How Muppeteers “Muppet”

One of my daily routines is watching videos on Uncrate while I eat lunch at my desk. (Exciting life, I know)

Yesterday I stumbled on a great video from Wired: Sesame Street Puppeteers Explain How They Control Their Puppets

It’s a pretty fun little video – about 7 1/2 minutes worth – that has some great behind-the-scenes info PLUS a look at the performers themselves embodying their characters (voices, mannerisms) without actually having their persons inside of them.

Better to watch than to have me explain, but it’s basically people pantomiming – which goes to why the characters are so memorable – the performers are great without the help of felt & wires!

Anyhow, just a little something for your Wednesday pleasure.

On Steve Whitmire

Yesterday a regular reader of this blog (whatever that means anymore, given my posting schedule) brought up the topic of Steve Whitmire’s firing as the performer of Kermit the Frog by Disney.

He asked me, earnestly, what I thought of the whole kerfuffle and whether I’d seen Steve’s new blog.

I’ll answer reverse-chronologically:

No, I had not seen Steve Whitmire’s blog, until yesterday and now I have. Start reading it at the beginning. It’s … something.

Reading a blog – especially one of someone creative and new to blogging – can be a raw, harrowing experience. It’s clear that Steve Whitmire is a passionate person but it’s also clear that he’s too close to the situation to be a reliable narrator.

I think the real issue stems from where the line between the performer and the character is drawn. In the case of the Muppets, the performer is even more important than an actor or a voice performer. They literally inhabit the character by putting their arm inside of the felt.

For all intents and purposes Steve Whitire was Kermit.

But the problem here is that there are writers and producers and directors involved in the ongoing life of the Muppet franchise.

There were two theatrical films in the past 10 years and a (flawed) TV show. They all succeeded in some ways and fell short in others.

The first film was excellent and the second was pretty good, if uneven. The TV show never really found it’s own voice, partly due to the fact that it didn’t take advantage of any of the characterizations or storylines from the films.

But mostly the issue is that The Muppets need to evolve in order to be a sustainable, vital part of Disney’s portfolio. Steve Whitmire, by his own admissions, seems tied to a very narrow vision of the characters that was not shared by Disney, the Henson family, and potentially even some of his fellow performers.

Whatever the true issues may have been, Disney seems to have moved on and Steve Whitmire hasn’t. He’s still wrestling with how and why he was fired and my heart goes out to him.

But the fact remains that Disney & the Henson family clearly have one set of feelings about his performance and behavior and he has another. The preponderance of the evidence leads me to side with Disney, but I still sympathize with Steve over the loss of his job and empathize with him that he wants to understand exactly why things happened the way they did.

From my perspective The Muppets still need to evolve.

In a world when Kermit’s likeness has been co-opted sipping tea to indicate a sarcastic comment the Muppets have to be more contemporary than they are.

Listen, I loved The Muppet Show of my youth. There’s a reason the blog has the title it does & why I have the username “mostlymuppet” on every service imaginable.


And even I know that the movies and the tv show are part of making them more relevant to people today. You can’t survive on pure nostalgia and zero character growth, just ask The Simpsons.

I just hope Steve Whitmire finds some peace. It sounds (reads) like he’s getting closer to that but it must be traumatic to lose something that you’ve done for 27 years and separate from a group you’ve been associated with since the late 70’s.

I wish Steve and the Muppets nothing but the best in the future.

I’ll be here, watching.

Straight Outta Memes

Since we’ve all seen (or made) those “Straight Outta Somewhere” meme images promoting the new movie about NWA, Straight Outta Compton, I thought I’d bring your attention to something else.

If you’re in the middle of the Venn Diagram of NWA fans & comic book fans, please enjoy Straight Outta Gotham. A former coworker of Jennifer’s is the creative force behind the whole thing & it’s been amazing to see the response online & on his Facebook feed.

I’m embedding the clean version but if you don’t have kids around (or if you’re in a more relaxed office), here’s the explicit version.

If superhero mashups aren’t your thing, you could always check out The Muppets singing NWA’s “Express Yourself”.

For other Muppet/NWA goodness, check out some other posts:

Happy Thursday!

If You Need The Muppets …

I didn’t go to San Diego Comic-Con this year to see the 10-minute pitch reel for The Muppets (styled as “the muppets.” in the graphics package) but, luckily, I didn’t have to. The whole thing is now online for all of us to enjoy:

The whole thing feels a bit more full-featured than the cutdown version of the 1975 pitch reel that Henson did for CBS which you can find on the Season 1 DVD set of The Muppet Show.

There had previously been a trailer of the new series which was, itself, just a cutdown of the new pitch reel.

If that’s not enough Muppet goodness for one week, you could always check out this mashup of Miss Piggy & Rihanna. It’s a little NSFW but probably worth it.

No word if Piggy will be out on tour with Rihanna, but The Muppets (the muppets.) will be on ABC on Tuesdays this Fall. Check your local listings, as they say.

Maybe in the Fall I’ll start blogging about each episode.

Until then …


Skip Hursh’s animated GIF that I refer to as ‘Muppetmation’

Regardless of whether you pronounce GIF with a hard or a soft “G”, you can’t deny that the simple animations have been raised to something of an art form recently.

The animation above was made by the talented Skip Hursh (Skip also has a Tumblr that’s pretty awesome.) & was pointed out to me by Beau Teague.

There’s something almost steam-powered or Rube Goldberg-esque about the GIFs he makes. They’re mesmerizing in their perpetual, looping motions and their bright colors.

There are plenty of other examples of GIFs for the masses (and for the detractors), but I think Skip’s work should really be seen by a wider audience, even if it isn’t a meme or a screencap or a reaction gif.

Happy Thursday!