1 The Muppet Mindset: March 2014

Mar 31, 2014

Muppet Performer Interviews from the Muppets Most Wanted World Premiere

As you know, (and if you don't, check it) your pals at The Muppet Mindset and ToughPigs attended the World Premiere of Muppets Most Wanted as members of the venerable press line. The popularity of our initial video was so huge that Muppet fans demanded more--and obviously we live to please. So we're thrilled to showcase the full interviews we conducted with the Muppet Performers. We interviewed Steve Whitmire, Peter Linz, Bill Barretta (and his awesome son Jackson), David Rudman, and Eric Jacobson--plus we talked to Dave Goelz, but not on camera. We sincerely hope you enjoy!

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

Mar 30, 2014

Muppet Scooby Doo Art Mash Up

Our pal Danny Beckwith is at it again with some more really, really wonderful Muppet fan art. This time, Danny decided to tackle a crossover between the Muppets and Scooby Doo--and it worked out tremendously. Here's a little info about the pieces from Danny himself...

Some origin information: This mash-up came from the idea of Link Hogthrob as Fred Jones getting stuck in my head. They are so similar, not only in appearance, but in personality, too. After some thought about the other characters, they began to take form on paper and stuck from the first round. Shaggy was hard to pin down, but I really enjoyed the color scheme (and the thought of Kermit saying "Zoinks!" tickled me).

Of course, I can't draw Muppets without monsters sneaking in there. The monsters were fun to identify and match to Muppet characters. Uncle Deadly as the Phantom Ghost came first and worked well, playing off of his role on The Muppet Show as the Phantom of the Muppet Theatre. The other monsters include:

Sweetums as the Creeper
Gonzo as the Spooky Space Kook
Beaker as Charlie
Snowth as Witch Doctor (could it be that Mahna Mahna is really under that disguise?)

And who could forget Scrappy-Doo!

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

Mar 28, 2014

Interview with Muppet Writer Craig Shemin, Part 1

Mitchell Stein - I had the fantastic pleasure of interviewing Muppet legend Craig Shemin last Thursday. I was very nervous to be interviewing such an amazing Muppet legend, but once we got into it, I realized Craig was such an fantastic guy and so great to speak to.

Craig of course is notable for his work for the Henson Archives and as president of The Jim Henson Legacy. He recently lent his writing talents to publish a new book, The Muppets Character Encyclopedia, and you can read our review of the book right here.

Thanks to Chase Beecher for your help on the questions!
Interview with Mr. Craig Shemin, author of The Muppet Character Encyclopedia

Mitchell Stein:   How did you come to work with the Muppets and come to work where you are today?

Craig Shemin:   I actually started out as a Muppet fan. The Muppet Show came out when I was ten years old and before that I grew up watching Sesame Street. When I was in college, I saw the documentary Henson's Place on PBS. I was later looking for something to do over the summer, so I called Henson Co. to see if they had any open jobs for an internship. So that’s what I did, and I worked as a summer intern, summer of 1987, and when I graduated I came back to work at the company.

MS:   What did you intern as?

CS:    I interned in the public relations/PR department and working a little bit with the company archives. I answered the phones, made a lot of photocopies, and faxes and all that. Back then, our clippings services would send us all the newspaper clippings where the Muppets or Jim Henson would be mentioned and it was my job to compile them into clippings packages and make copies and send them all around the company.  Nowadays the services send everything digitally, but back then they would mail us the actual newspaper clippings, so it was incredibly low-tech.

That summer I got to meet Jim Henson at the staff company softball game, and he actually borrowed my glove for a few innings, so at the end of the day I got him to sign it.

MS:   I bet you have that glove framed on your wall.

CS:   Right, exactly. I probably have the only Jim Henson-used baseball glove, with his autograph.

MS:   Did you ever work with Jim Henson personally?

CS:   I did, a little bit. When I was working after I graduated, one of my jobs in public relations was to get Jim Henson's quotes for various articles, when they would want Jim to comment on a specific article or something. So I would go up to Jim, and he would talk about how he felt about whatever the quote was and I would type it up.

When I was making my transition to writing, one of the first things that I wrote for the Muppets was performed by Jim. It was a speech for Kermit for the Disney Shareholders Meeting back when Disney was in talks with Jim to purchase the Muppets the first time round. It was a lot of fun, and Jim was such a nice man. I was very intimidated by his presence, but not from anything he did, he was just very casual and kind. At that first company softball game when I was an intern, he came over and introduced himself to me because he didn’t recognize who I was. I told him I was an intern and he said "Oh, you're the new intern! I heard we had a new intern here." He was very warm and I was nervous when he was around, but he was Jim. He wanted everybody to call him Jim, and that was the way it was.

I was just getting to the point where I could be in a room with him and not get nervous when he sadly passed away. Just a month before that, we were doing The Muppets at Walt Disney World, I don't know if you’ve seen that one yet.

MS:   I have actually! It’s my favorite Muppet special of all time.

CS:   At that time we got to go down there because at that time I was writing all the press releases and all the public relations writing, so I got to go down to that shoot and write a press kit for the show. When I got there the first day, I see Jim walking towards me. I looked around to see who he was walking towards, but then I realized he was walking towards me. "Oh hello Craig! How are you?" he greeted me. It just really took me aback, for him take off what he was doing to come over and greet me was truly remarkable. So I spent four or five days down there at the shoot and interviewing several puppeteers to write the press material for the show.

MS:   What would you say was your fondest memory of Jim Henson?

CS:   On that shoot was one of them. Y’know, when you're part of a shoot like that they cater the lunch, and I remember having lunch directly across from Jim and he was really enjoying his macaroni and cheese. I don't remember a lot of what he was talking about, but I do remember he was so happy that they had brownies for dessert. He seemed to get a lot of enjoyment out of everything -- and in this case it was lunch, And that shoot was really special for me, because I got to see how big groups of people react to Jim, because this was shot on location in Disney World.

One setup we were doing at the Grand Floridian, and Jim just left the set to go to the bathroom, and he was just walking to the bathroom and large groups of people were following him. They didn’t know where he was going, but they all knew he was Jim Henson and they’re following him, and I got a feeling what it must have been like for Walt Disney to walk around Disneyland. It’s really amazing that Jim meant so much to all these people, and they were following him, so I knew that was one of my favorite things I ever saw about Jim.

MS:   How is the restoration of the Muppet characters going at the Smithsonian, Museum of Moving Image in NY, and Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta going? What can fans expect from those experiences?

CS:   They all have very different sets of puppets, some are duplications, because we had multiple puppets, but those selections were made for very specific reasons. Center for Puppetry Arts is receiving things that are very significant from a puppetry perspective, unique designs, unique performance qualities. Moving Image is the items that were more unique and more significant to Jim’s role as a creator of the moving image and film. Then the Smithsonian is really significant, cultural icons. The Smithsonian will be also using their collection on a revolving basis as part of their exhibits on television and puppetry. I believe there are already some on exhibit as of now.

MS:   I believe so. The last time I was there, Kermit, Oscar the Grouch and the Sam and Friends cast where there.

CS:   My wife was down there a couple of months ago, and Prairie Dawn was on exhibit there. So like I said they’re going to rotate the puppets that they have for exhibition, because the puppets are rather delicate, so they don’t want to have them out under the light and in the open for too long, so you’ll see rotating exhibits there.

The Center for Puppetry Arts is doing a major renovation, and the Henson exhibit there will be a part of a larger global exhibition on puppetry and Henson will have a very significant part in that. I think 2015 is the date that we’re talking about for the CPA and MMI. We don’t know an exact date yet, but those are the year that is being kicked around. The Museum of Moving Image will have a Muppet gallery which has yet to be named, but we have over 200 puppets that they received, so there will be a significant and prominent exhibit of Jim's career. There's talk of creating a traveling museum as well, so that will be a way to refresh and rotate the exhibit that they have permanently. The curator of the museum, Barbara Miller, is working on that as we speak, and there is going to have to be a lot of restoration and renovation on the puppets as well.

What’s also really interesting is that the museum was so excited to make this exhibit that they even had to give up some of their office space for this gallery. They’re creating this new Henson gallery out of what is currently the museum director’s offices and some of the other offices, and for them to give up their real estate shows they’re really excited about this exhibit. There’s also a small theater there that this gallery will be around, and that is going to be mostly dedicated to showing Henson productions. To keep awareness high, we’re doing monthly screenings and events until the opening. Last month, we held an event for my new book and this month we have preview screenings of Muppets Most Wanted, and next month we’ll have something Easter related!

MS:   That sounds very exciting! I’m sure we’re all really looking forward to these openings. They’re going to be a great way to celebrate the life of Jim Henson. I wanted to ask you about another legendary Muppet restoration, and I’m referring to the Muppet Pipes at NBC's 30 Rockerfeller Center. Where did the idea surface, and who’s idea was it to refurbish that?

CS:   As far as I’m know, that was actually Jimmy Fallon's idea. He knew about the pipes from being a Saturday Night Live cast member for several years, and it sort of became the thing people would talk about at NBC. For years the pipes were in Max Weinberg's dressing room when he was the band leader on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. When I saw them for the first time, we went in when it was still his dressing room, we asked if we can go into his dressing room since we were there for an appearance, I believe it was for The Today Show. We got to go in and see the pipes in their original position in the dressing room, and when Jimmy Fallon took over Late Night, they were doing some renovation on the floor and from what I hear, he intervened and made sure the pipes would not only be safe, but also be put on display so they would no longer be hidden in a dressing room but rather they would be under glass. They turned it into a big event and included it on the tour. Not all of the NBC tours include this, so I suggest doing the research prior to your visit, but you can now see it on most of the tours of 30 Rock. They did a beautiful job of restoring it. They put it under glass they put some footage of the Muppets doing the Jack Paar show, they put up some great still photos, and the fact that they had Frank Oz come in and dedicate the pipes made it very special.

MS:   That is interesting. Jimmy Fallon is a fantastic Muppet fan, but I was unaware of this.

CS:   Yeah, he actually rode the Sesame Street float in this year's Macy's Parade along with The Roots. My wife, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, works as a Sesame puppeteer and she found out that it was Jimmy Fallon who asked to be on the float, and Sesame Workshop didn’t even approach him.

MS:   What would you say is the most valuable thing in the Jim Henson Archives?

CS:   Hmm... That;s a tough one. I think the most valuable thing is no longer in the Henson Family, and it’s the original Kermit, which was donated to the Smithsonian a number of years ago. I think that was the most valuable thing that was in the Henson family until recently. It's a beautiful piece, and since it's all fabric and there’s no foam or anything else to break it down, Kermit has held up well over the years, and I think the Hensons are proud that Kermit now sits in the Smithsonian.

MS:   Do you have a personal favorite item in the archives?

CS:   There’s so many! I love Rowlf, so I love all the Rowlf sketches and puppets in the archives, so my favorite will probably have to be the original Rowlf puppet. There’s something so lovable about the character, and I just always love looking at him when he's on display anywhere. I also love a character named Sir Linit from a commercial for "Linit Fabric Finish", He's a beautiful puppet - he's a spray can knight. When they first opened up the box for that puppet, it was all in pieces, and they did a great job of re-assembling the puppet from all the parts in the box.

MS:   Is there a separate archive for the Disney-owned Muppets and the Sesame owned Muppets from the main Henson archive?

CS:   Karen Falk, the head of the archive, she keeps everything all in one archive collection. When the company sold the characters to Disney it was agreed that Disney got the production photography and franchise but Jim’s drawings and sketches and all archive material stayed at Henson Archive. The Disney archive doesn’t maintain material for their acquired properties, only for their main original Disney properties, so it worked out well to keep all the material at Henson.

MS:   My next question is related to your book: When you were writing this book, did you discover any new info that you didn’t know prior to writing this encyclopedia?

CS:   Yeah, I’m always learning things that I didn’t know. I couldn’t think of one specific thing, but yes, many things that I didn’t know before have come up that I learned. The thing was with this book that if I didn’t have all the full info or I couldn’t find the info I basically just had the ability to make it up.

MS:   And in a very humorous fashion!

CS:   (laughs) Thanks. I was trying to be as funny as I could, because I didn’t just want it to be a reference and we wanted to target it to everyone, as originally it was just supposed to be a children's book. Originally when I was approached, the publisher, DK was planning to do it as a children's book -- they generally do children's books and they saw it as part of their regular line for kids. Jim Lewis, the consultant on the book, and myself, we wanted to not just target at children, but to a broad range of Muppet fans, and I wanted it to be as entertaining as it could be. I sent some material to Jim Lewis to look at and he would tell me that he was laughing out loud. Once the publishers and Disney saw what we were doing and that it was suitable for kids even though they might not get all the jokes, they agreed that this was the approach to take.

MS:   You mentioned this was also supposed to originally be intended for children as well, I guess that’s why The Muppet Show pilot title was only referred to as "Muppet Show pilot" in the book instead of "Sex and Violence."

CS:   Well, I sent in my manuscript and it had the original title on it, but it still needed to be suitable for all ages so they decided to just call it the "Muppet Show pilot." It’s interesting to know that the TV Guide listings when it aired in the 70's referred to the episode as "The Muppet Show" and not by the title "The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence." Basically, that’s generally the reason it was cut out of the books. The book needed to be suitable to all ages.

MS:   Where did the idea for this book come from? Were you approached by Disney, or DK or was it one of your own ideas?

CS:   It wasn’t one of my own ideas. I was approached by Jim Lewis, if you don’t know Jim, he’s been involved with the Muppets for a long time. He was the editor of the Muppet Magazine way back when it was in publication. I worked beside him for a while and when he moved to LA, I took over his job and Jim was involved in a lot of Muppet stuff over the years, he is involved still at Disney and I get called in occasionally when Jim is busy. When Disney and DK decided they wanted to do this book they went to Jim and he didn’t really have the time so he approached me but he agreed to be a consultant. He gave my info to DK and they approached me later. It all happened very quickly. The thing about this book, I only started writing it in July of last year.

MS:   Speaking of Disney, what do you think about the Muppets being remade for new movies and TV shows? How does I match up compared to thirty years ago?

CS:   Well, it’s always gonna be different. I think that the fact that they are still around and people are still going to see them so many years after they were created is wonderful. I think Jim saw that these would be characters that would live on as long as people would keep going to see them. I think that certain shows are more successful than others, but that’s always been the case, but I think the fact that they keep cranking out new specials and new movies is fantastic.

MS:   So have you seen Muppets Most Wanted yet? (EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview was conducted before the film was released).

CS:   I haven’t got a chance to see the film yet, but I got to read the script because I had to write pages for Constantine and the Leprechauns and I thought the script was really great. It improved on the previous Muppet movie by letting the Muppets really take over the center of the story. A problem that I had with the last movie was that I felt it wasn't as much of a Muppet movie. I understand why they had to take that role in that film, but based on this script, this second film is more of a Muppet movie.

MS:   I guess they really had to undergo the phase to re-introduce the Muppets to the general audience again. It was necessary, I guess.

CS:   I understand why they thought it was necessary for them. I guess they needed to feature a "journey" for the Muppets so they needed to feature them as "washed up." There are different ways to do things, I probably would have taken another way to tell that story, but that doesn’t mean what they did was wrong. There’s many different ways to tell that story. I think that the fact that it came out and it did well and people went to see it was a wonderful thing.

Check back soon for Part 2 of our interview with Craig!

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

Mar 27, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted Takes London

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a very important newsflash:
Dateline, London:  Reports are coming in that a British family that have been trying to infiltrate the Muppets since their most recent movie, Muppets Most Wanted, was announced may have finally succeeded.  Suggestions that they have any connection to Constantine, the world’s most dangerous frog are currently unconfirmed.

Here at Muppet Mindset we have been granted an exclusive interview with their nefarious ringleader, Kieran Moore, before he is transported (by map) to a Russian gulag on charges of impersonating a celebrity and making a very brief cameo at the Muppets Most Wanted premiere in London. Here for the very first time is his story:

Kieran Moore - When I first heard that the Muppets would be filming in London I knew this was finally my chance to get up close and personal with my favourite fuzzy friends. I scoured the internet looking for details of where they might be and stumbled upon a website looking for extras to be in the movie. This was my chance! I applied straight away and found out that they would be filming just a few miles from my house. Unfortunately, my application to be in the movie was delivered in a yellow cab driven by Beauregard so I heard no more, but I knew where and when I might be able to find them and that was good enough for me.

Under cover of darkness (on a bright Saturday afternoon) my accomplices (niece Elenya and nephew Jared) drove out to where we knew they would be filming. This time our evil plan (ahem) chance to see the Muppets would not be thwarted. Except that we missed them by a day! We vowed that never again would we pass up the opportunity see them live. As the days turned to months our determination only grew stronger. We were desperate to see the movie and to be close to the Muppets. It was then that we came up with our Three-part Plan.

Since “If you can’t beat them join them” had already failed we decided to grow moustaches and start a whispering campaign. That was going great until we were rumbled by Liza Minnelli so I placed a call to a family member in the business of show and was eventually rewarded with some tickets to a press screening of Muppets Most Wanted in February. There were no Muppets in attendance, but we did at least get to see the film.

My initial thoughts were thus: I thought this had a much better story and plot than the last movie and it felt more like the kind of film the Muppets would have made under Jim’s watch. The Muppets are the star and the villain and rely on their own sense of worth much more. I was surprised by the runtime which is a fairly hefty 112 minutes, but the movie rarely drags. I think the movie possibly suffers in the editing in places so perhaps they had too much story! We’ll have to hold out for the deleted scenes to see. Certainly there were a few moments in the trailers I didn’t spot in the film, as is often the case.

I’m really pleased that they seem to be establishing the core group of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter and Rowlf again. It makes me happy. The Electric Mayhem get to make “totally epic” music. And Rizzo and Robin get one of the best jokes in the movie. Lew Zealand seems to be getting more screen time recently and Swedish Chef seems to be getting less, and this movie does nothing to change this. I think as a general rule they seem to be juggling the vast array of characters that they have at their disposal pretty well, though I do want more Gonzo! Walter is kind of in a halfway house at this point; he has some major influence on the plot of the movie, but doesn’t really feel like part of the main gang yet. The jury is still out I think. Constantine is obviously the big addition to the gang this time and he’s wonderfully played. Perfect from start to finish; he’s scary and menacing yet funny at the same time. He genuinely could have a scare-factor for the very young. I wouldn’t want to cross him!

I should say that on first listen I enjoyed pretty much all of the songs, but none immediately stood out as a breakaway hit with the possible exception of “I’ll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” which is a lot of fun. It works on its own level as well as it does in the film. I think “Something So Right” is this movie’s Oscar-bait song. As well as being a great song in its own right, it finally gives Piggy a musical moment in a movie I can enjoy. I wasn’t crazy on the Celine Dion cameo as I think she pulls focus from Piggy and it’s really her moment, but overall I thought the cameos were great. I do think in general they should be funnier though rather than just shoehorning in a well-known face for the sake of it. All in all, I think it’s as close to perfect as a Muppet movie can get right now, but that only made it all the more important that we get close to Kermit and co.

Using highly sophisticated tracking equipment and Google, we were able to pinpoint our next target – The Muppets Most Wanted London Premiere (in London). After all this time we knew what we had to do. Taking just ourselves, our Whatnots (Ells Bells and Johnny Starlight) and some paper towels we would catch the Muppets red handed (but only after we’d determined what colour their hands were now)!

Arriving early we snagged a space right against the barrier not far from the stage area where Kermit, Miss Piggy and Constantine would be appearing. Our decision to bring the Whatnots had proved to be a masterstroke of genius as they certainly got us noticed. We were filmed by several TV stations that were doing establishing shots and crucially they caught the eye of security. It might seem like an odd choice for people who are working undercover to get to the Muppets to try and attract attention, but that was the beauty of our plan...

The next thing we knew the premiere was in full swing; The Muppets drove the red carpet in a black cab and then made way for Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell and James Bobin to walk and talk the red carpet. We got autographs from Ty and James, but truth be told we didn’t care, our dreams were coming true as the Muppets were right there in front of us in the flesh(?)! We were determined to stay to the bitter end. Surely life doesn’t get better than this?

Suddenly we caught the eye of security and figured we’d been rumbled. In a panic we were told to go to the edge of the barrier and wait for security to take us away. This was it we were going down (gulp).

And it was true; we were going down--the red carpet! Looking like insane Muppet fans had finally worked in our favour! We were attending the premier! We walked past the photographers and straight in to the cinema where big comfy seats and big comfy goodie bags awaited! I’m not sure I’ve ever been that happy/excited, not just for me, but for the kids too. Here they were in the same room as their idols attending a Muppet premiere!! I was sat directly behind Stanley Tucci, or S-Dawg as I now call him (at least until the restraining order). Life does not get any better!

I think if I can take one lesson from this it’s that evil plotting sometimes works, so stay in school kids and one day maybe you can blag something cool for free! In other news, London Metropolitan Police have confirmed that The Tower of London has been stolen. Details at 11:00.

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

Mar 26, 2014

News Update: March 26, 2014

MARCH 26, 2014

Bret McKenzie, songwriter for both The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted, teamed up with Funny or Die to shoot a fantastically fun and funny music video for the song "I'll Get You What You Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)." The video even features some extended visuals that we didn't see in the song in Muppets Most Wanted.

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy made an appearance on The Queen Latifah Show on Friday to promote Muppets Most Wanted. They had a nice chat with their old pal Queen Latifah and then performed "Rainbow Connection" with Queen Latifah and John Legend. Watch both videos below!

Dr. Teeth and Floyd Pepper appeared online at fuze.tv to promote Muppets Most Wanted and to answer some incredibly binding questions from popular music lyrics. The video is one of the finest examples of a Muppet appearance we've seen in this promotional cycle, and hardens my belief that we need to see The Muppet Show back on TV even more. It was announced recently that an official album for the Muppets Most Wanted Original Score will be released through Intrada and Disney. This is great to see, since The Muppets never received an official release of its score. It's not clear whether the album will be available only on CD or for download as well. Either way, Christophe Beck's score for the film is definitely coming on April 15th. More information can be found on the Intrada forum.
Back in 2012, the Muppets performed a special live All-Star Comedy Gala in Canada at Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy festival. The full video has finally been made available on Hulu, so you can enjoy all one hour and six minutes of the live gala as much as you want! The Gala received great reviews from Muppet fans and was a big hit at the Just For Laughs festival, so it's well worth watching. The video is so long, we decided not to embed it, so you can jump over to Hulu to watch the whole thing!
Our friends at WeLoveFine t-shirts have announced the five winners of their Sesame Street T-Shirt Design Contest. You can purchase all five of the winning shirts on WeLoveFine. The winners are as follows...
GRAND PRIZE WINNER (Trip to NYC to visit the creative team at Sesame Workshop):
"Om Nom Nom Nom" by David Vortreide JUDGES PICK (chosen by Caroll Spinney) ($400 Cash): "Steampunk Snuff" by DiHa JUDGES PICK (chosen by David Rudman) ($400 Cash): "The Sesame Gang" by Drew Borja RUNNER-UP ($150 Cash): "The Man of Fur" by Trevor Halligan RUNNER-UP ($150 Cash): "Meet the Mummy" by Mattie Watkins
There have been loads of other appearances by the Muppets and their human co-stars while promoting Muppets Most Wanted, and we've done a very poor job of keeping up with them all. Thankfully, our great pals over at ToughPigs.com haven't missed a beat. They've collected a score of interviews from the stars at the film's press junket as well as videos of Janice, Scooter, and Miss Piggy talking to AwesomenessTV. Thanks, guys!
Finally, to close out the News Update, we're so beyond humbled and blown away to announce that Ryan Dosier and The Muppet Mindset have a featured review blurb in one of the latest TV spots for Muppets Most Wanted. We're also thrilled that the blurb is joined by another blurb from Joe Hennes of ToughPigs.com. Thanks to Disney for this incredible honor! Check out the TV spot below.

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

Mar 25, 2014

The Awesome Work of the Muppet Art Collab

Muppet fan and talented artist Jeroen Van Zwol has started a really awesome project to promote and celebrate Muppets Most Wanted! The Muppet Art Collab is a giant art collaboration project between Jeroen and hundreds of Muppet fan artists.

A few weeks ago, Jeroen created and started hosting a grand Muppet art collaboration on Twitter and Tumblr, his way of generating some love from the community, paying tribute, and raising awareness for Muppets Most Wanted. It seemed like a fitting tribute to those, "silly felt puppets" that have entertained and moved people around the world for almost 60 years.

Jeroen created a list of about 150 Muppet characters from the most well known shows, specials, and movies for folks to choose from. (Sesame Street, Fraggles, or characters from other productions by Jim Henson are not included, while they are closely linked, they don’t belong in the official Muppets stable.) The objective is simple: pick a character and go nuts with it. There are a few basic guidelines provided, but other than that artists are free to do as they please.

In the first three days of the project, over 100 artists from around the world had signed up, with many more following suit. If possible, Jeroen would like to get every obscure background character and Whatnot drawn--that’s hoping for a lot, but a man can dream.

Below is a message from Jeroen about contributing. There are still a few Muppets available in the collab, and you should absolutely join up--I know I am!

Hi-ho Muppet whatnots! 

It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights...it’s time to draw some Muppets on the most inspiritational, celebrational, muppetational, art collaborational event of the year! 

The gallery and hub of Muppet collab:

The Muppet collab list of characters:

Zwoltopia on Twitter (host)

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

Mar 24, 2014

Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge Debuts TOMORROW

In the heyday that is Muppets Most Wanted, we here at The Muppet Mindset had a major oversight involving another important production, this one from The Jim Henson Company. Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge is a brand new reality show premiering on Syfy tomorrow, March 25th, at 10:00pm EST/9:00pm CT and will air every Tuesday at the same time.

The new reality competition series pits talented creature builders, designers, and engineers against each other in a battle to build the best creature. The winner wins a coveted job in the Jim Henson Creature Shop! The show will feature judges/mentors Brian Henson and Kirk Thatcher, who Muppet fans know from many Muppet productions, and a score of other professionals in the field. From everything I've seen, this show will heavily focus on puppetry, creatures, mechanics, and everything in between. And it takes place at The Jim Henson Company. What more can you ask for?

Check out the official trailer for the show, as well as some other features on the cast, the creatures, etc., below!

For all updates, you can like Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge on Facebook, follow @CreatureShopTV, and visit the official webpage for the show. Make sure you tune in tomorrow night for lots of Creature Shop fun! I know I will be.

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

Mar 23, 2014

Rachel Herrick Reviews... The Muppets (2011)

Our friend Rachel Herrick has come to the end of her Muppet movie reviewing spree with The Muppets (2011). Unfortunately, we didn't have time to post the review before the opening of Muppets Most Wanted, but it still holds up and we still very much hope you enjoy it! Thanks to Rachel for all her hard work on these videos and reviews!!

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

Mar 22, 2014

Interview with Nicholas Stoller (Writer, Muppets Most Wanted)

Monday afternoon I had the incredible opportunity to chat with Nicholas Stoller, co-writer of both The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted. Nick and I talked on the phone for about 20 minutes and it was such a joy to get to hear things from his perspective. After speaking to Nick both at the World Premiere of Muppets Most Wanted and on the phone, I can't say enough how great he is, and how much he understands the Muppets. It's great to have him ingrained in the franchise. Below is the transcription of the interview because the audio recording quality was very poor. I hope you enjoy--and go see Muppets Most Wanted!
Co-Writer of The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted
Director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and The Five Year Engagement

RYAN DOSIER:   I guess we should start with how you first got involved with the Muppets—either the franchise or the movie.

NICHOLAS STOLLER:   Yes, of course. Basically, on the first movie, Jason Segel had a meeting at Disney and they asked him about properties he was interested in. He asked them what they were doing with the Muppets and they were like, “We don’t know.” And he was like, “Well I’d love to do the Muppets” and he called me up as he was driving home from the meeting and said, “Do you want to write a Muppet movie with me?” and I said of course. We started working on it on that phone call, actually. A lot of stuff from the first movie kind of came out of that phone call. It took a few years for there to be enough momentum at the studio for that to get made, but that’s basically how I got involved.

RYAN:   Who is your favorite Muppet to write for?

NICK:   Umm… Beaker.

RYAN:   (laughs)

NICK:   Yeah, he’s the easiest. Fozzie… well, he’s one of my favorites, but he’s really hard—I think we might’ve talked about this—but puns are hard. Fozzie’s really stupid, it’s always fun to write for really dumb characters, ya know? Well—he’s not really stupid, but he’s pretty stupid. So Fozzie’s always fun to write for. I also feel like it’s always fun to figure out how to make Kermit funny. It’s fun to write for him too, his kind of exasperated tone is always really fun.

RYAN:   Right, those are always so great. I love when he gets to freak out a little bit.

NICK:   Yeah, it’s so much fun when he gets to freak out. He’s a really fun character to write for too.

RYAN:   Did you ever have meetings with the Muppet performers to discuss their characters?

NICK:   Yeah, we did. Back on the first one, there was a lot of stuff that we didn’t know—you know, about the rules of the world and stuff. We didn’t know any of the performers or anything, so we had a lot of meetings there. By the second one, I had kind of learned a lot about the rules of the world. Very basic stuff like they never refer to themselves or think of themselves as puppets—they’re people or creatures or animals or whatever, ya know? That was a big part of it. And then on this one, in developing Constantine, we had a lot of conversations with Matt Vogel, who ended up voicing and acting Constantine.

RYAN:   I guess spinning off of that, you’ve created two brand new Muppet characters with Constantine and Walter. What is your process like for creating a new Muppet?

NICK:   Whenever I’m doing a screenplay and creating characters, I always think of them as just other characters. I don’t really think of them as Muppets. With the Muppets you can’t really think of them like that, they’re just characters. You have to treat them that way. Like with Walter, this is a super innocent guy who doesn’t fit in in his world and he’s obsessed with the Muppets and he’s a super fan. That’s what Segel and I thought about: super fans, and we created this guy.

RYAN:   I don’t know anything about super fans.

NICK:   Ha, right, do you know anything about that? And with Constantine, James Bobin and I were like, he has to be the most evil villain we’ve seen in the Muppet universe and he has to be really full of himself and have this competition with his Number Two. And he happens to be a frog.

RYAN:   Right. That’s the second part. He’s evil and horrible but he just happens to be a frog.

NICK:   Exactly. He doesn’t think of himself as a frog.

RYAN:   Are there any deleted scenes from either movie you were said to see got cut?

NICK:   Ya know, I’m never attached to scenes. Stuff is always cut for a good reason, usually because it doesn’t fit in the story. There was this really funny scene in the first one, fortunately we ended up getting it on the DVD. That was the Muppets pulling a fake Oscars and try to get celebrities to show up. They do a fake red carpet and they try to get celebrities to show up for their show. They get in trouble for throwing a fake Oscars. It really made me laugh. There’s a lot of really funny cameos—there’s a cameo by Ricky Gervais that was super funny, but we couldn’t use it because that entire set piece got cut. But it got cut for good reason. Like, out of context it’s really funny, but in the context of the movie it sort of made the movie kind of drag a bit.

RYAN:   What’s your favorite episode of The Muppet Show?

NICK:   Ummm. Oh, let me think. I love the Peter Sellers episode. That one’s really good. I’m trying to think of other ones… There are some really weird ones. That one is kind of amazing. What’s your favorite one?

RYAN:   Oh… my favorite. I love the Raquel Welch one.

NICK:   Oh yes, that one’s awesome.

RYAN:   And the Star Wars one, of course.

NICK:   Of course. That one’s really good. Umm… the Gilda Radner one is really good too. There are a lot of good ones. I started rewatching them all with my daughter. They’re all really funny and really insane in an awesome way.

RYAN:   What was your favorite part about getting to come back and write the sequel?

NICK:   I love writing for Muppets. They’re so much fun, they’re such indelible characters. You know, I always call the Muppets the gateway drug for comedy writing—when you’re a kid you always say, “I want to do that.” I have a lifetime of Muppet stories I would want to tell, if given the opportunity. I was hoping if the first one was successful enough they’d let us do another one. It was just a lot of fun.

RYAN:   You’ve directed so many great comedies, like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and the upcoming Neighbors, which I’m really excited about.

NICK:   Oh, thanks.

RYAN:   If you could put the Muppets into any of those movies, which Muppets would you put into which movies?

NICK:  Well we basically put Muppets in the end of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

RYAN:   Right! That’s true.

NICK:   I feel like Miss Piggy would definitely be one of the girls that Jason dated in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I feel like that would be a good use of her talent. Electric Mayhem would be excellent in Get Him to the Greek as Aldous Snow’s former band mates. I think those two would be good. And just to do Get Him to the Greek with Scooter and Animal would be good. Just to do the entire movie with Scooter trying to get Animal to a show would be amazing.

RYAN:   Who’s weirder to work with? Gonzo or Russell Brand?

NICK:   You know I’d have to say at the end of the day, Gonzo is weirder. Russell is a very smart, quiet guy when he’s not working. Gonzo is just as weird as can be.

RYAN:   Are there any obscure characters you’re still hoping to bring back into the Muppet family?

NICK:   You know, there was one we were trying to get in this one. I’m gonna blank on the names, but I love them… they’re actually from Sesame Street, they’re the aliens.

RYAN:   The Yip-Yip Martians?

NICK:   Yes! Yip-Yip Martians. We tried to put them into this Muppet movie, but they’re kind of a slow burn joke and they didn’t fit in the pace of the movie. (starts going “yip-yip-yip” endlessly)

RYAN:   (laughs) That would’ve been so great though!

NICK:   It would’ve been great.

RYAN:   What about Angus McGonagle? Do you know who that is?

NICK:   I recognize the name… who is that? Is he from Pigs in Space? That’s something I always wanted to put in somehow.

RYAN:   Oh yeah! That would be great too. Angus is the gargling gargoyle. He was only in the Star Wars episode.

NICK:   Oh, okay. Is he your favorite obscure Muppet?

RYAN:   Yeah, I think so.

NICK:   Well that’s as obscure as it gets.

RYAN:   I loved seeing Bobby Benson at the end of Muppets Most Wanted.

NICK:   Oh yeah, and the babies! We had a lot of stuff with the babies that ended up on the cutting room floor.

RYAN:   I was on the floor laughing when I saw it!

NICK:   (laughs) Nice.

RYAN:   Besides the obvious, why do you think hardcore Muppet fans should go see Muppets Most Wanted?

NICK:   Ah, I’m so bad at selling things. I would say this is even more Muppety than the last Muppet movie—if you can believe it. The last Muppet movie was to reintroduce the Muppets to the world. This one goes right for the heart. There’s fewer human characters, more Muppet characters, far more Muppety. Also it’s the only Muppet movie to incorporate a kind of sexy, 70s soft rock song into it. So… that’s another reason to see it!

RYAN:   I agree on every account!

NICK:   How would you sell it to your fellow Muppet fans?

RYAN:   I would sell it by saying… it feels like Jim Henson again.

NICK:   Oh, that’s awesome! That’s such a compliment, thank you.

RYAN:   What was your favorite song?

NICK:   “I’ll Get You What You Want.” I love that song. It’s so funny. The torch song, the Celine Dion song, is amazing too. But “I’ll Get You What You Want” is so funny. God, Bret is such a good songwriter. But they all get stuck in your head.

RYAN:   One last question. Anything you would like to say to all of the huge Muppet fans that will see the movie?

NICK:   Aw, I don’t know, I feel like I’ve said everything. How about… Thank you so much for seeing the last one, now go see this one! Was that good? I’m so bad at this. I would say, as an ending thought, that this movie will change your life.

RYAN:   Well there ya go, Muppets Most Wanted will change your life.

NICK:   Hopefully for the better.

RYAN:   (laughs) Alright, Nick, that’s all the questions I have. Thank you so much.

NICK:   Thank you, it was nice chatting with you and nice seeing you on the red carpet. Talk to you soon!

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