1. Welcome to the Muppet Central Forum!
    You are viewing our forum as a guest. Join our free community to post topics and start private conversations. Please contact us if you need help with registration or your account login.

  2. "Muppet Guys Talking" Debuts On-line
    Watch the inspiring documentary "Muppet Guys Talking", read fan reactions and let us know your thoughts on the Muppet release of the year.

  3. Sesame Street Season 48
    Sesame Street's 48th season officially began Saturday November 18 on HBO. After you see the new episodes, post here and let us know your thoughts.

Skits of the Early 70s

Discussion in 'Classic Sesame Street' started by D'Snowth, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    This is something that's just recently crossed my mind regarding skits and inserts of the early 70s...

    It seems like quite often, the skits would consist of multiple characters, five, six, or more, and of course, with that many characters, there's bound to be at least that many performers as well... however, when it comes to the voices, they're usually dubbed by just Jim, Frank, and Jerry.

    Two that come to my mind are "The King's Problem", which has six characters: the king, the king's aide, the tallest person in the kingdom, the fastest person in the kingdom, the smartest person in the kingdom, and the smallest personin the kingdom; Jim voiced both the king as his aide, Frank voices the tallest and smallest people in the kingdom, and Jerry voiced both the fastest and smartest people in the kingdom. The other is Herry's alphabet secret, which involves five monster characters like Herry and Grover, and AM monsters Pamela, Fenwick, and Rosemary; Jerry voices both Herry and Pamela, Frank voices Grover and Rosemary, and I'm not sure who voiced Fenwick, but I believe it was Jim.

    It sort of makes me wonder why the extra trouble was made to dub the voices, considering the early 70s is obviously when the Muppets were expanding: 1969 had just Jim, Frank, and Caroll (occasional assistance from Jane and John Lovelady), but soon afterwards saw Jerry, Fran, Richard,. and others... matter of fact, Fran was also a voice artist, surely she could've performed and voiced some of the above mentioned characters.
  2. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I've often wondered this myself, especially since those were instances where the characters weren't used again, and could have been any performer. I wonder if maybe Henson wanted background performers/right-handers to stay silent back then (though I would think it'd be easier to just do a voice than to just operate a puppet).

    It seems like Frank often provided multiple voices in segments during the first season (such as doing all the monsters in the "Kermit Explains Big and Little" sketch), while it seems like even though the first two seasons were pretty much the only ones where Caroll Spinney performed one-shot Anthing Muppets, he still seemed to do voices sparingly.
  3. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Sort of similarly, in the Red Riding Hood Newsflash, Frank was each of the people who came to Grandma's cottage: the mailman, the salesman, and finally the woodsman.

    On a similar note, has anyone besides me noticed that most of the time whenever Frank does a one-short AM character, he almost always uses Bert or Fozzie's voice?
  4. dwmckim

    dwmckim Well-Known Member

    My guess: typically speaking roles pay more than non-speaking ones and the same probably applied to Muppeteering...obviously more puppeteers than the ones heard were used in those sketches but the main Muppeteers had to do the voices for cost/payroll issues.
  5. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I rememer a long time ago Earl Kress made a post somewhere on this forum saying that voice performers got paid the same for up to two roles. Though at the same time it does seem odd considering that in the first season Caroll Spinney supposedly got paid 200 dollars a week instead of by show, day, or hour (and later on he'd pretty much only perform Big Bird and Oscar, while there'd be no limit on how many characters the others performed and voiced).
    Even though I'd read that post, later on I think I'd forgotten about it and asked on the Golden Age Cartoons forum about whether Mel Blanc voiced other characters besides Barney and Dino on The Flintstones, and if there was a limit on how many voices the voices actors could do, and Earl Kress actually answered that question as well, saying that on the Hanna-Barberra shows each voice actor got paid for up to six roles. I think it was confirmed there that Mel Blanc didn't get paid based on the number of characters per classic WB shorts, though.

    And Terry Angus has said that he always got paid better whenever he performed a speaking role on Fraggle Rock.
  6. Xerus

    Xerus Well-Known Member

    I remember one where Herry and a bunch of anything Muppets were going to play a game in the park and the teams had letters and numbers on their sweaters. Jim voiced the L guy. Frank Oz voiced E, T, 3, and 6. And Jerry Nelson voiced Herry, 4, and 5. But around the end, one of the number kids ended up with Jim's voice when he asked about Tiddlywinks.
  7. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I've always wondered if that was a conscious decision to limitCaroll to Big Bird and Oscar exclusively post Season Two of SST, either on hisown part, or Jim's... like perhaps maybe Jim felt Caroll performing other characters may jeopardize his credibility to play essentially the two "star" Muppets of the show? I mean I've heard that similar scenario in the case of some voice actors, like Marty Grabstein from Courage the Cowardly Dog, he said that's why he was limited to voicing just Courage exclusively, and never any other characters.

    When you think about it, it makes sense though, because no matter how any voice actor may tweak his voice to play whatever character, after a while, just about all of their voices start to sound the same, like I've said before, just about every one-shot character Frank did sounded like Bert or Fozzie... and even Caroll, it seems like his one-shot Ams during the first two seasons sounded like a slightly "grown up" Big Bird (though the album version of "Goin' for a Ride" he made his character sound more like a crabby old man, which wasa pretty good voice for him). I mean you REALLY need to have a VERY versatile voice to really be convincing: to this day, Jim Cummings never ceases to amaze me with his voice, and I guess the same can be said for Rob Paulsen.
  8. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    In the interview with Caroll Spinney on the Follow That Bird anniversary DVD, he mentioned a time in the first season when he performed an Anything Muppet in a song, and kept having trouble with the lip-synch. He said that during a break Jim Henson watched the performance, referred to it as "garbage " (it's not often you hear of Jim giving criticism like that!), not knowing that Caroll was behind him, but upon seeing that Caroll was there, Jim claimed he was talking about his own performance, not Caroll's, but gave a tip on what to do.

    Watching Caroll's performances as Anything Muppets, it seems like he's sometimes not comfortable or something. Some characters, like the farmer in "The Magic Apple" and the fat blue man in "Kermit Guesses from Clues", seem to be a bit stiff performance-wise (though Caroll used the same voice for both characters, so maybe the performance was to reflect how they talked). But on the other hand, his few performances as Lefty were better. And of course his performances as Big Bird, Oscar, and Bruno are always great.

    Something else I wonder on the subject: Did Caroll Spinney (along with Brian Meehl) perform half of The Two-Headed Monster during their brief cameo in Big Bird in China, while the usual performers did their voices? Spinney and Meehl were both in china, to perform Big Bird, Barkley, Oscar, and Telly (the later two just for one scene in china), but it seems like it might have been a bit too much to send Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt to china just to perform for a few seconds.
  9. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Somehow I think she didn't perform as much as the other main performers during the early years. In Street Gang I think it's said that Fran worked on the show two weeks a season in the early years and continued focusing on her acting career. I noticed that while she was credited her first season, she would go uncredited until the late-1980s/early-1990s. With the credits being the same in every episode of the season (that had credits) I wonder if performers got credited based on how often they worked on the show.
  10. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Yes, in watching most of Caroll's very early work, you can kind of tell that lip syncing was a bit of a hang up for him, but then again, he did also admit in that same interview that he wasn't as disciplined as a performer as Jim and Frank (I've heard stories that in one insert they taped, Caroll right-handed for Cookie, and during the whole insert, Frank basically kept a firm grip on Caroll's hand to limit his actions.

    As for his comfort level, another thing to keep in mind toois that even then Caroll knew Jim was one of the greats in the art of puppetry, so it might have been a little intimidating for him to perform alongside the master like that... I think perhaps "Everyone Likes Ice Cream" may be the biggest example of that.

    Oh, I agree, Caroll was actually a much better Lefty than Frank, IMO... Caroll's Lefty seemed a bit more shifty, and the way he delivered "Hey bud..." was a bit more effective, whereas with Frank, again, it's the Bert voice, it's almost like watching Ernie and Bert and Bert just happens to be trying to pull the wool over Ernie's eyes fora change.
    Two-Headed weren't in China, they werein the musical number for Big Bird's departure... and I think perhaps Jerry and Richard might have performed them then, because none of their other characters were in that number, and I doubt Caroll and Brian would've performed them, because surely Caroll was probably already doing either Big Bird and Oscar, while Brian was probably already doing either Telly or Barkley... as for the scene with Oscar and Telly in China, I don't remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure that was chromakey, I'd have to take another look...
  11. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    The Two-Headed Monster made a second appearance in the special during the Monkey song. The Monkey character does a bunch of crazy things, including turn into the monster.
  12. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Now I know I have to look at the tape again, because I had forgotten about that.
  13. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I've heard about Frank putting his hand on the right-hand performers hands so they wouldn't gesture too much. Though I don't know of many segments where it's obvious his character's holding onto the left hand (I think I've noticed it in a few Harvey Kneeslapper segments).

    I wonder if that might explain him being better as Big Bird and Oscar, since those two were primarily on the street while Jim didn't perform on the street often, allowing Caroll to concentrate better without the awe of performing with Jim.

    It's been a few years since I've watched the special, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't chromokey. As I said, Spinney and Meehl were in China for the shooting, performing Big Bird and Barkely, respectively, so it wouldn't have really been much trouble for them to perform those two.
  14. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I think the hardest thing about being a puppeteer is right-handing; the 40 Years book really delved into that and just what the real challenges were that went into it: I read Tyler Bunch said being a big person has prevented him from doing a lot of right-handing (once right-handing for Baby Bear, and during a break, David said in Baby Bear's voice, "I've never been so aware of my wight hand befowe in my life"), so he ends up with a lot of minor one-shot characters. It's ironic, because some text has said that the right-hand is the hand that does most of the action, but speaking with right-handers they pretty much say the opposite... as with Frank, I think that's probably his way of reminding them you're not the performer here, I am, I'll lead, you'll follow.
    Perhaps, but to his credit, I can't exactly say that his performances as Big Bird and Oscar were exactly stellar in those early days either, but then again, that was partly due to poor puppeteering conditions: the first Oscar was built specifically for a right-hand, but the way they had Oscar's home set up forced Caroll to work the puppet left-handed, which pretty much ruined the puppet... not to mention, the first Big Bird didn't have a monitor inside it, so he really couldn't see much of what he was doing... as a puppeteer, I can attest to that, the monitors are a HUGE reliance, without those, you're practically working blind, and it's a tremendous handicap.
  15. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    If Frank Oz did accept the role of Big Bird when offered, I wonder how many character's he'd have performed by now (or if he'd currently be a director). Would he have been limited to maybe two or three roles (it was already decided he'd perform Bert before Big Bird was created, but did Jim have any of his fellow performers in mind for the role of Oscar before searching for a Big Bird performer?).
  16. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    It's also interesting to note that in the early days of the Muppets, like the commercials for La Choy, Purina, Wilkin's Coffee, etc, even they usually consisted of two or more characters, Jim dubbed the voices for all of them.

Share This Page