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2000 Muppet Masterpieces Calendar

Boo, get off the stage!

Danny Horn (12-18-99) - This year, the Muppets start a new century with a calendar looking back at both art history and Muppet history. "Jim Henson's Muppet Masterpieces from the Kermitage Collection," a calendar for 2000 published by Graphique de France, is a classy re-release of the 1984 "Treasures of the Kermitage Collection" calendar. Muppet fans will be very familiar with these well-worn art parodies, but luckily, they happen to be some of the best Muppet parodies ever.

Over the last few years, Day Dream Publishing has been printing calendars featuring Muppet parodies of advertisements and movies, which have been mostly terrific, with occasional clunkers. Anyone familiar with the Kermitage Collection photos knows that there's not a clunker in the batch. These were done at the height of Muppet artistry, with incredible care taken to precisely mirror the original artwork in costuming and backgrounds. And they don't rely on obvious Mad-magazine style wordplay, like the wit-deprived "Kerminator" or "Frog Ventoori: Wet Detective" of the past couple years. Just seeing Kermit and Piggy appearing in note-perfect reproductions of highbrow art is funny enough.

One of the highlights is Grant Wood's "American Gothique," with a proud-looking Piggy standing in front of her farmhouse, pitchfork in hand, next to a spectacled and slightly befuddled Kermit in overalls. Observant Piggy fans will notice, of course, that even in her simple farm garb, Piggy still wears her trademark pearls and lavender gloves. Piggy also appears as Da Vinci's enigmatic "Mona Moi," and Kermit as Gainsborough's "Green Boy."

Fozzie steps in as Holbein's "Jester at the Court of Henry VIII," dressed in luxurious royal garb and sticking a jeweled banana in his ear. But my personal favorite is the inspired "Arrangement in Gray and Black with Creep (Whistler's Weirdo)," with Gonzo filling the role of Whistler's mother. There's nothing obviously bizarre about this photo - it's just Gonzo, sitting in a chair and staring straight ahead at the wall, with the famous "Whistler's mother" costume of black robe and white kerchief. It's just a simple, elegant mismatch, and the simplicity of the joke is a large part of its charm.

Those fans who most enjoy seeing the less popular characters will also be pleased with Zoot taking a month as Rousseau's "Sleepy Zootsy," and Statler and Waldorf's appearance in Botticelli's "The Birth of You Know Who."

Graphique de France has done a terrific job of reproducing the photos - the colors are clean and sharp, and you can see each tuft of Fozzie's fur and the rouged foam of Piggy's cheeks. The photos are displayed on a nice white background, and the whole package looks like an actual art museum calendar. Under each month's photo is a snippet of Piggy's commentary on the art - for example, "Whistler's Weirdo" is listed as "Oily substance on tablecloth. Unsolicited gift (left in coatroom)" This stuff is funnier in the Kermitage Collection book, when it's made more clear that the entire collection is supposed to be Miss Piggy's attempt to be taken seriously as an art collector, when in reality, she's being scammed by her sleazy art dealer.

So it's odd that after four years of producing great new parody calendars, the Muppets are sitting out 2000 with a re-release of old material - but at least it means that a new generation will be introduced to some of the best Muppet photos ever. If you're going to recycle, at least recycle the best.

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