was trying to decide if I should make it more like Jerry’s original, or do I make it like Richard’s, which everyone knows from The Muppet Show, or do I make it like Jerry’s since Richard’s. He’s just been passed around a lot. It’s always been a problem for me that the characters got passed around. I get very conservative about this idea of one person doing the characters, and we shouldn’t recast them so the character can grow and not be different every time we see them. So, I’ve tried to aim for more like what Richard did on The Muppet Show. And I know I don’t really sound like Richard, and I have so much fun doing the character. And they only do like three lines at a time, but when we ad lib with them between scenes, it’s so much fun. We have so much fun.

TP: And you work so well with Dave Goelz.

SW: Yeah, you guys know there’s all these Muppet duos. Jim and Frank did all these characters together like Ernie and Bert, and Fozzie and Piggy with Kermit. Jerry and Richard did a lot of characters together like the Two-Headed Monster, and Floyd and Janice. They always seemed to team up as a performing team, and Dave and I do that too. Dave was actually the person who suggested that I do Beaker when Richard died. So I had to learn to make that noise by sucking air in. So it wasn’t “Mee Mee Mee”, it was ((sucks air in)) “Mee Mee Mee.” You’re pulling air in the whole time, so if you’re doing a long thing, and you forget and take a deep breath, you’re doing the wrong thing. You have to exhale before you start. It’s bizarre, and Richard could do that. I had to learn to do that without choking. (Laughs) The truth of the matter is, it’s always hard… the more you know about the person who did these characters, the harder it is to take them over, because it’s something we never had to do when the person was alive or still doing the character, because we have a desire to be really faithful to what that person created.

TP: Do you think that’s easier with a character like Beaker where he never actually speaks?

SW: A little bit. And it helps that Dave is consistent with Bunsen. I can’t tell you exactly where that character came from, from within Richard, because I just don’t know. Whatever was going on in Richard’s head with what he did with that character, I don’t know what it was. I’m winging it in that respect, I’m taking it in a different direction. These days, after we did the viral stuff, I get the impression that Beaker is a guy who goes home at night, you know he’s pretty intelligent, he’s a smart guy, he works in a lab, and 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. I love the idea that he spends all of his time in front of a computer, which is perfect for the YouTube stuff. (Laughs)

TP: Can you describe for us what you’ll be doing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year?

SW: Yeah, we’re on the Macy’s float, which is kind of a big deal to me. It’s the last float of the parade before Santa. So, I’m basically in a box, which is very much like a coffin, and I’m working lying on my back with my arm up for about three hours (laughs), at the end of which, I sing a song. So it’s going to be wild and crazy.

TP: Will you be singing live?

SW: Fortunately, the song’s probably going to be prerecorded. But the fun thing about things like that are that we’re fixing it so I’ve got a monitor with four images, one of which, the most important one probably, is from a camera mounted in the float shooting the back of Kermit’s head and a big wide shot of the audience, so I can see what Kermit is seeing. And we’ve got a PA system, and I also have the ability to hear the crowd, so Kermit can actually communicate with the crowd.

TP: So they’ll be able to hear you.

SW: Right, they can hear me and I can hear them. I can really talk to them, which to me is really important. I mean, to those people, they will know that it’s really Kermit. I think that’s great.

TP: So, you’ve seen the New York Times article [which explains Disney’s extended plans for the Muppets]. Have you been involved in any of the plans Disney is making, or is this all news to you?

SW: I know about most of what’s been mentioned, to the extent of what’s been mentioned there. I’m not hugely involved yet. At this stage, most of the plans are something that happens on a corporate level. They own the characters and that’s the way it works. That article was more from the executive side of things, it was really talking about Disney’s approach to the Muppets. When we talk, it’s more about the characters. It’s really nice to know, now that we’re with people at Disney who “get it,” it’s nice to know we have that behind us, because it’s very easy for the Muppets to just sort of disappear. To have somebody behind us who understands the characters, but has that machine that can get them out there. And as it gets more integrated, this corporate side with this little family business thing, I think it’s starting to work. Someone told us once that we’d never be able to have our own creative little bubble within Disney, but it’s really starting to feel that way. That’s what we need.

TP: Do you see things getting better and better from here on?

SW: It feels like it, and Letters to Santa is a real good example of that. I feel really positive about it. We keep saying, and I’ll probably say this and it’ll be a big flop, but it feel like it’ll be one of those perennial shows and it’ll really catch on. It’s just so true to the characters. A lot of that happened when we started having script meetings with the writers and they had a great face and we added little character bits, and then we’re running as we go.

TP: Is there a lot of ad-libbing?

SW: Some. We’re always free to try. We have to be careful when we’re shooting out of order, that you don’t do an ad-lib where you realize that what you said doesn’t work in the story anymore. (Laughs) It’s really coming together well. We’ve got a really short time frame to shoot a pretty complicated show. It’s really just beautiful. Perfect Muppet stuff.

TP: One thing they mentioned in the New York Times article is that there’s going to be a “Desperate Housepigs” sketch on the Desperate Housewives DVD set.

SW: Oh, I heard something about that. I don’t think that’s definite though.

TP: So that hasn’t even been shot?

SW: No, we haven’t shot it yet. There’s been talks about doing some things with other shows that have something to do with Disney. I don’t know much; I can’t give you any info on that.

TP: Likewise, the Muppets appearing on Nightline? Do you know anything about that?

SW: There’s been talk about doing something related to the piece they did years ago. Again, it’s just out there, there’s no plans to actually do that yet. I’m not sure if you’ve seen it, but years ago Jim and Frank went on Nightline to explain the bull and bear market.

TP: Right, there was some great stuff with Rowlf and Sam.

SW: Yeah, they loved that, and they want to go back to it. And there’s the obvious relationship there with ABC because of Disney. And Letters to Santa is NBC, which is great.

TP: That’s a good point, I’m glad Disney has allowed you guys to do that. I remember when you were on Saturday Night Live a few years ago, that was terrific. We didn’t expect you guys to even be on NBC, let alone the surprise of being on Saturday Night Live.

SW: Yeah, it was a surprise to us too. To my knowledge, aside from the characters that Jim built for Saturday Night Live, the Muppets have never been on the show before. It was the first time. Only parodies, no real Muppets. By the way, you’ve seen the one where they knock over the puppet stage and they get into a wrestling match? I got so many calls the next day from people who know me saying “Was that you guys? Did you do that?” No, we’d never do that. (Laughs) I laughed at it, but I started getting calls from people thinking it was me. I don’t even look like that! (Laughs)

TP: On that note, do you ever overhear people in public talking about the Muppets, and you want to stand up and say something?

SW: Not too much. I can say, I won’t say anything specific, but I’ve seen things on Muppet Central and ToughPigs, and I’m just dying to get in on the conversation, but I really shouldn’t comment. You know, people saying, “You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong, it’s this way!” You know how it is, whatever it might be. I’m dying to do it, but I kind of have to lay low. (Laughs)Click here for part 4 of our interview, where you'll see Steve talk about where Kermit and Rizzo fall into different levels of spiritual and psychological development. No, really.

Click here to try out your Beaker impression on the ToughPigs forum!
joe.toughpigs@gmail.com

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

 

My Week with Steve: Day 2


by Joe Hennes

Click here to read part one of our week-long chat with Steve Whitmire!


ToughPigs: There’s been thousands of Muppet characters. Do you have any favorite obscure characters that haven’t shown up in recent years?

Steve Whitmire: I love, and this just happens to be someone I did at the time, there was a character named something like Eugene. He was a little weasel character who was alongside the director on Muppets Tonight. A little fuzzy thing. I always liked doing those kinds of characters. Rizzo started out that way, as a character who didn’t speak. Just a little character who was always there and always, you know, upstaging. And recently, on XD, when we see inside of Animal’s room, he has a little white bunny rabbit with him, and I did the rabbit. I just love the characters who are just there. They don’t have any lines, they just contribute to the atmosphere. And they’re all rodents for some reason. (Laughs)

TP: Are there any previous characters that you would want to bring back?

SW: It seems really important that we get back to some of the Muppet Show characters that have been missing for a while. But those are kind of coming back. What I’d like to see, if we ever get back into doing another series, is the opportunity to bring in new characters. And I think it’s really time we get into some new characters too. Just to grow the group a little bit. We’ve got the core here, and it’s working pretty well at this stage, between Eric and Dave obviously, and Bill is so great. But I’d like some new characters, and that might mean finding some new performers. When I came along, it was a great time because Jim was actively looking for a handful of new people, and the Muppets were on their way up. And I get letters from a lot of people who say they’d really like to puppeteer with the Muppets, and some of them have some real experience, and it’s just a really tough time for people to break into it with us. I always encourage people to do it anyway, don’t get stuck on the idea to work with the Muppets, just do it if you enjoy it. But it’s hard, right now it’s more about the Muppets getting more known again as a group.

TP: Do you think a new series would help with that?

SW: It has always proven to be the best time for new characters to develop because the writers may have an idea, and they build a puppet, and it’s in for a week. And then if it works, it has a chance to grow. And it seems that our characters always have a chance to grow and evolve over time. The first season of Fraggle Rock is nothing to write home about. And by the second season, we were starting to figure out who they were, and thankfully it was at a time in the world of television where they could afford to give us some time to develop this without just saying “Well, that didn’t work!” and pull it off the air, which is what they do now. (Laughs)

TP: Hugh Fink, Andrew Samson, and Scott Ganz have just been hired by Disney to write for the Muppets. From what they’ve told me, they’ve been hired to give the Muppets a more “prime time” feel and language. How do you feel about their involvement and this new direction Disney wants to take the Muppets?

SW: It seems okay. Two things always sound scary: when someone says they want to give the Muppets a “new feel,” because you never know what that’s going to mean until it’s done, and you can look back at it and say, “Oh, so that’s what they meant.” The other thing that’s always difficult to hear is when people say they’re the biggest Muppet fans and they want to write for the Muppets. Often times, they’re seeing the characters from the outside, and they really don’t know what they feel like on the inside, so it doesn’t work. But once we started working with these guys, they’ve really risen to the occasion. It was a good choice, it turned out to be a great choice, and that hasn’t always been the case with outside writers when they come in.

TP: So, what’s your take on the Jason Segel script?

SW: I haven’t met them, I keep hearing about it. I don’t know what they’re writing, we’re outside of it at the moment. I’ve heard that it’s happening, but I haven’t had any discussions about it. If they’re writing it, then once they’re finished I’ll see it and then I can probably comment about it. And in a way, that’s not bad. Jim was always very collaborative with us on everything we did, but it wasn’t like we all sat down in a room and conceived of the “first idea.” Jim was always very selective about the first three or four people he brought in on a project. He would often have an idea, and then he’d step back and let those people develop it into something. So there was always a bit that would go on before the next round when he’d bring in the puppeteers, or a broader group of puppeteers. It’s easy to get into what I call “endless meeting syndrome” where you’d get twelve people around a table, and everyone’s got ideas, and none of them really get used because the last thing that was said usually gets done. So it’s nice to have a core that expands into a bigger group, I think. That’s the good thing, that’s the smart way to really do it. And in addition to that, the more they bring us in near the early stages, the more we can give them about character, especially if it’s writers who know the Muppets but don’t know them from the inside. We can easily supply some of that. And that’s happening, so that’s a good thing.

TP: I have a question here from ToughPigs forum member and Muppet Wiki moderator Scott Hanson. There’s something they’ve been stumped on at the Wiki, and hopefully you can remember.

SW: I’ll try. You guys usually know more than I know.

TP: In the Dizzy Gillespie episode of The Muppet Show, they don’t know who performed Astoria, Waldorf’s wife, and the rumors say that it was you.

SW: Wow. And I ought to know that. But frankly, I don’t remember.

TP: Yeah, I wouldn’t expect you to…

SW: That’s interesting, because it wasn’t that long ago when we were talking about what were the names of their wives, and I think it was only the one, I don’t think Statler had one. It could have been me. I can’t answer, I don’t know!

TP: I promise I don’t have any more questions like that.

SW: (Laughs) That’s okay, I wish I could remember that.

TP: I don’t know if you heard, The Christmas Toy is coming out on DVD next month.

SW: No! That’s great! Is that Henson or Disney?

TP: That’d be Henson. Well, I was going to ask you if you contributed anything to the special features, but you obviously haven’t if you haven’t heard about it.

SW: Nope, I haven’t been involved in special features. I loved working on that show. That was just one of those Toronto productions during Fraggle time. It was a great break from Fraggles, because it was such an intense shoot. We had great fun on Fraggle Rock, but it was intense. And we went off to do this other silly thing, and the hardest thing for me was that Jim wanted me to do this little mouse. And to come up with a voice for this little mouse that wasn’t Wembley or Rizzo (Laughs), it’s like what am I going to do now? It was Rizzo in falsetto, is what it ended up being. I probably couldn’t even do the voice now. My voice has changed, and I know they sometimes change over the years, but my voice has changed and it makes it hard sometimes to do some of those older voices.

TP: Do you ever go back and watch some of the old stuff like that?

SW: I do, and I don’t think I even have a VHS of [The Christmas Toy], I’d love for that to be on DVD.

TP: Yeah, we’re very much hoping it’s going to be unedited.

SW: Yeah, me too.

TP: It’s got Kermit the Frog bookending the film, which is why the Emmet Otter DVDs have been edited versions.

SW: Yeah, I heard about that.

TP: Have you heard much about the Emmet Otter musical that’s premiering in Connecticut this December?

SW: I heard about it, but I’m not involved with it. And I wasn’t involved with the original. What have I heard? Tyler Bunch is involved, it’s half puppets and half sort of costumes suggesting puppets.

TP: Are you planning on seeing it?

SW: I probably won’t end up seeing it. I probably wouldn’t come to Connecticut just to see it. [ed. – On a side note, Dave Goelz mentioned in an earlier conversation that he probably won’t see it either, as he wouldn’t want to leave his family in LA just to fly across the country for a play. It’s too bad he won’t be able to critique the performances of Wendell Porcupine and Pop-eyed Catfish.] I’d love to see it just to see what they’ll do with it.Click here for part 3 of our chat with Steve Whitmire where you'll read all about his performing new characters, his buddy movie life with Dave Goelz, and Disney's future for the Muppets!

Click here to take credit for performing Astoria on the ToughPigs forum!
joe.toughpigs@gmail.com

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Monday, October 13, 2008

 

My Week with Steve: Day 1


by Joe Hennes


Recently, the one and only (as far as I know) Steve Whitmire agreed to sit down with us for an informal chat. And true to the teachings of Richard Nixon, we taped the whole dang thing.

Over the following week, I'll be posting segments from the interview, so keep on coming back here to ToughPigs to read what the voice of Kermit has to say.

Special (and obvious) thanks to Steve Whitmire for helping to make all of this happen!

ToughPigs: First off, thank you so much for agreeing to talk with us. So, I want to ask you about the viral Muppet videos that have shown up on YouTube. A source tells me that you were kind of the moving force behind those. Is that true?

Steve Whitmire: The idea for that came from the whole department at Disney. Actually it was Dave Cook who decided we should originally be involved in that. So kudos to the executive force, you know? I had a lot to do with putting it together, making it work, along with the guys from a company called Soap Box, which I think is an outside production company that was brought in to produce the pieces. Great group of guys. They hadn’t worked with the Muppet before, but they’re very big fans and eager to learn about the characters. I helped in that respect, just in terms of “We should get a music director for this,” “This is hard to do, we should prerecord these.” We went the route of, when we were in the studio, we had each separate character pumped into the ear of the performer so we could hear what we were doing. In other words, we were doing it to a mass playback. Really important in something like that to be able to distinguish what we were doing. And then we worked with a guy named Ed Mitchell who was the music director, who we had worked with in the past on Sesame Street, and he won the Grammy for directing the Red and Green Christmas album. But Ed is terrific, and he really understands the Muppets and their sensibility, and what we need with our limited abilities to get through it. So he was instrumental in pulling that together. We recorded that Stars and Stripes thing, we all did our own little pieces, and thought it was going to sound great. We went into the control room to hear the playback and it was just a mess. It sounded like a zoo, you know, with all the noise. Ed’s the one who got us adjusted, got everything back on the right mark to make it sound good.

TP: Yeah, that’s a great piece. They all are.

SW: Well, I loved working on those. To me, it really felt like a real return back to the old Muppet stuff. That’s something I’ve always pushed for and fortunately there’s a group at Disney now who really understands that. And what they don’t understand, they listen to. It’s really nice.

TP: Who directed those?

SW: In the end, Kirk Thatcher directed them. But that was a last minute thing. It was originally going to be directed by one of the guys from Soap Box. And I did a lot of the prep on it, but I really wasn’t looking to direct them. And at the last minute, we had just come off of the Studio DC: Almost Live the day before, so Kirk came into the studio the next day and oversaw it as the director. It would have been fun to direct, since I did so much prep on them, but it was easier not to do that. It was easier just to concentrate on the performers’ part.

TP: Actually, we were trying to figure out: were you Beaker?

SW: Yeah, I was Beaker in all of that. And Kermit. Oh wait, Kermit wasn’t in those, was he? What am I thinking? It was Beaker and Gonzo. I actually puppeteered Gonzo for that, because Dave was having surgery at the time. And then he dubbed it. But musically, I love the music of the Muppets so much. And we’re getting back and doing more of it, but it’s been missing for a lot of years. So we did four strong pieces that were all about music, and just sent them out there and see what they did. And they did very well. I’m just thrilled that they did well with not just our fans on the internet, but everybody who saw them. I hope we do more of those. And if not those kinds of pieces, at least more viral videos. I think we have to top what we did last time somehow. (Laughs)

TP: The Muppets.com sketches have been pretty great too.

SW: Oh yeah, I love that stuff. That was kind of the first indication to me that we were in a good place with Disney. All of the sudden, we were doing that kind of stuff, those short little bits. It’s a great way to reintroduce the Muppets to people who don’t know them.

TP: Were the viral videos the first time you were involved in the concept stage of a Muppet production?

SW: I guess we kind of always took them. We definitely did more in-depth work on that than a lot of the other things we do. We always collaborate and have input on nearly everything. I was kind of sitting at home, plucking out notes on the piano, trying to think of what character should sing what. So, that kind of stuff on those things. I love doing that.

TP: I know Bill Baretta has kind of been transitioning into directing more. Have you thought about doing the same?

SW: Not really. I never had a great desire to direct anything big like Kirk does. I would like to do some of the little things, where you work hard and it really pays off and all of the details on the viral pieces. That would really be fun to do, but to do films and specials, I’m not really interested in it. It takes so much personal time, and I’d just as soon have my time for me. When I’m not working, I want to go home. (Laughs) I’m a real homebody. I’m very domestic. (Laughs)

TP: You are one of, or the only, main Muppeteer to not work outside of the Muppets. Frank Oz has directed, Jerry Nelson has his work with music, Dave Goelz did some work with Walt Disney World. Was that a conscious choice, or did the opportunity just never come up?

SW: A little bit of both. The way my whole time with the Muppets timed out, with Jim’s death and doing Kermit, it was at a point where… my whole life changed overnight in terms of the amount of time I spent working. I went from doing Rizzo and I’d walk in and hang out at the crafts services table, or I’d do a couple of lines and I’d do a background puppet, and suddenly I was doing this big thing. It takes so much time, and there’s so much demand for Kermit, with all of the appearances that we do, and I love it. But I’d just as soon get away from it when I’m not doing it. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t needed to do that, I’ve had a decent career and I make a decent living, and I’d also just rather have the free time in between.

TP: Have you ever been asked to do any of the Henson company stuff like Puppet Up?

SW: No, we haven’t been involved with that. I think Brian found a team of folks to do that, and they were available. If they asked us, they have to work around [our schedules] all of the time. So, not a lot of contact since the sale. Which is fine, they kind of do their thing and we do ours.

TP: There was the issue a few years ago about the Muppet recasting. Has that situation resolved itself?

SW: It has. It was a real tough patch. I always try to see it from both sides of the issue. It was necessary to get these characters back out into the world. It seemed like the way to do it, I guess, from a certain point of view to have a bunch of people doing them everywhere. But actually, as soon as the Muppets moved under [Muppet Studios], they just didn’t see the need, and there really wasn’t a need for it as it turned out. The idea was that we were going to be this gigantic worldwide thing and they were going to need that. But I think they understand now why it’s important, to keep them individual. And to be frank on that issue, I kind of look back on that whole episode and I’m kind of happy for it. Because it certainly gave me the responsibility to do some deep thought on what it is we do, and how it works, and why it’s important. And I’m not sure if Jim was actually conscious of why it’s important. He just instinctively knew that you cast someone and they stay that character. But it gave us the chance to analyze it a little bit, we sort of had to, and I’m glad for that now. I could give a lecture series on the individuality of the Muppets, the integrity of the Muppets (laughs).

TP: Had they ever asked you to be involved in something like the Muppet cruise?

SW: I did one, really in order to just make sure that Kermit stayed Kermit. It was just a weird time. Nobody knew exactly what was going on, why it was happening. Especially the people who were being asked to duplicate the characters. I don’t think they knew what was going on exactly. It was just a rough patch. And we got over it, and I’m glad it’s behind us. And it feels like it really is behind us. There’s been no indication [of more recasting], and that’s just not something they’re interested in doing.

Click here for part two of our interview, where you'll see what Steve has to say about obscure characters, Disney's new direction for the Muppets, and The Christmas Toy!

Click here to discuss this discussion on the ToughPigs forum!

joe.toughpigs@gmail.com

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Monday, October 6, 2008

 

Henson's Science Project


by Ryan Roe


Sid the Science Kid is a new children's show about the son of Bill Nye the Science Guy. No, that's not true. The show is about an inquisitive little boy who is rarely found without his toy microphone, and who wants to know "everything about everything." It's produced by the Jim Henson Company using the Henson Digital Performance System (which is a magical spell that turns puppetry into computer animation), and it premiered on on PBS last month. I sat down to watch the first four episodes to see if I learned anything about anything.

So, what's the first episode about? When I was a kid, I was really into dinosaurs, so maybe it's about dinosaurs. Oh, or germs. Those are cool. Or maybe something about fire? Kids love setting stuff on fire! We open on Sid in his room, and he tells us that today's show is about... charts!

Huh. Okay, I guess it's useful for kids to learn about charts. Sid wants to know, "Why do we need charts?" Of course, it would take a kid to ask a question like that, because to a grown-up it's very obvious why we need charts. We need them because... well, it's... when you use the Pythagorean... um... Well, I know why we need charts, but I'm not going to say anything so I don't spoil this episode for anyone.

Now Sid's mom calls him downstairs for Breakfast Time, and we meet Sid's family. I read a review somewhere that mentioned Sid's parents being multi-ethnic. I don't think I would have even noticed otherwise, but it seems to be true. That's pretty cool, and it ensures that the character will be easily identifiable for kids with one yellow parent and one orange parent. Is it weird that I think Sid's mom is a little bit hot? Actually, forget I said that.

Speaking of Sid, there's something about him that reminds me of the comedian Patton Oswalt. Is it his voice? (Sid is voiced and digitally puppeteered by Drew Massey.) Is it his pleasantly round face? I'm not sure, but I like to think they'd get along. Oswalt could make jokes about food while Sid asked about the preservatives in his Fruity Pebbles.
























Sid learns more about charts at breakfast, but he still remembers to eat. I'm guessing they'll make sure to show Sid eating a healthy breakfast in every episode, at least until they decide to do a show in which Sid asks the question, "What will happen to me if I eat this 4-month-old burrito I found in the back of the refrigerator for breakfast?" Then his Mom drives him to school, and he sings a song as he finds his friends on the playground. The animation here is pretty great -- they're all moving like real kids, and there are camera moves and everything. I don't understand exactly how digital puppetry works (maybe that's a question for Dan the Computer Animation Expert Man), but I'm guessing this sequence involved some full-body motion capture.


Sid's friends are Gerald (a goofball who, in real life, would be prescribed methylphenidate), Gabriella (who wears a skirt AND jeans, a bold fashion statement), and May, who's a bit spacey. The characterization doesn't go very deep, but they all represent types you would probably encounter in preschool. I know my preschool had a Gerald. Come to think of it, though, I'm not sure they're in preschool. It could conceivably be kindergarten. In the four episodes I watched, I don't think they ever said how old Sid is. Also, why are there only four children in Sid's class? Is it an extremely exclusive private school, or just a sparsely populated area? More importantly, who cares?

So then it's "Rug Time," which means time for class to start, with Sid's teacher Susie. It seems awfully informal that they just call their teacher "Susie" -- not even a "Ms." -- but whatever. And they talk about charts. What else? After watching four episodes, I noticed that Sid seems to dictate every day's curriculum. Wait a minute, what kind of school is this? Does Susie ever even bother coming up with a lesson plan, or does she just wait to see what Sid wants to talk about? Then she takes all the kids to the "Super Fab Lab" and has them scribble something to do with charts in their science notebooks.

After that, it's playtime, which means it's time for "Good Laughternoon." Now, kids under the age of 8 have never heard of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in. (Heck, most kids under the age of 42 have never heard of Laugh-in.) So they won't realize that Good Laughternoon is an homage/ripoff of one of that show's famous bits, as Sid and friends open multi-colored, multi-shaped doors on their playscape and tell... well, they're not real jokes, exactly. Henson keeps promoting Sid as a "comedy show" for kids, but this kind of stuff makes it seem more like a comedy show by kids. Here are some examples from the four episodes I watched:

May: What does a chart say when it sneezes? Ahh-ahh-CHART!

Gabriella: Knock knock! (Who's there?) One! (One who?) One two three four five!

Gerald: I like yogurt!
Sid: That's not a joke.
Gerald: I know, but I'm really hungry!

Okay, so maybe that last one is a little bit funny. But you see what I mean. Sure, these sound like jokes made up by children, so it's accurate enough. But it indicates that this will not be one of those kids' shows that parents will look forward to watching with their kids. On the other hand, there also plenty of adult characters who talk more or less like adults, and the show's obnoxious, so parents won't run away screaming from it either. So I guess that's okay. But the fact that Sid often has to click the laugh track button on his toy microphone to let us know something is supposed to be a joke is telling.

Where was I? I guess I kinda blew all my critque in that last paragraph. Oh, right: Soon it's Time for Susie to Sing, and she takes Sid's microphone and whips out a catchy pop song about the day's subject; in this case, charts. In the episode about magnifying small things, she sings a song about magnifying glasses, and in the estimation show she sings about estimating. So

I take back what I said about Susie earlier -- Despite letting a little boy decide what the lesson for the day will be, she apparently goes to the trouble of memorizing an endlesss number songs that pertain to the subject he might choose on any given day. She has no idea what the class might be talking about from day to day, but she apparently has a song prepared for every occasion. Now that's dedication.


After school, Sid is picked up by his Grandma, who happens to be the show's best character. She asks Sid about what he learned in school, and she chuckles to herself a lot, as any self-respecting nutty old lady would. And when Sid explains his chore chart reward system, she pointedly explains that when she was Sid's age she was expected to do chores without any kind of reward. I like Grandma. I want a Grandma spinoff.

After dinner with his family, Sid returns to his room, where he comes up with today's Super Duper Ooper Schmooper Big Idea. (You may or may not recall that when this series was first announced as being in development, it was called What's the Big Idea?) Today's idea: A really big chart. Yep, that's a big idea all right.

And that's the show. If nothing else, it's impressive that they filled 30 minutes with nothing but charts. When Elmo talks about feet or bathtubs or clothes or whatever, he only does 15 minutes.

And yeah, I watched the other three episodes, and I was going to describe them in detail here, but I think you get the idea. Every episode seems to follow the same basic format, with some variation: Sid's intro, then Breakfast Time, then Looking for Friends (with a minute and 35 seconds of recycled animation every show!), Rug Time, Super Fab Lab, Playtime, Susie sings, Grandma, family time, and the Super Gooper Hooper Pooper Big Idea.

Oh, and each episode begins with Sid asking a question that presents the theme. Basically, he's the Carrie Bradshaw of budding scientists. "How do roly polys move?" "How many seashells are in my jar?" "How can I use my ruler to measure a whale?" "How do you know if you're good in bed?" Hmm... I think one of those might actually be from Sex and the City, but I have no idea which one.


So it's not a groundbreaking show, but it has a very specific goal -- to get kids interested in the idea of science as something you do, rather than something you read about -- and I think it'll hit that goal. And yes, I learned something: In the second episode, Sid's dad reveals that roly polys (aka "doodle bugs") are crustaceans, not insects. I don't think I knew that.

They even get into a few more complicated lessons, like the concept of "non-standard measurements," which is impressive. I have to wonder if the target audience will understand it all, but I'm sure they've done their research. And hey, getting kids excited about science can't be a bad thing.


Unless they blow themselves up. That would be bad.

Click here to comment on this article, to talk about Sid the Science Kid, and to measure some whales, all on the Tough Pigs forum!

ToughPigsRyan@yahoo.com

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

 

ToughPigs Art: Gasp!, Political Science, Veggie Monster, CBG


by Joe Hennes

It's that time again! Time for more Muppety art by ToughPigs' own Smig! What's notable in this installment is the piece at the end of this post, which was published in a recent issue of The Comic Buyer's Guide in his regular strip, "For Art's Sake." Enjoy the enjoyment! And as always, click on the images for embiggenment.


Click here to feast on a vegan at the ToughPigs forum!

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