It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I love the Muppets (and Sesame Street) in a BIG BIG way. Follow that Bird is my favorite movie. OF ALL TIME(s). No, really. It is. I’ve seen it probably more than any other movie in my life. I can quote every line. I can sing every song (including this fabulous Waylon Jennings tune. Yes, Waylon Jennings! did a song for the movie. It’s that awesome
My sister bought me “The Wisdom of Big Bird” (by Caroll Spinney) for Christmas a few years ago and I’m pretty sure I cried the entire way through. I own the Sesame Street 40 years of Sunny Days DVDs. I still have the “20 years and Counting” special on a taped VHS that I watch once a year (and, again, cry through. What can I say. I’m a crier. I own it). I had a Big Bird record player that I played the crap out of for most of the 1980s. My stuffed Grover is in nearly every picture of me taken before I was four. I loved Sesame Street.
Sesame Street is so fiercely tied to my childhood that it’s nearly impossible for me to separate the two. So many of my earliest memories are tied to it, even through roundabout ways. I remember singing “L is such a lovely letter” with my mom. It’s how I learned who James Taylor was (to this day in Casa D, he is still referred to as “Jellyman Kelly”. I’m sure he appreciates this.). It’s how I learned to count to 10 in Spanish (thanks, Maria!) . In short, it’s the soundtrack to my childhood.
Sesame Street will always be my #1, but the Muppets are a pretty close #2.
“The Muppets Take Manhattan” was my favorite movie for most of elementary school (after I had grown out of “Follow that Bird’). The Muppet Show was already off the air by the time I got old enough to appreciate it. But that didn’t mean I didn’t love the Muppets. No, not at ALL. I came of age when the biggest thing on Saturday morning cartoons was THIS:
Muppet Babies. As anyone in the late twenties/early thirties and almost all of them will tell you that Muppet Babies was THE reason for getting up on Saturday mornings. Even now, twenty-odd years later, I can still sing the theme song, remembering fondly how much I LOVED that devious little Miss Piggy (still do!) and how Kermit was just the cutest little frog this side of the pond (still do!).
Muppet Babies provided MY generation an introduction to the Muppets. Most of our parents watched the Muppet Show and were thrilled that the Muppets would continue to live on. Plus, with the success of the cartoon, reruns of the old Muppet Show started to be re-shown. New shows were added to the Henson repertoire (Fraggle Rock, anyone???) and Jim Henson & co. seemed to OWN quality children’s television. Then Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel happened and with them brought some of the worst children’s television programming known to man (but that’s a rant for another day). In any case, the Muppets popularity went by the wayside and, with the exception of a few movies, the next generation didn’t fall in love with the Muppets like I did. There was a brief renaissance in the mid 90’s with “Muppets Tonight” (basically, the Muppet Show: the Next Generation), but only survived two seasons. Other kid’s programming was introduced and, sad to say, lots of kids today have only a brief concept of the Muppets.
That, however, is about to change (at least I hope!). Jason Segal (he of adult raunchy comedy fame) wrote a new Muppet Movie. And I, for one, will be first in line on November 23rd to see it (if they have a midnight showing, I will SO BE THERE).
Doesn’t this NOT make you want to see it?
What I like most about it, is that they didn’t try to “modernize” the characters. Segal and his writer partner Nick Stoller are “Muppet Purists” and didn’t want to see their (our) beloved Kermit insulting people, Miss Piggy deciding she had it with trying to be famous and becoming a social worker (yeah, like THAT would happen) or Fozzie Bear abandoning his dreams of being a comedian and selling real estate instead. They seem to GET the characters and get why the world fell in love with them. And they want to bring that to a new generation of children. Children’s television doesn’t have to be dumbed down. That’s what Jim Henson (and co.) taught us. That you could create a world of fun and silliness and sweetness for children that would appeal to adults too.
When Jim Henson (RIP) died in 1993, I think everyone was not only shocked and saddened (I still cry when I think about him), but concerned about the future of the Muppets. But, and I think this goes to show just how much they are loved, the Muppets have a tight-knit group of Puppeteers (Muppeteers?) that want to keep Jim’s dream and vision alive. They (along with Jim’s family) wouldn’t allow the Muppet name to be ruined with trying to “make the Muppets cool”. They don’t have too. The Muppets ARE cool. The reason there hasn’t been much new in the way of Muppetland is because they are so careful to keep with Jim’s idea of what the Muppets should be and SHOULDN’T be that they’d rather not do anything than do something that doesn’t ring true.
That’s why I’m so excited for this movie. It’s been 10 years in the making (the last full feature length theatrical release was in 1999!) and I think people are ready for the next adventure with Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo (and Camilla the chicken!) and friends. I can’t wait to see what new music Rowlf has written, what new bits Fozzie has worked out, what new invention Dr. Bunsen and Beaker have created, what new “performance art” Gonzo has come up with, and (of course) what utter FABULOUSNESS Miss Piggy has come up with for herself (as stated before, Miss Piggy is totally my personal—and style—icon).
Seriously. look at the girl.
The girl (or Pig, whatever) rocks it. She’s blonde and bold and not afraid to chase down what she wants—clothes, frogs, whatever. If Miss Piggy wants it, she’s gonna get it. No question. And all while looking fabulous.
And, also, who can forget the best curmudgeons (sorry P. Garlock!) of all time, Waldorf and Statler
I think this movie is going to be HUGE. Mostly because it’s not just going to be families (think mom & dad and their little kids) going to see it. I predict that there will be a large contingent of people in their twenties and thirties (sans children) that will be lining up to see the film. For us, it will be a trip down memory lane with our old pals. Life gets messy and complicated and sometimes you need a release—a reminder of childhood when things were light and innocent and fun. And if by paying $9.50 for a ticket to recapture some of this is what it takes, then by all means. Take my money.
So, in anxious anticipation, I’ll leave you guys with a little video from my FAVORITE FAVORITE FAVORITE holiday special ever, A Muppet Family Christmas. It only aired once and (thanks, Mom and Dad!) my parents thankfully taped it. I watch it once a year (usually along with the Sesame Street 20 years and counting), laughing and giggling and happily remembering my childhood and how a simple holiday special could make everything a-ok. There are tons of great clips (so if you haven’t seen it, I HIGHLY encourage you to watch it. You can get it on DVD now. So check it out here: here), but my very favorite (and also the one that makes me cry) is of the late, great Jim Henson (and Sprocket the dog!)
See you folks later. If you need me, I’ll be in line for the Muppet Movie, singing “The Muppet Show” theme song. On repeat.