a Muppet legend lost with Kevin Clash’s resignation

November 20, 2012 11:50pm
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I don’t really know what to think about this whole Kevin Clash scandal resignation, exception I guess that I’m really sad and disappointed to hear about it.

When the news first picked up last week that someone was accusing Kevin of sexual abuse and then was almost immediately thereafter withdrawn, I felt a sigh of relief that these accusations towards the Muppeteer behind one of Sesame Street’s most beloved characters were untrue. It seemed like a rough 24 hours, but Sesame Street had stood behind their employee – this guy who had spent the last 30 years living his dream of being a puppeteer and also helping to take Sesame Street to new heights as an Executive Producer – and it looked like it was all just going to be some admittedly ugly water under the bridge.

When I read the updated headline today about there now being a second accuser, I didn’t even have to read the story to know that this probably meant the end of the man’s career and sure enough, he ended up resigning because he couldn’t allow the controversy, right or wrong, to take away from Sesame Street any longer.

There are so many ugly questions that I don’t even want to think about – what’s true and what’s made up, how do you define sexual abuse without actual sex, why are they coming out now nearly two decades later, is all of this motivated purely as a money grab or is justice legitimately being sought? I saw one commenter ask why the lawsuit filed only asks for a financial settlement and not criminal charges, implying that this was just a guy out to make a quick buck, but then again I don’t know about statutes of limitations and how all of that plays into account – maybe at this point money is all a lawyer could get.

I guess what’s sad to me is that we even saw last week that it doesn’t take a guilty verdict, just an accusation to muddy someone’s reputation, and when it came out that Kevin was gay, unfortunately in many’s eyes that was already a strike against him. It also seemed suspicious when the first accuser was quick to say, “Here are my accusations – I will not be making any comment about them.” followed by, “My client retracts his previous accusations – we will not comment further on this issue.” Fishy because Kevin’s name (along with Elmo’s) was in every publication in the country, whereas this accuser was able to hide behind the veil of anonymity even after admitting that his statement was false.

…though now he claims that he was paid $125,000 as a settlement to drop the issue, so … ughhhh – who knows?

The thing is, I certainly don’t want to denounce the victims here if it’s true that they were in fact victims, but so much is still up in the air and all we in the public really know for sure is that one of the most experienced veterans in the Muppet world has been forced into resignation so as to not further drag the work that he loves down with whatever’s going to happen to him. Volunteering to resign alone just seems like an unfathomable call to me, like sacrificing yourself for a child, because deep down he loves them so much that he knows that they have to go on without him.

At one point Sesame Workshop was also quoted as saying that the role of Elmo is bigger than any one puppeteer to reassure everyone that the character would continue to exist regardless of whatever happened with Kevin, just like Kermit the Frog lived on after Jim Henson passed away and so many others have transitioned to new performers at this point as well. Still, to have to look in and see someone else now performing a role that you created and were in no way ready to give up?

I’ve watched a lot of interviews about all of the Muppet performers, including Kevin, over the years and he always seemed like such a cool, down-to-earth, passionate guy who clearly just loved making kids smile and laugh just like Jim did. Though the  way they’ve been stacking up now suggest otherwise, I hope that ultimately all of this washes out and we come to find that Kevin was really innocent after all. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone has tried to blackmail a celebrity for money or fame, though in just about every case it always ends up ending the celeb’s career either way.

Regardless of whatever ends up being true, you can’t deny that we’re losing an incredible talent in the world of children’s entertainment with Kevin’s unexpected departure and that the man made an immeasurable contribution to Sesame Street that helped enrich the lives of millions of children around the world very much so for the better…

Muppet Performer Jerry Nelson Dies at 78

August 24, 2012 10:55pm
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(news via People magazine; author of this great image unknown)

This is sad – Muppet performer Jerry Nelson passed away yesterday.

In addition to playing The Count on Sesame Street, he also performed Gobo from Fraggle Rock, Floyd from the Electric Mayhem, Emmet from Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, Kermit’s nephew, Robin, and one of my all-time favorite Sesame Street characters, Sherlock Hemlock.

He first started working with Jim Henson and The Muppets in 1965.

Egad – the world has lost an amazing detective, indeed…

I Am Big Bird

July 23, 2012 10:34pm
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This seems like a fun Kickstarter project that I found earlier today – a group of filmmakers are putting together a documentary about Caroll Spinney, the man behind the feathers of Big Bird (and Oscar the Grouch) for the last 43 years…

I’ve seen a handful of clips on YouTube about him and he seems like he’d just be a really fun guy to be around … I suppose you’d kind of have to be if you’re in the business of children’s television! Of course, probably the most moving one I’ve ever seen was when Big Bird sang It’s Not That Easy Being Green at Jim Henson’s memorial service … though the Bluebird of Happiness part of Follow That Bird was quite the tear-jerker, too, as I do recall!  😥

Anyways, it looks like it could be an interesting watch and I’m always on the lookout for more behind-the-scenes footage with the original Muppet performers!

Lego Kermit!

May 23, 2012 5:02pm
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Now this is pretty freaking amazing, too – came across it while getting caught up on The Brothers Brick this afternoon. How cool would this look sitting in the corner of my office?! 😉

From the Bricks by the Bay 2012 LEGO Convention (California)
 – by Bill Ward’s Brickpile

Also, why I have I not gone to one of these huge Lego conventions yet???

I really love this eulogy.

I used to mostly fixate on the musical medley that the Muppet performers did from that memorial service for Jim Henson, and occasionally maybe I’d replay the video of Frank Oz telling his bizarre story about Jim’s Bert Introspective and the wonderful friendship that they shared, but more recently I’ve been playing these short words from Richard Hunt back every now and then when I need a bit of a pick me up or to try and get myself back on track when I feel like I’m getting lost in the minutia of life.

I think that the words he chose are just a very simple and eloquent reminder of where we all fit into the bigger picture at the end of the day, and sometimes when I find myself buried under a veritable mountain of stress, it’s good to be reminded of that in memory of one of the greatest creative minds the world has ever known.  🙂

The Muppets Insanity Bracket…

April 6, 2012 12:46pm
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I don’t really care about sports, so I never really get caught up in all of this bracket mania that seems to occur every spring around this time of year … but this year Disney posted one up for The Muppets in promotion of their new movie coming out on DVD and, well, that’s something that I can really get behind!

But that said, I’m a little curious … is it common for you to pick a bracket and later then find yourselves completely baffled with the final outcome that otherwise just seemed like an absolutely shoe-in to you at the time?! I suppose it’s probably a little different with sports because your teams are actually competing for progress whereas The Muppets Bracket is essentially a vote for our favorite Muppet, but … just look at what happened recently…

Not for nothing, but how in the world did Kermit lose to Beaker?!?!?! Same with Gonzo vs. the Swedish Chef, and then also Miss Piggy! At first glance of this bracket, it kinda seemed a little pointless to me because it seemed like a given that the fab four of Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, and Miss Piggy would sweep, with the boss frog Kermit then taking his rightful throne on top of the pile. But this just doesn’t make ANY sense!!!

I mean, Beaker is cool and all, but he’s not really the very best Muppet ever! Maybe that’s why they’ve dubbed it an insanity bracket … I dunno.  Also, where’s the love for Scooter – my man that actually kept The Muppet Show running doesn’t even make it into the list, but Pepe does?! Blasphemy!

That said, my updated vote is for Animal to take the final round.

But if Beaker somehow manages to beat out Animal, too … INSANITY!!!!!  😆

You may have noticed that I’ve been on a little bit of a Muppet kick after seeing the new movie earlier this week, so it seemed awesomely convenient when Disney released today’s clip just in time for me to feature it in today’s holiday post! 🙂

Once again, I just can’t reiterate enough how much I enjoyed this movie, so if you want to get but one gift for yourself this holiday season, go and see this movie and I can pretty much guarantee that if you grew up loving the Muppets just as much as I did, it’s the kind of movie that’s bound to put a spring in your step and make the rest of your days even brighter…

The Muppets Take Walt Disney World

December 9, 2011 6:37pm
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This one is another little treat that I found over at the Progress City, USA blog, and it dates back to 1990 just days before Jim Henson passed away. I vaguely remember this when it first aired – I was probably only ten years old at the time, but we specifically subscribed to The Disney Channel (back when you picked channels individually!) so it would probably be a safe bet that we caught it at some point! What was particularly interesting re-watching it to me was that although they spent time at the Disney-MGM Studios, their own attraction hadn’t technically been built yet.

It definitely makes you wonder how much different Hollywood Studios would look today had Disney actually completed their purchase of the Muppets back in the ’90s instead of more than a decade later – it seems like areas of the park dedicated to the Pixar, Disney, and Muppet Studios would’ve been a pretty cool direction for that park to take!

Still, you never know – if Kermit & the Gang can make enough of a splash with their new movie to truly get them back on their owner’s radar, maybe someday… 😉

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Keep our Muppets out of your political agenda…

December 7, 2011 10:49pm
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You could say that I was still on a bit of a Muppet high last night when I came across this ridiculous clip of FOX News anchors suggesting that the movie I had just watched and absolutely loved was actually “propaganda by the liberal Hollywood to brainwash our nation’s children…”

So I’ll admit that last night probably wasn’t the best time for me to encounter something like this because having just witnessed my childhood rekindled on the screen in front of me to song and dance, it cut pretty deep to hear such heinous allegations that this movie had any dubious intentions whatsoever beyond entertaining children of all ages and spreading a good message about believing in yourself and sticking by the side of friends and family.

I mean, any idiot who’s actually watched the movie understands the reasons why Tex Richman is the villain in The Muppets, and it’s certainly not just because “he’s a successful business man and they’re all jealous.” Maybe it has more to do with the idea that he wants to demolish the Muppet Studios so that he can drill for oil underneath, driven by a hatred for the Muppets because he had a bad experience with their act as a child himself…

Photo by Scott Garfield – © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

If they watched the movie, then they’d know that and realize just how ignorant their allegations sound … well, on second thought, no they wouldn’t because this is FOX News and their own agenda is to brainwash their conservative audience about something that they know nothing about because they won’t have watched the movie, either! I mean, their entire political perspective, from Occupy Wall Street to Obamacare to interpretations of the other side in general is founded on a pristine lack of knowledge and understanding about the very things that they’re staunchly offended by, so why should we expect them to actually do 30 seconds of research about a children’s movie before proceeding to use it as ammo in a war that they themselves started?!

If you can make it all the way through their clip, and prepare to be infuriated if you do because the bullshit just gets stinkier and stinkier as the “discussion” continues, these are the same people who argue against things like trying to keep the planet clean and not pumping our atmosphere with poisonous chemicals because from their perspective, those movements are all somehow anti-business and trying to put Americans out of work. Yep – Captain Planet and the Planeteers brainwashed my generation into thinking polluting is bad…

It’s not even worth arguing with these people anymore if they’re so twisted that they can look at a fun, light-hearted story like The Muppets and somehow interpret it as being an object of the “liberal media.” The next person who tries to tell me that “FOX News is the only station that’s actually fair and balanced!” is going to get punched in the face because they don’t even have any desire to learn about the other side of their opinion … how in the world could they actually be fair about how they’re going to present something that they know absolutely nothing about?!

The entire channel is hosted by people who are paid specifically to be absent from the reality that they’re attempting to report – about halfway through, at one point the woman proves that she doesn’t comprehend the notion that even despite food stamps and all of the other social programs that exist, there are still people who go hungry in the streets around our country every night! They tune out the parts of society that they just don’t want to acknowledge – oil companies are responsible for lots of pollution, which believe it or not is bad unless your lungs have somehow evolved to breathe polluted air; Occupy Wall Street isn’t about jealousy or envy, it’s about being fed up with executives getting rich by buying their own political regulations and profiteering off of all those beneath them; not everyone who uses our social deserves them, but at the same time not all who deserve them actually receive their benefits, either.

I said it last night and I reaffirm my position that it absolutely sickens me that these people are so hungry for controversy that they can take such a kind and selfless entity like the Muppets and turn them into a liberal device that they need to warn their own misinformed audience about. The problem isn’t that our children are being “brainwashed” by these ideas, the problem is that they’ve brainwashed the parents of these children into fearing something that they know absolutely nothing about because they know that just like themselves, they won’t actually ask the question of whether or not what they’re being told is even accurate in the first place.

Muppet Newsflash: You can’t be fair and balanced if you don’t actually know and understand both sides of the story.

I LOVED The Muppets!

December 6, 2011 11:37pm
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Oh boy – where do I even begin?!  I thought The Muppets was a fantastic movie – Jason Segel did an amazing job with the script, the story was both fun and incredibly emotional for any lifelong Muppets fan like myself, and I know that I left the theater not only ecstatic for what I had just watched, but also extraordinarily hopeful for what we might now see out of the Muppets in the future…

…because one of the things that rang extraordinarily true for me while I was watching this movie was that while although yes, it was a silly story for entertainment purposes, at the same time it was also a very real story because the Muppets aren’t nearly as big of a deal right now as they used to be back in the day, and I think the reason why this ended up being such a powerful film is that it truly became a fan’s story asking the question, “Wait a minute – what did happen to the Muppets, and what do we have to do to get them back???”  It’s the kind of story that could only be told by a diehard fan like Jason Segel – not someone who spent the last 30 years performing these characters, but instead someone who spent those same years idolizing them.

At its heart, I couldn’t help but thinking throughout this movie, “These guys do deserve a comeback!

Photo by Scott Garfield – © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

And mind you, I never actually even saw any of the big three Muppet movies in the theater – in fact, come to think of it, I only ever saw Muppets From Space which was as recent as 1999, but nonetheless as the opening theme to The Muppet Show played and the characters came marching across the screen singing like it was 1976, I couldn’t help but imagine that it felt something like that and frankly, even just recreating that experience from years before I was even born was pretty cool.  These are timeless characters that have been around my entire life, and at the end of the show it was just really rewarding to finally see them getting the second shot that they’ve really been waiting on for what seems like over a decade at this point.

The high points for me?

  • The Opening Number – Just as fun as I’ve been expecting since I watched the video of Kermit and songwriter Bret McKenzie singing a few weeks ago, with plenty of fun sight gags thrown in to play along.
  • Amy Adams – She had a tough role in this movie because she eventually has to present one of the conflicts to Jason Segel’s character, but without making you absolutely hate her for it, and I think she did a really good job of that because when you see her singing and dancing again at the end of the movie, she still seems to fit right in with the whole gang.
  • The Kermit & Piggy Dynamic – I really loved how they handled this without going over the top because even though it would’ve been entirely possible to create the entire movie around the mysteries between them and whatever happened to their relationship, instead it became more of a quaint rekindling with a lot of unspoken heart.
  • The Rainbow Connection – I don’t really think that it’s a “spoiler,” per se, because it is on the soundtrack, but the actual performance of this song … including a very heartwarming interlude … was a huge moment. One of the many where I had to casually dry my eyes… 😉
  • A Flight of the Conchords-esque Soundtrack – It can’t be easy writing songs for characters with this kind of legacy, but Bret McKenzie did a fantastic job of penning quirky originals that seemed to fit right into the Muppet universe while also maintaining a modern tune.
  • The GRAND Finale! – In a word, it was BIG, and TEAR-JERKING, and FUN, and INSPIRATIONAL, and all of the things that I remember from growing up watching the Muppets all of these years.  Ok, so maybe that’s several words, but they really pulled out all of the stops and delivered a phenomenonal ending and to quote another random Internet commenter, “The only bad thing about it was that it meant the movie was over…”

So yeah, I absolutely loved it, and if I had the time between now and Christmas, I’d most definitely go see it again because you only see a handful of truly great movies in your time and The Muppets was certainly one of them!  At the very least, I can’t wait for the DVD to come out, and until then I’ll probably be listening to choice hits from the soundtrack on regular rotation in my car and while I’m working!

Photo by Andrew Macpherson – © The Muppets Studio, LLC

One final note that I wanted to end on is that if nothing else, I sincerely hope that Disney takes full advantage of this movie’s destined success and uses it to actually elevate the Muppets back into our daily lives like so many fans have been wishing for years.  I’m talking more appearances by the characters, I’m talking a new attraction (or possibly even a new land altogether) at Walt Disney World, I’m talking figuring out how to make The Muppet Show profitable and taking another stab at that, too!  This was a movie all about taking chances and trying new things, so what  better way to honor these incredible icons that Jim Henson left us by putting them back in the spotlight where they so rightfully belong to be?!

Seeing Kermit and Fozzie and Miss Piggy up on the big screen was a genuine reminder that this is an amazing cast of characters, full of heart and love and the desire to make as many people laugh as they possibly can.  All Disney needs to do now is step back and let the Muppets do their thing…

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