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An Editorial: The State of the Muppets

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by Phillip, Jul 23, 2002.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    A new editorial is on-line about the recent changes within the Henson company like the workshop layoffs and Brian Henson's resignation. Annika Abel wrote this opinion story.

    Let us know your thoughts and what you see in Henson's future!
  2. Chad Kermit

    Chad Kermit Well-Known Member

    Very well put. Thanks, for taking the time to share your thoughts. And the skinny Piggy thing I could not agree with more. I had even suggested that we start a poll here to see how the fans want her to look. Her selling bacon and eggs at Denny's does not look right either. I don't think Universal would do that to Babe.

    Thanks for sharing
  3. kansasteen14

    kansasteen14 Well-Known Member

    I completely agree about the Skinny Piggy, and I also agree about Rowlf and Scooter being just walk on characters. One thing though, I feel Disney has the creativity and sense to handle the Muppets and I would love it if they bought them.
  4. scarecroe

    scarecroe Well-Known Member

    Annika, that was absolutely beautiful. Every word of it. Such an article was just what this town needed at this time. Thank you.
  5. BoyRaisin2

    BoyRaisin2 Well-Known Member

    My thoughts:

    You want a skinny pig, bring back Spamela...please?

    Concerning Scooter and Rowlf. Yes, bring them back in some way. Scooter sounded well (though it was brief) in MFS, and while Rowlf sounded just like Bobo in the recent Weezer special, it was GREAT seeing him, you know, TALKING. It really felt like I was watching the Muppets pre-1990.

    It's just, for me, sometimes hard to tell what they're doing with the Classic Muppets as far as the new performers are concerned, because they haven't been doing a lot of work until recent months. We've had Bear, Farscape, and the Sesame projects. But when it came to clarifying if Jacobson was really replacing Oz (or if he was gone for sure), or IF a semi-retired or rarely seen character was coming back, it was hard to tell because they didn't have a new movie or a weekly TV show, just a bunch of obscure TV game show/talk show appearances. Don't know whether this is because of the EM.TV situation(s) or what. Maybe we'll find some real answers when the new Muppet series and Christmas movie (not to mention the actual sale of the company) come to be. Funny how a lot of other companies--multibillion dollar companies--can be sold rather quickly. But when it comes to selling the freakin' Muppets, no one can agree.

    As for Disney, well...hmm. I believe every company has their pros and cons. Viacom, they got Nickelodeon, which is a children's network, you wanna see the Muppets as Nick Jr. staples again? Not that I really care, at least they'd be on TV again. I miss "Muppet Matinee."

    AOL Time Warner (dear God, no). While they do own almost anything you watch or listen to (or in my case, log on to), well, look at Hanna-Barbera/Cartoon Network, just look and compare, even when it was just Turner running the show. Not saying it's all bad, just radically different, but at least more exposure, which is what all the companies will probably do.

    As for The Walt Disney Company, while I'm sure there'd probably be some "cons," I'd believe they got more on the table due to theme parks, endless merchandise, existing relationships, etc. And there could possibly be a strong Muppet presence on ABC Family (incidentally, it was one year ago today when Disney bought Fox Family). When it comes to existing Henson material, Disney (and some other media outlets) will treat them fine, at least pleasing enough to the average Muppet watcher.

    Or Henson could stay at "hands off" EM.TV as the company gets back on its feet. Yeaa-aaa-aah right. I better not see that shocking article in October.

    When it comes to brand new Henson/Muppet material, well, I guess it really depends on how much say the Henson production teams have. Keep in mind, Henson does a bunch of preschool material on their own, though they are not the "Classic Muppets."

    OK, now I'm done sounding intelligent.
  6. scarecroe

    scarecroe Well-Known Member

    Nooooooooooo!!!! :rolleyes:
    Don't let the Weezer special fool you. Bill was much better as Rowlf at MuppetFest. While I could still sense a hint of Bobo in the voice, that was Rowlf we saw on that stage, through and through. The Rowlf we saw on the Weezer special was horrible. He even had Bobo's distinct laugh, while Rowlf's laugh is so distinct in itself. Bill must have been having an off day or didn't take time to really get into the part, or didn't have good material to work with or something. All I know is that he was way better in December.

    Or maybe it was my imagination and he *did* sound just like Bobo. I suppose the excitement of having seen him may have fooled us all, but I doubt it. Mannerisms, dialogue, voice... that was him :)
  7. MuppetVision3D

    MuppetVision3D Well-Known Member

    This is a great article.... except for the view on Disney owning the muppets. The problem I find with it is short-term thinking. The author says that the muppets need an owner who will be "hands off." Point taken. But 20 to 30 years from now, when JHC's tight knit family relationship is no longer so tight, who will carry on the legacy? A "hands off" relationship could turn to down-right neglect. If nothing else, disney has undoubtedly proven that they can keep characters fresh and alive in the minds of the public. I'm not trying to argue here, just sharing my opinion.

    A) Muppets for pre-schoolers - Yeah, this would be awful. God knows I wouldn't want my kids to watch the muppets. Then they might grow up with the same love and appreciation for them that I have. (note: sarcasm). Muppet-lovin' kids grow up to be Muppet-lovin' adults. (Again, you gotta' think long term.)

    B) Lack of creativity - Of all things said, this is the thing I disagree with most. The Walt Disney Company has always and will always be based on creativity and imagination. Right now, they may not be in touch with public tastes (i.e. Atlantis) but they aren't afraid to try something new (i.e. Lilo and Stitch). They are going through a time of redefining themselves and they may be even more creative than ever in my opinion. They're taking risks and only some are paying off. Just because all their movies aren't blockbusters doesn't mean they aren't creative. They're trying to do something different. Didn't someone else try that once? I think his name was something Henson. Anyways, movin' right along....

    C)It's a bad fit - Practically unlimited funds. The most respected name in family entertainment. A company based on the american dream that had plans to push the muppets through the roof not that long ago. Yeah, bad fit. Over-merchandising, that would be awful too. We muppet fans don't get excited over stuff and just run out to buy it (figures, cough, cough). Could you just imagine? So much muppet stuff at one time that you didn't know what to get. That would be terrible. (note: major sarcasm.)

    The Muppets might be just the thing to refresh and revitalize the Disney company and in the process restore kermit and the gang to their previous grandeur. A group of established characters with unlimited possibilities set in the lap of some of the most creative people in the entire world. Who knows? It just might be the rainbow connection. Kermit did say that someday we'd find it.

    Those are my thoughts. No disrespect intended to the author or anybody else. Please tell me I'm not the only one rooting for Disney.
  8. Luke

    Luke Well-Known Member

    Yeah, nice article Anika, in fact way better than the guy who was supposed to be doing it professionally, you may well be just what this site has needed for quite a while. A nice opinionated piece, but with actual educated opinions.

    I respect everything you said as your personal viewpoints and am with you almost everywhere except the Disney/Henson ownership thing and i kinda agree with the last poster.

    The last thing Henson needs is an owner who is 'hands off' - thats what got them in this whole mess in the first place. If they'd been doing things right over the years they wouldn't belong to EMTV right now, and Brian Henson would still be running the company. What JHC needs is someone who is very 'hands on' but understands the brand and the main company running it. Don't be fooled by the anniversary year - a lot of that was handled by independant people, as was the TV and film deals - all brokered elsewhere. They were bound to get big attention this year (after all - they ARE the Muppets) but that doesn't neccasarily mean they won't slump back down again once they have lost the 25th anniversary 'golden carrot' which is waved in front of licensee's.

    Disney is also obviously capable of making more family aimed stuff, rather than just kids. I don't think they have that less of a brain than to market the Muppets just to kids, rather than the nostalgia family aspect.
  9. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Well-Known Member

    Thanks! I'm glad people like the piece. Scott & Luke, thanks for your kind words.

    As for the Disney issue, I respect those of you who are for a Disney buy-out. Like I said, you're not gunna change my mind, but it is great to be discussing the pros and cons and getting a debate going. I didn't write the editorial just to bestow my opinions on you-- this kind of debate is exactly what the forum is here for.

    About the merchandising-- do I want more Muppet stuff? Absolutely!! But, and this is a big but, I want good quality collectibles. I'll probably get some Kermit PJs or slippers, but I'm not real excited about Muppet underwear. Plastic key chains and over priced spirals aren't gunna do it for me either. I love the figures. Can't wait for the busts. I just don't want to see tons of shoddy plush and plastic nonsense mass produced. I want stuff like the old Sigma mugs.

    Luke makes an interesting point about hands on management. Hafta think about that. I guess the key is to find a company that truly understands and respects the Muppets and is not out to just milk them for all they can and toss 'em aside.

    Spamela-- she's kind of a one trick pony. Piggy has depth and range. More can be done with Piggy in terms of character development. Do I even need to get into why I would be less than happy with Spamela as the sole representative of women? :p

    Thanks again, I'm glad people are reading it and finding it interesting.
  10. Bean Bunny

    Bean Bunny Well-Known Member

    Nice article but I had a problem with the Disney part too. Kiddie? From where I am standing, Henson doing this right now with Kermit The Swamp Year and the proposed Frog School series. When you come to think about it, almost of all Henson library is full of pre-school shows.
  11. Foreignman

    Foreignman Well-Known Member

    Really really great editorial Annika, I totally agree with you on most of these issues, you've put into words beautifully many of my own opinions. As for the whole Disney issue, I'm more on Annika's side right now. I want Disney to of bought the Muppets in 1995... And I think their will be a time in the future, hopefully soon, when Eisner's reign of terror will be through, and a creative/imaginative new president will come in. Walt Disney was so succesful because he didn't worry about money, Roy did, and so he was able to use his creative and imaginative powers to give birth to some of the happiest places on earth, as well as many great pieces of entertainment. Eisner has alway worried about money, but there was a time when he was more concentrated on the creative and imaginative aspects of the job then the ones dealing with the money. Now he is almost all money-concerned, and quick-money (not a good thing) too. So as I said before, I can picture a time in the future when I'd love for Disney to own the Muppets, however, that time is not now.
  12. Luke

    Luke Well-Known Member

    This is the thing - there basically isn't a company aroud that fits the bill - in my view, Disney is the closest. Thats why they are my 'best choice' out of what is available. I think Henson should have a degree of independance on the creative side, but it's the business side that they pretty much suck at sometimes and thats the main area where they need a company with the ability to run things and sort them out. Promotion too is a weak area at the Henson company that if left, would cause problems. International distribution even - when that was under Henson control programme sales were not as great as they are now while it's being handled externally by EMTV. Saying that - even the creative side needs a kick up the butt sometimes too.
  13. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member


    I wasnt expecting to see posted thee most timely and articulated piece on the state of Muppetdom today. wow. All the points hit like notes on a symphony...what may have sounded like wanton banter at one point from me and others has been skillfully written into a great point by point article.

    From what defines the Muppets, to the points on MFS I and many others had, to the prospects of a buyout...and of course more recently the thinning of piggy and the recent inhouse shakeup at jhc(brian henson and downsizing)

    I remember endless dialogue between people at Muppetfest on the state of the Muppets...now 8 months later were starting to see two distinct things emerging: a resurgence, or at least an attempt at resurgense into the media spotlight and entertainment, as well as merchandise. A *very* kiddy preschool orientated special release(KSY) yet a promising family NBC movie. But then were seeing this great uncertianty company wise, as the CEO and downsizing of the inhouse builders and staff...hmmm very odd.

    I agree with absolutely 100% of the article. The Piggy thing...hmm, I seriously didnt notice her 'downsizing', I thought she looked GREAT in the Denny's thing and didnt notice any dramatic weight loss tho. But what the article said about image.

    Also, Disney. One one hand they rose to the occation to come up with th ebest darn Muppet plushes ever(IMHO, I mean they came out with non main 5 ones!!!) but what Disney can also do to a brand...hmmm.

    Muppetfest 2003 will of course be the G8 world summit of all things JHC related...but it could be this December when we might hear of something big company related. Either wya, we await with baited breath, and Annika's article captures than uncertainty.
  14. Luke

    Luke Well-Known Member

    Re: wow!

    Gee Cory - you say the greatest things about us sometimes man ! :D

    I think to be honest, i wouldn't be particularly waiting for December for an announcement. I think EM(TV) have a clear strategy in selling the Muppets - they know exactly when they want it to happen and probably have a great idea of who to. The 'long wait' is very advatageous to them right now because the company is actually making money.

    While i think all the points are great, and good on Anika for writing, and it'd be cool to see much more from her on that scale. We really need additional 'guest' writers who have some inside knowledge of what is really going on at the Henson company - from people like us on the outside, it's all speculation but for someone close to the inside - are things really THAT up in the air at Henson and EMTV ?

    From all the moves i'ver seen over the last year or two it looks to me (IMO) that all parties know exactly what they're doing !
  15. murgatoad

    murgatoad Well-Known Member

    While I enjoyed reading the opinions here, I must say that some of you need to look beyond your own Muppet myopia and consider how the *general public* views the Muppets. And in that regard, slimming down Miss Piggy is perhaps the best idea Henson has come up with in years. Maybe some of you don't remember, maybe some of you never got it, but what made Piggy so wildly popular in the glory days of the original "Muppet Show" was not because people saw her as a fat joke - it was because millions of people bought into "the idea of a beautiful pig" (Jim Henson's own words). And in this society, fat is not synonymous with beauty. It wasn't back in the '70's and it certainly isn't now. Furthermore, fat is becoming more and more taboo as a source of humor. Miss Piggy's only hope of revival as a character is to rejuvenate the "beautiful pig" idea. It was that hilarious incongruity that made her special. Slimming her down a bit is a step in the right direction. MY worries about the Pig is whether or not the designers at the Henson Co. have the skill to bring back her looks completely. They certainly don't have the skill of the original puppet builders during the "Muppet Show" days. (And BTW, Piggy NEVER looked fat during those days, nor did she in most of the Miss Piggy calendars. I have a Miss Piggy Poster Book that belonged to my sister, and Piggy is FAR slimmer in some of those calendar pictures than she is in that picture of her in the editorial. She only got really chunky-looking later on- when, interestingly enough, her popularity began to fade). Piggy looked downright ugly in "The Muppet Christmas Carol", marginally better in "Treasure Island", and it's been up and down since then. (I didn't bother to see "Muppets In Space", so I can't comment about the Piggy used in that). She still looks too heavy in the "Denny's" commercial, and her hair looks bad. IMO Henson needs to go back and study the Piggy's of "The Muppet Show"'s latter years and learn what worked visually with that character. And it would also help, from a performance point of view, if this Eric fella would do more with the character than imitate Frank Oz.

    I'd like to be a Muppet fan again, but I don't really see that happening if I can't enjoy watching Piggy. And FWIW, I didn't much enjoy watching her in the Weezer video. But I DID enjoy the article in "People" magazine. Piggy came off as snappy but sweet. That's the direction Eric ought to go in IMO.

    Thanks for reading. :)
  16. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member

    >>Gee Cory - you say the greatest things about us sometimes man ! <<<

    well, what can i say? i think some of the points in there i have made in the past, but they were mired in my usual uneven rants, hehe. it was just great to see these points articulated so well.

    want it to happen and probably have a great idea of who to. The 'long wait' is very advatageous to them right now because the company is actually making money.<<<<<<<<

    well, that '25th annv carrot' as some have said, can only last so long.

    >>>We really need additional 'guest' writers who have some inside knowledge of what is really going on at the Henson company - from people like us on the outside, it's all speculation but for someone close to the inside - are things really THAT up in the air at Henson and EMTV ?<<<

    well from our point of view, yes. however, im not sure if we could on MC or anywhere else see some kind of internal reflection...maybe after the deal is done, but do you really think at this curcial stage an 'insider' is gonna leak potential harmful stuff? (by harmful i mean sensitive, not ready to be released just yet info, or discrediting views)

    From all the moves i'ver seen over the last year or two it looks to me (IMO) that all parties know exactly what they're doing !<<<

    like one giant foam and fur chess game! hehe
  17. Luke

    Luke Well-Known Member

    Hey Cory

    Yes it is indeed very much a case of the 25th anniversary carrot - but the money will still be pouring in (well - dribbling at least) to the middle of next year. Revenue takes time.

    As for the 'inside views' - i didn't mean people actually inside JHC - there are plenty of people outside who have a good idea about whats really happening. Two people who spring to mind are Philip and Michael - Phil just happened to casually mention a while back how some internal changes had been made to accomodate Fox as a potential bidder, i'm sure that news didn't just drop outa the sky. There are plenty of others who know things (and i'm fully guilty of this too sometimes) and just don't or can't post them, but if stuff was known it would clear up a lot of wrong rumours on the board.

    Now in everyones defence, most of the time this comes down to not mentioning things because they have been told in confidence or they would affect negotiations still happening. For instance, a number of us here know about ANOTHER planned Muppet special TV show in the works, but we can't (or at least - i'd hope we wouldn't) mention it here IF things are still early days with the companies involved because fans start writing or calling in and then we hear no more about it.

    So basically i understand it but it would be good if we saw more articles from people like Phillip (it IS his site) dropping whatever info can be dropped into articles and things. Guests too though - Anika made a great article writer and it'd be good to see more stuff coming from members of the board.
  18. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member

    >>>There are plenty of others who know things (and i'm fully guilty of this too sometimes) and just don't or can't post them, but if stuff was known it would clear up a lot of wrong rumours on the board<<<

    well, what ever it is...Im sure its not absolute red alert pressing...
    as whatever finally goes down, its possible we might not know til someone posts a link to hollywood reporter or the usual fan scoop. sure someone might leak something prior, but it usually happens to where we do the daily click on headlines and BOOM! theres the news with a hundred replies to the thread^_^

    >>>Now in everyones defence, most of the time this comes down to not mentioning things because they have been told in confidence or they would affect negotiations still happening. <<<

    thats exactly what i was saying, how people might not post due to confidentiality or hampering negotiations. the last thing we need is a bungled or snafu'd thing due to fan leaks!

    For instance, a number of us here know about ANOTHER planned Muppet special TV show in the works, but we can't (or at least - i'd hope we wouldn't) mention it here IF things<<<

    its ok. it sucks to think over zealous fans would inundate a company about a leak...some react before thinking.
    sometimes fan insider knowlege turns out to be a red herring.
    look at the i love the bbc special. we pretty much all knew about it, but becuase it was uk only most on here didnt seem that interested. same with a few other things from last year or early this year.
  19. AnthonyF3

    AnthonyF3 Active Member

    I don't really have anything to add (and don't think I'd be able to even if I wanted to), but I just love reading threads like this. So informative to a guy who's been out of the loop for like a year.

    Crazy, Man


  20. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Well-Known Member

    Just a brief clarification-- I don't think Piggy was ever fat. But she wasn't skinny. She was chubby. Big difference between chubby and fat.

    I also don't think her weight has been used as a joke. I think her attitude about her body image has been used to get laughs (the karate chop to anyone who is snide about her looks).

    I don't like the idea that someone has to be skinny to be viewed as beautiful, or even attractive. That's just wrong. I think Piggy should stand up for herself and insist she be accepted, admired, and appreciated for who she is as she is-- I don't want to see her slimmed down into a shell of her former self.

    Just my view

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