1 The Muppet Mindset: May 2014

May 30, 2014

News Update: May 30, 2014

MAY 30, 2014

On Wednesday night, Sesame Workshop held it's 12th Annual Gala honoring those who contribute to children's education. As always, the event was a Muppet and celebrity filled spectacular. Among the attendees were Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Michael Buble, and George Stephanopoulos. And of course, the Muppet performers, the Sesame Street Muppets, and Sesame Workshop personnel, such as Joan Ganz Cooney. Below are some of the pictures from the official Sesame Workshop Facebook page.
Joan Ganz Cooney, Michael Buble, and the Sesame Street Muppets (and their performers) 
Joan Ganz Cooney, Michael Buble, and the Sesame Street Muppets (and their performers) 
Barbara Walters and the Sesame Street Muppets
Joan Ganz Cooney and Michael Buble 
Diane Sawyer and the Sesame Street Muppets
Joan Ganz Cooney, Chloe Kimball, and Big Bird 
Michael Buble and Elmo
Ali Wentworth, George Stephanopoulos, and the Sesame Street Muppets
Every year, one person receives the special honor at the annual gala. This year, the recipient was the extremely deserving Joan Ganz Cooney. At the gala, the video below was played as part of Joan's recognition ceremony. It's a beautiful and moving video that is not to be missed.

Our friend John Burke is a talented musician and piano soloist. He recently composed and performed his own piano solo version of "Rainbow Connection." Luckily for us, John recorded himself playing the song on piano. It's beautiful and truly made my day when I first listened to it. Check it out below.

In extremely sad news, poet laureate and acclaimed author, poet, and thinker Maya Angelou passed away on Wednesday at the age of 86. Maya Angelou was a great friend to Sesame Street, appearing multiple times throughout the show's history and acting as narrator for 1996's Elmo Saves Christmas TV special. Beyond that, Maya Angelou was one of the most profound and respected writers of her era. Even till the end, Maya Angelou was spreading her message of love, acceptance, and equality. She will be very missed.

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

May 28, 2014

Weekly Human Wednesdays: Snake Walker

Written by Mark Hansen.


Performed by...
Scott Walker

Appeared in...
The Muppet Movie (1979)

What he does...
Kill frogs

Memorable quote...
“Kill frogs.”

Very little is known about Mr. Walker, but his legacy looms large in Muppet history. Doc Hopper, charmed by Kermit the Frog’s natural charisma, insists he become the national spokesfrog for his French Fried Frog Leg chain of restaurants. Kermit, understandably, turns this offer down, in spite of a very lucrative offer of five hundred American dollars. Hopper then takes a hard turn from businessman with a dream to homicidal sociopath, hires the best (and only?) frog assassin in the Western United States.

Snake Walker, like most assassins wears all black to blend in the shadows. Unlike most assassins, he also wears goggles, presumably because his targets are amphibians. His weapon of choice is a gun that shoots what appears to be a sharpened tuning fork. Fortunately, the only Kermit impaled by the tuning fork is a crude stick figure at target practice. He was last seen running from the Godzilla-sized Animal, along with Hopper’s motley crew of various hooligan and non-frog-based ruffians. Presumably, he’s given up contract killing/pest control, perhaps becoming a singer-songwriter?

I suppose in terms of story structure, Snake Walker’s presence is what pushes Hopper’s right-hand man Max to have a crisis of conscience and culminates in the big showdown. But really, the Muppets don’t need Snake Walker. They need him not!

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

May 27, 2014

Ten Odd Things About The Muppet Movie

Michael Wermuth - The Muppet Movie is a great film, but there’s a lot in the movie that I find odd--even if it is just "approximately how it happened." Here’s ten of those odd things:

1.   The Muppets just drop everything to go to Hollywood.
As Kermit meets more and more Muppets, they tend to invite just anybody (who’s a Muppet) on their journey to Hollywood. And they all seem ready to go right away. Wouldn’t they have jobs or plans? They just seem to drop everything and join a bunch of characters they’ve just met.

2.   After one meeting the Muppets act like they’ve always been close friends.
This movie tells the story of how Kermit met the other Muppets, and yet once they’ve had their introduction scenes, they all seem to know each other well, as if they had always been friends.

3.   Sweetums’ introduction scene.
The whole introduction to Sweetums is rather awkward. They never actually introduce him by name. And then there’s him bringing the price down due to swatting a fly... Did he hit that fly on purpose or by accident? Did he do it because Mad Man Mooney apparently mistreats him, or because he likes those particular customers who he doesn’t know well? And although he gets the Muppets a deal on a car, why does Kermit invite him to come with them? They didn’t really interact much in that scene, and at that point they don’t even know his actual name.

4.   Mad Man Mooney’s twelve dollar trade-in seems to treat both cars as one.
Mad Man Mooney provides a 12-dollar trade-in for their old vehicles, and when Sweetums brings the price down from $1195 to $11.95, Gonzo points out that he owes them a nickel. But they were trading in two cars (Fozzie’s Studebaker and Gonzo’s plumbing car). Mooney owed them 12 dollars and a nickel!

5.   Doc Hopper seems to know where Kermit is headed.
Isn’t it odd that Doc Hopper knows where Kermit is headed? He sees Kermit and Fozzie dancing on-stage at the El Sleezo from outside, and instead of going in to talk with Kermit and make a deal, he runs out to set up TVs to play his commercials. I could see that maybe being the only way out of that place, but then he gets ahead and knows they’ll see the billboard with Kermit’s face, and they know what restaurant Kermit and Piggy will go to for their date. Kermit never even tells Doc Hopper that he’s going to Hollywood. Does Doc just have a copy of the screenplay or something?

6.   We don’t know why the secretary won’t let Kermit in.
Kermit saw the ad in the paper that a Hollywood studio was giving open auditions to frogs, but when he shows up, the secretary won’t let them in. The paper only said there’d be auditions for frogs, so it makes sense that the others would have to wait in the lobby, but why won’t she at least let Kermit in? I know that one early draft of the script has the secretary mention that the frog auditions were canceled. They should have left that line in.

7.   The movie the Muppets make in the finale seems to have a limited crew.
When the Muppets start on their movie, it seems like the entire crew consists of the characters who traveled to Hollywood in the movie, as well as Crazy Harry as technician and Robin, who doesn’t really do anything notable (I know that an early script had a running gag where Robin kept randomly popping up with the main characters). Shouldn’t they have had more Muppets working on the set (perhaps all those characters in the final shot were there but we didn’t see them until then)? It would have been great to have seen more Muppets working on it, to have seen Beauregard moving the sets, The Swedish Chef and Gladys doing catering, Sam the Eagle and Link Hogthrob studying lines.

8.  How does Max explain knowing that Kermit will meet with Doc Hopper for a showdown?
Max goes behind Doc Hopper’s back (I assume) to warn Kermit about the frog killer, and Kermit tells Max to tell Doc that he’ll meet him at an old ghost town. So how did Max tell Doc Hopper this without informing him that he was trying to warn Kermit?

9.   Fozzie seemingly doesn’t stop his car when Gonzo and Camilla enter.
When Gonzo and Camilla’s car crashes on top of Fozzie’s, Gonzo then gets in. We see a wide shot of the car in motion and hear sound effects of Gonzo getting in before a cut to Gonzo and Camilla in the car as if they’d just gotten in. Shouldn’t Fozzie have stopped the car before they got in (though Gonzo would probably prefer to climb in while it’s driving)? And I didn’t think the Studebaker had an open-roof. Did Gonzo and Camilla climb through the side windows?

10.   Kermit thinks they’ll need bears just because they’re auditioning frogs.
The ad clearly only says that they’re auditioning frogs wanting to become rich and famous. So when he meets Fozzie and invites him to come along, Kermit assumes that if they’re auditioning frogs than they must need bears, too. And that’s based on what? Frogs and bears don’t really go together, and aside from Kermit and Fozzie there aren’t really any other frog-and-bear duos.

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

May 24, 2014

CNN Spotlights The Muppets

Last night, CNN aired a new half-hour program spotlighting The Muppets and Jim Henson. The program is actually incredibly well done and surprisingly out of nowhere. It's absolutely worth a watch, highlighting Kermit and Miss Piggy's relationship, Jim Henson's career, and the Muppet comeback of the past few years. Don't miss this!

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

May 23, 2014

Together: Kermit and Miss Piggy

Sarah Farless - It’s one of the most talked about and famous relationships of all time, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Their history goes back thirty-five years, to when Piggy started out as a chorus girl and Kermit was the leader trying to get a bunch of crazies to put on a show.

Piggy would always try to find ways to get the green frog to fall in love with her, whether it was trying to make him jealous, tricking him into marriage, or putting false stories about them in the newspapers--which made Kermit so mad at one point that he fired her. But you can’t help but admire Piggy’s determination and relentlessness in her pursuit of amphibian affection.

Piggy’s background, according to a 1979 People magazine article, was less than glamorous. Frank Oz stated that her father chased after other sows and her mother had so many piglets she never found time to develop her mind. Refusing to live such a life Piggy ran away and moved to the big city. Taking any job she could find, she walked a sandwich board for a barbecue stand. In an interview done in 1993 with Larry King Live, she said she grew up in a small town, her father died in a tractor accident when she was young and her mother wasn’t very nice to her. Apparently, she had never told to Kermit any of this, as he was surprised to hear such revelations. In a recent interview promoting Muppets Most Wanted, Piggy again stated that her mother wasn’t very nice to her. Maybe that’s why she longs for love.

As for Kermit, during the early days of The Muppet Show, it’s clear that he wanted nothing to do with the diva pig. However it is also clear that he came to care for Piggy and even have feelings to a degree. You would see him get jealous of male guest stars, particularly Christopher Reeve and Avery Schreiber. I’ve always said Kermit doesn’t seem to want to be with her, but he doesn’t want another man to be with her either.

After The Muppet Show, their relationship was still a bit of a mystery. The first three movies, while maybe not “canon,” did give a mirror into their relationship. The Muppet Movie tells how everything approximately happened—including, we can assume, the love-at-first-sight meeting between the frog and the pig, and their subsequent difficulties. In The Great Muppet Caper, Kermit is trying to win Piggy‘s affection. And after The Muppets Take Manhattan it was definitely obvious they were together as evidenced by Jim Henson’s last appearance with Kermit on The Arsenio Hall Show. Kermit indicated there was trouble in their relationship and Arsenio remarked how his answers were so much different then the last time he was on the show.

After Jim passed away in 1990, it seemed the banter started all over again. The 1990s and early 2000s were an emotional transition for The Muppets. Steve Whitmire would take on Kermit the Frog and Frank Oz would move on to other projects, with Eric Jacobson taking over as Miss Piggy. During that time it seemed everything needed to be reset, with Kermit and Piggy having to find their way also.

The films released during that time didn’t really focus on their status as a couple. In 2008 Kermit and Piggy appeared together on “The Morning Show” to promote A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa and Kermit admitted they had kissed once in public but added that they were trying to be discreet about it. But this still didn’t put their relationship on solid ground because even after that Kermit still at times would go back to saying their relationship was just professional or they were good friends.

In 2011 when Disney released The Muppets, we got to see the troubles and insecurities Kermit and Piggy had in regards to each other. Piggy’s insecurities lay with not knowing if Kermit really wanted to be with her. Kermit, as ever, had trouble expressing his feelings. He did in the end finally admit to Piggy that he needed and missed her. I can’t help but feel, despite this moment taking place in a film, that it was a reflection of their true feelings.

Which brings us to Muppets Most Wanted. I loved this film for many reasons but I particularly enjoyed it because it developed their relationship even more. You really could feel Kermit wanting to fight for Piggy towards the end during the helicopter scene.

So my final thought on this is that Kermit and Piggy will always be one of the most talked about couples. Why? Because they are simply great together. Oh and as for that famous wedding that I forgot to talk about, well… I’ll leave that one for you all to decide.

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

May 22, 2014

REVIEW: Sesame Street Alphabet Songs

Michael Wermuth - Alphabet Songs is the latest Sesame Street video release. It includes two segments for every letter of the alphabet, plus a number of segments about the alphabet in general. Although it’s titled "Alphabet Songs," not every segment included is a song.

Among the videos highlights include "Sing the Sesame Street Alphabet," which bookends the video, "Would You Like to Buy an O?" (how amazing is it that they included a Lefty segment on a children's-market Sesame Street release?), the 1990s remakes of "C is for Cookie" and "La, La, La," "Celebrity Lullabies" with Ricky Gervais, "U Really Got a Hold of Me" with Smokey Robinson, "Don't Know Y" with Norah Jones, and a rendition of "The Alphabet Song" sung by Ray Charles. There are also a number of animated segments with Cookie Monster and Elmo, as well as some "Alphabet Pictures Presents…" segments with silent movie-style humor.

I am unsure whether I can get myself to recommend this video. There’s a lot of great material, but most of the best stuff was previously released on other videos (maybe if you don’t have all those other videos…). Of course, there are two segments ("The Question Song" and "Sammy the Snake") that appeared on the long out-of-print The Alphabet Game video. But this video also has a LOT of forgettable animation and film segments, especially from the last few years. Maybe kids will appreciate them better than me. And it’s a shame this video doesn’t have any Typewriter or AlphaQuest segments.

The only bonus feature is the video Learning Letters with Elmo. I think this was an odd choice for inclusion, since it only came out two years ago and some of the segments on this release also appear as part of the main program (I would have included Learning About Letters or Do the Alphabet instead). Still, it was enjoyable (I hadn’t seen this video before). It features three street stories, plus multiple Letter of the Day and animated Elmo and Cookie Monster segments that originated on Sesame English. But for some reason, Learning Letters only focuses on three letters.

So in conclusion, I guess I’d recommend this for the shows current target audience. A full listing of segments is at Muppet Wiki, so if there’s any segments included that you’d like to have on video, get this one, though as I said earlier, most of the best ones had already been released on video (many of which are much better). I feel it should have had a few more Muppet segments, or a few more classic letter segments. And Sesame Workshop, if a “Numbers Songs” video comes out, please include some Baker, Jazz, and Pinball segments.

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

May 21, 2014

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Singing Food

Written by Mike Baldasare.


Performed by...

First appearance...
The Muppet Show Episode 208: Steve Martin (1977)

Most recent appearance...
My Muppets Show mobile app game (2013)

Best known role...
Anthropomorphic Muppet fruits, vegetables, bread, cake, etc. that sing or talk

The Singing Food is a collection of anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables and other foods that have appeared in many Muppet productions over the years. They made their debut in an episode of The Muppet Show guest starring Steve Martin, as a collection consisting of a tomato, potatoes, a cabbage, a cauliflower, an asparagus, a cantaloupe, a few bunches of grapes, and a pack of beans, and served as a chorus under the direction of Marvin Suggs. He and the singing vegetables, known as the All-Food Glee Club auditioned with the song "Yes, We Have No Bananas." The singing vegetables also sang the short version of the song in another Muppet Show episode guest starring Jean-Pierre Rampal.

Among the many credits of the Singing Food are appearances in The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets From Space, The Muppets, The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years, and Muppets Tonight. In almost all of these appearances, the food sings, usually as part of a chorus or back-up to the main singer.

Other known food types include the many Sesame Street fruits and vegetables, which have appeared throughout the show for many years. In contrast to the Singing Food in the Muppet Show universe, most of Sesame Street's Singing Food have black pupils on white eyes. Singing food on Sesame Street appeared in the song "Healthy Food" and the "Healthy Habits for Life" segment that introduced every episode of Season 36.

Over the years, there were many different individual food characters that took supporting roles in various productions. On The Muppet Show we saw an Avocado critic, a singing Cheesecake, and a Japanese cake made by the Swedish Chef. On Muppets Tonight, the Longhorn Cheddar Cheeses were booked to sing with Garth Brooks. In The Muppets Take Manhattan a chorus of singing cakes assisted in "Somebody's Getting Married," in The Muppets a group of Singing Food sang back-up in "Me Party," and in Muppets From Space a Talking Sandwich communicated with Gonzo. We've also seen countless bananas, pies, carrots, eggs, loaves of bread, a jar of orange marmalade, baby asparagus, and plenty of other friendly foods.

The Singing Food contribute greatly to one of the core ideas of the Muppets: everything and anything can be alive and sing. The Singing Food is part of Jim Henson's grand tradition of anthropomorphizing anything and everything to make for a funny moment. The idea of an eggplant or an avocado singing surely tickled Jim, and they continue to tickle audiences to this day. What's funnier than a scallion with a beautiful voice? And without the Singing Food we never would've gotten this wonderful piece of advice from Rizzo the Rat: "Mother always taught me, never eat singing food."

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

May 20, 2014

News Update: May 20, 2014

MAY 20, 2014

On Friday, Sesame Street and Mashable teamed up to release a really fun new video starring Bert and Zachary Levi (Chuck, Tangled) going on a fun journey through Central Park on "A Lovely Sunny DAy." They sing a great song, dance, and even run into Grover. Watch it below!

Two weeks ago, Nicholas Stoller, co-writer of The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted and friend of the blog, was on the promotional circuit for his new comedy Neighbors. One of his stops was at Collider.com, where they asked him a few questions about the Muppets. His answers ranged from why he thought Muppets Most Wanted underperformed, and this interesting tidbit: "I know they’re working on something to get them back on TV. I have no idea where it’s at, but I definitely think so. I mean, they’re such rich characters, and it’s very easy to pitch on stories for them, and think of ideas for them. They don’t feel used up... I think there’s a big opportunity for that kind of variety show. You could do it partially live. There are all these things you could do with Muppets that you can’t do with a lot of other things." So that's potentially hugely exciting! We'll keep you posted on everything we were regarding Muppets on TV!

Cookie Monster is the star of yet another amazing installment of Sesame Street's "Crumby Pictures Presents." This time, Cookie Monster and the Muppets of Sesame Street are spoofing The Wizard of Oz. Cookie Monster plays "Dough-rothy," and it's all absolutely brilliant. Don't miss this!

The Jim Henson Company, Archaia Comics, and Roger Langridge are all teaming up to bring another exclusive adaptation of a screenplay from Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl. The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow was a script for an unproduced special by Henson and Juhl, which will now be turned into a comic/graphic novel illustrated and adapted by Roger Langridge (author/illustrator of The Muppet Show Comic Book series). Turkey Hollow will be released by Archaia Comics in November, 2014. Our friends at ToughPigs.com have all of the info in one convenient place. The official description of the project is below:

Turkey Hollow is a picturesque town where hundreds of years ago, unbeknownst to the citizens, a meteorite landed nearby a small brook on the outskirts of town. One Thanksgiving, while young Timmy Henderson practices his guitar, he’s accompanied by strange, unearthly, musical sounds. That meteorite wasn’t a rock at all but an egg holding seven furry, goofy monsters, each with a unique musical sound. After the initial shock, Timmy befriends the lovable creatures following him all around Turkey Hollow. Not everyone takes a liking to the visitors though and it’s up to Timmy to protect his new friends and save Thanksgiving!

Ahead of the season finale of Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge, Brian Henson and some of the Henson puppets and creatures took over NBC's Today last Monday. Watch the videos below to see the Today anchors awkwardly pal around with the Henson puppets and have a very nice chat with Brian Henson. My goodness I love seeing Brian Henson on TV.

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

May 19, 2014

Ten Clips SesameStreet.org Needs

Nic Kramer - One of the best things that happen for Sesame Street and Muppet fans was when Sesame Workshop put up a video section on the show's website back in 2007. This section is a treasure trove for fans as it includes song and sections from the beginning all the way up to the present including some rarely seen sketches. For the first few years, starting in 2008, they regularly added classic clips in addition to material that was currently airing in the recent season. However, during the last few years they stopped adding old clips and just added material from the season that was currently airing.

If there’s one thing I learned from the show, it’s that one should not give up. That’s why I decided to put together a list of clips that I would like to see on the official site if they decided to put classic clips again. The clips are in no particular order except for the last one, which is my most requested one.

1.   11 Cheer
As a lot of people know, during the second season Jim Henson did a second set of number films following the Baker films from the first season. For this set, he experimented with different techniques including stop-motion and computer animation. 11 Cheer is a lively segment I recall watching as a kid. If you listen carefully in the soundtrack, you can hear Jim being one of the people laughing.

2.   Alphabet Chat: L
Out of all of the “Alphabet Chat” segment, this only one that is not on YouTube. Here, Mr. Chatterly recites a poem about the letter L. As usual, he gets interrupted by several Muppets, including Cookie Mosnter, a guy who comes to fix a loose chair, a little kid looking for his lost lamb Lulu, and Gladys the cow.

3.   Sesame Street Newflash: Peter Piper
This is probably my favorite news sketch. In it, Kermit tries to interview Peter Piper at “Piper’s Pickle Pepper Patch” only to meet his family who piles the pickle peppers around Kermit and find out that Peter is in Pittsburgh pressing pants.

4.   Pinball #6
While all of these animated shorts (2-12) are included as bonus material on a recent DVD, this is the only one of the series that is not on the site.

5.   Beat the Time with Cookie Monster
This is the famous game show sketch where Cookie Monster tries to gather three things that rhyme with the word rain, is one a lot of people remember and is on DVD, but oddly is not on SesameStreet.org.

6.   "That’s What Counts"
One of my favorite songs sung by The Count where he counts that means a lot to him including a nice ghost and “a flight of stairs that creak in the night even though there is no one going up and down.”

7.   Gordon and Susan's Fire
This is a rather great two part story line from season 21 where the apartment of Gordon, Susan, and Miles has a fire and the family spends the night in the apartment of Maria, Luis, and Gabi. I thought this was nice episode and I think these scenes should be included on the site or at least have the two episodes available on iTunes.

8.   “That Grouchy Face”
This self parody of James Taylor’s “That Smiling Face” is probably my favorite guest star moment of the show.  I always like this duet with Oscar and Taylor whose band does back-up.  I had the last few seconds of this song on tape but I didn’t get to hear the whole song until years later.  I m sure if “Sesame Street” would put this on their site due to music clearance, but since they include this on “The Best of Sesame Street Friends” DVD, there still might be a chance.

9.   Billy Dee Williams and a Honker count to 10
Star Wars fans would get a kick out of this where Lando Calrisian himself counts with a Honker. I always like the reaction of the Honker waiting patiently to honk his nose while Williams count and how he helps the honker out when his nose is stuffed up.

10.   Ernie puts a pot on Bert’s Head
This is my favorite Sesame Street. In it, Ernie gives a long explanation about why he is putting a pot on Bert’s head. This is a well-known sketch that was also adapted as a picture book. It was even reenacted by Tracy Ullman when she read to the kids when she was on the show. Yet, somehow, this keep getting left off of video releases. It’s a shame as this was Jim and Frank Oz at their best. It’s just so important.

In conclusion, I would like Sesame Workshop reconsider putting classic clips on their site and include all these moments if possible.

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