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The Muppets and some Disney characters are apparently becoming Star Wars Action Figures. I'm not sure what I think about this, but based on the commentary from Star Wars fans, this isn't going to be good.

I was a very huge fan of the Muppets, growing up. I've been sort of a satellite around them at various points of my careers. I actually got to be Kermit the Frog professionally for a day for an industrial film, which was a pretty unique experience. When FAO Schwarz was selling the Applause Kermit Puppets, I nearly always carried one around with me, and my Kermit wound up having quite a few conversations with a lot of people you know.

And I did cross paths with Jim Henson. It was a typical celebrity run-in for me. Jim and one of his daughters were exiting The Polo restaurant on Madison Avenue. I spotted him. He looked at me. There was this moment when I thought something was about to happen, he almost said something, but then nothing did, I smiled and kept on going my way.

Jim Henson was a very unique person. And his philosophy of what the Muppets were about is what made them so beloved. What was Jim's philosophy? You can sort of see it in the original "The Muppet Movie." It was about having a dream, and going on the journey to take yourself there. It's about gathering friends along the way and helping each other. It's about reasoning your way through the obstacles, not getting sidetracked by things that won't get you to where you want to be, and doing it with caring, friendship and with love.

The Muppets may have poked gentle fun at certain targets, but they never intended to be "mean spirited" or "rude" for the sake of a laugh. That was at the heart of Jim's philosophy. The Muppets were, if nothing else, kind. And they had a lot to say about being human, which, of course, is the fun of it, since most of them are some sort of animal.

But there is a reason the Muppets have fallen into disrepair. Nobody understood the Henson philosophy. Well, that may not be true. His children might have understood it, but they most certainly also resented the Muppets for taking so much of their father's time from them. They wanted their dad back but he was too busy producing the next thing.

But no one in the upper echelon of the Henson company, not Jerry Juhl, not Kevin Clash, not even Frank Oz seemed to grasp the point of the Muppets, which is why they are no longer relevant. And since Jim left, we have seen all of the the elements of his philosophy fall by the wayside. The movie "Muppets From Space" goes against every one of Jim's concepts for the characters. There are insult jokes, gratuitous violence, fear, and worst of all, one of the most beloved characters, Gonzo, is shunned in the very opening moments of the film by none other than famed ark builder, Noah!

Of course, they also fitted the characters into "A Christmas Carol" "Treasure Island" and "The Wizard of Oz," to some success, but that only demonstrates that no one really knows what to do with the Muppets. They have no rudder on this boat and are adrift, trying to come up with ways to make them work. That's how you get things like Kermit as Luke Skyfrogger.

Some say that Jim's philosophy is outdated, that the world has changed and the Muppets need to change with it. But I ask you, when has being kind gone stale? When has positivity reached its expiration date? When has giving humans an example to live up to rather than an embarrassment to live down something that we don't want?

Until someone within the organization really goes back, looks at and fully comprehends the work of Jim Henson, and brings that philosophy back to the forefront, the best they can do is stick the Muppets in board games, have them playing characters within the framework of someone else's stories or just leave them on Sesame Street, where their roles are clearly defined. Since Disney owns the Muppets, it seems highly unlikely that anyone there will do any of that legwork.

At least we'll always have the Original Muppet Show, And the movies made while Jim was alive.

(x-posted to spaceagers)

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
jdquintette
Mar. 26th, 2008 09:56 pm (UTC)
now that I am one, I'm starting to realize why old people sometimes come across as cranky. We've seen great change in our lifetimes, and not always for the better.

The type of humor you're talking about, what people now refer to as 'edgy,' is really pervasive at all levels of contemporary life. What is Bill O'Reilly's show, for instance, if not 'insult humor.' You invite guests on and then yell at them and treat them rudely and cut off their mic if it looks like you're in danger of losing an argument.

The attitude is basically adolescent. It's the kind of thing a 14 year old boy would find humorous.

We're in the age of the Asshole Ascendent.
penpusher
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC)
The thing that really floors me is that nobody in the Henson group was capable of understanding what seems so blatantly obvious to me. I think his kids actually viewed the Muppets and their adversaries and likely have a love/hate relationship with them. Brian and Lisa both went into film production and I think they both were involved in some of the more recent films.

Insult humor is really the cheapest, easiest and least funny type of humor. Ok... maybe puns are, but still! Understanding that is the first step to understanding Jim and what he felt the Muppets were all about.
melodymuse
Mar. 28th, 2008 01:41 am (UTC)
As wacky as the idea is, I like the Muppet Star Wars Cross over. :)
penpusher
Mar. 28th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC)
Well, you liked the US Postal Service/Star Wars Cross over! :oP
soleta_nf
Mar. 26th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
But I ask you, when has being kind gone stale? When has positivity reached its expiration date?

Exactly. I think cynicism has reached its expiration date.
penpusher
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
I think cynicism has reached its expiration date.

If only you were right.
soleta_nf
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC)
IMO it has! The destructive, useless kind anyway.
da1sy
Mar. 26th, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)
d'oh! i wish this wasn't a locked post- this is the most articulate and well thought out argument about the Muppets that I've heard in... forever. I completely share all these sentiments-

if you choose to unlock the post, lmk- there are many of my friends (non-LJ) who'd I'd love to share this with and would love to read this, I'm sure!
penpusher
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:03 pm (UTC)
Ok Daisy... I x-posted it to spaceagers, so it's now a public post. Thanks for requesting it.
mary_wroth
Mar. 26th, 2008 11:19 pm (UTC)
This? Makes me laugh so hard I want to cry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCbuRA_D3KU
penpusher
Mar. 27th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
Sheer brilliance. There is a timeless quality to this... it'll still be funny a century from now.
misscallis
Mar. 27th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC)
You know, it's funny, there is a 3-D Muppet attraction at California Adventure. Saki can't stand it, because they blow things up and Piggy is trying to wound a bunny with a flyswatter, etc. etc. but he is absolutely devoted to The Muppet Show, so I think there is something gentle and peaceful about the original show. He refuses to watch Muppets in Space, but will watch Muppets Take Manhattan (which was recently criticized for featuring SMOKING in a children's movie! Oh Dabney Coleman, a villain, how could you smoke a cigar?!) over and over.

We don't know why he had such an obsessive love for them. I think we put on a DVD collection one day when we were sick of watching Family Guy, and it just hit a nerve.

Anyway, there is one kid from the future generation who gets them... but we always say he's an old soul so maybe he's just connecting with his roots...
misscallis
Mar. 27th, 2008 04:40 am (UTC)
Ooh. that freaks me out that I used the past tense in a verb. We don't know why he HAS such an obsessive love for them...

Sorry but my superstitious nature has forced me to fix that verb. We get so skittish about his health and welfare at such weird times...
penpusher
Mar. 27th, 2008 08:00 am (UTC)
I've seen that Muppets 3D film. It is a little intense. I'd have to look up the timing, but that may have been the first produced thing after Jim, though he might have been involved in setting it up. This was just as Disney made a huge offer to buy the Muppets, but Jim hadn't given the full ok at that point.

I don't want to say that The Muppet Show was perfect. There were some clunky episodes for sure. But the reason it worked was because the characters were well defined and there were actual storylines. And the fact that it was basically an old Vaudeville style variety show was the perfect touch.

It's great that Saki likes the Muppets, and interesting that he doesn't like the post Jim material. Your son is a visionary!
cinematograph
Mar. 27th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)





Don't forget the Muppets were also on SNL.
penpusher
Mar. 27th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
They were also on the Jimmy Dean Show before that. Rowlf and Jimmy had little chats and sang songs together.
podling
Mar. 27th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I've a lot I could say in response, but no time at the moment. But I definitely hear what you're saying.
penpusher
Mar. 27th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
I hope you will when you get the chance!
melodymuse
Mar. 28th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
P.S. I totally get Jim's Philosophy * The music I walked down the isle to when Mark and I got married was Kermit singing 'Rainbow Connection'.... The lovers, the dreamers and me. :)
penpusher
Mar. 28th, 2008 07:25 am (UTC)
I don't think I knew that! How neat! <3
lizerk
Mar. 30th, 2008 04:55 am (UTC)
That's how you get things like Kermit as Luke Skyfrogger.

LOL!!! Well stated.
penpusher
Mar. 30th, 2008 10:24 am (UTC)
Thanks, and great to see you around, Liz!
__shesaid__
Apr. 3rd, 2008 02:52 am (UTC)
I've always been a huge Muppets fan, stemming from when I was little and used to watch reruns of the Muppet Show and later the movies. I really got nauseated when I saw the Christmas movie that got put out by NBC several years back since it didn't capture the same spirit that Jim Henson would have approved of. I understand that in society, people feel things need to grow up and change, but something like the Muppets shouldn't evolve into something they aren't, and certainly not Star Wars figures:(

Same way I feel about Disney completely going digitally animated instead of the old school cartoon movies, so not cool.
tygerx
Apr. 10th, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
Ok, Cookie's not a 'Muppet' but hey close enough, lol. ;)

Anyway! Just had to come back here and say YES.. i'm very sorry it's not a Muppet kinda of world anymore (or at least one who can appreciate what they used to represent). I'm just thankful that we got to grow up and experience it. :)
penpusher
Apr. 12th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
Cookie is a Muppet, albeit a Sesame Street one.

If you watch "How I Met Your Mother," the guy who plays Marshall, Jason Segel (who also wrote and stars in the new movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" - and is that why he named the character Marshall?) is writing the new Muppet movie, due in 2010. The early sense is that it might be a return to the style of Jim's Muppets. The gang are losing their old theater and have to do a benefit to save it. We'll see...
tygerx
Apr. 14th, 2008 04:59 am (UTC)
True.. guess when i think Muppet I think specifically Muppet Show. ;P

Well I'm curious to see how this movie turns out. I agree that past recent attempts were just 'off'.
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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