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The Disney Deal, and the Puppet Heap switch

Discussion in 'Classic Muppets' started by mupcollector1, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure if this has been discussed or not, I don't remember reading much about it but I seriously want to know if it's okay with the forum. Why isn't The Jim Henson Company involved with The Muppets anymore? And why Puppet Heap instead of The Muppet Workshop. All I've heard about this and PLEASE correct this if I'm wrong but I heard a rumor that The Jim Henson Company wanted a little more money in terms of building the characters and Disney refused and went with something more cheaper being Puppet Heap. This isn't opinion, this is what I've heard.

    I just find it strange of the separation. Looking back at the original Disney deal that Jim was involved in back in late 1989 / 1990, Disney was going to buy The Whole Jim Henson Company which would be a devision of Disney but the Sesame Muppets were going to be sold to Children's Television Workshop (today known as Sesame Workshop). And of course why the deal wasn't complete was that Jim passed away on the week he was going to sign the final papers. And the Henson family took over the company but still worked with Disney during the 1990s as collaboration.

    What I find kind of strange is just looking at Muppet Family Christmas were a lot of Jim's characters reuniting and how today it's technically complicated because Fraggles are still owned by Henson, Sesame Muppets are own my Sesame, and The Muppets are owned by Disney. So would it have made more sense for Disney to buy the whole Jim Henson Company like planned? Then again, Henson Alternative and Stuffed & Unstrung probably won't have existed because Disney doesn't really do anything that's Mature Adult audiences unlike most companies.

    I've even read in Bernie Brillstine's book that him and Jim were planning on buying The Disney Company in the 1980s but it never happened. I've noticed that Jim was sort of going on a similar path kind of like Walt Disney but never reaching as much success in terms of theme parks, a movie studio company, a tv channel, etc. There were simular attempts but not as successful. And it's sort of strange how The Jim Henson Company became more smaller because it almost seemed like The Jim Henson Company was almost going to be the next creative empire.

    I'm not in anyway trying to get into a political debate on this, just want to know for historical reasons just in case if there was any kind of misunderstandings of why I wanted to bring this up for discussion. :)
  2. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    Sorry, my last formal sentence didn't come out the way I wanted it too, I wrote it around 2am lol I basically meant the only reason why I wanted to ask was to learn more about this history of all this, and nothing beyond that.
  3. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    What confuses me is although Jim Henson's Creature Shop still builds the characters for SST, for the last few years or so, their overall designs look less and less like traditional Muppets... mostly the AM patterns and designs, that is; whereas, the Classic Muppets, and those included in that spectrum, still have that traditional Muppet-look to them... it's curious.
  4. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    Yeah I've noticed that too. Especially the Pumpkin Anything Muppet, he has more of a wider open mouth now.

    I'm not sure why The Jim Henson Company can't be involved anymore, besides they were the ones that created and build The Muppets.

    I remember someone on the forum once said that it's sad that barely anyone does in house work anymore. And how Jim Henson and the crew did everything and didn't seek an outside puppet company. Although I noticed that Puppet Heap helped out from time to time with The Muppet Workshop in the 1990s like the pirate puppet for The Secret Life of Toys. I just think it's kind of strange. Plus at the time the Jim Henson Muppet Workshop was using the process of foam molds for a lot of the characters including Miss Piggy, Waldorf and Statler, and I think Gonzo too. Because technically they all looked the same through out the 1990s yet I'm sure tone of puppets were used in terms of the puppets wearing out and it's not only a faster way to re-build but there won't have to be worries of the characters looking slightly off model. But for Puppet Heap, what bother's me is that Miss Piggy's head is shorter and rounder and Gonzo's nose is kind of thick and his eye lids don't ribble all the way back like it used to. I noticed that there's more technics where Gonzo can now lift one eye lid at a time. It's kind of cool I guess but to me it's a bit creepy, still need to get used to it. I don't mean to sound negitive about Puppet Heap, they do a good job but in my opinion, not as well as when The Jim Henson Company built them. Which brings up my original question, WHY THE SWITCH?
  5. MrBloogarFoobly

    MrBloogarFoobly Well-Known Member

    I'm just resurrecting this topic because I'd really like to know this, too.
  6. muppetlover123

    muppetlover123 Well-Known Member

    me too its weird
  7. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    I don't really mind. There are some issues I have with some of their puppets (Gonzo. God, he looks terrible), but they're good for the most part. The new Scooter is fantastic looking.
    mupcollector1 likes this.
  8. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    Same here, agree 100%. The eyelids to go all the way back and have a ribble on them like the Gonzo's before and this Puppet Heap's Gonzo's nose is way to thick.
  9. MrBloogarFoobly

    MrBloogarFoobly Well-Known Member

    I just don't like it on principal. Snatching the Muppet legacy away from JHC entirely, and having the audacity to not even mention the man himself in the credits. And on top of all of that, acting as if the Muppets are real, and completely ignoring the puppeteers. Future generations need to know who Henson and the Muppeteers are.
    mupcollector1 likes this.
  10. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    Totally, I'm surprised there wasn't much discussion about it. I'm sure it's okay to talk about this on the forum right? I remember just hearing that JHC wanted a little more money which is totally understandable in terms of funding other projects and such but Disney thought it was too much and went with Puppet Heap. Which doesn't make any since to me since Disney is one of the top Entertainment empires who have plenty of money to do it. I have no idea if it was in terms of competition. Though they were originally going to buy The Jim Henson Company or Jim was selling his company to them. I was just thinking just how strange it is on how Jim's creations are split into three different companies now a days, goes to show how hard it would be for another Muppet Family Christmas kind of reunion to happen. It's kind of sad in my opinion. I'm not trying to put down Puppet Heap in anyway but The Muppets were made by The Jim Henson Company since the begaining and seems so unnecessary to not have then involved much in anything. Sure JHC allowed Disney to use The Jim Henson Studio lot in CA (which was once The Charlie Chaplin Studios) and Jim Henson's Creature Shop was credited for....Costumes? Which is the weirdest credit I've ever seen for Creature Shop. Was it costumes for The Muppets or the human stars? Because usually the workshop made the clothes and costumes for The Muppets in house. But in general, in house art in the mainstream is so rare. Again, this is just my opinions on this matter.
  11. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    When I watched VMX I was surprised by how much I liked the Gonzo puppet seen in that show. He looked perfect! Nose just the right thickness, pleasing color and curve, eyelids symmetrical and expressive (and BOTH eyes could widen, so he was able to look surprised rather than just sarcastic), mouth that fit together so one side wasn't always a little open, making him look like he'd had a stroke. I miss that Gonzo.

    Scooter, on the other hand, could've looked better. That track jacket looked cheap, and he must have been wearing a lampshade to hide his smushed head.
  12. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    Yeah It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie was the last Muppet production involving The Jim Henson Company although I think JHC still build The Muppets for The Muppets Wizard of Oz because they were already in pre-production with that while the Disney Deal was happening I think.

    I just took a look in comparison with the Puppet Heap Scooter and it looks very similar to the original Muppet Show version though I think the glasses are slightly small. And it looks like that Scooter gained a more flatter head in the 80s and his glasses had a slightly more grayish color and slightly larger glasses. Though the Scooter from 1990 seemed to be in the middle and had more hair.

    I remember that The Jim Henson Muppet Workshop was using foam molds for a lot of their characters during the 1990s which seemed to be working out really well because the characters look stayed the same even though of course there was many puppets used over that time since Muppets do wear out and need to be rebuilt. Though I'm surprised that Puppet Heap didn't get the foam molds.

    Also isn't Puppet Heap in New Jersey? Because most Muppet products are now in LA and not much in New York, Toronto and London like in Jim's time and when The Jim Henson Company did things in the 90s. Though wasn't Muppets Tonight filmed in California or Toronto? I notice that on their site that they seem to do a lot of puppet building services but since they have the official duty for The Muppets, do they have a separate workshop for The Muppets? Otherwise the cast would be quite limited to the main characters and not so much the giant cast they've always had. According to the ending credits of the new movie, it seems like there's a new Muppet Workshop.
    also in the credits
    Partially Filmed at the Jim Henson Company Studios (I'm not sure if that was just the abandon Muppet Studios scenes)
    Costumes by Jim Henson's Creature Shop and it seems like Polly Smith still works for JHC. But then it says "Muppet Designers and Bulders: Puppet Heap"

    It's a bit confusing because the Creature Shop, Muppet Workshop and Puppet Heap are in three different places in the credits. And just my opinion on this but I loved it best when The Muppets were under the supervision of The Jim Henson Company and they did the building In House. I think Puppet Heap built certain puppets for Jim Henson's Secret Life of Toys in the 90s but it was mostly In House and rarely rely on outside companies for puppet building.
  13. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    It seems to me that Sesame Workshop has a better business relationship with Disney then JHC and Disney because Kermit is seen in the Classic Sesame releases on the Old School DVD sets, 40 years DVD and book as well as the iTunes downloads. Though I heard about the some what recent release of a Sesame DVD where Kermit was on a beanstock on the cover, there was these strict guidelines where Kermit had to be refered as a Guest Star and needed to be called Reporter Kermit and not Kermit the Frog and he had to wear this trench coat and hat so it wouldn't be distracting to Disney's marketing with the new Muppet Movie. In my opinion I feel that's crazy and redicuious because Kermit has been hopping between The Muppet Show Muppets and Sesame for years and even Jim wasn't strict with that and cross overs. It unfortunately kind of shows how hard it'll be to get a re-release of Muppet Family Christmas and The Muppets Celebrate 30 years onto DVD.
    But when it comes to Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas and The Christmas Toy, Kermit is edited out. Though Rowlf was kept in Dog City which was good. So it's kind of complicated. Especially how The Jim Henson Company is no longer involved with The Muppets anymore, especially the workshop that got turned down over a raise request (again this is what I've heard so I'm not 100% sure if this was true or not). To me that doesn't seem to be quite fair. But that's just my opinion on what I've noticed.
  14. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    That reminds me that the special features on the latest Muppet movie had no special features regarding behind the scenes and even commentary unlike the other releases like The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island.
  15. jvcarroll

    jvcarroll Well-Known Member

    Since the Puppet Heap takeover, some characters like Janice, Sam, Scooter and Rowlf have never looked better. Kermit always looks dapper, of course.

    Miss Piggy has been improving. Eye, ear and wig placement is key. Sometimes it's spot-on, other times it's a bit haphazard.
    (Above: Good Piggy from The Muppets 2011)​
    (Above: Miss Piggy from Bafta Awards)​

    Animal just hasn’t looked right to me for a while. There's something about the enlarged bags under his eyes and his fur placement that seems off to me.

    (Above - Good Animal from The Muppet Movie)​

    (Above: Current puppet)​

    Why they ever redesigned Gonzo is a mystery to me. He used to look Great right up to Letters to Santa:
    (Above: Good Gonzo from Letters to Santa)​
    They then redesigned his head, gave him a puffier nose and made his eyes weirdly smaller. [​IMG]
    (Above: Gonzo from The Muppets 2011)​

    I remember that MR had difficulty finding enough fur material for Fozzie. Maybe Puppet Heap is having the same problem and that’s why he’s fuzzier. It appears that Disney wants to have spare puppets on hand in a way that the Henson Company never did and that requires bulk materials.
    (Above: Classic iconic Fozzie)​
    (Above: Current Fozzie from The Muppets 2011)​
    Ultimately, Jim Henson was most focused on performance over the actual puppet. That said, I remember the behind the scenes footage of Labyrinth where he voiced concern over the color of the Blue Worm's mouth. Details were important. They are important. I'm mostly pleased with the current puppets. Still, I hope some of these guys have been improved a little bit for the new film.​

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