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Magic from the Ed Sullivan Show DVD
Chapman (August 22, 2003) - It really is amazing, during
one week fans will be treated to three long-awaited DVD releases: Muppets
Magic from the Ed Sullivan Show, John
Denver and the Muppets: Rocky Mountain Holiday, and The
Storyteller: The Complete Collection. Without a doubt, the most unexpected
of these releases is the Ed Sullivan Muppets DVD. The disc features uncut
clips of twenty Henson appearances on the show. Unfortunately because
of the inability to obtain musical rights, the five remaining skits were
get to the wonderful content on this disc, let’s look at some details
of this release. First
off, two changes could have made this historic DVD even better: the title
and the cover. The official title is “Muppets Magic from the Ed
Sullivan Show”. Muppet Magic (without the “s”) would
have been a smoother title. The cover features a group shot of Muppets
that appear on the disc. The downside is that the images are screen grabs,
with a newer photo of Kermit added to the mix. This technique makes the
photo look grainy and of poor quality (see our alternative
cover). If high resolution photos of some of the early Muppet characters
were not available, perhaps a classy cover with the Ed Sullivan logo,
or a nice 60's shot of Jim Henson and Ed Sullivan would have been just
as appropriate. While the cover of the DVD leaves a lot to be desired,
fans aren’t buying this treasure for the cover. The DVD packaging
is pretty basic: a black plastic snap case with a front and back color
insert sleeve. Sadly, a collector's booklet is not included. What a wonderful
touch it would have been to include something written by Jerry Juhl, but
given this item's price point of $10 it is hard to complain.
This DVD is
a single-layer disc. Audio has been re-mastered in 5.1 digital surround
sound. As to be expected, since the source material is from the 60’s
and early 70’s, quality is not at today’s DVD standards, however,
these are minor quibbles. The Ed Sullivan show has never looked so good.
The original 2-inch tapes were used to master this DVD.
We can only hope that Henson will take notice of the excitement
over this release. Fans are clamoring for more discs like this. It would
be spectacular if the Goodtimes Home Video folks would follow-up and release
the 1970 Ed Sullivan-Muppet collaboration, “The Great Santa Clause
Switch” on DVD as well. If Muppets Magic does well, it might encourage
the Henson Company to release other early footage from the 50’s
and 60’s, especially with Henson’s 50th anniversary on the
my wife and I watched the DVD, we were reminded of some of the reasons
we became life-long Muppet fans. The innovative genius and creativity
of Jim Henson shines on this disc at a time when many of his characters
were introduced for the first time. He pushed puppetry into genres and
situations that were unheard. Watching this DVD made us both appreciate
and miss Jim so much more.
sketches are featured in the main program while two additional bits are
listed as bonus features. The first thing one notices when playing the
DVD is the fine animated menu featuring the Southern Colonel, Kermit,
Big Bird and a little television screen playing highlights from the disc.
Once you see the opening menu, you will realize you are in Muppet heaven
and be transported thirty years back in time. And now, let’s take
a look at each classic skit included on this 68 minute DVD.
'n' Roll Monster
Jim Henson's very first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, a Rock
'n' Roll Monster is lip-synching to "Rock It To Me", a
sketch originally from "Sam and Friends". In the 50's
and 60's, Jim Henson's characters were well known for their parodies
of musical hits.
Original Airdate: September 18, 1966
character grows out of a box. First you see only the hands, then
a head, and finally several heads. The heads and limbs are moving
in all directions during this tune. The Rock 'n' Roll Monster dissolves
to his original size and is eaten by Sour Bird, a character designed
for a Royal Crown Cola advertising campaign.
Original Airdate: April 30, 1967
is distraught because she believes she is ugly. She reads a book
entitled, "How Not To Be Ugly". As she reads, Amanda replaces
her eyes, hair, and mouth as she hums "I Am Pretty". Now
that she "feels" attractive, a Guy Smiley precursor, Conrad
Love appears to sweep her off her feet. Amanda discovers love from
an unlikely source as she learns to appreciate who she really is.
This is a precursor
to the "I Am Pretty" sketch that would appear on the 1973
special "Julie on Sesame Street" and the Charles
Aznavour episode of the Muppet Show. Inner beauty and strength
would become a central theme of Jim's work.
Original Airdate: November 30, 1969
now famous, Mahna Mahna was created specifically for this appearance
on the Ed Sullivan Show. He was designed as a symbol of free expression,
a concept that was quite popular in the 1960's. The original song
"Ma-Na-Ma-Na" was written by Italian artist Peter Umilioni.
creatures, the Snowths (a blend of the words 'snout' and 'mouth'),
sing "Doo Doo Dee Doo-Doo". As the song continues, Mahna
Mahna upstages the Snowths by excitedly repeating his name. A couple
things to look for in this original rendition, Mahna Mahna winks
quite a bit throughout this piece which adds to the humor. He also
looks directly into the nose of each of the Snowths as he sings
would also air on Sesame Street in 1969 and the first episode of
the Muppet Show starring Juliet
Prowse. A parody of Mahna Mahna was on the 1996 Sandra Bullock
episode of Muppets Tonight. Mahna Mahna was also performed live
in December 2001 at the Muppet
Show Live during MuppetFest.
Change of Face
Original Airdate: March 30, 1969
the Southern Colonel
and Rex Robbins, this sketch is another play on changing one's appearance.
The Colonel is in a rut and needs a change. Rex begins changing
the character's face and consequently adapting his personality from
an old man to a young kid, a hip teenager (in Kermit's voice no
less), a thief and many other personalities. This sketch is a reflection
of Jim’s playful side. With just the change of eyes or hair,
a character could take on a totally different personality.
A similar version
of this skit was on the 1968, PBS special, "The Muppets On
Original Airdate: October 8, 1967
the first appearance of the character who would become Cookie Monster,
this sketch is a dynamic interchange between a machine and a monster.
As the monster eats the machine the pre-recorded voice synthesizer
describes the machine's purpose. After the whole machine has been
eaten, the monster discovers a dynamite surprise that the machine's
primary function is to be an explosive device.
was also performed in the 60's for an IBM Muppet Meeting Film, in
1977 with Luncheon Counter Monster in the George Burns episode of
the Muppet Show, and on a 1987 Muppet Meeting Film. Instead of using
a computer, the 1987 meeting film features Luncheon Counter with
a coffee machine.
Original Airdate: December 22, 1968
sketch originally appeared on "The Perry Como Christmas Special".
Charlie (voiced by Jim) and four other reindeers spout off a long
run of wonderful puns. The reindeer's leader, Charlie, tries to
calm the loud group of "branch brains and twig heads".
Each set of antlers is distinct to each character, adding to the
visual comedy. Jim's
original idea was that the entire reindeer's body would be seen.
This idea was later scrapped in order to improve the comedic timing
of the sketch.
was also included on the video, "The
Ed Sullivan Show: A Christmas Classic (1991)".
Original Airdate: November 24, 1968
love of jazz is evident in this piece. Originally performed on "The
Today Show" and "The Tonight Show", the characters
have pipe-shaped bodies that pop up in the swirling smoke. Jim played
with the idea of combining eerie music, visual imagery and special
effects. For example, the characters' eyes move around their heads
and occasionally light up.
is a precursor to what would become "Buggy Mugger" for
Nancy Sinatra's Las Vegas Show, and "Hugga Wugga" for
Diller episode of the Muppet Show. Jim would eventually tie-in
one of his favorite songs, "You Are My Sunshine" with
Original Airdate: December 14, 1969
this funky instrumental dance number, Big Bird makes his Ed Sullivan
debut. Five female human bird watchers admire Big Bird's groove
as they jive to the psychedelic beat. A funny moment is when Big
Bird mimics the movement of the bird watchers. At the end of the
song, Ed Sullivan shakes wings with Big Bird. Listen carefully to
Ed's reply back to the Sesame Street favorite. It's no wonder Big
Bird didn't appear again on the show.
All in all,
this is weird sketch. Big Bird doesn't say a word, even when Ed
talks to him. We believe this isn't Carrol Spinney. In his book,
"The Wisdom of Big Bird",
Spinney reflects on how he can't dance at all. Since Big Bird does
his share of dancing and doesn't speak, it's likely Spinney was
taping "Sesame Street" or unavailable at the time.
Art of Visual Thinking
Original Airdate: October 2, 1966
Henson team returns to the Ed Sullivan Show two weeks after their
initial appearance, and perform their popular Visual Thinking routine
from "Sam and Friends".
While many fans
have seen clips of this sketch, few have seen it in its entirety,
making this a highlight of the DVD. Grump (who would later star
in the Muppet Meeting Films) and a well-dressed, hip Kermit visualize
their thoughts while making some wonderful puns. What the characters
imagine appears above their heads. For example, the conservative
Grump visualizes a chick hatching from an egg while Kermit visualizes
a young female, human. The sketch is a prime example of the creativity
and imagination of Jim. A few years later, Jim would take the idea
of thought analysis much further with "Limbo, the Organized
Girl Meets a Monster
Original Airdate: May 11, 1969
little girl is standing behind a brick wall that would become quite
familiar to Sesame fans later in the year. She is exceptionally
happy. Life is perfect for her, but a scary monster is trying to
ruin her wonderful day. He eats her flower, smashes her flowerpot,
shoots a bird and even makes it rain. Inevitably, the girl wins
the monster over by saying, "You are perfectly awful. You are
so perfectly awful, it's beautiful". The monster shrinks down
to a small size as the girl controls her fears.
fear only had the power that one gave to it as evidenced by this
touching piece. The monster would become known as Beautiful Day
because of this sketch. He would later appear on the first season
of Sesame Street and on the first season of the Muppet Show. His
most famous moment is with Paul
Williams ("You got anything cheaper?").
A similar version of
the sketch was on the Muppet Show starring Madeline Kahn. Madeline
played the role of a lady having a beautiful day and Dog Lion played
the ugly monster.
Original Airdate: February 12, 1971
goes in a new direction with this character, the Glutton. He almost
looks like a character you might see years later on the non-Muppet,
"Gigglesnort Hotel". In this sketch, the Glutton devours
everything on the table: a beverage, his chicken, and even a saltshaker.
When he eats some nuts, he finds a little creature inside one of
them and a duel ensues.
After the bit,
the Glutton comes out to greet Ed. Familiar with Jim and his antics,
Mr. Sullivan plays the part of the tasty host.
Original Airdate: February 18, 1968
unlike the characters seen earlier in "Sclrap-Flyapp",
these are four cylinder creatures. Some of them have light bulbs
on their heads (as pictured) while others have moving eyes and features.
Two Muppets are discussing random business and financial terms while
two more join in the scat and battle the business Muppets with words
of kindness and joy. In Muppet style, explosions eventually ensue.
After all, that's "Business, Business".
and methodical tones of the dialogue is balanced with the humor
of the characters' movements and the jazz rift that underscores
Clause Routine with Arthur Godfrey
Original Airdate: December 24, 1967
Godfrey plays Santa Clause in this precursor to the 1970 special,
"The Great Santa Clause Switch". As Santa sings, "Christmas
Tomorrow" he is suddenly joined by a group of monsters who
want to steal the toys. Take particular note of the monster to the
right of Santa, it's the original green monster who would become
known as Grover on Sesame Street. When Santa announces that he is
giving the toys to the monsters, they have a change of heart.
An edited version
of this sketch appeared on the video, "The
Ed Sullivan Show: A Christmas Classic (1991)". Here it
is unedited and complete.
Grown Accustomed to Your Face"
Original Airdate: February 5, 1967
of the most famous Muppet bits was performed to Rosemary Clooney's
"I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face". This sketch was
performed in the 1950's ("The Steve Allen Show", "Al
Hirt", "The Today Show") and throughout the 1960's
numerous times. The sketch features Kermitina (Kermit dressed as
a female) and a small, skull-like purple monster named Yorick. He
is the original Muppet monster in a long-line of Muppet eaters.
Kermit is lip-synching
to the tune while Yorick eats a pink handkerchief that covers his
face and then tries to devour Kermit. As the song continues Yorick
grows hungrier for frog legs and drags Kermit off the stage.
Monster Trash Can Dance
Original Airdate: October 13, 1968
this piece, a little girl happily hums a tune. She feels she is
being watched from three nearby trash cans. A mixture of eyes and
fur form a creature. When the eyes and fur appear like a monster,
she screams and runs away. They eventually morph into a little boy.
When the girl kisses the boy she receives another surprise in Jim
Jim is taking the frightening aspects and perception of monsters
and teaching that they are a lot more like us than we believe, no
matter how they might appear.
Original Airdate: November 27, 1966
another famous sketch in Muppet lore performed to an Al Hirt song
from the 60's. Jim designed this sketch for a proposal for a live
performance of the Muppets at New York's Lincoln Center. This was
the first "Java" performance of what would become many.
tube-like characters (designed by Frank Oz) dance and duel with
one another for the spotlight. This is one of the first times Jim
used a black background and costumes to hide the puppeteers. The
"David and Goliath" philosophy seen here is also reflected
in many of the early bits featuring monsters.
Ten years later
on the Muppet Show, the Java characters would appear again, this
time with orange fur around their white bodies n the Ethel
Merman episode. "Java" would also be performed on
"The Tonight Show" in 1979 when Kermit and the Muppets
host for Johnny Carson.
Original Airdate: November 27, 1966
this Henson treasure, Kermit returns wearing his trademark, red
sweater (which was his common attire in the mid-sixties). A little
inchworm (which looks quite similar to Oscar's pet Slimey) repeatedly
aggravates Kermit until he is eaten. On his third attempt, Kermit
finds a great surprise as the worm is really the nose of a Muppet
monster who devours Kermit.
and Wontkins, characters that helped define Muppet explosions in
the 1950s, "Inchworm" showcased Muppets eating one another.
Jim didn't like the idea that bullies always win, and this bit highlights
the fact that the little guy can win every now and then too.
Starr's "Octopus's Garden"
Original Airdate: March 1, 1970
nobody really understands what this song is about, it's only fitting
that the Muppets would pick this bizarre Ringo Starr tune. This
scene features a nice water background and a singing clam sitting
on a log. Like "Java" the performers are hidden from view
as the characters swim in the water. Jim sings the lead as a sea-diving
Muppet while Frank Oz performs an Octopus. It wasn't until "Sesame
Street” in 1969 that Frank began actively voicing characters.
His performance here of a wisecracking Octopus clearly steals the
show. Frank's performance is a foreshadowing of wonderful things
Garden" would also be performed on "Sesame Street"
and on the James Coco, fifth season episode of the Muppet Show.
Original Airdate: October 23, 1966
large, father monster is talking with his son about the latest events
in the family. The baby wants to learn how to breath fire to which
daddy responds, "You are too young to smoke". Jerry Juhl
performs the baby monster who sounds identical to Taminella Witch
(featured in "Tales of the Tinkerdee" and "The Frog
Prince"). However, Mommy Splurge steals the show when he bursts
through the set, runs into the studio audience and out the stage
door. As Splurge passes, some ladies scream and others wave to him
as if Splurge is a long, lost member of the family.
Wild String Quartet (Bonus Feature)
Original Airdate: January 17, 1971
DVD concludes with Mahna Mahna's return to the Ed Sullivan Show.
Grump and two Whatnot Muppets are preparing to play Beethoven as
a string quartet. The other violinist, Beagleman, is late so Mahna
Mahna arrives with his drum set to take his place.
ensues with some wonderful musical puns. As they rehearse, the classical
musicians are slowly persuaded to join Mahna Mahna's wild and hip
are some of the known Henson appearances from the Ed Sullivan Show not included
due to musical rights issues:
Central's graphic artist, James Carroll designed this alternative
cover that you can print and use in the slipcase as a replacement.
All of the images are touched-up screen grabs from the DVD.
Hath Charms with Kermit and various Muppet monsters (January 15, 1967)
[available on "The Very Best of the Ed Sullivan Show Vol. 2"
Kind of Fool Am I?" with Kermit and Grover (May 31, 1970) [available
on the 1984 special, "Henson's Place"]
Together" (April 12, 1970)
and Jimmy Dean (airdate unknown)
what you may be missing!
Learn the differences between
widescreen and pan-and-scan DVDs.