With the Muppets Most Wanted movie on the horizon, my love for everybody's favourite hand-operated critters has erupted into an uncontrollable geyser of joy. In order to prevent myself exploding into a shower of colourful faux fur and confetti, I have decided to share my passion in the form of an easy to digest list.
So, come with me and fill up on some eye-boggling Muppet trivia, because, is there really anything more endearing than grown adults going wild over puppets?
1. Without Jim Henson, sound very different, would I
Who would have thought Yoda was related to Kermit the Frog? Jim Henson not only created the iconic Yoda for the original Star Wars, but he also gave him his unique voice.
Frank Oz - Burt to Henson's Ernie and Miss Piggy to his Kermit - was the only person the Muppet creator trusted to operate Yoda (he himself was too busy to take on the responsibility) and the gifted voice actor invented Yoda's eccentric speech patterns. Oz was also the voice of many other beloved characters including Grover, Fozzie the Bear and Cookie Monster.
Whereas there is no denying Oz did a stunning job with the Jedi Master, Yoda does seem a bit less dignified to me now I know some bloke had his hand up his ass the whole time...
2. The Muppets endorse some adult themes
It's a huge misconception that the Muppets were created for kids - in fact Jim Henson always thought puppetry should be for everyone, including adults. The second pilot for The Muppet Show was entitled 'Sex and Violence' and was a tongue-in-cheek look at the proliferation of sex and violence on television. Ooh là là!
3. A legion of lefties
Although only around 10 percent of us humans are left handed, nearly all of the Muppets are. Alas, Henson was not trying to subtly fight back against the discrimination young lefties suffer as they butcher their worksheets with ineffectual right-handed scissors. There is a practical reason.
Because most Muppeteers are righties, they use their dominant hand to contort their characters expressive faces, while the left one operates the more straightforward arms. Simple.
4. More than just Muppets at The Creature Shop
Jim Henson's Creature Shop doesn't just bring Muppets to life. They are also responsible for Lady Gaga's Monster's Ball steed, Deadmau5's headpiece and Carol's costume in Where the Wild Things Are.
5. Popular culture's porcine princess
Although she was only created to be a bit part in the Muppets, Miss Piggy's enormous personality propelled her to the top of her game. Her original Muppeteer, Frank Oz, gave us a sketch of her past in 1979 and explained that;
She (Miss Piggy) grew up in a small town in Iowa; her father died when she was young, and her mother wasn't that nice to her. She had to enter beauty contests to survive. She has a lot of vulnerability which she has to hide, because of her need to be a superstar
The porcine princess' determination paid off though. She is the Muppet that most celebrities request to perform with.
6. A cute, fuzzy cultural ambassador
Relations between Russia and the U.S.A. have been decidedly chilly in the past (and they aren't exactly toasty now), but the Muppets extended the olive branch as a cultural ambassador.
The Soviet Union initially viewed programs like Sesame Street with hilarious suspicion saying that;
We don't know whether the authors of that program (Sesame Street) gave it that title intentionally. The word "sesame" comes from the orient and means "open up." One thing is certain: With that type of program, imperialism is seeking to penetrate into other people's homes, even if door and windows are tightly locked. The passkey is to be global television
But they eventually softened... Even if it did take over 10 years!
In 1989 the Soviet television body broadcast an episode of Fraggle Rock, which absolutely delighted the audience. As a result, the organization agreed to allow both Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Show to air making them the first Western series to air on Soviet television.
7. The shared heritage of Big Bird and Bowie's Goblin Groin
Although he will always be remembered as the Father of the Muppets, Jim Henson's irrepressibly creative mind also gave birth to some of the most iconic kids' films of the '80s.
Henson teamed up with Frank Oz and revered fantasy artist Brian Froud in 1982 to create the Gelflings of The Dark Crystal, but his most fondly-remembered foray into the silver screen is Labyrinth.
Who knew the the Goblin King's infamous groin was related to such innocents as Elmo and Grover!
8. Awards in abundance!
The Muppet Show has received a staggering amount of awards and nominations over its 122 action-packed episodes. These include:
- 11 BAFTA nominations with 2 wins
- 21 Primetime Emmy Award nominations with 4 wins
- 1 Peabody Award
Not bad for a collection of felt gloves with googly eyes!
9. Cut from a different cloth
The original Kermit might have been created with a discarded beige coat and some ping pong balls, but things have been on the up since then.
Muppets these days are constructed from specialist Muppet fleece that can be sheared, shaped and, most importantly, makes any stitching completely invisible on camera.
Kermit the Frog has a seam running straight down the front of his face, but thanks to the patented 'Jim Henson stitch' audiences are none the wiser.
10. The Muppet ageing process revealed
Giving a fleece hand puppet an engaging personality and identity is no mean feat, but the Muppet builders have some techniques up their talented sleeves.
Most Muppets are cross-eyed to create an illusion of focus that makes it easier for the Muppeteer to emphasize what the character is looking at. The eyes are also crucial for identifying the age of a Muppet.
In a Sesame Workshop newsletter the company informed fans that;
Muppet designers use different sized pupils depending upon how young or old they want a Muppet to look. The smaller the pupil, the older the Muppet looks; the larger the pupil, the younger the Muppet look
Does this mean Dr. Bunsen is ageless?
11. Elmo's escape from obscurity
Poor Elmo had a rough start in life - not that you would know from his sunny disposition. The Muppet was rejected by two famous Sesame Street puppeteers before a relative newcomer breathed life into him.
By changing his voice and infusing Elmo with a perpetual sense of wonderment, Sesame Street's most enduring star emerged from the unwanted tuft of red fur.
12. Shaped by an all-consuming passion
Before his life was consumed by confectionary, Cookie Monster was known as Sid. The perils of addiction!
So, who is rushing to the cinema to see [Muppets Most Wanted](movie:368772) tonight? If you see a girl sitting next to you wearing this, that's me!
Who is your favourite Muppet?
(Images: Joblo, In A Faraway Galaxy via Lucasfilm, Wikia, Snoodle, Wikipedia, The Creature Shop via The Picture Group, Wordpress, Blogspot via Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Drafthouse, Interiorsbykenz, Washington Post, Project Puppet, Dallas Morning News, The Guardian, Muppet Central)