1 The Muppet Mindset: August 2009

Aug 31, 2009

Muppet Comic Mondays: The Muppet Show Comic Book #1

Welcome to The Muppet Mindset's first installment of Muppet Comic Mondays! Every Monday, a new review of one of the fantastic Muppet comic books from BOOM! Studios will be posted here on the blog. Once I run out of weekly comics to review, this will become Muppet Comic Monthly--but until then, why don't we get things started?
The Muppet Show Comic Book: Issue 1 of 4
Kermit’s Story

Ryan Dosier – The Muppet Show has often been regarded as the greatest family television program of all time. In its prime, Jim Henson’s opus was broadcast in over 100 countries around the world. It’s no wonder, then, that The Muppet Show still has wide, outstanding appeal. There’s a Muppet for everyone to love, a song for everyone to sing along to, and a joke for everyone to laugh at. With the show’s release on DVD, a whole new generation of fans has grown to laugh and love while Kermit and the gang try to put on a show.
While the cameras have been turned off in the Muppet Theater since 1981, comic book artist and writer Roger Langridge (of “Fred the Clown” comic acclaim) convinces us to believe that the show never stopped. How does he do this? With BOOM! Studios’ “The Muppet Show Comic Book.” Starting out as a comic strip idea in the now-defunct Disney Adventures children’s magazine, Disney decided to revive the Muppets in comic form—this time in their own book.

“Kermit’s Story,” the first issue of the now-ongoing series of comics was released in March 2009.

As the title implies, “The Muppet Show Comic Book” features a direct transfer of the classic Vaudevillian television show onto the comic page. It’s as if the cameras switched off and the cartoonist switched on. The comic even starts with a Muppet News Flash, starring everyone’s favorite unfortunate Newsman. He reveals that “The Muppet Show is back on the air in a new format, that of the so-called ‘comic book.’” (As if we couldn’t already tell that.)
The premiere issue focuses on Kermit the Frog as he pines for the sweet stench of the swamp air. Robin, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the Muppets try their best to make him realize that he is home.

The comic also features onstage acts mixed in with the backstage antics. Acts featured in this issue include, “Muppet News Flash,” the “musical” number “Bang, Boom, Splat and POW,” a Kermit news sketch on Koozebane—“Close Encounters of the Worst Kind,” The Swedish Chef, Pigs in Space, and a final song performed by Kermit.

The plot’s ending is very satisfactory and balances the off-the-wall tone of the comic with some classic Muppet sappiness.

Langridge really knows what he’s doing in this department. The whole “atmosphere” of the theater feels as if Jim and the gang were there doing it themselves. Everything clicks (and explodes) just like it did on the show. It all works, and Langridge should be commended for producing such a good “feeling” comic.

The true highlight of this comic series is the writing. It’s simply amazing that Roger Langridge, who had never worked or written for the Muppets before this, can capture the voice and the heart of each and every character so beautifully. Even more amazing is the fact that even minor characters, some who haven’t been heard from in years, are all written perfectly—as if Jerry Juhl himself wrote them.

The Muppet Newsman is deliciously punny, Statler and Waldorf are flawless, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Pops (yes, Pops), the Electric Mayhem, Rowlf, Fozzie, Robin, Scooter—everyone is written perfectly. There wasn’t one moment while reading when I scratched my head and thought to myself, “So-and-so wouldn’t say that.” The writing in this 21-page comic book is better and more in-character than the 105-minute Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.

What amazes me about this is how Langridge includes “musical” numbers. They’re written with such clever lyrics that each one is so incredibly easy to visualize as an actual sketch on the show.

Also of note about this comic is the way Langridge ties in the sweet, heart-warming ending after all the zaniness of the show. It’s a great moment that leaves you with a loving feeling of Muppety goodness.

The art of this comic has become the most controversial and argued part. Scooter now has teeth, Gonzo’s eyelids are on both sides of his eyes, and Robin has jaw problems. At one point, Gonzo even looked like a buzzard (in a bad way). Yes, the art is off-model, but so are the Muppets.

Jim Henson’s vision was for the whole world to be accepted as one, no matter how crazy or distinct you are—and Langridge’s art is just that, crazy and distinct. It stands out as being delightfully Muppety—no matter how many cheesy grins Scooter shows off with his pearly whites. All of the characters look enough like themselves to be distinguished as such, and they all have wacky facial expressions that add to the comedy.

While the art is not copied straight from “The Muppet Style Guide,” it’s a welcome change to see a fresh new take on the characters after suffering through so many stale old poser puppet pictures (say that three times fast) and poser puppet picture paintings (say that five times fast).

This comic is an incredible start to what’s sure to be a bright future. The Muppet Show Comic Book is now on its sixth issue (The Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson #2), and shows no sign of stopping. In fact, BOOM! Studios recently announced that it would become an ongoing story, and stop renumbering the issues after every four.

Kermit’s Story is a highlight because it shows the humble beginnings of Langridge to the Muppet world. It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s Muppety, and it’s heart-warming. Everything a classic episode of The Muppet Show should be—and that’s how I see these comics; as classic episodes of The Muppet Show brought to us by the fantastic Roger Langridge.

Pick up a copy of The Muppet Show Comic Book: Kermit’s Story today! Or buy the first trade paperback, The Muppet Show Comic Book: Meet the Muppets, containing Issues 1-4.

The Muppet Show Comic Book Issue 2/4: Fozzie’s Story was released in April 2009. It focuses on Fozzie Bear trying to make the audience laugh (as always) and going to extreme measures to do so.

The Muppets featured in this issue include: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo the Great, The Muppet Newsman, Statler, Waldorf, Scooter, Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Animal, Zoot, The Swedish Chef, Rowlf, Sam Eagle, Robin the Frog, Link Hogthrob, Dr. Strangepork, Lew Zealand, Sweetums, Crazy Harry, Pops, Bunsen, Beaker, Beauregard, George the Janitor, Nigel the Conductor, J.P. Grosse, Uncle Deadly, Mildred, Male Koozebanian, Female Koozebanian, Rizzo, Gloat, The Zimmer Twins, Chickens, Toads, and other various background Muppets.

Aug 30, 2009

Muppet Central Fan-Fiction Article #1

Today, the Mindset proudly welcomes Muppet Central Forum's RedPiggy. RedPiggy is here with her first article discussing the fan-fiction of the Muppet Central Forums. She started a fan-fiction survey on the forums that led her to her article topics. This is a great way for more readers to visit the great fan-fictions of the site, and also a great way for writers' names to get out there. So, without further ado, here's the first article:

The Principle Players

By Kelly Masters (RedPiggy from Muppet Central Forums) - Fan-created fiction, or fan-fiction/fan-fic for short, is a staple of fandom. Especially the fandom of Muppet Central Forum. They can be just derivative, poorly written scripts with minor tweaks to existing shows or movies – or they can be lovingly crafted works of literary art that deepen the characters in ways never really addressed in official media. This is the first of my reviews of some of those fanfics that manage to lean towards the latter.

To avoid looking vain by plugging my own (painful as it is for me to do so), I posted a survey where other Muppet Central Forum members could offer suggestions on which fan-fics to review. The first question read as follows: "Which fic or fics in your opinion best reflect the characterizations of the major Muppet characters (please list the characters, such as Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, Rowlf, the Electric Mayhem)? Let's keep it to these characters for this question, shall we?"

Based on the responses, I have decided to review three stories authored by Muppet Central members: TogetherAgain’s Half of the Stairs Are Missing, TogetherAgain’s Summer in the Theater, and WhiteRabbit’s Coming of the Roads.

Half of the Stairs Are Missing
Amusingly, we begin with a fourth-wall-breaking prologue, as the author thinks of things to write about and faces elements of her other stories. It is like reading a story of a dying person visiting long-gone relatives on a trip through the afterlife. We begin with a bunch of dialogue, only some of which is attributed. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but it’s just a small pet peeve of mine when I don’t know who is talking, even though the dramatically important conversations are attributed. However, such a beginning does contribute to a sense of chaos, which fits right in with Muppety goodness.

Oh, and if you aren’t quite used to forum-based fan-fics, be prepared to read reviews in between chapters. That can be helpful or extremely frustrating. However, it’s so common that it’s downright bizarre if you manage to read a fic that actually has chapters one right after another.
The end of the first chapter reveals that this will be somewhat dramatic. I, personally, like dramatic fan-fics better, since it’s a nice change of pace from silly fluff.

Right away, what is obvious is that no one acts out of character. Even if nothing like this ever happened (the closest being Kermit’s disappearance in The Muppets Take Manhattan and even the memorial special after the death of Jim Henson), everyone reacts to a stark event perfectly. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if that memorial special was part of the inspiration for this particular story.

Other than the tear-jerking Kermit and Robin and Fozzie, one of the characters I find most fascinating is Rowlf. On The Muppet Show, Rowlf played a wise-cracking veterinarian. Here, he seems to maintain an interest and ability in all things medical. However, he’s much more subdued since this isn’t a comedy. It almost makes one wonder if, in this fan-fic universe, Rowlf didn’t just play a doctor on TV, but actually had some real experience with the subject.

Another high point is Piggy. She isn’t the shallow pop diva in this story. She is the vulnerable, caring -- though persistent -- Miss Piggy. If anyone ever gets tired of Diva Piggy in some of her more modern appearances, this would be a good story to remember what she can be.

The power of this story is the attention to all the relevant details of a tragedy, from family relationships, friendship, grief, and hope. TogetherAgain smartly adds in a few quips and running gags (particularly physician names), but it only serves to break up the gloomy atmosphere. Fortunately, it doesn’t replace it. Also, by chapter nine, the point of the physician name running gag becomes clear … and it’s quite a clever joke. The irritating thing is that I didn’t really figure that to be the joke as I was originally thinking it was just foreshadowing. How can the geek in me not catch that? Argh!
Gonzo also gets his chance to shine after the ever-responsible Kermit succeeds in comforting Fozzie, who is whimpering with fear. The wonderful thing about being the outcast Whatever is that he can be warm and compassionate and then say something completely bizarre … and yet it still works.

And though it’s rather silly, the political news coming from the Muppet Newsman at one point is hilarious precisely because one can imagine certain stations having such a story….

While this story is, as of this writing, unfinished, it’s still a very good read, though some may want to bring along some extra tissues and security blankets.

Summer in the Theater
This story by TogetherAgain is also quite dramatic. However, this time around, the mood is a bit lighter, with more jokes and puns than in the previously reviewed piece. A dark figure has a mission to rip off the financially struggling Muppet Theater.

I’ll take this moment to stop and mention Scooter. He appeared in the last fic, but I’d like to mention him here. If you have ever seen The Devil Wears Prada (a movie I have a hard time sitting through), the character Andrea Sachs has to learn to be an ultra-efficient assistant to a strict business woman in the fashion magazine world. In the beginning of The Muppet Show, Scooter is a whiny suck-up employed only due to nepotism. However, he stops this and becomes a more valued employee. In these two stories, Scooter is almost too perfect. If I hadn’t seen that Prada movie, I would be tempted to call Scooter unrealistically helpful. However, I believe I’ve changed my mind and can appreciate him more.

I think I’ll take this time to mention Fozzie as well. He’s not nearly as shaken as he was in the previously reviewed story, but then again there’s no real reason for him to be. Fozzie is presented again as less the failed comic and more the insecure ever-giving best friend of Kermit the Frog. I suppose it’s just as well: I would guess it takes a great comic to write a bad one.

This story has obviously been influenced by It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. However, it isn’t too derivative. There is also a greater sense of hope here than in that TV special, as they aren’t beset by a rigid threat to their money. The thief definitely gets your mind working on its identity. I found myself guessing who it could be throughout the story. There’s also a feeling of familiarity with The Muppets Take Manhattan, specifically the Muppets trying to help Kermit out with money troubles. The idea of pulling together in a crisis may not be very original, but it is Muppets at its best.

Another high point is the Electric Mayhem band. When it comes time to wash cars to raise money, their “solution” is spot on.

Also brightening the mood in spots are some very clever cameos, human and Muppet alike. Cameos are always part and parcel of the entire Muppet experience, and they are very well done, even if they do start to become a running gag.

Since there’s been homage paid to just about every other property, I also began to smell some nods to The Great Muppet Caper – which really started my brain to lean towards a prospective identity for the dark figure. However, the whole thief plot, like a lot of Muppet plots, is really just an excuse for character development, which isn’t bad. The Muppets fail hardest when character takes a back seat to the plot.

Now, personally, a letter that Kermit gets feels as though it was written by yours truly. I have to wonder just how many fans of the Muppets actually feel that way, that the Muppets were the gold under the rainbow, the diamond in the rough, the cream in our coffee, the icing on our cake – the one lonely light in a massive sea of darkness. The Muppets are all that and more. Fan-fiction helps some of us try to give back, albeit unofficially, some of that love we felt we got from them.

The true identity of the thief wasn’t at all who I expected, but the rationale for the crimes was pure genius. This particular story is finished, and I definitely recommend it.

Coming of the Roads

For the final story in this review, we leave the usual Kermit stories and shine a spotlight directly on the Electric Mayhem and its members (Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Lips, and Animal). On The Muppet Show, the band was basically the band. While we sometimes saw them backstage, they rarely got plots of their very own. In this story, the band is taking a break from the theater to go off on a private gig. Right away there is a lot more description with character appearances than in the first two. One thing one has to get used to if new to fan-fiction is that many authors just assume you know who they are talking about. The problem with this is that it isn’t very helpful for those trying to come in to the fandom. While all three of these stories aren’t exactly good “newbie” stories, introducing the characters, this one does describe things a little clearer.

This story is a bit different in that Zoot and Lips seem, well, more than friends. I don’t recall it being canon, but it does add some depth to two of the most underused band members. It’s pretty much based on some role-playing done in the Muppet Central Forums, so many of the members are just used to it by now. However, this story is still tasteful and thoughtful, with nothing gratuitous. So, if you aren’t used to certain things, don’t get scared away the second someone holds hands. You’d only be cheating yourself out of a good story.

The mood gets considerably darker, though, as their gig ends up in a cesspool of a slum. The Electric Mayhem find a child carelessly thrown away and take her under their wing. The best part is that, even in the first chapter, everyone has moments that help you get a good grasp of how they act, feel, and think.
Dr. Teeth is a flashy urban keyboardist. He himself had to scrape up the financial ladder, starting from a troubled urban childhood.

Janice isn’t just some airhead blonde. She is thoughtful and compassionate. Her motherly instincts pop up fairly easily.

Floyd is easily the Kermit of the group, the mostly laid-back guy who just sort of goes with the flow. The only difference is that Floyd doesn’t let things weigh him down like Kermit does.

This story, as of this writing, isn’t finished. However, it’s very deep and thoughtful and a good protest against bigotry and a proclamation of just how much hope is needed in an environment filled with hopelessness.

Special thanks to RedPiggy, TogetherAgain, and WhiteRabbit for writing! Also, a huge amount of thanks to frogboy4 for contributing most of the pictures used in todays article! Check back again soon for more of RedPiggy's Fan-Fiction Articles!

Aug 29, 2009

Sesame Street DVD Reviews: Count on Sports and Abby in Wonderland

Welcome to the first installment of the newest Muppet Mindset article series, Sesame Street Saturdays. Every Saturday, The Muppet Mindset will feature an article or review of something related to Sesame Street. Today, we focus on some recent Sesame DVDs, starting with "Count on Sports."

Sesame Street: Count on Sports
DVD Review

Shane Keating (Oscarfan on Muppet Central Forum) - Math and sports. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, ham and eggs, rock and roll, paperclips and “a good time” and Ernie and Bert. Wow! What a nice segue into this review of the 2008 Sesame video, “Count on Sports”! “Count on Sports” is one of the funniest Sesame videos ever and should defiantly have a look taken at.

The video starts with Bert, who plans to spend his day reading his book, “Math and Me”. But, if there’s one thing Bert should’ve learn since 1969 is that his quiet time is bound to be ruined by Ernie. And lo and behold, Ernie barges through their apartment, dragging a news desk and huge TV into the room, as it’s time for him to host “ESSN” (Ernie’s Sport Show News). He even has his own suit and jacket prepared.

Ernie’s show covers the subject of math in sports. He suckers Bert in with the idea, the fact that Bernice works behind the scenes and nice duds he can wear (My favorite part occurs here where Bert complements the new tie and asks of its origin, then we see Ernie holding up Bert’s trademark sweater with a tie-shaped hole in it.) Among Ernie’s correspondents are Grover (who covers golf and basketball), Prairie Dawn (who covers gymnastics and soccer), Bernice, and Murray (who covers baseball). Murray’s part is especially funny, as he finds shapes on a baseball field, while the game is still playing!

The video gives some very helpful math lessons for kids. Kids learn that directions such as up, down, forward and backward are considered math, as well as shapes (introducing kids to the “sphere”) and sizes, like big, small, short and tall.

The segments included are mostly about sports, but some having a number theme. Some of them were edited, which disappointed me. One odd thing is that they used two film segments from the Mexican Sesame Street co-production, Plaza Sesamo. The video includes three celebrity appearances in the program itself, including Vince Carter (demonstrating short and tall with Grover), Dominique Dawes (who shows fast, slow, forward, backward, up and down) and Venus Williams (who plays imaginary tennis with Elmo). Also featured is a new song by Grover, Elmo and Zoe, titled “The 7th Inning Stretch Song”. It’s not the greatest Sesame song, but I’ve heard worse.

One thing I like about the recent Sesame videos is the bonus segments we get with them. On this DVD, we get a 2007 segment featuring Elmo, his pet goldfish Dorothy and a couple of the New York Jets. While not really relating to math, it’s does keep in with the theme of sports.

Plus, as a special surprise (at the time of the DVD release), three full episodes of Sesame Workshop’s newest animated mini-series “Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventures” are included. These were a real treat, as when the DVD came out, it wasn’t announced that the segments would turn up in the 2008 episodes, so fans weren’t sure if they would even air in America. The episodes included are “Tiny Town” (later aired in episode 4161), “Inventors” (later included in episode 4185) and “Mountain Climbers” (which has yet to air. Shame, as this was my personal favorite).

This is, hands down, one of my favorite Sesame Street videos. Chock full of hilarious scenes, great segments and a great choice of bonus features, this is definitely a recommended DVD to have!

Order your own copy of the hilarious Count on Sports DVD today!

Abby in Wonderland DVD Review

WRITER'S NOTE: Please keep in mind that I'm writing this review as an 18 year old male Sesame Street fan. I will have different tastes than, let's say, a five year old little girl who is also a fan of the show. Thanks!

Ryan Dosier - Sesame Workshop's latest outlet for their classic characters is the new direct-to-DVD, 41 minute Abby in Wonderland(the special is also showing in select Kidtoons Theaters). Starring, of course, Sesame Street's newest main addition to the cast: Abby Cadabby playing herself as she's whisked off into the twisted realm of Wonderland. Co-starring alongside Abby are more of her friends from Sesame Street, including Elmo (as the White Rabbit), Cookie Monster (as the Cheshire Cookie Cat), and Grover (as the Mad Hatter).

Based on Lewis Carroll's classic children's book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Abby in Wonderland is an enchanting tale that follows Abby Cadabby down the rabbit hole and through Wonderland.

The special opens with Abby piling a table with colorful books. As she works, she's greeted by her friends Grover, Rosita, and Zoe. Once they pass, Abby sighs and examines her books. She tells the viewers that these are all of her favorite books of fairy tales. She then proceeds into a song about how she longs to have her own fairy tale. During the song she's joined by Anything Muppets straight out of fairy tales.

After her longing song and dance number, Abby is visited by Elmo, who's very impressed by Abby's collection of books. He's most impressed by his favorite story, Alice in Wonderland. A clever name gag occurs and Elmo and Abby decide to read the book. Mid-way through the first page, Abby starts to fall asleep. She awakes only to realize that Elmo has left her side, she calls out for him and instead finds the White (Red) Rabbit (played by Elmo). The Rabbit looks at his pocket watch and realizes he's late and darts off. Abby, confused by this occurrence, gives chase.

Soon enough, Abby has fallen down the rabbit hole and has caught up with the Rabbit--but only briefly, as he's still late. Abby starts to give chase, but trips and loses her wand. It lands in the back pocket of the Rabbit, who disappears behind a door that is way too small for Abby to fit through. Luckily for Abby, however, she has the aid of a talking cookie and bottle (and some clever rhyming) to help her enter Wonderland. Almost immediately upon entering this new world, Abby meets the Counterpillar (the Count von Count) and Rose-ita (Rosita). Rose-ita and the Counterpillar tell Abby about all the wonders of being small and counting small things.

Abby returns to her normal size and runs into the Rabbit again. She gives chase to him, running past Tweedle-Dee (Bert) and Tweedle-Dum (Ernie) in an extremely brief (albeit very funny) cameo. Abby loses sight of the Rabbit again and finds herself in the presence of the Cheshire Cookie Cat (Cookie Monster) who tells her that the Rabbit is probably late for a tea party with the Mad Hatter. Cookie Monster's performance here is probably the highlight of the special--he truly stole the show.

Continuing her quest, Abby meets the Mad Hatter (Grover), the Doormouse (Zoe), and finally catches up to the Rabbit. Abby is overwhelmed with the Mad Hatter's attempts to sell her a hat and is thrust into the "T-Party" he's throwing. Abby asks the Hatter why he's mad all the time. The Mad Hatter tells her that he is really a Hatter of many emotions and transitions into a peppy song full of numerous hats and feelings.

Abby finally confronts the Rabbit about her wand in his pocket. The Rabbit reveals that the pocket the wand fell into is now agape with a huge hole, "It must've fell out in the woods!" the Rabbit laments. Abby, distraught, returns to the woods in search of her wand. When her quest turns up no wand, even with the help of the Rabbit, she and the Rabbit sing a song about her desire to return home.
Immediately after the song, the Rabbit realizes he's, once again, late, and rushes off to "his majesty's croquet game." Abby takes a few clever turns and winds up in the kingdom of the King of Hearts (ironically portrayed by Oscar the Grouch). The King has Abby's wand in his possession, and tells Abby the only way she can have it back is by beating him at a game of croquet.

Abby takes on the King's challenge, but is thwarted by his cheating ways. The Rabbit and Abby recover the wand from the King in a larger-than-life way, and Abby finally awakes from her dream. After her adventure, Abby has learned that she doesn't need to be bigger or older to do great things, she just has to try.

The special finishes with a new version of "Little Things" performed by Elmo and Abby.

I felt this special severely underperformed. Based on earlier expectations for this, I feel like it really didn't come through. I think the short length of the lack of characters may have affected it, but the biggest problem was the short run time.

It would've been nice (and expected) to see Big Bird, Snuffy, Baby Bear, and Telly in special, Wonderland roles, but the short run time really didn't allow for it. There wasn't too much or too little time spent on one part of the story either, it was just too short for the amount of story that needed to be told.

All in all, the special was decent for old-school fans, with memorable, scene-stealing appearances from Grover, Cookie Monster, and The Count, and a quick cameo by Ernie and Bert. The lack of Big Bird is extremely disheartening, and the over-inclusion of Elmo IS expected but wasn't all that necessary.

Again, the high points of the special are Grover, The Count, and most of all Cookie Monster, beautifully designed sets, clever writing, and stellar performances all around. The lows are poorly written songs, lack of certain main-stay characters, and length.

I highly recommend this DVD to anyone with a son or a daughter who loves the show currently, but I don't think hardcore, old-school Sesame fans would enjoy it nearly as much, but I guess that's what you can expect from a release intended for kids.

Order your own copy of Abby in Wonderland on DVD today!

Aug 28, 2009

Muppet Fashion Frenzy

Edited by Ryan Dosier - Chickens may go “gaga” for weirdo boyfriends who buy them both red and green balloons at fun-fairs (sage advice from Mr. Richard Pryor), but it seems that pop-chick Lady Gaga goes gaga as well (go figure). Not for red and green balloons however, but for green goggley-eyed Muppet-inspired fashion statements. (Rumors that Lady Gaga also goes gaga for balloons appear to be highly exaggerated.)

Whether intentional or not, it seems Lady Gaga may have been somewhat responsible for a return of the Muppets to the realm of fashion, pop, and divaism—all because she was spotted sporting a coat made, not of many colors, but of many Kermits. She even delivered an interview with a German television network while wearing the faux-frog fashion faux pa. Lady Gaga has also worn Animal out (...I’ll leave you alone with your thoughts on that one). Yes, I am talking about her wearing an Animal based dress out to a publicity event earlier this month.

Never one to be upstaged by another woman (especially one wearing her beloved frog in coat form), Miss Piggy responded the only logical way one can under the circumstances: By holding a fashion retrospective at Macys, and rolling into Macy’s annual charity event, Glamorama, on a motorcycle in a Marc Jacobs outfit. Our favourite porcine diva was hounded by fashion obsessed press (as she should be), as was reported on by frilly-fashion power houses Vogue and Elle.

To give credit where credit is due, this entire Muppet fashion trend may well have been started a few months ago by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac who designed Gaga’s Kermit coat and Animal dress, and put Muppets into his runway fashion show in the first place!

Riding on the success of the night (as well as the motorcycle), Miss Piggy also paused in the windy city to give us some juicy interviews touching on subjects as varied as Britney Spears and Swine Flu (where one is a viciously contagious illness and the other is Swine Flu) and Jason Segel’s Muppet movie, as well as demonstrating, in pictures, how she had the Kermit look years before Gaga. She gave interviews to Style List, Chicago Sun-Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
Elsewhere, Sesame Street held a fashion show of its own, teaming up with the likes of Diane von Furstenber, Vera Wang, and Oscar de la Renta (who, contrary to rumors, is not a grouch). It seems that Sesame Street’s sponsors for the day were the letters: S, T, Y and L, and the Symbols: $$$

Special thanks to The Muppet Mindset's Muppet fashion correspondent, Beauregard from Muppet Central Forum!

Aug 27, 2009

Follow That Bird Special Edition DVD Review

Today on The Muppet Mindset, we have to guest reviewers from the Muppet Central Forum, Colbynfriends and BobthePizzaBoy. If you would like to contribute an article to The Muppet Mindset, e-mail me at ryguy102390@gmail.com with your idea and we'll discuss featuring it on the blog. Enjoy the article!
Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird
25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
DVD Review

(out of 5)

By Colbynfriends (from Muppet Central Forum) - Sesame Street is undoubtedly one of the very few icons of children’s television, lasting on the air for almost forty years. Back in 1985, they released their first full-length movie, called Follow That Bird. A DVD was released in 2002, which was a pretty bare bones release, including only a Jump to a Song feature, and the theatrical trailer. The new DVD was released this past year, and was a vast improvement over the previous release.

Big Bird is sent off to live with a all-bird foster family, The Dodos, by Miss Finch, a member of the Feathered Friends, an organization catering to the needs of other birds in need. Big Bird soon learns the Dodo’s aren’t who they're cracked up to be and he runs back to Sesame Street. When the news gets back to the neighborhood, all of the residents plan to find Big Bird and bring him back, including Susan, Gordon, The Count, Oscar, MarĂ­a, Bob, and Ernie and Bert. In the end, everyone learns that Big Birds home was Sesame Street all along, because everyone there loved and cared for him.

The menus are nice and colorful. The background music for the main menu is Big Bird singing Easy Goin’ Day from the film. The backgrounds are also full of characters such as Big Bird on the title, Grover on the Select a Scene, and even an appearance by Kermit in his reporters outfit on the Special Features menu, which I thought was a nice touch.

The movie has three different languages to choose from, English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and is subtitled in English for the hearing impaired, as well as Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Chinese. I do have one minor complaint, and it deals with something when you’re on the Special Features menu. Whenever you finish watching one thing, when it goes back to the menu, it skips down to the next option. Some may like this, but others may not, since it throws you off at first because not many DVD's do that nowadays.

Mine came in a standard DVD case (in red, my favorite color) with a slip case to go over it. A bit unnecessary in my opinion, but it helps protect the disc more, so I can’t complain too much. I don’t know about anyone else, but mine came with no insert, which is a real bummer, because I like knowing what chapter is what without going to Chapter Select.

The cover art is well done; the top features a red banner proclaiming this as the 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. Below that is the logo for the movie, Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird, and a big picture of Big Bird. Along the left part of the cover we see Elmo, The Count, Oscar, and Grover as Super Grover peaking out from top to bottom. The back shows a summary of the film, photos of Big Bird, Snuffy, Oscar, Elmo, and Ernie and Bert in their plane.

The picture is clear and has definitely been remastered. One big improvement is that the movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the first time ever on a home video release. The movie's picture is vibrantly colored, though adding a layer of darker depth to everything filmed, which most everyone will recognize as a difference between the film and original television program. That’s what happens when you go from TV cameras to movie cameras of course, but they still managed to pull it off quite nicely. The audio sound's crisp and clear as well. It sounds so much better than that taped off of TV version that I’m sure some of you had—or still have.

The bonus features on the 25th Anniversary Edition is definitely a big improvement over the older release. Here’s an overview of each feature:

Interview with Caroll Spinney: An interesting retrospective about Caroll Spinney (performer of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch) and his forty years on Sesame Street. Includes thoughts about Jim Henson, the show, and the characters he performs. One complaint is that when they inserted clips from the movie into the interview, the ratio was not consistent to the interview, but I’m sure not many will notice. Overall, a great interview by a truly talented man.

Jump to a Song: This feature pretty much explains itself. Just pick your song, sit back, and enjoy. It’s an alright feature, convenient if anything because you don’t have to fast forward through the whole movie to get to your favorite song, and you don’t have to watch the rest of the film.

Sing-Along: A sing-along feature in the vein of the older Muppet Sing-Along video releases. This time instead of all of the songs, it only offers three: Easy Goin’ Day, The Grouch Anthem, and One Little Star, with lyrics at the bottom of the screen to sing along to. If you’re musically inclined, then you’ll like this feature.

Theatrical Trailer: This is just the trailer for the movie. However, it is a cool thing to have included on the DVD, as you can see how the movie was advertised.

Trailers: Additional trailers include Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Smurfs, Peanuts: Snoopy’s Reunion, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry Tales, and The Wiggles Present: Dorothy the Dinosaur.

DVD-ROM Features: The disc drive on my computer does not work right, so I can’t access the DVD-Rom features, but its just downloadable coloring sheets, fun for the people who like to color—and have working disc drives.

To be honest, before I got this DVD, I had never really sat down to watch the whole movie—but I’ve got to say this was a great movie. It has great music, a great story, great characters, and great writing. When I watch this movie, I feel exactly what Big Bird is feeling. The DVD itself is a great release. Even if you have the 2002 DVD, pick this one up. The 25th Anniversary Edition blows it out of the water. It’s presented in its original aspect ratio, it has way more bonus features, and the whole movie has been completely remastered.

(out of 5)

By John Papovitch (BobThePizzaBoy from Muppet Central Forum) - Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird is quite an underrated gem. Released in the summer of 1985, it had to primarily combat sci-fi comedy Back to the Future, Disney’s animated The Black Cauldron and a re-issue of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Follow That Bird wasn’t a tremendous success (adjusted for inflation, it only made just under $30 million upon its theatrical release) but has since been embraced by children of the late 80’s and early 90’s as a staple of many families’ VCRs. It’s easy to see why: Follow That Bird is one of Sesame Street’s crowning achievements. It’s a nice and funny movie that deserves to gain an audience.

Just in time for the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street as a show and a year early for the movie’s 25th anniversary, Follow That Bird comes to DVD in a special collector’s edition. The movie is presented in widescreen for the first time since its theatrical release and broadcasts on HDTV stations The DVD appears to be quite a step-up from Warner Home Video’s previous release in 2002, which I personally do not own. But is the DVD worth the double dip?

As stated above, Follow That Bird is presented in its original theatrical 1.85:1 (or, “flat”) aspect ratio. It’s clear that there has been an effort to restore the film as much as possible. I am used to the 2000 VHS release, so seeing it a lot more clearly and less grainy was a breath of fresh air. The movie on its own is great. This is probably the best transfer of the movie out there.

In the extras department, however, this DVD falls flat. First up, the head bonus feature (and the only new feature for this DVD) is an interview featurette with Caroll Spinney. While it is always a delight to hear Caroll speak about his life, very little of it is relevant to the film. Regardless, Caroll does bring up a lot of information that does not appear in his autobiography or other documentaries. Also many photographs from the Henson archives appear that have been seldom-seen elsewhere. It’s not the best DVD extra feature ever, but certainly one of the best extras on the DVD of a Henson film. At least the folks at Sesame Street can acknowledge that their characters are just puppets in their DVD special features, unlike the lackluster bonus features on Disney’s Muppet movie DVD’s.

Next up is sing-along feature. This is not a full-length sing-along video like most sing-along videos promoting kid’s movies are (a song or two from the movie in question with a bunch of songs from other movies mixed in) but rather 3 songs from the movie with lyrics at the bottom of the screen (“Easy Goin’ Day,” “Grouch Anthem” and “One Little Star”).

Then there is a “Jump to a Song” feature, which is simply that, it takes you to the scene that song is in. The fact that there are two music-centric features is a bit confusing, but I’ll accept it. Follow That Bird’s theatrical trailer is also present here. It is a noticeably grainy print of the trailer but it is in widescreen which is a plus. Trailers for other Warner titles are included as well.

So all in all, the Follow That Bird 25th Anniversary DVD, is not the great collector’s edition one would hope for, what with the lackluster special features which bring it down a star, but it’s certainly a must-buy for any Henson fan.

Buy Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition DVD today!

Aug 26, 2009

Jim Henson's Doodle Dreams Book Review

Jim Henson’s Doodle Dreams:
Inspiration for Living Life Outside the Lines
Book Review
Art by Jim Henson and Text by Jim Lewis
Meredith Books, 2008, $12.95

(out of 5)

By Ryan Dosier - Everyone knows that Jim Henson was a visionary, a genius, an inspiration—an artist. But what only some appreciators of Jim Henson’s work know is that he truly was an artist; someone who doodled haphazardly, scribbling the things that just couldn’t escape his bustling mind. It’s probably safe to say that these doodles were how Kermit, Big Bird, and the other Muppets were all first conceived.

It’s obvious, then, that a book of Jim Henson’s doodles would be released so that the world can delight in his mind’s wonderings (and wanderings). That book is Jim Henson’s Doodle Dreams. An inspirational sort of self-help book, it features pages of Henson’s doodles coupled with quips and clever captions by veteran Muppet writer, Jim Lewis. As Lewis says in his introduction to the book, “As for the words, they are my attempts to capture Jim’s spirit.” So while the words in the book were not spoken by Henson himself, Lewis feels that they capture the essence of who Jim was—just as the doodles do.

As someone who has read countless numbers of Jim Henson quotes, I can easily say that Jim Lewis has done a fantastic job of illuminating Henson’s spirit and meaning. Some of the quotes sound like things Henson would have actually said. Things like “Be interested in everything” (coupled with a doodle of a man with a butterfly net chasing a flying blue fuzzy), “Try to instigate silliness” (coupled with a goofy looking monster doodle), and “You are where you are because that’s where you need to be. And if you need to move on, you’ll move on” (partnered with a picture of a business man) all seem like quotes that could be pulled from a book written by Henson himself.

What could there possibly be to criticize about the artwork of Jim Henson? His doodles are quirky and silly—just like he was. Some of them, such as a beautiful watercolor of a turtle ascending a hill, seem deep and profound—even if they may just be quick doodles. All of the drawings are fun and irreverent and very, very Henson. A great selection of work—most of which I had never seen before—which really highlights the book.

My only complaint about the book is that it’s simply just too short. There are probably thousands of Henson’s doodles lying around in the Jim Henson Legacy’s file cabinets—surely more of them could’ve been included.
But past that one small grievance, this book is truly marvelous. Jim Henson’s Doodle Dreams is a must-own for any Muppet fan, Henson fan, or just someone in need of a smile. Jim Lewis’s words partner with Jim Henson’s artwork wonderfully—a truly commendable feat.
This book is inspiring in a way that only Jim Henson could be. His immortal words keep ringing through my mind while reading this book—“Keep believing, keep pretending” and, if I may add, keep doodling.

Order your copy of Jim Henson’s Doodle Dreams today!

“Understanding other points of view keeps you fresh. You can look at the same thing one way forever, and it never seems to change. Then someone comes in and turns it upside down or inside out and suddenly, together, you’ve made something amazing.”

Welcome to The Muppet Mindset!

Greetings, Muppet fans! Welcome to The Muppet Mindset, the newest blog on the web for all things Muppets. From Kermit and Gonzo, to Big Bird and Elmo, to the Fraggles and Doozers--The Muppet Mindset is your go-to place for product reviews, opinion articles, and maybe an interview or two. Please enjoy yourself and leave your comments when and if you wish. I'm looking forward to embarking on this exciting blogging journey. So... as everyone's favorite frog once said,

"Movin' right along, Fozzie."

About Me: My name is Ryan Dosier, I'm also known as theprawncracker at the Muppet Central Forums. I'm a life-long obsessed Muppet fan and love everything Muppet related. This blog is my chance to show off my opinions of recent Muppet appearances, products, etc. You can find me on Facebook, or Muppet Central.
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