|Original work||Sam and Friends|
|Films and television|
|Television series||Television list|
|Video games||Video game list|
|Soundtracks||The Muppets discography|
|Web series||Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony
The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora
|Theme parks||Muppet*Vision 3D
Muppet Mobile Lab
The Muppets are a group of puppet characters known for an absurdist, burlesque and self-referential style of variety-sketch comedy. Having been created in 1955 by Jim Henson, they are the namesake for the Disney media franchise that encompasses films, television series, music recordings, print publications, and other media associated with The Muppet Show characters.
Henson once stated that the term "Muppet" had been created as a blend of the words "marionette" and "puppet", but also claimed that it was actually a word he had coined. The Muppets debuted on the television program Sam and Friends, which aired locally on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. from 1955 to 1961. After appearing on skits in several late night talk shows and advertising commercials during the 1960s, Henson's Muppets began appearing on Sesame Street when that show debuted in 1969. The Muppets then became the stars of multiple television series and films, including; The Muppet Show (1976–1981), The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), and The Jim Henson Hour (1989). After Henson's death in 1990, The Muppets continued their presence in television and cinema with Muppets Tonight (1996–98), a series continuation of The Muppet Show, and three films, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets from Space (1999); the former two were co-produced with Disney, who sought to acquire the characters since the late 1980s. In 2004, Disney purchased the rights to the Muppets (except for the Sesame Street characters, which were sold separately to Sesame Workshop, as well as Fraggle Rock and other characters retained by The Jim Henson Company), and later formed The Muppets Studio; a division created specifically for managing The Muppets franchise.
Under Disney's control, the franchise was relaunched with a series of web videos in 2008 in anticipation of the seventh film, The Muppets. The film, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller and directed by James Bobin, was released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 23, 2011, and met with critical acclaim and commercial success. An eighth film, Muppets Most Wanted, was released on March 21, 2014. A new television series, also called The Muppets premiered September 22, 2015.
- 1 Physicality
- 2 History
- 3 Characters
- 4 Filmography
- 5 Discography
- 6 Other media
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 Footnotes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Appearance and design
A common design for a Muppet is a character with a very large mouth and big protruding eyes.
The puppets are often molded or carved out of various types of foam, and then covered with fleece, fur, or other felt-like material. Muppets may represent humans, anthropomorphic animals, realistic animals, robots, anthropomorphic objects, extraterrestrial creatures, mythical beings or other unidentified, newly imagined creatures, monsters, or abstract characters.
Muppets are distinguished from ventriloquist "dummies"/"puppets", which are typically animated only in the head and face, in that their arms or other features are also mobile and expressive. Muppets are typically made of softer materials. They are also presented as being independent of the puppeteer, who is usually not visible—hidden behind a set or outside of the camera frame. Using the camera frame as the "stage" was an innovation of the Muppets. Previously on television, there would typically be a stage hiding the performers, as if in a live presentation. Sometimes they are seen full-bodied. This is done by using invisible strings to move the characters' bodies and mouths, and then adding the voices later.
Muppets tend to develop, as writer Michael Davis put it, "organically", meaning that the puppeteers take time, often up to a year, slowly developing their characters and voices. Muppets are also, as Davis said, "test-driven, passed around from one Henson troupe member to another in the hope of finding the perfect human-Muppet match".
When interacting with Muppets, children tended to act as though the Muppets were living creatures, even when they could see the puppeteers.
The puppeteer, often dubbed as the "Muppet performer", holds the Muppet above his head or in front of his body, with one hand operating the head and mouth and the other manipulating the hands and arms, either with two separate control rods or by "wearing" the hands like gloves. One consequence of this design is that most Muppets are left-handed as the puppeteer uses his right hand to operate the head while operating the arm rod with his left hand. There are many other common designs and means of operation. In advanced Muppets, several puppeteers may control a single character; the performer who controls the mouth usually provides the voice for the character. As technology has evolved, the Jim Henson team and other puppeteers have developed an enormous variety of means to operate Muppets for film and television, including the use of suspended rigs, internal motors, remote radio control, and computer enhanced and superimposed images. Creative use of a mix of technologies has allowed for scenes in which Muppets appear to be riding a bicycle, rowing a boat, and even dancing on-stage with no puppeteer in sight.
1950s–1990s: Under Jim Henson
The Muppets were created in the 1950s, beginning with Kermit the Frog, who would become Jim Henson's signature character. Jim Henson said the word "Muppet" predated Sam and Friends, the first television program featuring the Muppets. Oftentimes, Henson would tell people he had created the term by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet". During the 1960s, the characters (notably Kermit and Rowlf the Dog) appeared on skits in several late night talk shows and advertising commercials. Rowlf became the first Muppet with a regular spot on network television when he began appearing as Jimmy Dean's sidekick on The Jimmy Dean Show. After the debut of Sesame Street in 1969 (for which Henson designed and performed several characters), Henson decided to pursue the creation of a television program that would be aimed towards adults and children. By 1976, The Muppet Show, a sketch comedy variety series debuted, introducing new characters such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and Animal, as well as showcasing regulars Kermit and Rowlf. The Muppet Show became increasingly popular due to its unique brand of humor and prolific roster of guest stars. The show's success allowed Henson Associates to produce three theatrical features based on the group: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan, which followed in 1979, 1981 and 1984, respectively.
By the late 1980s, Jim Henson entered discussions with The Walt Disney Company, in which the latter would acquire Jim Henson Productions and in turn, own the Muppets. Disney was interested in purchasing the company for $150 million. However, negotiations broke off after Jim Henson's 1990 death. Still interested in the franchise, Disney co-produced the fourth and fifth Muppet films; The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, with Jim Henson Productions in 1992 and 1996, respectively. Following that, the characters starred in Muppets Tonight which ran from 1996 to 1998 and a sixth film, Muppets from Space, released by Columbia Pictures in 1999.
In 2000, Henson Productions was sold to EM.TV & Merchandising AG; only to sell it back to the Henson family in 2003 sans the Sesame Street Muppets rights, which had been sold by EM.TV to Sesame Workshop.
2000s–2010s: Disney acquisition
Fourteen years after initial negotiations began, the Walt Disney Company purchased the Muppet intellectual properties from the Jim Henson Company for $75 million, on February 17, 2004. The acquisition consisted of the rights and trademarks to the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House characters, as well as to the Muppet film and television library. Exceptions included the Sesame Street characters—as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop—the Fraggle Rock characters which were retained by Henson, and the distribution rights to The Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppets from Space, and Kermit's Swamp Years, which remained with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Disney subsequently formed The Muppets Studio, a wholly owned subsidiary responsible for managing the Muppet characters and franchise. As a result, the term "Muppet" became a legal trademark owned by Disney, although Sesame Workshop continues to apply the term to their characters (and archival footage of Kermit) under an exclusive license from Disney.
The Jim Henson Company retains the rights to a number of productions featuring the Disney-owned Muppet characters, including Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, The Christmas Toy, Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting, Henson's Place, Billy Bunny's Animal Songs, the original Dog City special, and Donna's Day. While some of these specials have since been released uncut, current releases of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Christmas Toy have removed the appearances by Kermit the Frog.
Disney began gradually reintroducing the franchise to the mainstream in 2008. As a method of regaining a wider audience, Disney began to produce and air their own comedy shorts on YouTube. After the "Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody" was posted on the Muppet Studios' YouTube Channel, it ultimately gained 25 million views and took home two Webby Awards. Videos are being posted on the site regularly. Recently, the Muppets starred in an online web series with Cat Cora called "The Muppets Kitchen With Cat Cora", where they show people how to cook several items. A television special, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, premiered on NBC on December 17, 2008. It was released on DVD on September 29, 2009. A Halloween special featuring the Muppets was expected to air on ABC in October 2010, but was shelved.
On March 31, 2008, First Showing revealed details about a seventh Muppet film. It was announced at Disney's D23 Expo that the title would be The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made. The title was later referred to as The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time. In January 2010, James Bobin signed on to direct The Muppets, the newly renamed film which already had Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper cast as the film's main characters, and Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie serving as music supervisor. Filming wrapped up in February of the following year and The Muppets was released on November 23, 2011. The film was met with a positive reception, commercial success and an Academy Award win for Best Original Song ("Man or Muppet"). In December 2011, Google released a video of the Muppets as a way to promote their social networking site, Google+.
On March 20, 2012, the Muppets received a collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The ceremony featured such notables as then Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross, The Jim Henson Company's Lisa and Brian Henson, and incumbent Muppet performers; Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, and Peter Linz. That same year, the Muppets hosted a Just for Laughs comedy gala in Montreal.
After the successful performance of The Muppets, Disney greenlit a new film in March 2012, with Bobin and Nicholas Stoller returning to direct and write, respectively. The film, a musical comedy caper titled Muppets Most Wanted, was released on March 21, 2014 with Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell in supporting roles.
Disney Theatrical Productions revealed in 2013 that a live show based on the Muppets was in active development and that a 15-minute show had been conducted by Thomas Schumacher to see how the technical components would work out. Muppets Moments, a series of interstitial shorts, premiered on Disney Junior on April 3, 2015. The short-form series features conversations between the Muppets and young children.
After the release of Muppets Most Wanted, Disney was interested in expanding the Muppets' presence across various media platforms, particularly in television. Discussions for a new primetime series began internally within the Muppets Studio. By April 2015, Bill Prady was commissioned to write a script for a pilot with the working title Muppets 2015. On May 7, 2015, ABC announced that it had greenlit a new primetime television series titled, The Muppets, co-created by Prady and Bob Kushell, and directed by Randall Einhorn. The series premiered on September 22, 2015 on ABC in the United States.
Famous Muppets from The Muppet Show and related spin-offs include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rowlf the Dog, Scooter, Rizzo the Rat, Pepe the King Prawn, Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef, Sam Eagle, Walter, and the band Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem featuring Dr. Teeth on keyboard, Animal on the drums, Floyd Pepper on bass, and Janice on lead guitar, Zoot on saxophone, and Lips on trumpet. These characters are currently performed by a cast of seven principal puppeteers: Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, and Peter Linz. Other notable Muppets include Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and the main characters of Fraggle Rock.
Television shows featuring Muppets have included The Jimmy Dean Show, Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, Bear in the Big Blue House, The Jim Henson Hour, Muppets Tonight, Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony, and The Muppets. A recurring adult-oriented cast of Muppets (in a setting known as The Land of Gorch) were featured throughout the first season of Saturday Night Live. Guest stars on some of these programs have occasionally had Muppet versions of themselves. It was a regular practice for the first few episodes of The Muppet Show, and ZZ Top, among others, have appeared as Muppet versions of themselves on Sesame Street. Muppet versions of real people have also appeared in other shows, such as in 30 Rock, when one of the characters, Kenneth Parcell, views his co-workers as Muppet versions in the episode "Apollo, Apollo" on March 26, 2009.
The puppet characters of other Henson productions, such as Farscape, The Storyteller, Mother Goose Stories, The Hoobs, Construction Site and Dinosaurs, as well as from the films Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Buddy, The Country Bears and The Dark Crystal, are not considered Muppets, as they were made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, rather than by Henson's Muppet Workshop. The puppet casts of Puppet Up! and Tinseltown are also not Muppets as they were made by the Jim Henson Company after the sale of the Muppets to Disney in 2004. The Star Wars character, Yoda, was performed and voiced by Frank Oz, one of Henson's regular performers, and is often genericized as a Muppet in media and reference works; he is not, however, and Henson's organization was not involved in the character's conception.
The popularity of the Muppets has been so expansive that the characters have been viewed by the media as real celebrities in their own right. The Muppets have received their own collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with Kermit having his own individual star as well. The characters have also presented at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards; made cameo appearances in such feature films as Rocky III, An American Werewolf in London and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium; and have been interviewed on the news magazine 60 Minutes. Kermit the Frog was interviewed early on in Jon Stewart's run on The Daily Show, guest hosted The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, America's Funniest Home Videos and an April Fools' Day edition of Larry King Live; and has served as Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade. The characters also appeared in-character on such sitcoms and dramas as The Cosby Show, The West Wing and The Torkelsons. The music video for the Weezer song "Keep Fishin'" is premised on the band performing on The Muppet Show and features appearances by several characters. On September 28, 2005, the United States Postal Service released a Jim Henson and the Muppets postage stamp series. The Muppets also appeared on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve for the 2008 countdown on December 31, 2007. Kermit, Rizzo and others welcomed in the new year with a series of messages to welcome viewers back from the advertising breaks. After one such segment, with Kermit in Times Square, co-host Ryan Seacrest thanked his pal "Kerms" for the help bringing in '08. Miss Piggy has appeared as a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Kermit the Frog appeared on Hollywood Squares and as one of the celebrity commentators on VH1's I Love documentary series. In September 2010, the Muppets launched a new online cooking show called "The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora".
On July 25, 2007, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta announced the opening of a new Jim Henson Wing, which will house anywhere from 500 to 700 retired Muppets. The new wing will also include films, sketches, and other materials from the Jim Henson Company archives. The wing was originally slated to open in 2012, but has been delayed by a lack of funding and rescheduled for a possible 2014 or 2015 debut.
|The Muppet Movie||June 22, 1979||James Frawley||Jim Henson, David Lazer, Sir Lew Grade, Martin Starger||Associated Film Distribution1|
|The Great Muppet Caper||June 26, 1981||Jim Henson||David Lazer, Frank Oz, Bruce Sharman, Martin Starger||Universal Pictures1|
|The Muppets Take Manhattan||July 13, 1984||Frank Oz||David Lazer||TriStar Pictures|
|The Muppet Christmas Carol||December 11, 1992||Brian Henson||Brian Henson, Martin G. Baker, Jerry Juhl, Frank Oz, David Barron||Walt Disney Pictures|
|Muppet Treasure Island||February 16, 1996||Brian Henson, Martin G. Baker|
|Muppets from Space||July 14, 1999||Tim Hill||Columbia Pictures|
|The Muppets||November 23, 2011||James Bobin||David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman||Walt Disney Pictures|
|Muppets Most Wanted||March 21, 2014|
|Film||Box office gross||Rotten Tomatoes|
|The Muppet Movie||$65,200,000||89% (44 reviews)|
|The Great Muppet Caper||$31,206,251||79% (19 reviews)|
|The Muppets Take Manhattan||$25,534,703||81% (21 reviews)|
|The Muppet Christmas Carol||$27,281,507||69% (35 reviews)|
|Muppet Treasure Island||$34,327,391||70% (23 reviews)|
|Muppets from Space||$22,323,612||63% (56 reviews)|
|The Muppets||$165,184,237||96% (204 reviews)|
|Muppets Most Wanted||$80,383,113||78% (170 reviews)|
|Total gross / Average rating||$451,440,814||78%|
|It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie||November 29, 2002||Kirk Thatcher||Warren Carr, Martin G. Baker||Universal Studios Home Entertainment|
|The Muppets' Wizard of Oz||May 20, 2005||Bill Barretta||Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment|
|Title||Premiere date||End date||Network|
|Sam and Friends||May 9, 1955||December 15, 1961||none (WRC-TV)|
|The Muppet Show||September 13, 1976||March 15, 1981||Syndication|
|Muppet Babies||September 15, 1984||December 29, 1990||CBS|
|Little Muppet Monsters||September 14, 1985||September 28, 1985||CBS|
|The Jim Henson Hour||April 14, 1989||July 30, 1989||NBC|
|Muppets Tonight||March 8, 1996||February 8, 1998||ABC / Disney Channel|
|Muppet Moments||April 3, 2015||Disney Junior / Disney Channel|
|The Muppets||September 22, 2015||ABC|
|Muppet Classic Theater||September 27, 1994||David Grossman||The Jim Henson Company|
|Kermit's Swamp Years||September 3, 2002||David Gumpel||Sony Pictures Home Entertainment|
|Title||Premiere date||End date|
|Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony||June 26, 2005||September 20, 2006|
|The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora||September 13, 2010||2010|
|Muppisodes||December 6, 2013||2014|
|Disney Drive-On with The Muppets||August 1, 2014||August 15, 2014|
On September 17, 2002, Rhino Records released The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More, a compilation album of music from The Muppet Show and subsequent film outings. The Muppets also released John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, with John Denver in 1979.
Under Disney ownership, albums featuring or relating to "The Muppets" characters, have been released by Walt Disney Records, including Best of the Muppets: The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005), The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas (2006), Muppets: The Green Album (2011), The Muppets: Original Soundtrack (2011), and Muppets Most Wanted: Original Soundtrack (2014). Legal music publishing rights to Muppet-related songs such as "Rainbow Connection", are controlled by Fuzzy Muppet Songs and Mad Muppet Melodies, imprints of Disney Music Publishing.
Since the late 1970s, numerous Muppet-related comic books have been released over the years. The first comic strips based on The Muppets appeared on September 21, 1981, in over 500 daily newspapers, just months after The Muppet Show ended its five-year run. The Muppets Comic Strip was printed daily from 1981 to 1986. By the end of its initial run, the comic strip was seen in over 660 newspapers worldwide. Special strips were also created in color, exclusively for issues of Muppet Magazine.
The only film in the franchise to see a comic book adaptation was The Muppets Take Manhattan. The comic book series was adapted by Marvel Comics in 1984, as the 68 page story in Marvel Super Special No. 32, August. The adaptation was later re-printed into three limited series issues, released under Marvel's Star Comics imprint (November 1984 – January 1985).
In the wake of the success of the Muppet Babies television show, Star Comics began releasing the Muppet Babies comic book title on a bi-monthly basis. These were original stories, not adaptations of the show's episodes.
In the final Disney Adventures issue, with a cover date of November 2007, a one-page story single strip focusing on Fozzie Bear, Smedley, Statler, and Waldorf (with a cameo by Scooter) was released. Roger Langridge wrote and drew the comics intending it to be more long running.
In 2009, Boom! Studios began publishing The Muppet Show, a mini-series based on the eponymous television show and written and drawn by Roger Langridge. An ongoing series titled The Muppet Show: The Comic Book followed and ran for eleven issues. Additionally, Boom! Studios also published Muppet fairy-tale comic adaptations similar to The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. In 2012, Marvel Comics took over the publishing duties for the series.
Muppet Magazine was published from 1983 to 1989. The magazine took on the format of being "by" the Muppets more than about them, and had such features as celebrity interviews and comic stories.
The Muppets have been making worldwide appearances at Disney theme parks and the Disney Cruise Line since 1990. Their first attraction, Here Comes the Muppets, was a live stage show that opened shortly after Jim Henson's death and ran at Disney's Hollywood Studios (known then as Disney-MGM Studios) for a year. Muppet*Vision 3D opened on May 16, 1991, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and is notable for being the final Muppets project to be produced by Jim Henson, the attraction had a subsequent opening on February 8, 2001, at Disney California Adventure Park, part of the Disneyland Resort. Directed by Henson and written by Bill Prady, the show is a 3D film featuring the Muppets in a plot similar to what was seen on The Muppet Show.
Walt Disney Imagineering designed the Muppet Mobile Lab, a free-roving, audio-animatronic that was later tested at Disney California Adventure Park and at Epcot at Walt Disney World. It is currently deployed at Hong Kong Disneyland.
A number of video games featuring the Muppets have been produced since the 1990s.
- Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival (1990)
- Muppets Inside (1996)
- Muppet RaceMania (2000)
- Muppet Monster Adventure (2000)
- Spy Muppets: License to Croak (2003)
- Muppets Party Cruise (2003)
In popular culture
Muppet-like and Muppet-inspired puppets star in the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q (which disavows any relationship with Sesame Workshop or the Jim Henson Company, possibly to avoid lawsuits from the two companies). Peter Jackson's film, Meet the Feebles is another parody of the Muppets. A vomit-spewing Kermit the Frog was a recurring character on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the Muppets were frequently preempted at the beginning of episodes for the Canadian series You Can't Do That on Television. Seth Green's short-lived show Greg the Bunny was about sentient hand-puppets working in a Muppet-like children's show. Many other films and television shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, The West Wing and Robot Chicken have referenced The Muppets.
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It was really just a term we made up. For a long time I would tell people it was a combination of marionettes and puppets but, basically, it was really just a word that we coined. We have done very few things connected with marionettes.
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In the months before his death in 1990, my father Jim Henson pursued extensive discussions with The Walt Disney Company based on his strong belief that Disney would be a perfect home for the Muppets.
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