A NEW MuppetsHenson Poll is now up for you to vote on. "Muppets Now" is the topic of this week's poll. After watching the first episode, let us know what you thought of it. The NEW six part series is now available to stream on Disney+.The Poll can be found near the top of the right sidebar.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

"Dinosaurs": My Favorite Prehistoric 90’s Family by Nicholas Napoli

Even to this day, the opening sequence with Earl walking through the forest, tearing down trees on his way home, ignites my Muppet passion the same way as when I watch Gobo making his way through the tunnels leading into Fraggle Rock. Dinosaurs is the mature version of Fraggle Rock in my eyes, teaching more adult topics to an eldering Fraggle Rock fan base. In my child-mind these two shows always coexisted in the same world, when Roy eats Gunge in the episode “The Howling”, that both scarred me for life and confirmed my theory to be true in my mind. Both shows stand the test of time, one created whilst Jim Henson was alive, the other once he had passed, based on his own original ideas. This show felt very much like a The Jim Henson Company production and felt like a great continuation to Jim Henson’s legacy. I was six-years-old when I first watched Dinosaurs, I’m now thirty-three but every so often I’ll sit down and watch the whole series again, and each time I realize there is more behind the actual story than I understood each time I’ve watched it prior, this is brilliant writing. At age six I obsessively sat down and watched my six VHS tapes repeatedly, then The Disney Channel began airing Dinosaurs at 22:30, and that followed by Home Improvement at 23:00, this is how I went to bed for years. 

One cold Saturday morning, dating back all the way to March 1992, my five-month pregnant mother, my little sister and myself went to Main Street. Right at the middle of this street there used to be a toy store, which had now also began selling VHS tapes. In the middle of the toy store there was a unit, which displayed all these tapes, at the very top they always displayed the newer releases. That day I still remember spotting a VHS case that was shocking green and on closer inspection it featured a daddy Dinosaur and a baby Dinosaur on the cover. I asked my Mom to pick it up for me and immediately felt that these were Muppets, they resembled Gorg-type-Muppets to me, although at this time I didn’t even know it was connected to Jim Henson. My Mom bought it for me and then we all went to a little restaurant inside a shopping centre for lunch, where I sat obsessively looking over my new Dinosaurs VHS cover. My Mom was the one who pointed out to me that it said “Jim Henson Productions” on the cover, now I was really excited to get home and watch this. These were Muppets as my brain had told me, this was Jim Henson’s idea, I wanted to watch this right now, especially since I now assumed Kermit would be interacting and playing with Dinosaurs. That always happened to me as a child, thanks to The Christmas Toy, Follow That Bird, Emmet Otters Jug Band Christmas, I always assumed if it was made by Jim Henson, Kermit would at least cameo. Kermit was never lost in the Labyrinth, living amongst Podlings or being hunted down by Dinosaurs. 

Eventually we got home, I watched the two episodes on my new VHS with my parents and my sister, and we all enjoyed it, we wanted more, this is a perfect example of family entertainment. My Mom had made the comment earlier that if she had a baby girl we would be just like The Simpsons and if she had a baby boy we would become this family of Dinosaurs. This became a running joke in my family every time we watched Dinosaurs or The Simpsons, a few months later we became The Simpsons. The day I walked out the shop with my Dinosaurs Volume 1 VHS, I was already pestering my Mom to buy me Dinosaurs Volume 2 and 3 which we had left behind in the shop. Eventually on another trip to Main Street, my Dad bought Volume 2 and 3 for me, I think my parents really enjoyed the show as much as my sister and me did. Eventually once my second sister was born, a second wave of Dinosaurs VHS tapes were released, volumes 4-6 and eventually I now had twelve Dinosaurs episodes to watch repeatedly. Four more videos were eventually released, but without internet at the time, I was unaware of their existence, my collection only ever consisted of six volumes, twelve episodes. By 2007 The whole series had been released on two separated DVD sets and I got the chance to make sure I had never missed out on an episode of Dinosaurs when it aired on The Disney Channel. I’m happy to report that I had seen them all, but now having them all together in DVD quality, I’m so glad these were released, now if we could only get a complete series special edition release. 

This show is so clever, the writing is outstanding, the performances are amazing and as I grow older, I just appreciate it more and more. I love this show, so do my sisters, my parents, my whole family, I remember staying to sleep at my grandparents’ house one night and taking my Dinosaurs videos to their house. We watched Volume 4, episode “The Last Temptation of Ethyl” where Ethyl dies briefly. My grandparents could not stop laughing, especially when all the Dinosaurs appeared singing in the choir, my grandmother especially loves that part. Out of the twelve episodes I had to watch, one of my least favourite ones as a kid was “The Mating Dance” episode, it was to slow for me but my Mom loved it, it was her favourite one. I asked her why and I still remember her answer to me when I was only six years old. My Mom likes that Earl did the mating dance for Fran and I asked if she liked the actual dance Earl did, my Mom told me it was the meaning behind the dance that she enjoyed. I had no idea what the meaning was, even though Fran actually spells it out for Earl at the end of the episode, but still as a child I loved watching all my Dinosaurs episodes repeatedly. Even though I had no idea most of the time what the true meaning of the episode was about, I was just having fun being entertained, perfect writing balance on this show. In the breakfast scene at the very beginning of that particular episode, as a child I had no idea why Fran snapped so suddenly at Earl just because he wanted a new button on his shirt. Now as an adult I think it is so human and realistically clever in how Fran as a character is developed to her breaking point within those first few minutes of the episode. I now also really appreciate Earl and Roy’s conversations, which lasts for days, where they try to figure out why Fran is so unhappy. My Dad’s favourite episode is “Nature Calls” when Earl believes he’s flushed the Baby down the toilet, my Dad always laughed so hard at those scenes. For some reason, another of his favourite episodes was “Hurling Day”, actually both my parents enjoyed this one very much, they’d laugh so hard, me and my sister had no idea why, I just remember having a lot of respect for Robbie. As for my sisters, our favourite episode to watch together is “When Food Goes Bad”, it actually scared us a little whilst growing up, I think that’s what we liked so much about it, as well as “Monster Under The Bed”. 

Watching Dinosaurs as a child, these are the things I remember that stood out to me the most. Why were the same background Dinosaurs being repeatedly used with minor costume changes as if we wouldn’t notice? Now I completely understand why, the same reason there were only three Gorgs left in the universe, full-body animatronic puppets are expensive. Now I absolutely love the creativity and hilariously funny running gag of recycling Dinosaurs. “We’re going to need another Timmy”, why did the Baby sound like Elmo and what was so exciting about Thursday nights? I was also obsessed with why Robbie was the only one to wear shoes, it was just the next step in evolution for these Dinosaurs and Robbie was ahead of the curve but as I child I didn’t know this and it drove me crazy. And then we come to the toys, I was obsessed with the toys, I still am, there’s never been much Dinosaurs merchandise to collect though. I was only aware of the Dinosaurs figures and Baby Sinclair Talking Plush, I also had a Dinosaur sticker book and spent so much money on stickers, I managed to complete the book, sadly I have no idea what happened to it, I wish I still had it. There were also a set of McDonalds Dinosaurs toys released which included Grandma Ethyl, I never knew about those when I was younger. The figures I owned only included the main five family members plus B.P Richfield, I always wanted Roy and Ethyl to add to my collection. I was the kid who would buy an old grandmother Dinosaur on a wheelchair figure if I had the chance. This year Dinosaurs merchandise made a come back in the form of Funko Pops, hopefully we’ll get more characters to add to this collection soon. 

As a kid growing up watching the pilot episode “The Mighty Megalosaurus” repeatedly, I found it very enjoyable and funny, especially the Baby, “Am I in the story yet? I’m going to bite you now”. As an adult I now find this pilot episode to be one of the cleverest best written introductions to a TV family, it works so well on so many levels. The show shows its cleverness and how well these characters are already understood right from the very first scene of the series. Earl is sitting down at home watching the news, its reported that a meteor is coming straight to earth, Earl looks worried. Then the reporter corrects himself and Earl lets out a sigh of relief. Fran wants pots and pans to cook Earl’s dinner and he believes this to be the same as Charlene wanting money for new cloths. Robbie suggests that the new going to school concept is not going to work and the Baby just wants to be in the story. What a great pilot establishing all its characters so well right from the very start. “Getting married, having a wife and kids, not eating them, this is all experimental stuff”, wise words spoken by Roy Hess, which alone goes to show how clever this show is. And when asking B.P Richfield for a raise, his boss informs Earl that “you don’t need more money, you need less family”. Earl spends his whole life pushing down trees for a living, I’m glad we humans have advanced and live more fulling work lives… or do we? Earl comes home depressed from work, his dinner has eaten the vegetables and run off, Fran has news, she laid an egg and Earl has an anxiety attack. Earl is 43 years old and still hasn’t even been to Europe, I’m sure so many 43 years olds can relate to this. It relates so well to the working class, its so real and such a clever way to talk about important topics in entertaining ways just as Fraggle Rock had accomplished before it. Earl goes back to the wilderness and comes across his runaway dinner, who is also going through his own problems, they are the same, they have a discussion which as a child was nothing more than a discussion, now as an adult, I consider it such a wise conversation and piece of entertainment making the most of its medium. Earl’s long-lost dinner informs him that his family is all that listens to him, this get Earl thinking for himself. At the end of the episode Earl does get the pay rise he wanted thanks to his new little non-eaten friend. What was once supposed to be Earl’s dinner is now his boss’s assistant, this show is so relatable. And then the Baby finally hatches, I still remember I was so young the first time I watched it that when he fell to the floor, I found it worrying and I could not understand why it was taking so long for the family to react and pick him up. Why did none of them seem worried that the Baby had fallen to the ground, and how does he know how to talk right from the start? It’s interesting to me what parts stood out for me as a child and which ones as an adult when discussing the same episode. 

One of the reasons I have such a fond attachment to The Muppets and everything Jim Henson is because as a child, anything to do with them made such an impact on me that until this day I still remember every detail and emotions centred around those experiences. I would have never remembered having lunch with my Mom and sister in a small restaurant in a shopping centre when I was six years old. I’d never remember asking my dad to pull his car over every time we drove past the cinema back in 1992 when they had a giant poster for The Muppets Christmas Carol displayed on their door. Where I would analyse all the characters and the picture in its entirely until one day my Mom took a picture for me and developed it and then we could drive past the cinema without having to stop each time. Or when my Dad woke me up in the middle of the night because his friend who worked at the cinema was able to give him that very Muppet poster that displayed the doors to the cinema. Or when… so many memories from my childhood, all which I can remember because of its Muppet impact. Dinosaurs is no different and one of my fondest memories, after watching twelve episodes repeatedly for over a year my whole family were overjoyed when Dinosaurs began airing nightly on The Disney Channel. I remember all five of us would sit on the sofa in our Livingroom and watch Dinosaurs together, that is a nice recurring memory in my life. Sometimes I’d watch it in my bedroom with my sisters as we fell asleep for school the next day but most of the time, the five of us would sit together and watch it in the Livingroom. Dinosaurs can now be found on Disney Plus and I hope more and more families discover this show and watch it together, new young adults learn lessons from it but most importantly of all, everyone just having a good time watching top-notch quality entertainment. There are so many episodes to discover such as “Endangered Species, What Sexual Harris Meant, Power Erupts, Nuts To War, A New Leaf, Leader Of The Pack, WESAYSO Knows Best, Network Genius, Baby Talk, Honey I Miss The Kids, The Discovery, Steroids To Heaven, If I Was A Tree, Changing Nature, Into The Woods, just add all the episodes to this list, they are all so clever, they deserve to be reviewed individually. It’s now been 30 years since Dinosaurs first premiered and to celebrate that fact The Barretta Brothers hosted a special online reunion. After properly getting to meet the people behind these characters, this entire show, you just appreciate it even more. 


NEW MuppetsHenson Poll is NOW UP! - "Muppets Now"

A NEW MuppetsHenson Poll is now up for your votes!

This week's questions deals "Muppets Now" the NEW six part series streaming now on Disney+.  

Here is this week's question:

'Muppets Now' is now available to watch on the Disney+ streaming service. How would you rate the first episode of this NEW 6 part series?  

Let us know what you think. You can find the MuppetsHenson Poll near the TOP of the RIGHT SIDEBAR. 

Thanks for your participation!

MuppetsHenson Polls FINAL RESULTS: - "Muppets Now"

'Muppets Now' is a short-form unscripted series to be released later this year on the Disney+ streaming service. Are you hoping the series follows in the footprints of "The Muppet Show" (an updated version of sorts) or hoping for something completely different?
HOPING it is more of an updated "The Muppet Show" theme 57% (33)
LOOKING for something NEW from The Muppets with this series 34% (20)
Not sure, Not really interested until I hear or see more about it 9% (5)
Total votes: 58   Voters: 50

MuppetsHenson Polls FINAL RESULTS: - "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance"

It has been almost 5 months since the premiere of "Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" on Netflix. We are still waiting to hear if Netflix has or plan to order a Second Season. Do you think there will be another season or feel this may just have been a one time stand alone series?
I really DO think there WILL be a Second Season 92% (49)
I DO NOT think there will be a Second Season 8% (4)
Total votes: 53   Voters: 53

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Celebration Of Steve Whitmire: 38 Magical Years Of Muppets by Nicholas Napoli

Discussing Steve Whitmire’s Muppet situation seems to be a heated conversation these days, actually I think it’s been heated since day one. It feels like one is bringing up politics when they discuss Steve’s situation with Disney and The Muppets, and especially more so if The Henson Company is involved in the discussion. To this day I still find myself affected by the situation, as much as I try, I can’t get over it. I simply cannot regain my Muppet Fandom back to what it once was and believe me I have tried to move on, I have tried to look forward, I am trying to be optimistic but I still have so many questions, so much regret, so much everything that I decided to write an article about it. The same situation can have a lot of different meanings for different people, the same person can trigger many different emotions for every unique individual. We are all different, we all think differently, we all see things differently and most importantly we all experience the same thing differently. This is why we will never be able to all be in full agreement because the situation is different for each of us. Although our opinions are different, if you’re reading this, I respect your own opinion very much, for the simple fact that if you’re here, you’re probably a Muppet Fan, I am too, any Muppet Fan is a friend of mine. 

Steve Whitmire joined The Muppet Team in 1978 by invitation from Jim Henson after having been introduced to him through connections by Carroll Spinney and Jane Henson. Steve was only 18 years old at the time, a youngster looking for a direction in life, a direction which Jim Henson provided for him and Steve dedicated 38 years of his life to that path. Steve joined Jim Henson as early on as The Muppet Show days and in my mind, there is a written rule, if you were part of The Muppet Show, you are forever an essential player to The Muppet Legacy. Steve’s first character was introduced on The Muppet Show and for many of our childhoods he became our Rat of the 90’s. Rizzo The Rat, this is a classic Muppet character who fans were lucky to still have the original performer bringing to life after so many years. When I was growing up during the 90’s, watching my VHS copies of The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and even my Muppets From Space DVD, it was clear, Rizzo was one of the core Muppet players alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal. Then there is my favourite Fraggle, up until a few years ago I had been a wimbler all my life and for that reason Wembley Fraggle has always been very important to me, especially through childhood, I could relate to him very much. Bean Bunny, Lips, Andy Pig, Sprocket, B.P Richfield (Dinosaurs), even a Skeksis Scientist from the original The Dark Crystal, all these characters, plus many more, all created by one man. Not only did Steve create many of our favourite characters, he then took on the roles of many other iconic ones too, when it was his time to help and step in for Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt and Jim Henson. Beaker, Statler, Link Hogthrob, Muppet Newsman, Ernie and most importantly of all Kermit the Frog. 

After Jim Henson passed away, all Muppets came together, be they from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street or even Fraggle Rock to celebrate Jim Henson. The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson was the first introduction to a world with Kermit but without Jim Henson. Steve Whitmire was not the fifth person to take over Kermit, he wasn’t the ninth, he inherited Kermit directly after Jim Henson, he was the first person to prove that Kermit could live on under the right guidance, Jim Henson had chosen wisely. I myself was only four at the time, I had no idea Jim Henson had died and it wasn’t until 2002 that I would finally get the chance to watch this special. My first introduction to a new Kermit, as I believe must have been the case with many, I know this is true for my family and friends, The Muppets Christmas Carol, One More Sleep Till Christmas, that’s when I was first introduced to Steve Whitmire’s Kermit. I was six years old when I had seen The Muppet Christmas Carol for the first time (my first Muppet movie theatre experience), when I first learned Jim Henson had died and that someone else had taken over as Kermit. I didn’t realize Kermit had been replaced throughout the entire film, at the start of the movie it said “in memory of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt” and I kept asking my Mom what that meant. At the end of the movie she told me Jim Henson had died and someone new had played Kermit in the movie I had just seen, that eventually led me to Steve. For 27 years Steve Whitmire was my Kermit, for the older generation he was Jim Henson’s replacement, for my generation and many that came after, he was the only Kermit we had grown up with. And even though it was no longer Jim Henson, for 27 years Steve was able to pull off the illusion of Kermit the Frog masterfully. 

In 2016 Steve was asked to step away from The Muppets against his wishes, he had spent 38 years dedicated to this legacy, if it were up to him, I imagine he probably would have done another 38 years more. I was so saddened when I first learnt of this news, although this happened back in October 2016, it wasn’t until almost a year later that fans began to find out what had happened. I didn’t take it very well, I was angry, I was sad, it was all a bunch of Muppet political drama, such a negative time, best to move forward and hope for positivity instead. Steve Whitmire had practically been part of The Muppets since the very beginning. He actually operated Kermit’s left-hand playing banjo via remote control during the original The Rainbow Connection sequence. Knowing Steve’s dedication to The Muppets, had he been asked, he would have been right there underwater, inside a container, next to Jim Henson. I still don’t understand how a man so carefully chosen and guided by Jim Henson himself, to help keep his legacy alive, especially considering how young Steve was compared to the rest of the team, how can this man no longer be associated not only with The Muppets but Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street and all things Henson? Ever since a young age, I realized I was drawn to The Muppets through Jim Henson’s talents, all my life it is Jim Henson who I have admired and The Muppets happen to be a big part of him, it’s not the other way around for me. When I think of other properties I admired as a child, if I’m honest since I’m not passionate about them, their creator has no connection to me but when it comes to The Muppets, it’s not just The Muppet characters, it’s all things Jim Henson, including the people who he brought in to join his team. This probably explains why I watched The Dark Crystal countless times when I was young even though I didn’t really enjoy it (at that time), it scared me every single time and never once did I see Kermit in it. I like learning stuff from Jim Henson, his teachings from his movies, everything about him and luckily Steve is one of those few selected people by Jim Henson himself, who can provide us with this kind of knowledge through his talents. 

The Disney situation is a sensitive subject and more so the Henson one but as a fan who has been invested in the Muppet property obsessively since the age of three, I’m very confused and disheartened, the magic was ruined for me after 27 years, it is tainted, it’s made me lose my passion, I thought that was something I could never lose. The way I see it, there are two groups, the ones who accept that Steve is gone and then those who cannot accept it. What I am led to believe is that Steve stood up for Kermit and The Muppets and this passion was considered as difficult to work with, many other things might also apply but as a fan that’s the version I’m led to believe from everything I have read online. I remember reading at one point that Steve was very controlling and possessive of Kermit, I understand why people can find that frustrating. My view is that it was a good thing that he was possessive of Kermit, you need that dedication to keep the puppet true to itself if that support is not being given by production. Since that is my view and I agree with him on that decision therefor it affects me differently from others who might have a different view on that part. It was said that Steve was difficult to work with, there is so many ways to interpret this, could he have been lashing out his frustration at others? No excuse for that unless they were responsible for the situation with The Muppets portrayal. Or is the difficult to work with referring to his passion for Kermit and in trying to keep him consistent against productions wishes? 

One example given for Steve’s concern over Kermit was during an episode of The Muppets (2015) where Kermit lied to his nephew Robin about his relationship with Miss Piggy. It might not sound like a big deal but it is, Kermit would never have lied to Robin and after following The Muppets passionately for thirty years, something some might consider a minor detail can make a huge difference in changing the perception of a character. In The Muppets A Celebration Of 30 Years, when Robin asks Kermit what’s his favourite thing about The Muppets, he gets a very real and honest answer from Kermit “Those times when we don’t try to be just funny, and I think maybe those are my favourite parts”. As you get older you don’t realise or you might forget but for me that line meant a lot to me as a kid, from the first moment I watch that special. I admired so much that Kermit was so real with Robin, there were so many fun Muppet things to show but Kermit treated him as an equal with his actual honest answer and as a kid that made an impact on me. One-time in promotion for the 2015 series, Kermit made a comment that Denise (his new pig girlfriend) was old enough for him, again a minor throwaway line, which after 27 years altered my perception of the character, one I idolized very much. I know without Steve there Kermit might have said a lot worse on that show, although when the show captured Kermit correctly it worked much better and I did enjoy it. I wish we would have got a second season, season one was very productive trying to make things work just as every premier season of any show, had they continued they would have found their success. 

I’ve been a huge obsessed fan of the Muppets since I was three years old, The Muppets (2015) was the first time Kermit (and other characters) lost my respect. This is a major reason why Steve was on the right track in my opinion. I imagine myself as a test-fan, someone who had been obsessed with The Muppets for 27 years, only to lose that obsession slightly not because there were no new productions but because of a particular production. That to me I think is proof enough that not only was Steve in the right but it’s been proven with time, the fan base feels completely down, more so than ever since he left. Steve definitely was trying to protect Kermit’s true identity, therefor standing up for Jim Henson’s vision, because Jim Henson’s vision is what attracts his fans and if fans aren’t as invested that’s because they feel the vision is not truly there anymore for the franchise, which is exactly what Steve was fighting for. There’s still a lot of talented people behind The Muppets to keep the passion and legacy alive, but why remove such a strong piece of the structure? I think Steve Whitmire suffered from the same fate as Mark Hamill, being so dedicated to your character when it is being handled by different visionaries each time is stress at an all-time high. Mark Hamill voiced his concerns over how Luke Skywalker was handled in Episode 8, his guidance was ignored, the movie failed and fans were divided. Steve Whitmire voiced his concerns over how Kermit the Frog was handled in The Muppets (2015), his guidance was ignored, the series failed, fans somewhat stayed united, Steve Whitmire was fired, the fanbase divided. I imagine the people behind these decisions have nothing but the best intention to make the product they are working on be the best possible but that just doesn’t work out if you ignore the source material you’re working with. When someone who has portrayed a character for so many years is questioning your decisions in the character, it is obvious that fans will reject it too. Why waste time making something the fans will reject, when the power to give the best most entertainingly than humanly possible Muppet production can still be accomplished if done right. These days it is easier to ignore little details from the past in order for more freedom in creating new stories in the future but all that does is take people out of the illusion that this world they are so fanatic over is real. Little things like Scooter can have a mother who he has an obsessive relationship with but Gonzo cannot have a mother lost on holiday, might not mean much, but it’s important to fans. Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal do this very well, they respect the canon and whatever continuity has ever been established in the past. 

I personally have lost my passion for The Muppets since Steve Whitmire has been gone, that childish excitement The Muppets gave me is broken, it doesn’t feel like magic anymore. Before Steve was fired, I would watch every Muppet clip no matter how short, these days I’ve missed out on so many. The new Muppet show is delayed, the old me would have been so bothered and frustrated by this, but honestly, I wasn’t excitedly counting down the days as I have always done for every Muppet production since I was three years old. I still remember the countdown for The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets Tonight, Muppets From Space, Kermit’s Swamp Years, It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, The Muppets Wizard of Oz, Muppets Letters To Santa, The Muppets (2011), Muppets Most Wanted and even The Muppets (2015), the longest years of my life. When I think of Kermit now, I remember the situation and I get sad, what’s the point of watching something that just makes you sad? I hope this feeling doesn’t last forever. I was so happy when I learned Steve had attended what I believe was an official The Dark Crystal convention as a guest speaker, immediately I regretted not going, I learned there might be another convention in October and simply assumed Steve would be part of it and have decided to go if it does happen, what a Muppet rollercoaster of emotions I ride. Steve being recognized as part of The Dark Crystal by The Jim Henson Company, were things starting to fix themselves? Apparently not as just a few weeks ago the Fraggles made a comeback and unfortunately Steve Whitmire was nowhere to be found. I feel that even if The Jim Henson Company wanted to hire Steve they can’t as by doing so it goes against Disney’s statement that Steve is difficult to work with. Or perhaps The Henson Company just does not want to work with Steve anymore. I find this so hard to believe because never in my life would I have imagined that The Jim Henson Company would remove a performer from a character he created, only to continue using it without him. It’s been a few weeks now since the series premiered on Apple TV, I think there are now four episodes available, I still haven’t watched them. This makes me realize how unexcited I am about Muppets/Fraggles and anything Henson these days. The old me would have paid any price to Apple in the past to watch even a second of new Fraggle Rock content and now I still haven’t watched it. When I heard the news, I realized Wembley had been recast and with that I just ignored everything about it. I think I actually prefer Fraggles over Muppets so this should be a really big deal for me, especially considering the facts that anything new with the Fraggles is so rare but I simply don’t care. I completely ignored everything about it, didn’t even read the comments on social media, the old me would have read every single internet comment based on this. Eventually it was brought to my attention that fans were showing their displeasure at Steve’s absence from Fraggle Rock and so I did a bit of research and realized, the majority of people want Steve back attached to The Muppets and all other Jim Henson related characters. 

Even though Steve Whitmire is no longer attached to The Muppets, The Henson Company or Sesame Workshop that does not mean his puppeteering skills cannot continue to be valued. Weldon The Internet Troll has hacked his way into our existence and this to me proves how important it is to create new characters, I would have loved to have seen this Troll be part of the Muppet gang. I have to say I’m loving how Weldon is dealing and interacting with the coronavirus. I’ve always enjoyed South Park because they’re controversial but make you think of import things and they keep up with relevant topics of the moment and Weldon has all these qualities. This is the best and most genius way of using puppets in this modern age of technology, the only “cartoon” characters that can interact live with actual guests/audiences and especially at this very moment with lockdown. I saw a clip of Weldon interacting with a clip of Trump, what a brilliant idea, I can’t wait to see how that plays out. I’ve always enjoyed Weldon but as the episodes progress, I enjoy him more and more, he’s found himself I think. I’ve also noticed how Weldon wasn’t very comfortable being truly mean with his guests at the beginning but now that people are more familiar with him, he seems more comfortable with being grumpy towards them. In my opinion Steve has found the perfect balance for Weldon, he’s hot mouthed, he can get away with saying anything, he’s mean but yet has a heart. That balance Steve has found for him is perfect, that’s a hard balance to find, dare I say Weldon is the R-rated version of Oscar the Grouch, the balance between Oscar’s meanness and heart was captured perfectly by Carol Spinney. 

As much fun as Weldon is, what I miss most about Steve’s talents is how he played off with other Muppeteers, most specifically Dave Goelz. Dave and Steve’s pairing are to this generation what Jim and Frank’s pairing were to past generations. Gonzo and Rizzo, Bunsen and Beaker, Statler and Waldorf, Boober and Wembley, Andy Pig and Randy Pig, and if Beauregard and Bean Bunny have ever interacted together then add those two as well. Again, in Muppets history, characters have been left with one half of a dynamic duo, having to play off a different performer and sometimes that connection is not felt as purely as the original. When Jim Henson passed away, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Cookie Monster, Grover and Bert were playing off a different Kermit and Ernie. I was too young to feel the absence of Jim Henson at the time but I was old enough when Frank Oz moved away from The Muppets to feel his absence, what a long time that was. I still remember how fans went around two years with no new Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal or Sam the Eagle, then thankfully Eric Jacobson stepped in and did a wonderful job at bringing those characters back to life. Kermit and Miss Piggy were now played by two different performers, the puppets were there but the chemistry that will always change when performers are replaced. So, the further the character is removed from its original performer, the harder the character’s purity must be maintained to help keep continue the illusion that the character lives on forever, even in its seventh incarnation. I felt so sad when Frank moved away from The Muppets, I felt just the same as I do now but I was eventually able to get over it. I respected Frank’s decision because it was his decision to leave and pass on his characters to another performer but in Steve’s case, he was not ready to leave, he was still willing to continue. I believe he has a right to how Kermit is represented now that Jim Henson has been gone for so long as he has helped keep Kermit alive for 27 years. Some could argue he has no right to Kermit but at least to those characters he developed, he should never have been removed from Rizzo and Wembley, he should never have been removed in general. What a terribly sad thing to happen to the franchise that has always given me the most passion over all others, an obsessive passion, which I now miss very much, never did I think I could lose this feeling. 

There are so many great and talented Muppet performers making up the team, keeping alive Jim Henson’s Legacy through various different outlets. Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel, David Rudman, Peter Linz, all other Muppet performers, Sesame Street performers, Fraggle Rock performers, The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance performers, Jim Henson’s children and even Frank Oz through his Muppet Guys Talking Documentary. Matt Vogel has now become Kermit’s third performer and if it can’t be Steve I’m glad it’s Matt, the right person to have chosen, always keep main characters (especially Kermit) within the core main Muppeteers. Not only does Matt Vogel perform Kermit but because of him, many characters lost in action for many years returned back to The Muppets including Floyd, Lew Zealand, Robin but most importantly to me was Uncle Deadly. All my childhood life I wondered who was the weird blue dragon seen on a cast poster of The Muppet Show? Eventually I was introduced to him as Uncle Deadly but he had only ever made a handful of appearances on The Muppet Show and had then disappeared as though he had never existed. Thanks to Matt Vogel not only did Uncle Deadly finally return, he was fleshed out as a character and is now one of the general publics top favourites alongside The Swedish Chef, Beaker, Animal and Pepe. Frankie Cordero has now become Wembley Fraggle’s second performer, I have not heard or seen him perform Wembley yet but even without witnessing the new Wembley, believing Steve Whitmire was not done with that character yet makes it hard for me to accept a new Wembley or even a new Sprocket. The other day The Jim Henson Company posted a new Fraggle Rock video on Facebook and I watched it, I was eager to get a glimpse of the new Fraggle Performers. I’ve heard the new Gobo in the past and watching that new clip I heard the new Mokey for the first time but Wembley did not speak so as of yet no new Wembley for me. As a fan, I can accept these changes and I can accept Gobo and Mokey, seeing as Jerry Nelson is no longer here with us and I’ve heard Kathy Mullen was ready to pass on Mokey to a new performer. Wembley however I can’t, haven’t even seen him in action yet but knowing I grew up with Steve Whitmire’s Wembley and that Steve is still available, I just can’t. Peter Linz is Ernie’s fourth performer, I’m so unclear what’s been happening with Ernie through the years, Peter Linz is the perfect new Ernie and I can accept this, as Steve Whitmire had moved away from Ernie a long time ago, as he was to devoted to The Muppets. This is Ernie’s fourth performer, I would have hoped an established character would reach it’s fourth performer after at least 120 years, recasting Muppets must be such a delicate and difficult process, but for these characters to outlive all of us, recasts need to happen. As for other characters such as Statler, Beaker, Link Hogthrob, Bean Bunny, Lips, Sprocket, these days I’m not even sure whose performing which character anymore and we have no idea what is happening with Rizzo yet. Had Steve stepped down when he was ready, having blessed and guided the next performers then none of this would have been an issue for me. 

I would feel the same way I feel for Steve Whitmire as I would for any other performer mentioned throughout this article, who faced the same situation as Steve. I like The Muppets, I like their performers, I just want it all to be happy and perfect again and in order to do that, I feel a lot more people other than just Steve Whitmire need to be brought back to The Muppets. If the original Kermit isn’t here to be the leader behind the scenes then who better than the original Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear, both of Kermit’s best pairings combined into one person, probably the only person who can closest capture the magic of the original Muppets and that wizard is Oz. I’ve always believed a company’s main goal is to make money, even more so than the art. But when you create a masterpiece, that’s when the money starts to come in. People who understand The Muppets and worked with Jim Henson means a true continuation of Jim Henson’s legacy, which mean more monies! How does one attempt to make the best Muppet production possible? You bring in Frank Oz, why has this not happened yet? The Disney Company should realize that once Frank Oz is gone, the closest The Muppets can get to themselves without Jim Henson will be lost forever, why is nobody jumping at the chance to do this? I think The Muppets can join the billion-dollar club but to do that they need all the right people, Jim Henson’s people. Jerry Juhl, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, some of them are no long with us but many are still here and the talent they each possess individually should be put together to create something special, at least one last time. Paul Williams, he needs to write more Muppet music, Kirk Thatcher and Jim Lewis need to write more Muppet material, Drew Struzan has to make more Muppet posters, Frank Oz needs to direct again, Jim Henson’s children need to be involved and everybody who Jim Henson had chosen should be brought back together again. The best way to help keep Jim Henson’s Legacy alive is by keeping and uniting those few that he chose to be part of his team, and even entrusted them with The Muppets even once he was gone. There are also so many lifelong Muppeteers who work in the background, all these performers deserve a chance to create new characters to welcome into the Muppet family. Not only does this help them grow as performers but it also gradually gives The Muppets a larger cast of characters to play around with. This is something very important that Muppets Tonight got right by introducing so many new characters that are now considered part of the classic Muppet family. 

The Disney Company has accomplished great things with The Muppets, the 2011 movie was pure Muppet magic at its best. As were the live Muppet Shows and The Electric Mayhem’s first ever live concert. The Muppet Babies Reboot was a genius idea, promote who ever greenlit that production. Muppet Babies has given The Muppets a whole new meaning to this new generation of kids. Muppet Babies the original series is what led me to The Muppets and the reboot has now done the same thing for so many new fans. There should be a Muppet Babies Reboot every ten years, as I think this is the best way to gain new generations of fans to discover The Muppets and all their past glory. A few days ago, I decided to watch Prop Culture, Episode 8 as I had heard it was based on The Muppet Movie. I wasn’t going in to it very enthusiastically as I normally would have, it was just something I was going to watch to pass the time. I’ve watched it three times now, I even cried the first time, a Muppet production made me cry, the magic is still there. Gonzo came out for a brief moment and since the whole episode worked so well, it made Gonzo’s appearance even more enjoyable. That was an amazing episode, I hope they make others based on other Muppet movies. Everything needed to make the best Muppets possible is available, it just all has to come together and work as a team and this would include Steve Whitmire. This was a mistake made in the past, can the future not be fixed? Can The Muppets be put first before anyone else? Bring everyone back, most fans don’t just want the Muppets, they want the people attached to them too. 

- Nicholas Napoli

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

NEW MuppetsHenson Poll is NOW UP! - "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" & "Muppets Now"

2 NEW MuppetsHenson Polls are now up for your votes!

This week's questions deals with The Jim Henson Company's and Netflix's "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" and Disney+ "Muppets Now"

Here are this week's questions:

It has been almost 5 months since the premiere of "Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" on Netflix. We are still waiting to hear if Netflix has or plan to order a Second Season. Do you think there will be another season or feel this may just have been a one time stand alone series?

'Muppets Now' is a short-form unscripted series to be released later this year on the Disney+ streaming service. Are you hoping the series follows in the footprints of "The Muppet Show" (an updated version of sorts) or hoping for something completely different? 

Let us know what you think. You can find the MuppetsHenson Poll near the TOP of the RIGHT SIDEBAR. 

Thanks for your participation!

MuppetsHenson Poll FINAL RESULTS: - "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" on Netflix

"Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance" is now available to watch and/or download on Netflix. How would you rate the series as a whole (all 10 episodes)? EXCELLENT 85% (40) VERY GOOD 13% (6) GOOD 2% (1) POOR 0% (0) 

Total votes: 47

How would you rate Episode #1? EXCELLENT 80% (28) VERY GOOD 6% (2) GOOD 11% (4) POOR 3% (1) Total votes: 35  

How would you rate Episode #2? EXCELLENT 82% (23) VERY GOOD 7% (2) GOOD 4% (1) POOR 7% (2) Total votes: 28  

How would you rate Episode #3? EXCELLENT 83% (20) VERY GOOD 4% (1) GOOD 13% (3) POOR 0% (0) Total votes: 24  

How would you rate Episode #4? EXCELLENT 90% (19) VERY GOOD 0% (0) GOOD 10% (2) POOR 0% (0) Total votes: 21  

How would you rate Episode #5? EXCELLENT 95% (20) VERY GOOD 0% (0) GOOD 5% (1) POOR 0% (0) Total votes: 21  

How would you rate Episode #6? EXCELLENT 90% (18) VERY GOOD 0% (0) GOOD 5% (1) POOR 5% (1) Total votes: 20  

How would you rate Episode #7? EXCELLENT 95% (20) VERY GOOD 0% (0) GOOD 0% (0) POOR 5% (1) Total votes: 21 

How would you rate Episode #8? EXCELLENT 95% (18) VERY GOOD 0% (0) GOOD 0% (0) POOR 5% (1) Total votes: 19  

How would you rate Episode #9? EXCELLENT 95% (18) VERY GOOD 0% (0) GOOD 0% (0) POOR 5% (1) Total votes: 19  

How would you rate Episode #10? EXCELLENT 89% (16) VERY GOOD 6% (1) GOOD 6% (1) POOR 0% (0) Total votes: 18  

How would you rate the making of documentary of "Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance"? EXCELLENT 76% (19) VERY GOOD 24% (6) GOOD 0% (0) POOR 0% (0) Total votes: 25  

How would you rate the soundtrack to "Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance"? EXCELLENT 93% (27) VERY GOOD 0% (0) GOOD 0% (0) POOR 7% (2) Total votes: 29

Monday, January 13, 2020

“The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance: Inside The Epic Return to Thra” Book Review by Nicholas Napoli

The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance debuted last August on Netflix and alongside this brilliant show came new merchandise. Funko Pops, Action Figures, Weta Collectables, Pez Dispensers and many more, including books, my favourite being The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance: Inside The Epic Return to Thra. This book grabs your attention just from the front cover, The Dark Crystal The Ultimate Visual History Book had the same effect on me. One of my favourite aspects from the show were the settings and the characters, alongside the story and everything else but the first two were the ones I was most eager to discover within the book. This book was a Christmas present from me to me and as much as I love my new socks, this tops the list for me. 

This book opens with an introduction by Lisa Henson, which by the time I finished reading had made me realize how much I actually wanted to learn about this epic return to Thra. I had come into this excited for the character designs and conceptual art, but now I wanted to learn about the new history of Thra and everything else that came with it. I felt the same excitement for The Dark Crystal as I did whilst watching Age of Resistance on Netflix, you know it’s a good show, when months later, the first page of a book, thrusts you back into your excitement of the series. The more I think about it, the more I realize how lucky we fans have been, the essence of what makes The Dark Crystal so special was respected. It took everything that was good from the old and used modern technology to tell a new story with the same spirit, that doesn’t happen much these days. And I must agree with Lisa Henson, the original is a puppet masterpiece, as is the new series, few franchises can consider all their works a masterpiece, The Dark Crystal franchise can. 

The book is broken up into five different parts, “Part I: Chronicles Of The Crystal” touches on all things relating to The Dark Crystal, from the original movie, to the proposed sequel and an animated show. A few very creative people got together and came up with The Dark Crystal bible, the whole mythology of Thra is laid out from start to finish, this is how you properly handle a legacy. As a fan I am so grateful to know that there is a plan, a direction that this story knows it’s taking us. And the most amazing part of this all, is that this bible was actually created by studying the wall of destiny from the original movie. I’m so ready for The Dark Crystal Age Of Resistance Series 2 but at the same time, this book has got me excited to explore the whole history of Thra. 

Power Of The Dark Crystal is the title for a The Dark Crystal sequel, which eventually got turned into a comic series by Archia. I was not aware of this but this idea came directly form Jim Henson’s plan for a sequel, I am now extremely interested in reading this, I must get myself a copy. It’s highlighted how fans kept up with the progress of the sequel, I thought that was nice of them not only to notice but point out too. As much as I would have anticipated a sequel to The Dark Crystal, I think that at this moment I’m happier that we’re getting a prequel series. There is so much history missing from the original, I’m glad we can catch up with that history before continuing the story. I’ve read The Dark Crystal Creation Myths and The Garthim Wars yet Age Of Resistance was still able to add so much more to the history of Thra. They’ve set out a well thought out mythology, I’m excited to see what happens once the crystal is healed, I’ll start by getting myself a copy of Power Of The Dark Crystal. 

“Part II: The Story Of The Resistance” begins to take us on a journey alongside the Age of Resistance production right from the very beginning. “The series was perceived as a spiritual continuation of Jim Henson’s work”. As a child I had no idea what was happening in The Dark Crystal, as I grow older, I realise the spiritual aspect of Thra is what I find most fascinating. They kept all the original elements from the movie and that is why this series works so well, it stayed true to itself in every little detail. They explain why the Mystics did not have a bigger presence than they did in the series, so cleverly thought out. Each main Gelfling is also meant to introduce us to different parts of Thra until they all come together. These writers are truly amazing, they wanted to reward fans who had kept up with the saga for years, and they did a great job at that, whilst still managing to capture the attention of a whole new audience. They went as far as considering what Jim Henson’s main goal was with Fraggle Rock, world peace, they thought of everything, a legacy in well-deserved hands. 

“Part III: Re-Creating The World Of The Dark Crystal” shows us how this world was brought back to life perfectly, so many years later. I think the main secret weapon Age Of Resistance has is Brian Fraud, he along with his family and the whole team were truly able to capture the spirit of the original, even with all it’s updated designs. Brian Fraud’s wife is responsible for the clothing designs of each character and their son, a bridge between London to America for Fraud’s creativity to flow. The world of Thra feels so real, we might forget at times that every character, even the tiniest background creature had to be brought to life first. There is so much that goes into this process, such as balancing the look of the character with its ability to perform the many actions required of them. There is a whole team of people, each of them doing their own part, in bringing this world to life, from familiar names to new beginners, they picked a wonderful team. When watching a “Muppet” production, I’m always on the look out for how the background characters stand, move or interact. Age Of Resistance had a whole lot to look out for, and every creature, going as far as a Podling standing in the background had life to them. This time around, all characters were designed slightly larger, as in the original Jim Henson’s hand could not properly fit inside Jen’s head, I love these little details. 

“Part IV: Shapers Of Thra” introduces us to each and every individual character making up the world of Thra, so many character designs, so much conceptual art, all throughout the book, it’s all so well put together. Gelfling, Skeksis, Mystics, Podlings Gruenaks, Landstriders, Threaders, Augrah, everybody. What I most enjoyed about the series were how different each Gelfling clan was from each other in their features. I really like that they changed the Gelfling skin colour to match their surroundings. Although they look different, the show makes sure to point out to us, that they are still all one in the same. There is so much to explore and learn in this world, I’m so glad this book combines all that history in one place. When learning about Brea they go into great detail over her journal. I’m not sure about you, but when I was watching this show for the first time, I was so captivated by the story, I wanted to know everything. I remember wanting to look through Brea’s journal, I wanted to see all her pictures and designs, what did they mean? Well in this book each page is visible for hardcore The Dark Crystal fans to analyse, so many cool tattoo designs to choose from. Within this part there is also a whole section about the spiritual duality between the Skeksis and the Mystics, highlighting both the Heretic and the Wanderer, my all time favourite The Dark Crystal characters. 

“Part V: Raising The Realm” maps out the world of Thra, locations, locations, locations, this is my favourite part. Ever since I was small, the world of The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock and even Dinosaurs all felt very similar to me, it was a giant playground (world) for all of Jim Henson’s creations to play in. Returning to one of these worlds and seeing in being epically expanded on with this new lore and mythology, I’m a little kid again, thank you The Jim Henson Company for recapturing the magic and bringing it to Netflix. If this is more than just a TV show for you, if this is a world your invested in, you need this book, this is the fan version of having a Thra bible. The book ends with a tease of all the possibilities left open for a second series, they’ve created a world, where none of them want to stop playing in, as a fan, this makes me very happy. “I feel we’ll be able to take fans on a journey they’ve been waiting for for thirty-five years”, they know us so well. The Dark Crystal was a very personal project for Jim Henson, Age Of Resistance proved how much respect they have for the legacy, this book helps prove that fact even further. 

by Nicholas Napoli
Author of 'Politics, Bullies and You'

CLICK HERE to order 

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A Tribute To Caroll Spinney (1933-2019) by Nicholas Napoli

He’s been Big ever since we were small, a legend who will me remembered by the whole world as the man who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life throughout our childhoods and furthur. I never had the privilege of meeting Caroll Spinney, therefor for me personally it is hard to describe him as a person. From the clips I’ve watched of him online, since the dawn of the internet, reading his book The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch), watching his documentary I Am Big Bird, and simply knowing that Big Bird came from within him, leads me to know what a great man he’s always been. As well as I know Caroll Spinney from following his work throughout my life, leads me to know about his wife, Debra Spinney, a lovely woman from everything I’ve ever seen and read about her, my condolences to his wife and family. My tribute will be from the perspective of a fan, a 33-year-old man who grew up with Sesame Street.

My first introduction to Big Bird was when I was around three years old, making his way to New York City, declining a ride from Kermit and Fozzie in The Muppet Movie. After seeing Big Bird in A Muppet Family Christmas and The Muppets A Celebration Of 30 Years I needed more Big Bird. Luckily my Mom rented me a copy of Follow That Bird, I watched it so many times, she ended up buying me my own copy. Sesame Street as a whole is fantastic, but when I was a child it was Big Bird that most grabbed my attention, as did Mr Snuffleupagus. They’re both so big compared to the other characters, yet Big Bird was much more prominent in my childhood. Once I was a teenager, I remember I began discovering who performed each Muppet. This is where I began to learn about Caroll Spinney and the first thing that I remember when learning about him, was how shocked I was to learn that he performed both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. 

Big Bird was so cute and lovable and Oscar on the other hand was mean and grouchy, I now appreciate Oscar so much but as a child I never understood him. He lived on Sesame Street, how could he be so grouchy and mean to everybody all the time? When I was young, I was so worried that Big Bird wouldn’t find his way back to Sesame Street after running away from the Dodos, I remember being so frustrated with Oscar when everyone was getting ready to set out to find Big Bird and Oscar asked a question unrelated to the search. Another shocking discovery for me as a child was when I learned Big Bird was only six years old, I think Mrs. Finch was the first person to inform me. I was completely shocked, because of his height I always considered him an adult, yet never questioned why he acted so innocent and child-like. 


Since learning of Caroll Spinney’s passing, I’ve been recollecting my Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch memories from my childhood. This is a great legacy to leave behind, although I never met Caroll Spinney I have still been touched by him through his performance, as has the whole world, getting through to so many people, without having ever having met them, that is a true accomplishment, what a great man. Another great achievement by Caroll Spinney is by the fact that his work lives on, he created these two characters, and even after he is gone, his characters continue to live on, still making the same impact he had since the very beginning. Matt Vogel and Eric Jacobson now performs these characters and I must agree with Caroll Spinney’s decision, he made an excellent choice in who he chose for each one. 

Caroll Spinney will be greatly missed but never forgotten, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, anyone who’s even seen them, will always have a memory of Caroll Spinney, even if some might not even be aware of it.  

- Nicholas Napoli

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Caroll Spinney, Puppeteer Who Gave Life to Big Bird & Oscar, Dies at 85

Caroll Spinney, who gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on "Sesame Street," died Sunday at the age of 85 at his home in Connecticut, according to the Sesame Workshop.

The Sesame Workshop said in a statement that the legendary puppeteer lived for some time with dystonia, which causes involuntary muscle contractions.

Spinney voiced and operated the two major Muppets from their inception in 1969 when he was 36, and performed them almost exclusively into his 80s on the PBS kids' television show that later moved to HBO.

"Before I came to `Sesame Street,' I didn't feel like what I was doing was very important," Spinney said when he announced his retirement in 2018. "Big Bird helped me find my purpose."

Through his two characters, Spinney gained huge fame that brought international tours, books, record albums, movie roles, and visits to the White House.

"Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending," the Sesame Workshop said.

But he never became a household name.

"I may be the most unknown famous person in America," Spinney said in his 2003 memoir. "It's the bird that's famous."

Spinney gave "Sesame Street" its emotional yin and yang, infusing the 8-foot-2 Big Bird with a childlike sweetness often used to handle sad subjects, and giving the trashcan-dwelling Oscar, whose voice Spinney based on a New York cabbie, a street-wise cynicism that masked a tender core.

"I like being miserable. That makes me happy," Oscar often said. "But I don't like being happy, so that makes me miserable."

To colleagues there was no question which character the kindly Spinney resembled.

"Big Bird is him and he is Big Bird," former "Sesame Street" head writer Norman Stiles said in a 2014 documentary on Spinney.

It wasn't easy being Big Bird. To play the part, Spinney would strap a TV monitor to his chest as his only eyes to the outside. Then the giant yellow bird body was placed over him. He held his right arm aloft constantly to operate the head, and used his left hand to operate both arms. The bird tended to slouch more as the years took their toll.

In 2015, Spinney switched to just providing the characters' voices. That year, the longtime PBS show inked a five-year pact with HBO that gave the premium cable channel the right to air new episodes nine months before they air on PBS.

Big Bird's builder Kermit Love always insisted that his design was a puppet, not a costume. But to many children, he was neither. He was real.

"Eight-year-olds have discovered to their horror that he's a puppet," Spinney told The Associated Press in 1987.

Born in 1933 in Waltham Massachusetts, Spinney had a deeply supportive mother who built him a puppet theatre after he bought his first puppet, a monkey, at age 8.

He spent four years in the U.S. Air Force after high school, then returned to Massachusetts and broke into television. He teamed up with fellow puppeteer Judy Valentine for their own daily series, then worked on a Boston version of the clown show "Bozo's Big Top." Spinney in this period had three children, Jessica, Melissa and Benjamin, all from his 1960 to 1971 marriage to Janice Spinney. He later married his second wife Debra in 1979, and the two were nearly inseparable for the rest of his life.

It was after a disastrous performance at a puppet festival in Utah that Spinney met Muppet master Jim Henson, who came backstage and told him, "I liked what you were trying to do," Spinney remembered Henson saying, in his memoir.

Spinney would join the Muppet crew when "Sesame Street" was about to turn them from popular phenomenon into an American institution. Henson brought his signature character, Kermit the Frog, to the show. His right-hand man Frank Oz would become famous via Grover and Cookie Monster. Together they created Ernie and Bert.

But Big Bird would become the show's biggest star, his name and image synonymous with not just "Sesame Street" but PBS and children's television. The character was usually used for comedy, but his innocence and questioning was also useful when serious subjects needed addressing. When "Sesame Street" shopkeeper Mr. Hooper died, Big Bird had to get a lesson in accepting death, saying in the memorable 1983 episode that "he's gotta come back. Who's gonna take care of the store? Who's gonna make my birdseed milkshakes, and tell me stories?"

When Henson died suddenly in 1990 at age 53, leaving the Muppet world devastated, Big Bird played the same part in real life. At the funeral, Spinney appeared alone on stage in full Big Bird costume and sang "It's Not Easy Bein' Green," Kermit's signature song.

"It was extraordinarily moving," Oz said in the Spinney documentary. "It tore people up."

Spinney said he was crying under the feathers but he got through the song, looking at the sky and saying, "Thank you Kermit," before walking off.

Sesame Street co-founder Joan Ganz Cooney said Sunday that Spinney, her longtime colleague and friend, "not only gave us Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, he gave so much of himself as well."

"We at Sesame Workshop mourn his passing and feel an immense gratitude for all he has given to Sesame Street and to children around the world," she said.