Sunday, February 5, 2012

Muppets

I love the Muppets.
More specifically, I love all things Jim Henson.
So here are some scattered thoughts about the Muppets and Jim:

Like many of my fellow 80s kids, Sesame Street was a staple of my childhood. I learned everything from how to count to 10 in Spanish to how to be a friend. Bert and Ernie were my favorites - little did I know that their friendship echoed the creative collaborations between masterminds Frank Oz and Jim Henson.


Once I hit pre-school, I would watch the Muppet Show on Nickelodeon in the afternoons. As Jason Segel recently said, "The Muppets are a gateway drug to things like SNL and Monty Python." How right he is! The Muppets led to my love of 50s, 60s, and 70s classic television. I would stay up late each night to watch Nick At Night for Dick Van Dyke, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and my favorite: I Love Lucy. The clean, cheesy, and clever humor in these shows echo the vaudevillian roots of the Muppets. The only thing that has come close to the creativity, humor, and heart of the Muppets is Pixar.

A Muppet Christmas Carol will always be my favorite movie - [nerd] so much of a favorite that I sang "When Love Is Gone" as a sophomore in High School nearly 10 years after the movie was released. [/nerd] The sheer joy of the Ghost of Christmas Present brings me to tears as he sings to that crotchety geeser. It was also the first movie after the deaths of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt.

Then there's Labywrinth. It's such a freaky movie for a child to watch yet I preferred it to the princesses of Disney. It was about the journey made by a real, angsty teenager in an unreal, fantastical world - the first time I saw a flawed character that really did "come of age" in a non-children's movie way.

Jim Henson understood the need for humans to imagine and create. I really wish I could have met him. I'm still hoping I can meet Frank Oz one day. And Dave Goelz. And Kevin Clash. And Steve Whitemire. I'd just like to meet every Muppeteer.

My closest brush with Muppet-dom was meeting the original cast of Avenue Q, including John Tartaglia, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and Rick Lyon. All were puppeteers for Sesame Street and other Henson productions. Rick also designs puppets - AWESOME! They were so warm to me; Stephanie even took me backstage and showed me around. I mean really, who does that? It just solidified my dream to work for Sesame Street one day. I don't care what I do, as long as I can work for their program.

Another memory is with my husband. On our way back from our Honeymoon, we stopped by the Muppet Exhibit at the Smithsonian - I walked in and nearly ran over a kid in my excitement at seeing Kermit. Jonathan had to run to catch up to me and tell me of the child's near destruction. The exhibit allowed me to share all of my geekdom with him; The Muppets are my Star Wars. My Lord of the Rings. This was my childhood.

And now just in time for my daughter to join the world, the Muppets release their first major motion picture in over 10 years! Our first date sans baby was to see The Muppets. I'd say I've come full circle, but that implies that there won't be any more contributions from the Muppets. How sad would that be? Instead I'll say that is just another tier to a sweet, delicious cake.

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The movie was AMAZING! Without giving anything away, it exceeded every expectation I had. We are huge Muppet fans AND Flight of the Conchord fans. James Bobin (director of FOTC) directed this movie, AND Bret McKenzie was the Music Director. The music was incredible: heartwarming and funny. I was in love within minutes of it starting. I also cried at least ten times - I stopped counting.  It was the best first post-baby date ever!

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