Guide to The Muppets

The Sound of The Muppets

What do think of when you think of a Muppet movie? Four foot tall puppets you’d love to see exist in the real world? Messages of friendship, hope and belief in yourself? Sure, all of that is true. But there’s one other consistent thing that permeates all iterations of the Muppets franchise: musical numbers. From the “Rainbow Connection” to the barber shop quartet version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and every sound effect in between, sound is a very important element to the unrestricted joy brought on by The Muppets. To explore this specific element of the production, we have a new video from the fine folks at The SoundWorks Collection, profiling the people behind the scenes whose job it is to start the music…

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Reel Sex

Over two days in the winter of 2010 I read Julie Klausner’s hilarious and intimate memoir, I Don’t Really Care About Your Band. As someone who spends just as much time loving guys as I do movies, Klausner’s welcome invitation to her past dalliances touched me in a way I so craved at the time. When I wasn’t conflicted over the similarities between her love choices and mine, I was laughing because “thank god!” she experienced some of these situations and not me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read my fair share of twenty-somethings struggles with love and life creative non-fiction offerings. But with each turn of the page I wondered if Klausner and I were the same person, each separately living the same life experiences. By the time that book ended up in my hands, I had suffered through two consecutive heartaches and was stumbling headfirst into a year of life changes I wasn’t sure I could handle. With a year’s perspective, I can assuredly say the life lessons in I Don’t Really Care About Your Band directly contributed to me not losing my boy-crazy mind. Early in the book Klausner shares her first relationship “ah-ha” moment. She reflects on the personal damage of her first celebrity crush and how that man unconsciously embodied all the men she would shack up with through her formative teen and adult years. This man wasn’t the conventional Brat Pack heartthrob frequently fantasized on by ladies of the 1980s, but rather a tiny green […]

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Why Watch? Puppeteer Gary Friedman briefly talks about the prose and poetry of puppetry. Today is the release of The Muppets, and after watching a handful of work from Jim Henson, it’s time to get things started on a few other people who work with their hands inside the actors. If you love puppets, rejoice! If you don’t, give them another try because you’re in for a hell of a week otherwise. What does it cost? Just 3 minutes of your time. Check out Television Puppetry for yourself:

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The Muppets Musical Numbers

One of the mainstays of the Muppet world is their love of music and over the years they have put their Muppet “spin” on a number of popular songs. The soundtrack for the newest film (The Muppets) continues this trend with Camilla and the Chicken’s version of CeeLo’s “Forget You” and the Muppet Barbershop Quartet taking on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The Muppets never just cover these songs; they incorporate their crazy antics and sometimes even change up the lyrics making the song their own. Although the Muppets have their own band (shout out to Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem) it never stops the rest of the crew from getting in on the musical action.

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Follow That Bird

“But I don’t want to hunt worms. I want Snuffy to come and visit. And if he can’t come and visit, I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to go home!” If you asked a million Muppets fans why they love The Muppets, you would likely get a million different answers, but most of those reasons would probably be rooted in the caring world created by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, a world of family and friendship, of acceptance and education. And while Muppet flicks like The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper embody all those traits (and are much more likely to be the feature titles viewers think of when they think “Muppet movie”), my favorite Muppet flick that has always best exemplified all those traits is the very first Sesame Street film – Follow That Bird.

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Jim Henson and Kermit The Frog

“Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending”. ~ Jim Henson When Jim Henson died in 1990 there was speculation about the fate of Kermit the Frog. Had Kermit died with his creator? Could Kermit, Henson’s alter ego, survive the sudden loss of the man who had lent him his voice? The answer was Kermit and his Muppet family would carry on, even without the brilliant creative force that was Jim Henson. The art of puppetry goes back thousands of years, but it’s an ancient art that Jim Henson revolutionized. What makes the Muppet world so believable even when we know we’re looking at fabric creatures? For starters Henson’s use of fabric made his puppets malleable and expressive; the faces of his puppets aren’t static. Henson also understood the power of television. On stage the puppeteer is hidden behind a curtain in a puppet theater environment. That carried over to television with, for example, the classic Kukla and Ollie puppets of Kukla, Fran and Ollie fame. Henson was inspired by them, but he didn’t use the static traditional puppet theater. He opened it up by having the cameras focus on the puppets. By keeping the puppeteers out of the frame, Henson liberated the puppets and their puppeteers, allowing them to move more freely and take on a life of their own.

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The Muppets Parody Trailers

There’s always been something inherently brilliant about the world of The Muppets. In their world, one in which felt-skinned frogs live in real life swamps and sing songs and a bear’s natural habitat is a Studebaker, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished if you follow your dreams. It’s a world very much like our own, only a lot more optimistic. There’s also always been something to the way the world of The Muppets seamlessly works alongside reality. They don’t feel like fictional characters, but characters we could very well meet on the street someday. Or so we should hope. It’s this no-wall approach that allows the folks behind The Muppets to make them nonfiction and fiction all at the same time. It allows them to deliver both a new movie and some silly marketing fun that comments on other movies all at the same time. And as we’ve come to expect, these parodies of Twilight and Green Lantern and the like aren’t made with cynicism. They’re made with the unbridled optimism and fun-loving spirit that has been a part of The Muppets all along. To celebrate this lovely campaign of marketing mastery, we’ve assembled all the parody trailers into one place (right here) and posted them below for your viewing enjoyment. It’s just another part of our joyous week of celebration through our Guide to The Muppets. 

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Things We

It seems appropriate that Jim Henson’s legendary creation, the Muppets, got their start on children’s programming and public television because they have a lot to teach the world. Not only did they spearhead the low-rent show Sam and Friends on WRC-TV in Washington DC, they were also instrumental in making Sesame Street a primary education powerhouse. But even when the Muppets branched out from their roots to land in their variety show and later major motion pictures, they still had a lot to teach us. Like many folks out there, I grew up with the Muppets, and these are some of the most important lessons I have taken away over the years.

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Drinking Games

This week, modern TV stars meet with nostalgic puppets in the new film The Muppets. And while we don’t condone sneaking booze into a theater filled with families and kids, there’s always the option to watch some of the original Muppet content on DVD, VHS, Netflix Instant and various other On Demand platforms. This game works for any of the Muppet movies, though we suggest starting with The Muppet Movie from 1979 before checking out the later films (like The Muppet Wizard of Oz). In theory, it’s also compatible with The Muppet Show, though Dr. Bunsen Honeydew is currently conducting experiments with Beaker to be sure. Poor Beaker.

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Muppets Guide: A Muppet Family Christmas

While others may turn to The Muppet Christmas Carol this time of year, my Muppet holiday movie of choice has always been A Muppet Family Christmas. Yes – it was a made-for-TV movie, but it is pure entertainment from beginning to end. I remember watching with my younger brother back when you would watch TV when it aired and sit through the commercials (remember those days?) and we laughed and laughed at those Muppets’ crazy antics. I have always been a fan of “things spinning out of control” humor – the first scene in “The Injury” episode of The Office killed me and any Griswold movie leaves me in stitches – and A Muppet Family Christmas delivers this in droves when the entire Muppet gang unexpectedly descends on Mama Fozzie Bear’s farm for Christmas, much to the dismay of Doc (of Fraggle Rock fame) and his dog Sprocket who rented the farm for a “nice, quiet Christmas.” Unfortunately for Doc, the arrival for the Muppets sends that wish right out the window and luckily for us, it is a hilarious romp as more and more of our felt friends show up to celebrate the season.

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The Muppet Movie Dinner Scene

Editor’s Note: As part of our week-long Guide to The Muppets, Gwen Reyes takes a look at one of the funniest, most intimate and lovely scenes from the 1979 classic. Setting the Scene: 1979 was a pivotal year for cinema. Not only did modern classics like Alien, Apocalypse Now, and Caligula (!!) make their way into local movieplexes, but in the summer a little green frog and his lovable band of merry men (and pig) leaped from American homes to the big screen. Thanks entirely to the popularity of The Muppet Show Jim Henson’s iconic Muppets were in high demand. Considering how Hollywood obsessed Kermit and company were on their TV series, it only made sense the first film in a long line of Muppet features would be about the crew’s showbiz aspirations. Intentionally self-aware, the film begins with Kermit (voiced by Henson) introducing the final cut of The Muppet Movie in a private studio screening room for all the Muppets we know in love. The camera bounces around from face to face, stopping at everyone from Fozzie Bear (voice by Frank Oz) to Miss Piggy (Oz). Kermit explains to his nephew Robin (voiced by Jerry Nelson) that the film is a loose adaptation of how the Muppets met and made their way to Hollywood—read: meta moment if we ever saw one. And just as Hare Krishna jokes become a running gag anytime says they are looking for direction, The Muppet Movie’s self-consciousness allows the audience to feel as if […]

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FSR

It’s time to start the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to get things started on this epic Thanksgiving weekend, in which we will all once again meet The Muppets. The affair between Miss Piggy and Kermit The Frog rages on, the shenanigans of Gonzo and his poultry posse continue, and the likes of Scooter, Rowlf, the Swedish Chef and even Electric Mayhem are all here and ready to party. Yes, on Wednesday, November 23, Disney’s latest entry into the franchise featuring some of Jim Henson’s most beloved creations will hit theaters, and The Muppets will look to connect with generations of happy moviegoers, young and old. In celebration of The Muppets, and because we simply love those little puppets, the Film School Rejects team will be presenting our Official Guide to the Muppets. Within said guide, you will find a number of fascinating articles, everything from our review of The Muppets to our looks back at Muppet movies of old, to features about the music of The Muppets, a guide to the characters, things we’ve learned from The Muppets over the years and yes, even a Muppets drinking game. There’s something here for everyone. So stay tuned as we spend this entire week celebrating our old friends, The Muppets. To keep tabs on all of our Muppet-related goodness this week, you may want to head over to (and bookmark) our Muppets Guide homepage.

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Why Watch? There’s something simple and raw about this footage. In it, Jim Henson takes a group full of puppeteers and Muppets through some numbers (including a musical one). It’s a window into the way the master worked. At least, it’s a view to how he taught, and those methods are all part of the magic that we never got to see because it stayed backstage while the magic took the stage. What does it cost? Just 6 minutes of your time. Check out Muppets Counting for yourself:

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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