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Monday, March 16, 2015

'Little Muppet Fans' by Nicholas Napoli

Here is the latest article by MuppetsHenson's good friend Nicholas Napoli. Once again, Nicholas has written a brilliant article for us to enjoy. This time he analyses the muppet movies through the eyes of kids.

Little Muppet Fans

I remember when I was a Little Muppet Fan, when you still believed The Muppets were real, when you couldn’t figure out why Skeeter was a Muppet Baby but not a Muppet Adult or even when you believed that if you made a hole in your bedroom wall their might be a chance you might find Fraggles living on the other side. Many holes later I grew up and realized, I wasn’t going to find a single Fraggle hiding behind any wall I knocked down so I moved on. Now I’m no longer a Little Muppet Fan, nor am I an Embarrassed Teen Muppet Fan, I’m an Adult Muppet Fan… well as Adult as you can get when you’re a true Muppet Fan, true Muppet Fans never fully grow up and trust me that’s a good thing. Since most of the World likes The Muppets I guess Humanity still has a lot of growing up to do. The day you become to mature to enjoy The Muppets is the day you need to go sit in the corner and just wait for your life to be over because if The Muppets can’t make you laugh then you’re dead inside.

Being an Adult has it perks, the best one being you can finally buy your own house and create that wonderful two bedroom Muppet Room you’ve been dreaming of your whole life… or is that just me? I wouldn’t say this is the Muppet Room of my dreams, it doesn’t even have a Miss Piggy fountain like the one at MGM Studios but for now it’s the biggest space I’ve ever had to display my collection. Being an Adult also means it’s time to have Little Muppet Fans of your own and that’s exactly what all my friends are doing, which is great but these kids don’t stop playing with my toys. Every time my friends come over to my house for some reason they decide to bring their families along with them and these families consist of little Palisades Muppet Action Figure Destroyers. For ten years I’ve kept my Palisades Muppet Action Figures intact, in ten years I have only ever broken one figure and only ever lost one accessory, Lips` Lava Lamp… luckily I also bought the repaints. Ten years later I have to buy a new tube of glue every two weeks, Polly Lobster is now legless, Fozzie’s Rubber Chicken is nowhere to be found, Sam the Eagle’s tail has clogged the toilet, Scooter now has removable glasses, Floyd is hatless, Rizzo only has one ear, somebody ate my Muppet Carrot and for the time being The Muppet Newsman will temporarily have to wear contacts.

My friends always tell me to just inform their kids that they can’t play with The Muppets, how do you tell a bunch of kids, excited to be in a room full of Muppets Toys that they can’t play with them? I will never do that, if these kids are excited to play with Muppet Toys then I’m not going to stop them even if it means rebuying the whole collection all over again. These kids aren’t just kids playing with toys these are kids who look for their favourite Muppet, who get excited when they find something new they hadn’t seen before which relates to the characters they most like. They all love The Muppets, they all have their favourite characters, they all know many of their names and they’re all Little Muppet Fans in the making.

One Little Muppet Fan in particular who is almost three years old already knows the names of 27 Muppet/Sesame Street/Fraggle Rock characters. My Nephew at almost three years old can already tell the difference between Statler and Waldorf, who my Father sometimes mistakes for Ernie and Bert… Dad’s can be so ridiculous sometimes. A few weeks ago I Dogsat for a friend of mine and this little puppy was identical to Foo-Foo so obviously for the weekend George (who names their Dog George?) was known as Foo-Foo. I told my Nephew this was Miss Piggy’s dog who Uncle was taking care of whilst Miss Piggy went on holiday. Now Foo-Foo has become one of his favourite Muppets, we watched the Wally Boag episode of The Muppet Show where Miss Piggy, Foo-Foo and Rowlf perform on stage and thanks to Garrett Gilchrist (Henson Rarities) we were able to see Foo-Foo again in a starring role on an unaired episode of Little Muppet Monsters titled Foo-Foo-Phooey.

Recently we’ve watched lots of Muppet Clips on Youtube, mainly the ones I remember standing out for me the most when I was a Little Muppet Fan myself. It’s so easy now to be a Little Muppet Fan compared to when most of us were Little Muppet Fans ourselves. Growing up I only had the option of watching four episodes of Muppet Babies, two episodes of Fraggle Rock, Children’s Songs and Stories with The Muppets, The Muppet Movie and Follow That Bird which I watched over and over again and on a rare occasion I might catch The Muppet Take Manhattan playing on TV. There were no full season sets, no wide DVD collections, there was no internet, no downloads, no YouTube all we had were the VHS tapes on our shelves and if we were lucky a trip to the Video Rental Store with our Parents. Nowadays I can show my Nephew an unaired episode of Little Muppet Monsters at the click of a button, I remember throughout my childhood Little Muppet Monsters was such a mystery, luckily for the younger generation of Muppet Fans they’ll know exactly what that is without having to wait over ten years to find out. After months of worried Muppet Toy playing and multiple Muppet Movie/Sketches viewings I have come to the conclusion that Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal, Beaker, The Swedish Chef, Camilla, Robin and surprisingly Sam the Eagle are the top ten Muppets amongst kids.

There are roughly fifteen kids all put together, I can’t even keep track of them anymore, every time I look around there’s a new kid breaking my toys. Every single one of these kids have watched all eight Muppet Movies and when I asked them which ones they preferred about ten of them always answered with the same movie. Roughly this is the order kids prefer their Muppet Movies.

Muppet Treasure Island

This one is hands down their favourite Muppet Movie and since most of their parents grew up in the 90’s this was also a real treat for them. The beginning is a little slow for them, luckily Gonzo is a favourite of theirs and seeing those naughty pirates chasing him and Rizzo around the Admiral Inn kept them entertained long enough until Fozzie Bear, Dr Bunsen and Beaker popped up on screen. Once The Muppets are on the Hispaniola and Kermit finally appears they are completely lost in the movie. They love the songs, they like the suspense of waiting for the characters they know to show up and then play a big part and they all really enjoyed everything that happened on the Island especially Pig-Nosed Swedish Chef, the Pig Trees and the Vacationing Rats. Sam the Eagle also became a favourite for these Little Muppet Fans which is so cool because this was the same movie that made me appreciate Sam the Eagle when I was younger, hopefully Muppets Most Wanted will have done the same for Sam the Eagle for this new generation of fans. The only nit-pick I have is that Kermit and Miss Piggy take too long to appear and these kids also realize this and are forever asking when they will show up, when Miss Piggy finally shows up near the end they all went crazy, I think that by that point they just didn’t expect her to show up at all.

Muppets From Space

I was quite surprised that this movie is ranked so high but it does make sense because amongst my friends this is one of their favourite Muppet Movies. As far as us Muppet Fans are concerned the Muppets were quite out of character but the thing is for some reason this attracted a lot of non-fans who enjoyed the movie and especially these little kids. The opening musical number really caught their attention, they loved seeing so many familiar Muppets in the background sadly they really enjoyed Fozzie picking his noise and Miss Piggy’s need to pee. What Muppet Treasure Island did for Sam the Eagle, Muppets From Space did the same for Pepe and to an extent Dr Phil Van Neuter. These kids never played with my Van Neuter Action Figure but after watching Muppets From Space I’m so glad I have an extra one still in its original package. Gonzo is also a favourite amongst these kids so they loved the fact that he had such a big role but what they enjoyed most was when Gonzo’s family landed on the beach and for some reason when Dr Bunsen and Beaker were left behind at the gas station. Silly stuff that we take for granted such as the talking sandwich, door in a jar or Gonzo riding on a lawnmower really made them laugh.

The Muppet Movie

This just goes to prove that The Muppet Movie is a timeless masterpiece, here we have a film from 1979 which a bunch of little kids from today’s modern world really enjoy from start to finish. Once again these kids loved the fact that every now and again a new Muppet joined the group on their way to Hollywood. Kermit singing The Rainbow Connection, Fozzie and Kermit’s bar fight at the El Sleezo, Big Bird’s appearance, Can You Picture That, Gonzo and Camilla crashing their car against Kermit and Fozzie, the fair, Gonzo flying away on his balloons, Miss Piggy’s fight, Dr Bunsen and Beaker, Giant Animal, these moments are the highlights of this movie for these kids and they are spread out nicely across the movie keeping their attention throughout. I’m so glad they enjoyed the film, they especially enjoyed the final scene with all the Muppet characters under the rainbow, this movie must have not looked dated to them otherwise I doubt they would have appreciated it so much. My Nephew now believes that he’ll find all The Muppets living in Hollywood, every time he sees me he asks me if we can go to Hollywood to play with The Muppets, as if Hollywood is a simple bus drive away.

The Muppets

I knew this one would be high on their list, I actually expected it to be higher but it took so long to get to actual Muppet mayhem that by the time Kermit came out they weren’t even excited to see him. They did enjoy the fact that Walter also had a Muppet Collection of his own and for some reason they all really liked Mary, I think the dress had a lot to do with it or maybe the fact that she’s a teacher. Eventually Gary, Mary, Walter and Kermit go pick up the rest of the Muppets and that’s when they really began to enjoy the movie. I think Walter suffers here from the same thing Clifford, Pepe and Bobo did back in Muppets Tonight, these kids were expecting the Muppets they knew and instead they spent the first few minutes with a new Muppet they did not really care for. Eventually they’ll appreciate Walter for the great character that he is just as we did with Pepe, Johnny Fiama, Sal, Bobo, Dr Phil Van Neuter etc… This was their first introduction to Walter and he stole to much screen time at the beginning from The Muppets these kids were expecting to see. These kids are also used to Gonzo having a much bigger role and even they realized Gonzo barley appeared in this movie.

The Great Muppet Caper

This is my favourite Muppet Movie, the kids really liked this, again just like The Muppet Movie it has these great big moments spread out nicely throughout the movie able to keep their attention throughout. The opening shot with Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo inside the Hot Air Balloon always stood out to me when I was little and this time around it was the same thing for these little kids. They loved it but were so worried when the Balloon came down luckily to their delight the Muppets started singing and then Sweetums fell down the manhole, something we had to go back and view numerous times, they found it hysterical. Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo then get thrown out of a plane, out of a bus, reach the Happiness Hotel, Gonzo’s nose stays stuck in the elevator, Beauregard’s crazy taxi ride, The First Time It Happens, bicycles, Miss Piggy’s water fantasy, Muppets sitting on the bed, Miss Piggy in jail, Pizza Twins, Oscar the Grouch, Miss Piggy’s motorcycle, Mallory Gallery, this film just doesn’t stop capturing their attention. Their favourite part of this movie came at the very end during the end credits with all the Muppets being thrown out of the plane wearing parachutes, this had them laughing so hard, now they throw my Muppet toys in the air and shout “And Me”.

The Muppets Take Manhattan

These Little Muppet Fans really enjoyed the first few minutes of the film but even before The Muppets separated into different groups they were already losing interest. Again like The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper this movie also has its children’s favourite highlights but they are spread out to far from each other (or to close) and between these moments these kids begin to lose interest. They really enjoyed each of the Muppets postcards, the Muppet Babies Fantasy Sequence, Miss Piggy on rollerblades, Muppets sleeping in lockers, Rat Scat, Manhattan Melodies, the Sesame Street crew at the wedding actually the whole wedding in general. In their eyes there was too much talking and not enough funny moments. Honestly most of them didn’t even get through the whole movie before getting up and doing something else. 

Muppets Most Wanted

I think the main problem here was the fact that Kermit had a double, Constantine was a great character but it really confused all these kids. As adults we know who was Kermit and who was Constantine but for these kids at times they were as clueless as the rest of the Muppets and weren’t sure why Kermit was everywhere at once. Constantine’s a great character, my favourite Muppet villain of all time, if he ever returns I just hope he’s disguised as a wolf or something. This movie didn’t hold their attention at all, too much talking and not enough big moments spread out throughout the film, none of them stuck around for the whole movie. This movie had to much plot which it spent too much time explaining, even though they crammed so much into the movie in these kids eyes nothing really happened other than Kermit going to prison… and then not in prison? Muppets Most Wanted is a true Muppet Fans movie so I’m sure as they get older and are able to tell Kermit and Constantine apart they will appreciate the movie much more.

The Muppets Christmas Carol

I really appreciate this movie but in all honesty not even Gonzo and Rizzo could save this movie, by the time we reached Scrooge’s house for the first time I was left watching the movie alone. I really like this movie but as a child I remember it was just too slow for me and not enough familiar Muppets in the background to make up for it. I wish this movie had used Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock characters in the absence of so many regular Muppet characters who had not been recast yet. Imagine Big Bird playing the role of Tiny Tim alongside Elmo (Peter) and the Snowths (Twins) and why not give them a Dog (Sprocket) whilst we’re at it. A theatrical version of A Muppet Family Christmas celebrating everything Jim Henson created although now as an adult I appreciate so much that we have a mature Muppet movie.

I know A Muppet Family Christmas is not a movie but as a Muppet Production this is their favourite one even they know it’s not normal for The Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock characters to be together at the same time. They also love the fact that they are all celebrating Christmas at Fozzie’s Mothers House. The next movie I plan to show them is Follow That Bird, I remember I loved this movie as a kid so I hope the same applies for all these Little Muppet Fans. Follow That Bird is sadly so underappreciated, I think I might write a review on this after I view it again probably for well over the hundredth time, as a kid I watched this movie every night.

I imagine most of you reading this are now grown up Muppet Fans with Little Muppets Fans of your own and to that I just want to say well done, you’re all doing a great job.

- Nicholas Napoli


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