Posts Tagged ‘Muppets’

Muppets on The Orson Welles Show

Wow! Puppeteers Unite just uncovered a bit of early Muppets which I never knew existed.

The Orson Welles Show was an unsold television talk show pilot. It has never been broadcast or released. Filming began in September 1978 and the project was completed around February 1979. It ran 74 minutes and was intended for a 90 minute commercial time slot.

Shot partly before a live audience, Welles interviewed Burt Reynolds (taking several questions from the audience,) Jim Henson and Frank Oz performed Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear.

Part of what makes this totally fascinating is that the puppeteers are in full view of the audience and only masked by shadows.

The Dark Crystal

Last night a group of us went to see the midnight showing of the Dark Crystal. This is the first time I’ve seen it projected since its original appearance in 1982. What amazed me was how well the puppetry stands up. The other special effects? Not so much. I’m not sure if I should chalk that up to puppetry having a longer history than compositing and CGI or if it’s because they are objects that truly exist and so have an inherent consistency with the way they interact with the physical world.

When I was an intern at the Center for Puppetry Arts, they had one of the mystics on display in the museum. This static puppet still seemed to have a life. If you stood in the room with it, you’d swear that it was breathing, perhaps simply meditating. I wasn’t alone in my reaction to it.

With stage puppetry, part of the magic comes because audiences have to actively invest their willing suspension of disbelief. More so than with a human actor, an audience member has to participate in the act of believing a puppet is alive. Which is one of the reasons that when puppets die onstage, they die so thoroughly. The audience had put part of themselves into the character. When an actor dies, you know that they are just pretending. A puppet is dead and returned to its inanimate state.

I think there’s some of that when watching puppets on film too. Certainly, I find the puppet Yoda more compelling than the CGI Yoda. It’s a curious thing.

The film itself… I’d love to see Frank Oz do a director’s cut, where they return to the original dialogue. In the original version, the Skeksis spoke in a constructed language, with subtitles. Here’s what that sounds like. No subtitles, sorry.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Kermit

This is one of my favorite Sesame Street videos. The song totally sticks in my head.

Plus, at 1.01, if you watch the lower right corner of the screen, Jim Henson’s head flashes for a moment. First time I’ve seen that.

Cookie Monster on NPR

PuppetVision Blog pointed out that Cookie Monster was on NPR yesterday. There’s a long tradition of puppet characters appearing on radio, but we are lucky that the wise folk at NPR also made a short video of Cookie answering the famous Proust Questionnaire.

You can listen to the whole interview at the same link. “C” is for cookie. That’s good enough for me.