The Muppets are a group of sketch comedy variety puppet characters known for their absurdist, burlesque and self-referential comedy. Created in 1955 by Jim Henson, they are the namesake for the Walt Disney Company media franchise that encompasses films, television series, music recordings, print publications, and other media associated with The Muppet Show characters. Although the term is often used to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark owned by Disney in reference to the original characters created by Henson.
Henson has said the word "Muppet" predated the show Sam and Friends. He would sometimes tell people the term had been created by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet", but he says that it was really just a made-up word.
After earlier unsuccessful attempts, the Walt Disney Company bought the Muppets in 2004. Exceptions include characters appearing on Sesame Street (as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop, although they have always had creative rights, only reimbursing the Jim Henson Company to create and provide their Muppet characters for their use) and the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock (which are still owned by the Jim Henson Company). The legal trademark on the term "Muppet" is currently held by The Muppets Studio, a wholly owned division of Disney, although Sesame Workshop continues to occasionally use the term on their characters with certain permissions from Disney.
The latest film, The Muppets, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller and directed by James Bobin, was released by Walt Disney Pictures on 23 November, 2011, to much critical acclaim and commercial success.
Frank Oz (born Richard Frank Oznowicz; May 25, 1944) is a British-born American film director, actor, voice actor and puppeteer who is known for creating and performing the characters Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear in The Muppet Show, Cookie Monster, Bert and Grover in Sesame Street, and for directing films, including the 1986 Little Shop of Horrors remake and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He is also the operator and voice of Yoda in the Star Wars series.
Oz is known for his work as a puppeteer, performing with Jim Henson's Muppets. His characters have included Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam the Eagle on The Muppet Show, and Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert on Sesame Street, among many others.
In addition to performing a variety of characters, Oz has been one of the primary collaborators responsible for the development of the Muppets over the last 30 years. Oz has performed as a Muppeteer in over 75 movies, video releases, and television specials, as well as countless other public appearances, episodes of Sesame Street, and other Jim Henson series. His puppetry work spans from 1963 to the present, though he has retired from the Muppets. His Muppets were taken over by Eric Jacobson, though Oz still performs his characters on occasion. He also worked with the puppets on the movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie.
Sam the Eagle is a character from the syndicated television show The Muppet Show, performed by Frank Oz. The name "Sam" is probably derived from Uncle Sam, as the Bald Eagle is the official symbol of the United States. On the show, Sam acts as a censor and speaks as if unhip. He often gives self-important lectures in which he complains about some liberal idea only to find himself forced to stop in embarrassment. On one occasion he gives a lecture about conservationism in which he reads a list of endangered animal species that he feels are the focus of misguided efforts to save them, only to sheepishly withdraw his statement when he realizes that his own species is included. In another sketch, he lectures about the indecency that all people are naked underneath their clothes, then leaves in embarrassment upon realizing that all birds are similarly naked underneath their feathers.
As the voice of the older generation's sensibilities, he happily introduces his favorite singing duo, Wayne and Wanda, with gushing praise, calling them classy and artistic (though their routines invariably ended with typical slapstick violence). The couple sings old standards like "You Do Something to Me" and "It's only a Paper Moon". Sam's intolerance on one occasion had him throwing guest star Rudolf Nureyev out of the building in a fit of temper, mistaking him for a bum. To his credit, he becomes extremely upset when he learns of his mistake, and is forgiven.