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Authentic Kermit the Frog Photo Puppet Replica

Order your Authentic Kermit Replica. Only 2,500 Kermits will be produced.

Phillip Chapman (September 10, 2006) - It was a year ago that we first reported that Master Replicas was in the developmental phase of creating a limited edition authentic replica of Kermit the Frog. Now the final product has finally arrived.

Muppet Central has received a final production prototype Kermit for this review. Basically, the Kermit replica you see here is exactly the same as the one you’ll receive if you ordered yours from Master Replicas on-line. According to Creative Director Kevin Eslinger, the first 100 pre-orders are shipping now. A much larger shipment of Kermit replicas will arrive via boat from China in the days ahead.

For more than thirty years, I’ve always wanted to see an “official” Muppet character released. Not a mere toy that is just a mirror likeness of a character, but a real, exact Muppet as we know and love. Finally, this day has come. The great people at Master Replicas have taken on a challenging task recreating the most beloved Muppet of all time.

GREEN AND GLORIOUS

One of the issues that most fans will deal with in terms of this product is expectations. We all expect our Kermit replica to be perfect, but the reality is that the Kermit puppet that we all know and love has gone through many changes over the years. This Kermit replica is based more on the recent Kermit design rather than the earlier Kermits from the 1970's. Even the real Kermit puppet looks very different in person than what is seen on television depending on the angle and lighting.

You’ll notice Master Replica’s Kermit is a full-body “Photo Puppet”. Originally Henson began using posable photo puppets like this for still photography, most notably for the Muppet Calendars and Muppet Magazine in the 1980’s. While some fans may be initially disappointed that Master Replicas isn’t creating hand-puppets, the real thrill of owning Kermit is in his adaptability and posability to any situation you can imagine.

Master Replica’s Kermit uses the exact same patterns as the real full-body poser along with nearly identical antron fleece materials. Kermit was manufactured nearly exactly the way each photo puppet is created at the Henson Workshop. The main differences between Master Replica's Kermit and a real Kermit poser is that Master Replica's body design is more robust in order to better withstand the test of time and includes plastic inside to join all the wires. Foam has been injected inside of Kermit's body.

Kevin Eslinger even demonstrated the Henson stitch to the China factory. Kermit comes with a custom display stand and a gold numbered plaque. He is being produced in a very low, limited edition run of only 2500.

Kermit measures 24 and ½ inches long. His arms are 13 inches each while his legs are 12 and ½ inches long. Initially, his head, neck and body proportions seemed a little off. As I scrunched Kermit’s face, moved his mouth and adjusted his hands he became more and more accurate by the minute. Once you break him in a little, you’ll be more than pleased with the results. The Kermit replica is slightly smaller than the real puppet but the same size as the real poser.

Kermit’s eyes are real ping-pong balls with black felt pupils. His mouth includes the standard Muppet pink tongue with black throat and includes a rubber gasket inside. The same felt used on Kermit’s collar is also on the bottom of Kermit’s feet. A Master Replica tag is conveniently hidden underneath the back of Kermit’s collar.

I soon realized the immense joy of owning this high-end collectible is that Kermit is fully posable in an almost limitless arrangement of positions. Unlike any Kermit you’ve ever owned, you can adjust Kermit’s mouth expression, rotate his neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles and fingers. Whether you love frustrated Kermit, scrunched up Kermit, solemn Kermit or thinking Kermit, all of these poses and more can be created effortlessly. Kermit can sit in any pose and on almost any surface. Getting Kermit to stand is more difficult, but possible if the legs are positioned just right to balance his body.

The regular Kermit puppet is on the left while a more "flat head" poser Kermit is on the right.

As issue that has always been present in the official Henson poser Kermits used for Muppet photographs is the “flat head” Kermit. Basically, since Kermit doesn’t have a performer’s hand inside, with a still "poser" Kermit his head is more flat than pointed in between his eyes. Often this is due to the poser being "over stuffed". Initially, the Kermit replica suffered from this as well, however, as I adjusted Kermit’s face and eyes he began to take the proper form. Thankfully, Master Replicas allowed ample room for Kermit's stuffing to be moveable inside his head so that each person could adjust Kermit to their liking.

Last month at Comic-Con, Master Replicas announced that the next Muppet replica planned for 2007 will be The Great Gonzo, based off the third season Muppet Show design and patterns. If Gonzo sells well, the wild Muppet drummer Animal is the next replica planned for production. From Gonzo's long nose to Animal's wild hair, both of these characters present many challenges in design. Master Replicas is committed to producing many more Muppet as long as fans continue to support the line. One thing we'd love to see on both Gonzo and Animal is moveable eyelids.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Master Replica's Kermit is surrounded by other Kermits throughout the years including: Fisher-Price Kermit (1978), Eden Kermit (1993), Palisades Kermit (2002), Fisher-Price Dress Up Kermit (1981) and Ideal Kermit (1965).

Sales of the limited edition Kermit replica have been above expectations and fans should order their authentic Kermit Replica before he sells out entirely. Kermit’s value will likely only increase on the secondary market. The Kermit Replica is limited to a run of only 2,500.

Kermit is so impressive. Immediately he’ll become one of your most prized collectibles. Even though the $199 price point is high, it’s a small price to pay for such a wonderful recreation of the world’s most famous frog. Your other Kermit puppets and dolls will fade in comparison to this work of art.

If you'd like to see more pictures of Kermit, check out Master Replicas web site and the Muppet Central Forum.

THE HISTORY OF THE KERMIT REPLICA

Recently, Creative Director Kevin Eslinger posted the following in the Muppet Central Forum on the history of the Kermit replica over the past year.

I just got back to Colorado after a very extended Comic Con Trip. Comic Con end a week and a half ago for everyone else but ended for me on 8/1. There was so much follow up required after comic con it was incredible. I have so many projects in the works for 2007 that it is difficult to find time to even think about 2006 stuff. So here is my moment of pause one 2006 product called the Kermit Photo Puppet Replica.

Driving up the 5 freeway from LA to Walnut Creek I made a phone call to Terry Angus. To many of you Terry does not need an introduction but for the few who don't know him he was a puppet builder for a show called Fraggle Rock. If you don't know what Fraggle Rock is you are obviously are in the wrong place. How I met Terry is an interesting story but basically comes down to product development 101.

So after I was determined to make a Kermit Puppet Replicas I had to figure out how to actually do it. The problem was I had no budget and no approval from Disney. So I started talking to people. I would bring up in a conversation how I want to make a Kermit Puppet but I did not know if it was a good idea. If you do that enough times in the toy industry you usually run across someone who is interested in the project. This is how Mike Moore enters the picture. Mike Moore is an old friend to Master Replicas. He and his company HMS created many of Master Replicas's tooling patterns. Mike's body of work and access to Hollywood Props is humbling. I could digress in to a dozen different stories from here but I will continue my focus on Kermit.

I brought up my idea to Mike and found an instant kinship. I think was also the first time we met. I remember showing him some marking sizzle from Disney about Muppets. Mike showed me bits and pieces of the muppets he had collected. He gave me a scrap of antron fleece colored to the best Kermit green he could make. It was a funny looking scrap of fleece. Unintentionally it looked like the cut pattern to a tiny thong. I eventually cut it up and gave parts to the Chinese factory and now it looks more like a triangle.

Mike told me about a Kermit puppet hew was trying to build based on photos from the TV Shows and Movies, Old Style guide Information, and bits and pieces of information let go by Henson over the years. After I left HMS I was invigorated by the feeling the idea could gain momentum. Later as I thought about the opportunities I was told that we were going to have a product development meeting with Disney in a couple weeks.

Product development meetings with licensors are always great. It is the one time I like being a loose cannon. I always like walking into a licensors office with something they are not expecting to see. So I told Mike if he could get his prototype done to match the date of my meeting I would walk it in and try to get approval. Mike always comes through on his word so that day I walked into Disney with the best Kermit you can make without cut patterns. It scared the Master Replicas SBU Leader that I was showing up with an un approved product but she couldn't stop me. People who know me know one of the joys that is Kevin is my "smarty pants" attitude.

So I took it in and it was the highlight of the meeting. Our licensing representative immediately took the puppet from the conference room where we were meeting and ran up and down office hallway introducing Kermit to everyone. It was a beautiful moment on many levels.

So Disney kept the Kermit Puppet for a week or so and eventually came back and said we could make Poser/Photo Puppets not actually Puppets that can be manipulated by hand. Fair enough.

Enter Lawyers, contracts, legal mumbo-jumbo, pain, suffering, waiting, etc.

Act Two

I believe I met Ken Plume at Toy Fair 2005. Ken is a great guy but he is my Neuman character in this story. Sorry that is a Seinfeld reference for anyone not in the know. We have a little story arch that includes some turbulent areas but we are still very much inline with the same goals. Ken is a writer who keeps his hand on the pulse of the toy and collectible industry. He is one of those guys who knows everyone. For awhile there I use to talk to Ken every day. I told him all my ideas including the Kermit project. Ken told me about his relationship with Terry Angus. Ken explained to me who Terry was and how he would be able to build me a Kermit Photo Puppet. In a way you could say Ken is the link in this entire story that brings Kermit to the public.

Just so you understand the importance of Ken's introduction you should understand that no one else in my vast network of prototyping vendors could put me in contact with someone who could build an actual Kermit puppet for Master Replicas.

Quite frankly Terry was apprehensive about the project when we first approached him. He really wanted to do it but feared the ramifications. I assured him that this is a fully licensed product and not some bootleg copy. Once he heard this he was agreeable to the project but wanted to keep his name out of the limelight for the moment.

By Comic Con 2005 Terry completed the first Kermit Photo Puppet. We did not have permission from Disney to put it on display but he was hiding in corners of the booth that year. Comic Con was where I first met Travis from Palisades. Kermit made our introduction. I like to think that Kermit's introduction helped get Travis hired at Master Replicas even though that is not entirely true.

So as the prototypes and the cut patterns came it from Terry I transitioned them over to Andrew Wen who is now our famous Head of Manufacturing. You may have read about him in Forbes magazine or seen him on CNN. I haven't because my own ego wont let me.

Kermit became Andrew's favorite project. In September of 2005 I went on a trip to china. It happened that this coincided with the Vendor Turnover meeting for Kermit. I have film of Andrew and I turning this project over to our Chinese Manufacturer. We spent about 2 hours explaining the Kermit Prototype and Cut Patterns that Terry created to the Chinese vendor. It was sad to leave Kermit in mainland China. I saw him again at Pre-Toy Fair in October but again had to send him back to China afterwards. I don't know how he is doing because he never writes and hasn't come back to visit. That is until he started sending back his twin brothers this past July.

Meanwhile my relationship with Terry and Ken somewhat faded. It takes a long time to develop a product in China. The waiting can tear development relationships apart. Terry and I didn't talk and Ken and I regressed in our Newman/Seinfeld characters.

Act Three

Here is the first green, prototype of the Kermit replica from the fall of 2005.

Earl Kress is the one person who I would consider the number 1 fan of the Kermit project. He wasn't involved in any direct way to creation of the prototype but he was there last comic con and he was there again asking about Kermit and the future of Muppets every day a comic con. He helped to remind me of the fans of Muppets out there who would really enjoy our Kermit Photo Puppet.

Orders for the Kermit have been exciting. Our sales group has told me that we haven't seen interest in a product like this in a long time. Sales is now asking me what is coming next for Muppets. They want me to create more character ASAP. So as Earl announced for the first time about 2 weeks ago Gonzo is next. It should also be noted that Animal will follow Gonzo in 2007. I should have the beginnings of Gonzo to show you soon. Animal will be a little while. I have prototype deadlines looming. I am scared to even mention them because it is a lot of work to do in a very short period of time.

But what everyone really wants to know right now is when are they going to get their Kermits. Soon. How soon? Well the first Kermit's have left from Hong Kong on a cruise. I don't even want to guess when they will make it to our distribution center in New Jersey but they told us they might show up early next month. Some more Kermits will leave on cruise around the middle of this month. Who knows when they will show. There are many adventures Kermit could get into on a boat from China to the US.

So as I was driving from LA to Walnut Creek Terry and I discussed the fact that people on the forum may be confused about the people who have been involved with this project over the past year. However, credit for a product is really much less important than the fact that Kermits are shipping and Gonzo is being developed. I am working with the Puppet Heap now. They give me cut patterns, material swatches, and construction notes. I had these off to Terry Angus. I also make copies of the cut patterns for Mike Moore so he can help fabricate rigid parts such as eyes and eye mechanics.

As I come home tonight for the first time in 3 weeks I read and see Amy is now posting in this forum. Amy is our spokes person on most of the forums where our product is talked about. I am the Creative Director for Master Replicas so I don't really answer forum questions on a timely basis. Amy is great at listening to the collector community and relaying important question to the appropriate internal Master Replicas people. So if you wanted to ask anyone from our Janitor to our CEO a question "JUST ASK AMY." She will get the information for you. Please welcome her with open arms as she will be the one who can bug me to answer your question.

Now wasn't that an elaborate way to say, "the first week of September."

 
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Fan site Muppet Central created by Phillip Chapman. Updates by Muppet Central Staff. All Muppets, Bear
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