The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by Jim Henson starting in 1954–55. Although the term is often used to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark owned by the Walt Disney Company in reference to the original characters created by Henson.
The word "Muppet" itself first appeared in 1956, and was said by Henson to have been created by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet". However, Jim Henson was also known to have stated that it was just something he liked the sound of, and he made up the "marionette/puppet" story while talking to a journalist because it sounded plausible.
After earlier unsuccessful attempts, The Walt Disney Company bought the Muppets in 2004. Exceptions include characters appearing on Sesame Street (as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop, although they have always had creative rights, only paying The Jim Henson Company to create and provide their Muppet characters for their use) and the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock (which are still owned by The Jim Henson Company). The legal trademark on the term "Muppet" is currently held by The Muppets Studio, a division of The Walt Disney Company, although Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company continue to use the term on their characters with certain permissions from Disney.
A new eponymous movie written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller and directed by James Bobin is due for theatrical release in November, 2011. This will be the first Muppet theatrical film since Muppets from Space from 1999.
The Muppets' latest television special, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, premiered on NBC on December 17, 2008. It was released on DVD on September 29, 2009. A Halloween TV special featuring the Muppets was expected to air on ABC in October 2010, but was shelved due to the upcoming film.
A common design for a Jim Henson Muppet is a character with a very wide mouth and large protruding eyes.
The puppets are often molded or carved out of various types of foam, and then covered with fleece, fur, or any other material. Muppets may represent humans, anthropomorphic animals, realistic animals, robots, anthropomorphic objects, extraterrestrial creatures, mythical beings or other unidentified, newly imagined creatures, monsters, or abstract characters.
Muppets are distinguished from ventriloquist "dummies"/"puppets", which are typically animated only in the head and face, in that their arms or other features are also mobile and expressive. Muppets are typically made of softer materials. They are also presented as being independent of the puppeteer, who is usually not visible—hidden behind a set or outside of the camera frame. Using the camera frame as the "stage" was an innovation of the Muppets. Previously on television, there would typically be a stage hiding the performers, as if in a live presentation. Sometimes they are seen full-bodied. This is done by using invisible strings to move the characters' bodies and mouths, and then adding the voices later.[clarification needed]
Muppets tend to develop, as writer Michael Davis put it, "organically", meaning that the puppeteers take time, often up to a year, slowly developing their characters and voices. Muppets are also, as Davis said, "test-driven, passed around from one Henson troupe member to another in the hope of finding the perfect human-Muppet match".
When interacting with Muppets, children tended to act as though the Muppets were living creatures, even when they could see the puppeteers.
The Muppeteer or Muppet master always holds the Muppet above his head or in front of his body, with one hand operating the head and mouth and the other manipulating the hands and arms, either with two separate control rods or by "wearing" the hands like gloves. One consequence of this design is that most Muppets are left-handed as the puppeteer uses his right hand to operate the head while operating the arm rod with his left hand. There are many other common designs and means of operation. In advanced Muppets, several Muppeteers may control a single character; the performer who controls the mouth usually provides the voice for the character. As technology has evolved, the Jim Henson team and other puppeteers have developed an enormous variety of means to operate Muppets for film and television, including the use of suspended rigs, internal motors, remote radio control, and computer enhanced and superimposed images. Creative use of a mix of technologies has allowed for scenes in which Muppets appear to be riding a bicycle, rowing a boat, and even dancing on-stage with no puppeteer in sight.
Famous Muppets from The Muppet Show and its numerous spin-offs include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rizzo the Rat, Gonzo the Great, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Scooter, Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, Sweetums, Pepe the King Prawn, Robin the Frog (Kermit's nephew), and a band named Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem whose members included Dr. Teeth, Janice, Zoot, Floyd Pepper, and Animal. Other well-known Muppets include Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, Zoe, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover, Snuffleupagus, Abby Cadabby and Count von Count, as well as the main characters of Fraggle Rock.
The most widely known television shows featuring Muppets have been Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and Bear in the Big Blue House. Other series have included The Jim Henson Hour, The Ghost of Faffner Hall, Dog City, Secret Life of Toys, Muppets Tonight, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony. A recurring adult-oriented cast of Muppets (in a setting known as The Land of Gorch) were featured throughout the first season of Saturday Night Live.
Guest stars on some of these programs have occasionally had Muppet versions of themselves. It was a regular practice for the first few episodes of The Muppet Show, and ZZ Top, among others, have appeared as Muppet versions of themselves on Sesame Street. Muppet versions of real people have also appeared in other shows, such as in 30 Rock, when one of the characters, Kenneth Parcell, views his co-workers as Muppet-versions in episode "Apollo, Apollo" of March 26, 2009.
The puppet characters of Farscape, The Storyteller, Mother Goose Stories, The Hoobs, Construction Site and Dinosaurs, as well as from the films Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Buddy, The Country Bears and The Dark Crystal, are not considered Muppets, as they were made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, rather than by Henson's Muppet Workshop. The puppet casts of Puppet Up! and Tinseltown are also not considered Muppets as they were made by The Jim Henson Company after the sale of The Muppets in 2004. The Star Wars character Yoda was voiced by Frank Oz, one of Henson's regular performers, and is often referred to as a Muppet in media and reference works; he is not, however, a Muppet and Henson's organization was not involved in the character's design.
The Muppets' popularity has been so expansive that Muppet characters have been treated as celebrities in their own right. The Muppets have presented at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards; made cameo appearances in such feature films as Rocky III, An American Werewolf in London and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium; and have been interviewed on the newsmagazine 60 Minutes. Kermit the Frog was interviewed early on in Jon Stewart's run on The Daily Show, guest hosted The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, America's Funniest Home Videos and an April Fool's Day edition of Larry King Live; and the frog has served as Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade. The characters also appeared in-character on such sit-coms and dramas as The Cosby Show, The West Wing and The Torkelsons. The music video for the Weezer song "Keep Fishin'" is premised on the band performing on The Muppet Show and features appearances by several characters. On September 28, 2005, the United States Postal Service released a Jim Henson and the Muppets postage stamp series. The Muppets also appeared on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve for the 2008 countdown on December 31, 2007. Kermit, Rizzo and others welcomed in the new year with a series of messages to welcome viewers back from the advertising breaks. After one such segment, with Kermit in Time Square, co-host Ryan Seacrest thanked his pal "Kerms" for the help bringing in '08. Miss Piggy has appeared as a guest on The Late Show and Kermit the Frog appeared on Hollywood Squares and as one of the celebrity commentators on VH1's I Love documentary series. They appeared on ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as special hosts on January 3, 2010. In September 2010, the Muppets launched a new online cooking show called "The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora".
On July 25, 2007 the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta announced the opening of a new Jim Henson Wing, which will house anywhere from 500 to 700 retired Muppets. In addition to Muppets there will also be characters from Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street. The new wing will also include films, sketches, and other materials from the Jim Henson Company archives. The wing, which will be a part of the Center's new building, is slated to open in 2012.
From its earliest planning stages, Sesame Street was designed to be a show that would use music and singing as a part of the material being taught. So it was only natural to release the musical content on records, not only to reinforce the curriculum lessons for children when they weren't watching the show, but also because Sesame Street music is enjoyable just for its own sake.
The first six albums were released by Columbia Records and Warner Bros. Records, both major labels with many years of experience. These were deluxe albums, issued in colorful gatefold covers, usually with bonus material such as posters, lyric booklets, and photos and drawings of the show's characters. This arrangement lasted for the first five years of the show.
During the summer of 1970, as The Sesame Street Book & Record became a best seller, Bob McGrath and Loretta Long also released their own children's albums. While not part of the Sesame Street canon (even though they both mention Sesame Street on their covers), they also became well-known albums because of the show's huge popularity.
In 1974, Sesame Street created its own series of records, on an independent label that was called Sesame Street Records, with a custom record label logo of the Sesame Street sign. These albums were manufactured by Children's Records of America from 1974 to 1976, and by Distinguished Productions from 1977 to 1984. Over 70 titles were produced over the ten-year run of the label. The catalog included reissues of all of the previous Columbia and Warner Bros. albums, although in less lavish packages than their original editions. At first, titles were only issued on vinyl, but over the years, they were also produced on cassettes and 8-track tapes.
The Sesame Street Records label was shut down around 1984. Soon after, many Sesame Street titles began to be reissued on cassettes by an educational company called Sight & Sound. While some tapes used the original cover pictures, others had new cover pictures. An important historical footnote during this period is that in 1987, the very first Sesame Street CD was produced, called The Best of Sesame Street, and it would be the only CD produced until the early 1990s. In 1990, titles began to appear on Golden Music, which was the music division of Golden Books. A mix of new titles appeared, beginning with tributes to Jim Henson and Joe Raposo, along with reissues of older titles. Golden's license lasted until 1994.
In 1995, Sony Wonder began issuing a new series of titles. This was looked on with interest by some Sesame collectors, since Sony owns the back catalog of Columbia Records, who put out the very first Sesame Street LP in 1970. While that album has not yet been reissued on CD in its entirety, the second Columbia album, The Muppet Alphabet Album, was reissued as Sing the Alphabet. However, one section of dialogue was cut which referred to turning the record over, which wouldn't make any sense to CD listeners.
The Sony Wonder years culminated with Songs from the Street, an elaborate 3-CD boxed set produced in association with Sony Music's Legacy Recordings. This set was full of classic and rare tracks both from records and from live performances on the show. It also contained a detailed booklet about the history of the show, written by Christopher Cerf. It was the first time Sesame Street had received the boxed-set treatment from a major label, although several multi-LP boxed sets had been released over the years on Sesame Street Records.
On September 17, 2002 Rhino released The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More. In addition to the many Sesame Street and Muppets movie soundtracks available, this collection compiles music from various Muppets sources.
In 2007, Koch Records announced that it would begin distributing Sesame Street titles. The first titles began to appear in 2008, with reissues of albums that had previously been released on Sony Wonder. In addition to the main library of Sesame Street music, over the years, original cast albums have been sold at the Sesame Street Live shows.
Under Disney ownership, albums featuring "The Muppets" characters, have since been released by Walt Disney Records, including Best of the Muppets featuring The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005), The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas (2006) and Muppets: The Green Album (2011). Legal rights to Muppet-related songs such as "Rainbow Connection" and the "The Muppet Show Theme", are controlled by Fuzzy Muppet Songs, a division of Walt Disney Music Publishing.
Theatrical and telefilms
- The Muppet Movie (1979)
- The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
- The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
- A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
- Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
- Muppets from Space (1999)
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
- The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)
- The Muppets (2011)
- Sam and Friends (1955–1961)
- Sesame Street (1969–present)
- Saturday Night Live (1975-1976, 2011)
- The Muppet Show (1976–1981)
- Fraggle Rock (1983–1987)
- Jim Henson's Muppet Babies (1984–1991)
- Jim Henson's Little Muppet Monsters (1985)
- The Storyteller (1988, 1990)
- The Jim Henson Hour (1989)
- The Ghost of Faffner Hall (1989)
- Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories (1990)
- Dinosaurs (1991–1994)
- Dog City (1992–1995)
- CityKids (1993–1994)
- Secret Life of Toys (1994–1996)
- Jim Henson's Animal Show (1994–1997)
- Muppets Tonight (1996–1998)
- The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss (1996–1998)
- Big Bag (1996–1998)
- Bear in the Big Blue House (1997–2007)
- Mopatop's Shop (1999–2003)
- Telling Stories with Tomie dePaola (2001)
- The Hoobs (2001–2006)
- Animal Jam (2003)
- Breakfast with Bear (2005–2006)
- WWE Monday Night Raw (guest appearance , 10/31/2011)
- Hey, Cinderella! (1970)
- The Frog Prince (1971)
- The Muppet Musicians of Bremen (1972)
- The Muppets Valentine Show (1974)
- The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975)
- Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)
- Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)
- The Muppets Go Hollywood (1979)
- John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979)
- The Muppets Go To the Movies (1981)
- Of Muppets and Men (1981)
- The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show (1982)
- Big Bird in China (1983)
- Rocky Mountain Holiday with John Denver and the Muppets (1983)
- Don't Eat the Pictures (1983)
- The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1985)
- The Christmas Toy (1986)
- The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986)
- A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
- Big Bird in Japan (1989)
- The Song of the Cloud Forest (1989)
- The Muppets at Walt Disney World (1990)
- Disneyland's 35th Anniversary (1990)
- The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson (1990)
- Maris the Muppet Fairy (1994)
- Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree (1995)
- Cinderelmo (1999)
- Studio DC hosted by Dylan Sprouse and Cole Sprouse (2008)
- Studio DC hosted by Selena Gomez (2008)
- A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa (2008)
Several book/tape sets were produced for Playskool's Talk 'n Play including The Muppets: Opening Day at Peppermint Park.
A new film has been confirmed by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who both plan to produce the next Muppet film; The Muppets. They have also stated that they will both write the next picture, but only Stoller will direct.
On March 31, 2008, First Showing revealed details about the new Muppet film. Coming Soon reported similar news. After an interview with Jason Segel, First announced, "it's going to be incredibly old-fashioned, with the familiar Muppet characters putting on a show to save an old theater. The danger? An evil character wants to tear the place down to get at the oil underneath." Segel stated that he was the most enthusiastic about the project, also stating, "I just remember being 10 years old and for me Kermit was Tom Hanks. Kermit is like the original Everyman and I remember watching the old Muppets with my parents and seeing Peter Sellers and people like that on. I've always had Muppet pictures and figurines all through my house. Now that I'm getting to write it, I feel like all of my dreams are coming true." The movie will mainly star many of the original Muppets. It was announced at D23 Expo that the title would be The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made. The title was later referred to as The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time. In January 2010 James Bobin signed on to direct the film.
On June 8, 2010 it was reported that Jason Segel's The Muppets will be released in theatres Christmas of 2011. Filming began on the film on October 29, and was promoted late that night on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, with Jason Segel breaking the news. Filming wrapped up in February 2011, and the first trailer was released in May.
The Muppets have also begun having their own shorts hosted on the popular video sharing site YouTube. After the "Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody was posted on the Muppet Studios' YouTube Channel gained 10 million views within the first two weeks and took home two Webby Awards. Videos are being posted on the site regularly. Recently, the Muppets starred in an online web series with Cat Cora called "The Muppets Kitchen With Cat Cora", where they show people how to cook several items.
In popular culture
Muppet-like and Muppet-inspired puppets star in the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q (which disavows any relationship with Sesame Workshop or the Jim Henson Company, possibly to avoid lawsuits from the two companies). Peter Jackson's film, Meet the Feebles is another parody of the Muppets. A vomit-spewing Kermit the Frog was a recurring character on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the Muppets were frequently "pre-empted" at the beginning of episodes for the Canadian series You Can't Do That On Television. Many other movies and television shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, The West Wing and Robot Chicken have referenced The Muppets—for a more comprehensive list, see Muppet Wiki.
- Jim Henson
- Sesame Street
- The Muppet Show
- Fraggle Rock
- The Dark Crystal
- Bear in the Big Blue House
- Peter Jackson
- ^ "Marionette and Puppet". Muppet Wiki. http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Marionette_and_Puppet.
- ^ findarticles.com "Disney buys Muppets as bid prospect fades" 2/18/04.
- ^ Variety, 3/11/08, Segel and Stoller take on Muppets.
- ^ DVDizzy.com and UltimateDisney.com: The Ultimate Guide to Disney DVD and Beyond.
- ^ The Muppet Newsflash: "Letters to Santa" DVD Details!.
- ^ Muppets at D23: Movies, DVDs, and Merchandise News!
- ^ The Muppets at D23.
- ^ D23 Update: Special Muppets Presentation.
- ^ 
- ^ Christopher Finch Jim Henson: The Works 1993, ISBN 0-679-41203-4.
- ^ Davis, Michael (2008). Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. New York: Viking Press. p. 166. ISBN 978-0-67001996-0.
- ^ Morrow, Robert W. (2006). Sesame Street and the Reform of Children's Television. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 84. ISBN 0-8018-8230-3.
- ^ Rocky III (IMDB).
- ^ An American Werewolf in London (IMDB).
- ^ Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (IMDB).
- ^ TheDailyShow.com
- ^ United States Postal Service (September 28, 2005). Jim Henson, Muppets, get stamps of approval. Press Release.
- ^ New Year's Rockin' Eve 2008 (2007) (TV).
- ^ "Paste Magazine", ""
- ^ "Center for Puppetry Arts", ""
- ^ a b Fleming, Michael. "Segel and Stoller take on Muppets." Variety. Retrieved: April 5, 2008
- ^ a b Billington, Alex. "Jason Segel Reveals New Muppets Movie Details". First Showing. http://www.firstshowing.net/2008/03/31/jason-segel-reveals-new-muppets-movie-details/. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
- ^ a b Newgen, Heather. "Exclusive: In the Future with Segel and Hader!". Coming Soon. http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=43501. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
- ^ New Disney ‘Pirates,’ ‘Muppet,’ Beatles Movies Announced At D23 Expo | Access Hollywood - Celebrity News, Photos & Videos
- ^ The Muppets Are Coming! ‘American Woman’ Goes Viral On Memorial Day, ‘Lost’ Promo This Wednesday! » MTV Movies Blog
- ^ http://www.socialtimes.com/2010/07/how-the-muppets-made-a-comeback-on-youtube/
- Muppets.com - Official Disney site.
Disney Consumer Products Disney Publishing
Franchises Other Sesame Street General People ProductionSesame Street research • International co-productions of Sesame Street • Music Literature RelatedThe Muppets Major works Founded
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