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, The Walt Disney Company 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.
Disney re-branded the franchise beginning 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 show, The Muppets, premiered on ABC on September 22, 2015.
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.