This month on Dispodopolis, we discuss the greatest movie of 1979, “The Muppet Movie.” This movie was one of the best movies of my childhood and came along at the right time. There was a definite void of child entertainment during this time, and Jim Henson was there for us. In this podcast, we talk about Jim Henson, the incredible movie he created with a fantastic group of performers, the unprecedented amount of cameos that are stern across this movie, and how the muppets changed our lives. Jim Henson came along when there wasn’t a lot for children to watch on television or in the movie theaters. Henson had been developing his skills as a puppeteer and creating his unique take on puppets for about ten years when the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) approached him. CTW reached out to Henson and his company to work on Sesame Street. Henson brought together some of the best puppeteers in the business and taped into a world that children loved.
Henson was always looking for a new way to express himself and push his company to the next level. After providing the puppets and energy behind Kermit the Frog and numerous other characters, he ventured off with a core group of puppeteers from his company, the Jim Henson Company, creating the Muppet Show. From there, he found the financial freedom, audience, and support he needed to take the next step to venture into the movies.
Henson had experimented with the idea of making a movie for years and finally broke out with the commercial and critical success The Muppet Movie. It was a hit because Henson had spent years refining his team of talent. Some of the amazing puppeteers Henson worked with were Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, and Caroll Spinney. These five men weren’t just the voices of the Sesame Street gang; they were the ones that brought the Muppets to life. Frank Oz, who was born into a puppetry family, voiced the characters Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam the Eagle. Jerry Nelson was the voice behind Floyd Pepper, Crazy Harry, and Robin the Frog. Richard Hunt voiced Scooter, Statler, Janice, Sweetums, and Beaker. Dave Goelz was the man behind The Great Gonzo, Zoot, and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. Lastly, Caroll Spinney makes an appearance as Big Bird. It really is a time capsule of the seventies. There were a plethora of cameos from stars that were making a mark for themselves in this decade. It also was a movie that honored the actors of our parent’s generation, which was also Jim Henson’s generation. All of those appearing in this movie appreciated what Henson was trying to achieve and wanted to be a part of this project. Some of the fantastic talents included: Edgar Bergen, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, James Corburn, Dom DeLuise, Elliot Gould, Bob Hope, Madeline Kahn, Carol Kane, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Telly Savalas, and Orson Welles. For a lot of the older actors, this was the last role before they passed away.
What truly made this movie was the music, and it was developed by two incredible musicians that are still creating the hits that we sing. Paul Williams and Ken Ascher created all the hits for this movie, and they had just finished working on another film, “A Star Is Born,” with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristopherson. From “Rainbow Connection” to “Moving Right Along,” they wrote the songs that ended the decade and kept us dancing into the new one. “Rainbow Connection” resonated with a whole generation and was our “Over the Rainbow.” “Rainbow Connection” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song. Paul Williams continued to work closely with Jim Henson on all their projects through the eighties and continued to work with the Jim Henson Company after Henson’s passing.
This movie may have had a simple script with enough dad jokes to leave you laughing in the aisles; it changed and touched our lives. It gave us hope and encouragement to achieve our dreams. We went home and sang and danced with our friends across our beds, coaches, and shag-carpeted floors. Thirty years later we got to see that joy again when a generation x-er created a movie that shared the experience with a new generation, which included my kids. “The Muppets” brought back the love and the music that made “The Muppet Movie.” I saw my daughter and her friend’s singing, laughing, and jumping for joy all through the house.
Before we have our discussion about “The Muppet Movie,” we ask ourselves which Muppet character we would like to be? We also talk about the different Muppet personalities that fit well with the other members of our family. Some are unanimously chosen for individual members, and others are a little harder to peg. Fiona starts off this conversation and Ryan and I follow. Lastly, we have a short discussion about the Muppet Show and all the talent we have lost since then. Don’t forget to email us with which Muppet character you think best embodies you and who would fit our personality. We would love to hear from you and your family. If you have any comments, questions, or fun and fancy-free thoughts for us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enjoy our latest podcast, Dispodopolis.
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