1 The Muppet Mindset: May 2012

May 31, 2012

Fraggle Rock Movie Snags Rango Writers

Since 2005, The Jim Henson Company has been juggling around ideas for a feature film based on Jim Henson's classic, beloved television series Fraggle Rock. The Fraggles, Doozers ,and Gorgs and the world of Fraggle Rockis already very wide-reaching and cinematic in scope already, but the Henson Company seemed bent on bringing them to the big screen. The film has never gotten past the writing stage and sat in development purgatory at the Weinstein Company for many years, until last year when New Regency acquired the rights to the film. Little was said about the project after that... until last night.

Late last night The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that The Jim Henson Company has tapped two writers to tackle the Fraggle Rock movie script: Jim Burit and Alex Manugian, co-writers of last year's animated film Rango. This is a good sign, showing that not only are both Henson and New Regency keen on moving ahead with the Fraggle movie project, but they're also putting the project in the hands of two big-time writers who helped write an Oscar winning film last year.

I know that years of disappointment and wrong turns for this project have put a sour taste in the mouths of many fans about this proposed Fraggle movie, but I am choosing to remain optimistic. This is the biggest news on the Fraggle Rock movie in nearly four years and it's nice to see Henson moving forward with such a big project. What is also nice to see is big-name entertainment websites (such as The Huffington Post and CinemaBlend) getting excited over a Fraggle film. I can't wait to see what comes from this.

We'll have even more discussion on this exciting development later this week, but for now... Dance your cares away! A Fraggle movie may be on the way!






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

May 30, 2012

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Wayne and Wanda

Written by Ryan Dosier.

WAYNE AND WANDA

Performed by...
Richard Hunt (Wayne)
Eren Ozker (Wanda)

First appearance...
The Muppet Show Episode 102: Connie Stevens

Most recent appearance...
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role...
Inept, unaccomplished, destructive singing duo on The Muppet Show

WHO ARE WAYNE AND WANDA?
Wayne and Wanda are a notable singing duo who appeared often in the first season of The Muppet Show. They were notable for the fact that their acts almost always ended in the scenery collapsing upon them, some creature interrupting them, or one of them forgetting the lyrics. Often introduced by Sam the Eagle, with his usual misplaced bravado, their acts were simple but effectively funny outlets for classic Muppet physical comedy.

Though never stated outright, the duo was often a presumed romantic couple, not just a singing duo. This was mainly due to the fact that nearly every one of the songs in their acts were love duets. From "Indian Love Call" (interrupted by a Native American Whatnot) to "You Do Something to Me" (as Wayne saws Wanda in half) to "Some Enchanted Evening" (Gorgon Heap eats Wayne), almost every Wayne and Wanda number featured Wayne serenading Wanda and Wanda responding (if the act didn't collapse in on itself before that).

Although they mainly existed onstage during the first season of The Muppet Show, Wayne and Wanda did have one notable backstage moment in their very first appearance in the Connie Stevens episode. While backstage, Wayne grew angry over the fact that they were being replaced by the Connie Stevens act... until Connie herself emerged from her dressing room and Wayne changed his tune.

After Season 1 of The Muppet Show, due to both the departure of Wanda's performer Eren Ozker and head writer Jerry Juhl's decision to focus on character comedy rather than one-note jokes, Wayne and Wanda were phased out as a singing duo. While Wanda was removed completely (aside from a brief appearance in Season 4), Wayne returned in Season 3 for many appearances. He sang solos such as "Dog Walk" and "My Wild Irish Rose," continuing his passion for singing. Wayne's most notable appearances in Season 3 were as the dashing (and idiotic) hero in the "Muppet Melodrama" segments with Uncle Deadly and Miss Piggy. Here, Wayne would always fail to save damsel in distress Piggy from the schemes of Uncle Deadly, often resulting in a friendship between Wayne and Deadly.

Both Wayne and Wanda (now performed by Kathy Mullen) returned to The Muppet Show for one episode in Season 4's Episode 406 guest starring Linda Lavin. During Kermit's birthday celebration, Wayne and Wanda return to guilt trip Kermit for firing them after Season 1. Feeling incredibly (and rightfully) guilty, Kermit hires Wayne and Wanda back on the spot, but once the duo start singing again he remembers why they were fired... and fires them yet again.

Wayne and Wanda were merely background characters in the Muppet universe through the end of The Muppet Show and long after. So long, in fact, that it took Roger Langridge's The Muppet Show Comic Book to bring the characters back--albeit only in print form. Even in a comic book their acts could not succeed, as both their performances of "When the Lusitania Went Down" and "Mighty Like a Rose" end prematurely and disastrously.

The dysfunctional duo did not return in puppet form until "The Muppet Show Theme Song" music video with the Muppets and OK Go in 2011, only appearing with the large group at the end of the video. They made a semi-prominent return in The Muppets feature film in 2011. In the film they mostly appear in the background except for a hilarious scene, essentially confirming their romantic relationship, when the power goes out at the Muppet Theater.

WAYNE AND WANDA'S ACTS
Below is a list of the numbers performed by Wayne and Wanda during the first season of The Muppet Show... and what went wrong during them.
  • "Stormy Weather" Episode 103: Joel Grey - It starts raining
  • "Row, Row, Row" Episode 104: Ruth Buzzi - Their rowboat sinks
  • "Goody Goody" Episode 105: Rita Moreno - Wayne knocks Wanda down
  • "Indian Love Call" Episode 106: Jim Nabors - A Native American responds to the love call
  • "You Do Something to Me" Episode 108: Paul Williams - Wayne saws Wanda in half
  • "I Get a Kick Out of You" Episode 110: Harvey Korman - Wayne kicks Wanda
  • "Autumn Leaves" Episode 112: Peter Ustinov - Leaves fall on them
  • "Trees" Episode 113: Bruce Forsyth - The tree falls on Wayne
  • "Some Enchanted Evening" Episode 116: Avery Schreiber - Gorgon Heap eats Wayne
  • "I'll Know" Episode 117: Ben Vereen - Wayne chases a cute girl (who isn't Wanda)
  • "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" Episode 119: Vincent Price - Wanda turns into a Frackle
  • "On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" Episode 120: Valerie Harper - A factory emits too much smoke
  • "Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow" Episode 121: Twiggy - Snow falls on them
  • "It's Only a Paper Moon" Episode 124: Mummenschanz - A prop moon falls on Wayne
WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED WAYNE AND WANDA? 
This is one of the hardest questions I've ever asked myself. It's clear that Wayne and Wanda aren't that necessary to the success of the Muppets, considering they were fired after Season 1 and the Muppets certainly didn't falter without them. Wayne and Wanda join a very small list of Muppets who were knowingly fired by Kermit (twice). Yet their presence in The Muppets suggests that they had been hired back yet again. Who knows, really, why they're needed. Goodness knows it isn't their ability to finish their acts. 

Perhaps what makes Wayne and Wanda needed is their commitment. They certainly don't give up even though their acts kick back hard every time they try to perform. Fate seems to have it in for Wayne and Wanda... but this tenacious team never gives up, displaying true Muppet spirit (and stupidity).







The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

May 29, 2012

Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: Clash of the Class Clowns Book Review

Story and Art by Kirk Scroggs
Available now

Kyle Mahoney - When I read the first Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet book I couldn't wait for the continuing adventure of Danvers Blickensderfer. Luckily my prayers were answered on May 15th when Disney and Kirk Scroggs released Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: Clash of the Clowns. Scroggs took the wit and artistic charm of the first book and improved on it with the second installment of the Sixth-Grade Muppet series. Later this year the third installment, The Good, The Bad, and The Fuzzy will be released as well.

The story takes place an unknown amount of time after the first book, but within the same year (considering it isn't called Tales of a Seventh-Grade Muppet) with Danvers enjoying life as a Muppet, helping Gonzo, and singing for the Muppet-filled boy band Mon Swoon. Everything is great, until a new kid comes to Coldrain Middle School and makes Danvers, Pasquale, and Kip (the lead singer of Emo Shun) the butt of all his jokes. This young man is Phips Terlington (does anyone have a normal name in this book?) and for some reason he really bothers Danvers, he bothers him so much that he and Kip start an Emo Shun/Mon Swoon collaboration band (because... that will help?).

Danvers later becomes a student of the Muppet Masters of Comedy after challenging Phips to a comedy jam and realizing that he's not funny. Danvers learns the art of the pun from Rowlf the Dog, the art of the heckle from Statler and Waldorf, and the art of being weird from Pepe the King Prawn. Pasquale also becomes obsessed with "Angry Chickens" (a parody of Angry Birds) which features hurling Gonzo in a chicken suit at the members of Mon Swoon. Somehow in the middle of it all (I'm not gonna spoil how), Danvers and the rest of the Muppets must fight off a hoard of joke telling zombies.

The book has the same general format of the first book with Danvers telling the story along with his illustrations helping the story along and adding dialogue. Once again focusing on Scroggs' original characters and using the Muppets as supporting characters. The illustrations include visual gags and even an appearance by Walter! Pepe's dialogue is semi-annoying to read when he has a big part in the story. (Reading all those "okays" can really get on your nerves, okay?) The story also has connective tissue to the first book, mostly because Danvers is still looking for the origin of his "Muppetmorphosis." It also gives a small bit of insight into the next book Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: The Good, The Bad, and The Fuzzy.

Kirk Scroggs truly has the Muppet sense of humor when coming up with the many jokes for all the characters. He knows exactly what he's doing in regards to honoring The Muppets and, at the same time, creating a world all his own. One aspect of the story that I really enjoy is how Danvers wonders why the Muppets have randomly appeared in his city around the same time as his Muppetmorphosis. I wonder if there is a connection between the two. I guess we'll have to wait until the next book. But I give Tales of a Sixth-Grade Muppet: Clash of the Class Clowns two flailing Kermit Arms Up!







The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

May 28, 2012

Muppet Fan's Muppet Collection Chronicle: Julia Gaskill


Julia Gaskill - I haven't been a part of the Muppet fandom for very long, but it's fair to say I've accumulated quite a lot of Muppet memorabilia thus far. It's enough that if my house was being robbed, the burglar would certainly stop in their tracks upon reaching my room and say, "Wow. Someone must REALLY like the Muppets." And at the same time, I think I still have a bit more collecting to do before I can finally stand tall and proud as a Muppet fan.

Anyway, here's my collection of Muppety goodness.

Items that are not displayed below that I also own: the wonderful Muppet Show poster that Jamie Carroll designed (still needs a frame), the four finger puppets that came with The Muppets DVD/Bluray (no clue where I put them), and my singing Beaker Christmas tree ornament.
These little guys--and that little book--decorate the top of my desk. Much thanks to my friend, Cory, who gifted me with most of these at the tail end of last year.
This is the part of my room I've entitled The Muppet Corner. I have a Muppet parody poster of Forrest Gump ("Green is as Green does") and a Muppet parody calendar as well. That is also a signed picture from Caroll Spinney (and Big Bird) in the middle. (Below the picture is a doodle of Gonzo I did and my six tickets from seeing The Muppets in theaters).
Here are my four Muppet plushies, which are great for cuddles.
My four Muppet T-shirts. Two were bought last year during the Muppet contest on Threadless, one from Target, and I still have no idea where my brother found me that amazing Gonzo shirt.
My more obscure Muppet apparel. The Kermit beanie's pretty easy to come by, but the Kermit skirt most certainly isn't, seeing as a friend made it for me for my last birthday. The Gonzo onesie pjs were purchased at Spencer's and are so very, very comfortable.
My Muppet DVDs are the only part of my collection that I feel a bit ashamed about. It's hard to motivate yourself to go buy more DVDs when: A) all the shows and movies are available via Netflix/youtube, and B) you are a broke college student.
My Henson related books. I love all of them.
The Muppets poster!
Some cardboard cutouts promoting The Muppets that a friend snagged from his Wal-Mart job. They've sadly been residing in my closet for the time being, as I have absolutely no where to put them (and I'm pretty sure my cat would shred them to pieces if given the opportunity).
Probably the most random thing I've ever owned. I found this computer game at The Dollar Tree last month. I've yet to play it.
Finally, an actual feather from Big Bird's costume. A friend who interned at Sesame Workshop swiped it for me a while back. It may very well be the most wonderful thing I own.

And that's everything Muppet/Henson related that I have in my possession! Hopefully once I stop being a broke college student the collection can grow even larger... but for the time being, I think I'll stick to spending my money on food and rent.

Special thanks to Julia for sending pictures of her delightful collection! Submit YOUR Muppet Fan Collections to Ryan Dosier at muppetmindset@gmail.com or Chris Stulz at MuppetStuff@gmail.com.







The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com 

May 27, 2012

(Kind of) Weekly Muppet Quotes Spotlight: Scooter

Casey Daron - Hi Guys! Who is responsible for keeping the Muppet Show running? Who tells the guest star when they need to bee on stage? Scooter! Scooter, the nephew of theater owner J.P. Grosse, helps keep the Muppet Show running smoothly. Er, should I say smooth(ish)? Richard Hunt really shined with this character, showing his true personality. Oh, and remember, 15 seconds to curtain!

"Scooter, you're not doing an act on the show tonight."
"Gee... well, my uncle who owns the theater thought of this act."
"Tell us about the act you're doing on the show tonight."
~ Kermit the Frog and Scooter, The Muppet Show: Episode 101

"You are all NAKED!"
~ Scooter, The Muppets

"I'm learning to speak frog."
"Aw, he's so cute!"
"Well, that's his job. See, the rest of us got sick and tired of being cute, so we hired him to do it."
~ Bean Bunny, Frog, and Scooter, The Muppets at Walt Disney World

"Gonzo to Scooter, Gonzo to Scooter. Bring home the bacon!"
"10-4. Bacon down! Bacon down!"
~ Gonzo and Scooter, It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

"Shields and Yarnell. Fifteen seconds to curtain, Shields and Yarnell. Kermit's finally booked guest stars weirder than we are."
~ Scooter, The Muppet Show: Episode 403







The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

May 26, 2012

WeLoveFine Loves The Muppets!

We here at The Muppet Mindset don't normally do shameless plugs (unless we're shamelessly plugging ourselves), but anytime there's an awesome Muppet thing that needs showcasing, we're happy to plug away! Our friends at WeLoveFine T-Shirts are selling a wonderful variety of Muppets and Sesame Street themed t-shirts that I really adore (and a few of which I own), quite a few of them are the winners of the recent Muppet T-shirt design contest they held. Each t-shirt sells for only $25, and boy are they worth it. Here are just some of the great shirts available now at WeLoveFine.com...

How awesome are these? I have to own that Calvin and Hobbes esque Bert and Ernie bathtub shirt. Like... now. Excuse me while I go buy that...






The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

My Favorite Thing(s) About Fraggle Rock, Part 1

 Ryan Dosier - For the past few weeks I've been partaking in one of the best things a Muppet fan can do for him or herself: watching the complete series of Fraggle Rock on DVD. This beautiful series ran for four seasons and features some of my favorite Muppet moments, perfect songs, and wonderfully rich characters. I don't think that I, personally, have ever written about how much I love Fraggle Rock here on The Muppet Mindset... and after watching every episode of the series, I knew I had to. Today is the beginning of a new article series by me about why I love Fraggle Rock so very much. Each week will focus on a different aspect of this wonderful show. Enjoy!

THE CHARACTERS
Is it any wonder that I'm starting here? On this, probably my third or fourth viewing of the entire series, I came to the realization that there is not a single prominent character on Fraggle Rock that I do not adore. From the main characters like Wembley, Boober, and Junior Gorg to secondary characters like Cotterpin Doozer, Convincing John, and Large Marvin and even tertiary characters like Felix the Fearless, Architect Doozer, and Sidebottom--all of these joyous characters are flawlessly written, hysterical, touching, and undeniably enjoyable from the start to the finish of the series. Who doesn't love Gobo, Mokey, Red, Cantus, Pa Gorg, Marjory the Trash Heap, Philo, Gunge, or any of the characters here?

Arguably the best part about Fraggle Rock is watching these characters interact. Whether it's Philo and Gunge being hilariously obnoxious, Mokey being sweet and loving with grumpy Boober, Red running amok with Cotterpin Doozer, Junior driving Pa Gorg nuts, Traveling Matt's ineptitude causing Gobo trifles, or Wembley being hysterical with absolutely anyone, the interactions of characters is what makes Fraggle Rock such a treat. I dare you to watch the entirety of Season 1's "Marooned" and not be moved by the journey of Red and Boober, who go from total opposites to more than understanding one another, but relying on each other.

One can't discuss the characters of Fraggle Rock without mentioning Doc and Sprocket. Sprocket, the pantomime dog, and Doc, the charming and bumbling inventor, bookended every episode of the show and were not charged with carrying any of the emotional weight--at least not most of it. Yet the relationship between these two is so beautiful that it becomes something more than just man and dog. Sprocket is clearly Doc's closest companion--and who wouldn't want a dog like Sprocket as their best friend? His impression of Doc's neighbor Ned Shimmelfinny is enough to sell Sprocket... but of course there's a lot more to him. He's loyal, smart, stubborn, and wonderful. Doc--brilliantly played by Gerry Parks--is forgetful and oblivious and delightful to watch and the perfect partner for Sprocket. Talk about man's best friend... and dog's.

Another thing that I discovered on this run through the series is my love for Richard Hunt on Fraggle Rock. He performed Junior Gorg's voice and face, Gunge, and a whole host of random Fraggles and creatures, including the Wizard and the Mean Genie. Yes, I love Richard on The Muppet Show and on Sesame Street, but it wasn't until watching the series this time that I realized how fantastic he was on Fraggle Rock. The personality he brought to Junior Gorg is unparalleled and might just be his greatest character. I found myself looking forward to the Junior-centric episodes more than almost any other character (except maybe Wembley) because I knew I would laugh out loud multiple times. Junior's episodes are true classics: "The Garden Plot" in Season 1 where the Fraggles convince Junior he's dead; "Bored Stiff" in Season 3 where Gobo and Junior have to save the Fraggles; "Junior Faces the Music" in Season 4 where Cantus imparts wisdom to the Gorg; and, my personal favorite: "The Battle of Leaking Roof" in Season 3 where Pa and Junior try to fix the castle roof. But Junior's crowning achievement (pun definitely intended) is Season 4's "The Gorg Who Would Be King," which follows Junior into Fraggle Rock where he learns about the inter-connectivity of the world. I love Junior Gorg... and I love Richard Hunt. Fraggle Rock wouldn't be the same without him.

One can't mention Richard Hunt's Fraggle Rock contributions without mentioning Jim Henson's as well. Jim was not a regular on the series, leaving it to his trusted team to create magic--which they clearly did. But at least twice every season, Jim would come to play and bring to life two of his greatest characters: Cantus the Minstrel and Convincing John. Nearly everyone will talk about these great Jim characters... but I want to focus on one episode in particular: "The Secret Society of Poohbahs" from Season 3. Yes, Jim loved to balance the sentimental with the silly, but there's no denying that the silly almost always took over. Nowhere is this more true than in "The Secret Society of the Poohbahs." I won't spoil the episode if you haven't seen it, but it is perhaps my favorite Fraggle Rock episode and Jim Henson makes it so. Hearing Convincing John read off the Poohbah role call will forever be hysterical to me. Present with an exclamation!

Gobo's Uncle Traveling Matt (as Wembley loves to call him) is another one of the best things about Fraggle Rock. His postcards are such a delight in every episode that I'm surprised Traveling Matt never received his own spin-off series. I could watch Matt ride a roller coaster, imitate a pig, or wrestle a lawn plant all day every day. Dave Goelz created such a brilliantly funny and idiotically charming character. One of the many things I love about Matt is his voice. I can't even explain why... because it is so difficult to talk about what makes voices so special... but when Traveling Matt gets flustered and his voice gets high and freaked out, it's pure magic. I also love the way he says, "The other daaaaaaay..." Uncle Traveling Matt is the charming idiot savant who asserts that he is a hero to Fraggle kind (and maybe he is)--and hilarious to boot.

But my favorite character on Fraggle Rock is, without a doubt, Wembley Fraggle. What Wembley does throughout the series is just amazing. Even the second episode of the show, "Wembley and the Gorgs" implies that Wembley is the smartest, most accepting of all the Fraggles. Wembley may be the most naive, the most indecisive, the most wacky... but he also proves that he is the bravest, smartest, and noblest of the Fraggles. Wembley sees the worth in the Gorgs, he sings with Cotterpin Doozer, he raises a baby tree creature, he disproves the Wizard, he fights the Mean Genie, and grapples with mortality with a Mudbunny. Steve Whitmire is the only performer who could have brought Wembley to such wonderful life. The sounds he has Wembley make, the songs he sings, the faces he creates, the complete insanity and giddiness he instilled in Wembley all prove why Steve and Wembley are inseparable. If I had to pick one Wembley episode as my favorite, I think it would have to be Season 3's "Wembley's Wonderful Whoopee Water." The spectrum of emotion that Wembley goes through in this episode is magnificent. Wembley is undeniably one of Steve Whitmire's greatest characters.

And yet, all of the prominent characters on Fraggle Rock are some of their respective performers' bests. Jerry Nelson hit the trifecta with three main characters, each as wonderful as the other, with Gobo Fraggle, Pa Gorg, and Marjory the Trash Heap; three vastly different characters that prove the always impressive variety that Jerry is capable of. Mokey Fraggle and Cotterpin Doozer show us why Kathy Mullen is such a performing force to be reckoned with. Mokey is honest and real and wonderful while Cotterpin in headstrong and stubborn and smart as a tack. The crazy talent of Karen Prell was released through Red Fraggle whose rambunctious tenacity stole the show nearly every episode. Dave Goelz had Boober Fraggle, Large Marvin, Philo, and World's Oldest Fraggle along with Traveling Matt, Steve Whitmire performed Sprocket, Wembley, and a variety of characters, and they all brought to life an entirely new world.

This world, populated with Fraggles and Doozers and Gorgs and Silly Creatures and Hairy Monsters, still holds up wonderfully today. If you haven't seen it, get out there and find yourself some Fraggle Rock as soon as possible. You are truly missing out on some of the greatest Muppet characters that Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, and the Muppet performers ever created.





The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com