Tag Archives: Jim Henson

Why the Big Bang girls owe their careers to Miss Piggy…

There are many trailblazers in the world of entertainment – especially for women. They take on new roles, challenge our understanding and break new ground in what is considered phenomenal.

Miss Piggy is one such trailblazer.

When she hit the screen in the 1970s, many actresses had limited choices in their creative output. The secretary, the wife, the sexpot or the matriarch. Miss Piggy came along and redefined all that it meant to be a woman. And now, I believe that the ladies of The Big Bang Theory have her to thank for her trailblazing performances. In fact, I think they owe their roles to her. And considering that their creator Bill Prady got his start with the Henson company, the connections seem even more inevitable.

Let’s examine them, shall we?

Penny: Beautiful, creative, sensitive/over dramatic, fashionista and looking for success.

Bernadette: Sweet, funny, delicate voice, ample bosom and can switch moods on a dime. She even scares some people.

Amy: Awkward, out of the loop, pining for her man.

Miss Piggy: Beautiful, creative, sensitive/over dramatic, fashionista and always looking for success.

Miss Piggy: Sweet, funny, delicate voice, ample bosom and can switch moods on a dime. We know she’s dangerous.

Miss Piggy: Awkward, out of the loop, pining for her man.

At least, she used to be… I guess we will see what Bill Prady and the team have cooked up for our Triple-Threat Diva as the new show comes to the air this fall! There can be no doubt that she will deliver the goods as only she can. Current and future actresses will need to take note of her character range so they can emulate her divine performances!

Will YOU be watching? You know you will.

 

 

Miss Piggy’s Dream Sequence(s): First in a series

Miss Piggy has a tradition of grand dream sequences. Perhaps because her life is a dream? Or because she lives in a dream world? Who cares, really? What’s important is that she has the most fascinating fantasy life. And I’d like to explore that a bit.

Let’s start this series with her first, and possibly most romantic fantasy sequence in film, from The Muppet Movie (1979).

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This is the elaborate dream sequence that is accompanied by her phenomenal love song: Never Before, Never Again, written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher. She has just won the Ms Bogen County Beauty Pageant and as she begins her acceptance speech, she happens to spy within the vast crowd the Frog of her Destiny – Kermit the…. Her eyes sparkle with adoration and she begins. Big intake of breath and…

Never before….. have two souls joined so freely and so fast…

She launches into the world of her fantasy where she and her Frog are placed in romantic locales and situations. They harken back to great love stories and show us that the Pig has a really vivid imagination. First off, they are running through a meadow towards each other. Piggy tosses aside her basket of wildflowers to run to Kermit. They wrap each other in a warm embrace and then continue travelling in the direction she was going. Kermit is only slightly perplexed at their momentum. The soft focus only adds to the dewy romanticism of their situation.

Next up, the Frog and Pig spend an afternoon on a pond. Rowboat, parasol and period clothing to match the mood. Kermit decides to remove his stand-up collar blue striped shirt, etc. to go for a dip when they pause near a secluded waterfall and Piggy, in her eyelet gown, watches. I gather she didn’t want to swim this time – she saves that for another dream sequence.

Next, Piggy and Kermit have a chance meeting in the fog under a lamppost. She is swathed in furs and he is in his classic trench coat. Simple and evocative. It’s about 14 seconds of film, but it says so much.

Finally, we see them running through another field. They are near a stream or lake. Piggy is complete in her “wench” attire with mop cap and stays, and Kermit is dashing in his poet shirt. They end their joyful romp by snuggling down under the shade of a tree with flowers for their bed. It is the epitome of romance.

The capper to this fantasy is another one of their many wedding sequences. Miss Piggy has had many gowns in her time – and is sure to have more, but this one is a statement in lovely delicacy. Drops of lace surround her pretty porcine face and the flowers are soft pink and white. Kermit looks splendid in his cravat and top hat as they are whisked away on her imagined honeymoon. The details of their getaway are splendid with rice tossed in the air, ribbons and cans and shoes tied to the car and the licence plate reading “I DO 2″.

This sequence really stands the test of time, even though the original impact of the humour may have softened over the years, (much like the soft focus of the filming), it still punctuates and describes their relationship and really sets the standard by which all dream sequences should be judged – whether they include Miss Piggy or some other starlet.

It also serves to give ideas for romantic locations and rendesvous. Go for a run in a meadow – it’s free and you will enjoy it, if the Frog and the Pig are any judge at all.

I don’t know if the message is that we are all supposed to have such a rich fantasy life, or if our fantasies should be as detailed as hers, or if the message is rather, stay focused on your goal and one day it will come to you. She’s still working on snaring that Frog! As we look at other dream sequences, we may discover overt and covert themes. One thing I do know, is the Pig demands an extensive and beautiful wardrobe. So, I’m asking designers out there, why aren’t there lines of clothing for the rest of us that match this quality?

Check it out for yourself at the link below, and imagine, like I do, how much fun it must have to been to write, create, film and edit that sequence?

 

 

PuppetFest @ The Palace

Tonight was our first foray into a puppet centric event at The Palace Theatre here in London, Ontario.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I had a great time. So many lovely people came to the theatre to make a puppet and to watch puppetry on our big screen. It was a really special evening.

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I know the youngest person there was 3, and with some assistance, she made 2 puppets. I’m not going to guess the top age of our guests, but I know we had folks of every category in the theatre and I know that everyone there was definitely young at heart.

There was a young man there, who was so very intent on his creations. He made his own stuff, no matter what. And no matter what, all of his stuff was inspired by Jim Henson’s creations. This young man hasn’t made it to double digits in age yet, but he knows all the shows that Henson ever created, all the guest stars and the performers who are behind, (or underneath) our famous felt friends. He regularly visits fan sites and I watched him draw a Kermit and Piggy and turn them into wonderful shadow puppets within 10 minutes and then perform them against our walls of the lobby. He stayed to enjoy our screening of Being Elmo and was thrilled to watch the show. His mother saw a lot of her son in the explanation of Kevin Clash’s determination to create. I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. This young man will create something wonderful in his lifetime and it will have been largely inspired by the work of Jim Henson.

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Another guest happened to be a designer for the new video game of My Muppet Show. It was great to meet him and share with him some of my enjoyment of his creation. He painstakingly worked on his puppet creation and had come prepared with more materials as he knew exactly what he wanted to make – just like our determined fan above. If you’ve not seen his work yet on this great app – then pull out your smart phone and start playing. It’s a great fun, free app!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-muppets-show/id618376844?mt=8

We only have two more nights of our celebration of puppets, and I sincerely hope that we are financially successful enough to put together something similar next year. It is quite clear that the fans are out there. And I was so honoured to meet them.

It’s been a while… and what a while it has been!

So it has been a while….

It has been an intense Spring and early Summer with all the shows and projects and while it is supposed to calm down in the summertime and I generally look forward to that – it really hasn’t happened this time around.

To kick off the season we decided to spend some time in New York City. I registered for the Broadway Teachers Workshop and we visited with friends from the Art of Combat Workshop. It was a super time with lots of shows and lots of exploring the city. We did have a little dampener on the whole trip when our car broke down on the way to New York and for some strange reason New York mechanics could not (even given a full week) figure out what was wrong with it to repair it. (More on that later – details and such)

We saw some great shows including: Once, Peter and the Starcather, Pippin and Alan Cumming in Macbeth. We explored a number of Muppet related locations in the city and that was delightful. Also, we met with some friends from toughpigs.com and it was pretty cool to meet those folks in person – next time we will have to plan for a longer visit!

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After making it home (that was an adventure with the car) I had a short, but lovely trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake with my Mum to see more shows. Still an adventure, but a lovely time.  This was after another puppet building workshop at The Palace Theatre, which was another great time with more lovely monsters coming into the world!

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And now… I’m deep in the process of building puppets for the City of London. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about the project at this time, but I’m sure they’ll be making a scene around town seen enough, so you won’t have to wait too long to see what they are about.

And next week, I’m off to the Puppeteers of America Festival in Philadelphia. I’ve never been there – and I really hope that my car makes it there and back with no troubles this time. It’s going to be an intense, busy and exciting week. I just hope that I can take it all in and savour the experiences.

It’s been anything but a slow, sedate summer. But what are you gonna do? Take what life brings and make the most of it all, right? I know I’m certainly lucky to have all these experiences, so I’m taking it all in and savouring it. It goes by fast.

 

Podcast #9 with lots of Special Guests!

This week we welcome on a whole cavalcade of characters, including past guests Erin Hunt and Brittany Mumford, with newcomers Joe Recchia, Andrew Rethazi, Kate Sepi and Nick Sepi.  Along with the regular host of characters (Ceris, Kerry, Matt and Luke) that brings the total number of people on mic to 10! Wowee! Anyways since the actual twelve days of christmas is almost up we thought we’d sneak in this very special holiday podcast just under the radar for your listening pleasure, enjoy!  Be sure to follow us on twitter (@LoversDreamersU) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheLoversTheDreamersAndYou) for all the fun and check our website for the Lovers the Dreamers and You blog (www.theloversthedreamersandyou.com)!

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The positive effects of sharing things you love.

So last week, I gave my students a new, quick, research assignment to find out about voice actors. It was simple and I hoped, fun. It turned out really great – and the best part was, we all enjoyed it and everyone learned something new, including me.

They were to work in pairs to find some basic information about performers who are famous for their voices. The list of names included, (but was not limited to) Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons), Billy West (Futurama), Mel Blanc (Looney Tunes), John DiMaggio (Futurama), Dan Castellena (The Simpsons) and of course several Muppeteers, such as Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Kevin Clash, Caroll Spinney and Jerry Nelson.

Their presentations were simple and to the point and consisted of Name, Birth/Death (if applicable), where they live, career highlights, and major characters. Then they were asked to find two contrasting YouTube clips to share with the class. In some cases, I helped. In others, they had a myriad of examples. In all cases, the students were impressed with the variety and skill of these performers and their vocal abilities. It was a great week.

This week, we moved on to creating simple props. The Grade 9s were to create something with a basic shape – rectangle, square, round, cylinder – but to represent something realistic. Essentially a brick, stone or stepping stone. They went to town. I’ve now got on display some headstones, a paving stone, several versions of bricks, an oversized hunk of chocolate with a bite removed and a swiss roll. All made from cardboard, florist foam or styrofoam. Incredible.

Simple Bricks and other Props on display.

The Grade 10s get their pick of props to make. It just has to be something that a character could use on stage in some manner. I’ve now got several weapons, including a couple of animation inspired swords, an overly large hammer – it’s hard to describe, it’s SO huge, Thor’s hammer, (complete with leather wrapped handle), Pooh’s Hunny Jar – complete with BumbleBees on it, a diary, a Marauder’s Map, a sorcerer’s collection of goodies, pumpkins made from dryer tubing and an amazing Mad Hatter’s Hat – so incredible and large that it won’t fit in the display case. Most of these creations were made with less than $5 and some with $0! That’s what I call creative prop making! These kids had a blast and were coming to class early to get to work on their creations. It was amazing to watch them work and collaborate and encourage one another. So thrilling.

Assorted Props on Display!

 

August 24th, 2011

Like many Muppet Fans, I have spent this day in reflection.

This day marked the morning where we heard the news of Jerry Nelson’s passing.

We knew this day was coming, as his health had been in decline, but as Muppet Fans, we enjoy a sense of fantasy, whimsy and denial of things “sensible”, so, I think, many of us decided that this day was still a long way off. Or we hoped it was.

Waking up this morning was tough. I mean waking up. I didn’t have foreknowledge of any sort. I hadn’t stayed up late and heard the news, I just have allergies and I’m tired. When I went to my computer and saw the Muppet Central update, well, tears sprang to my eyes. Literally. And yes, teacher friends, I mean literally, the tears sprang there and quietly and consistently ran down my cheeks. This has repeated itself on and off throughout this day.

It’s not the same as when Jim died. Then, I was in denial and anger. (In a way, I still am in denial and anger…but… ). Today was profound grief. Today is the loss of a great, gentle and supportive talent who was suffering and didn’t deserve to do so. Jerry was ill. And now, he’s not. I’m happy about that, but I’m sad for the cure to his illness.

I’m sad for his close friends and family. I’m sad for the Sesame Street Gang and the Muppeteers who will feel this loss so keenly. If I am feeling this loss, I can only imagine their woe at this time.

I’m happy for his fans. His many, many legions of fans, who don’t even know they are his fans. These people still have hours and hours and hours of recordings to enjoy. At least he was able to continue to work to a decent time in his life. I wish he could have continued longer.

I spent most of this day traveling and working, so my connection to the discussions and sharing of memories were via smart phones and wifi, (thank heaven we have these things now, for immediate commiserations). Only now have I had some time to put my thoughts into words. And this is a good thing, as this morning, I had none. Just dumbstruck silence at the loss.

I will revel in the sharing and the celebration. I will remember and rejoice that we were so lucky to share his genius. I will research, repost and reblog to keep his memory alive. This won’t be difficult as he left us so much to enjoy. I will continue to follow and create and share joy, because it seems that’s what Jerry did best.

I am humbled to have been entertained by this wonderful person. I am profoundly sad that he has gone on to another adventure. I am extremely grateful that he left us some of his magic. I am inspired.

As one tweet said today….(@ToasterBoy – Grant Baciocco)…

“Listen, Jerry Nelson’s gone. We all gotta ramp up the nice about 110% to make up for the deficit.”

He’s right. So, … challenge accepted.

You with me?

 

Muppet Central Radio Game

Here’s a little game I play, with myself… (don’t be dirty)

I like to put on the Muppet Central Radio channel when I’m working on some chores. You know, the dishes, laundry, whatever. Something that would be great fun on Sesame Street, but at home, by yourself, it’s mundane and depressing. Then I play a little game.

First, I have to be a distance from the computer or my phone – which is easy, cause I’m busy doing some chore. But as each song comes on, without looking, I run through as many details of the tune as I can possibly think of whilst listening. Now sometimes this is easy. For example when the Oscar winning Man or Muppet is played, I can remember who wrote it, for what purpose, who sang it (character and performer), and of course the scene plays in my mind. And I sing along at the top of my lungs.

Sometimes it’s not so easy. For example, I may hear what is unmistakably Jim Henson’s voice, but at first listen it may be difficult to tell if the character is Kermit or Ernie – he’s not given away a tell tale character giggle yet or said “Hi Ho!” So, without looking, I try to decipher the setting, the character and everything I can from simply listening. It’s also fun when a “What-not” song comes along, to determine which character is Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt or Louise Gold, etc. Or, when it is clearly an Ernie and Bert segment – is it Jim & Frank or Steve & Eric, etc. Again, often easy, but still enjoyable.

This evening a segment from an early Veterinarian’s Hospital came on, and without Piggy actually before my eyes to distract me with her beauty, it was so easy to tell that the voice was Richard Hunt. This is, of course, how I knew it was an early episode.

I do frequently check to see how close I am in my guesses and what info might be there on the station, but if I’m stumped, then there’s always the good ol’ reliable Muppet Wiki to help me along. If you’ve never explored the Muppet Wiki – you are in for a treat!

It’s a simple and fun trivia-esque game that would be hard to play with another person – unless they were in the room with you, as their load rates could be different and they might be one song ahead or behind you – should you ever try to play this with someone while chatting or skypeing. Just a thought.

But of course, no one out there is quite as nerdy as I. Are they?

Let me know if you are.

The Muppets in Montreal!

Tomorrow, (or much later today), I travel to Montreal. Now, this is a lovely thing to do at any time of the year and for any reason, but this time I am going to see The Muppets perform live-for the second time this year. If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be doing this now, I’m not sure I’d have believed them. Not the part about me traveling to see them, that is certainly plausible. But more the fact that the opportunity exists for me to see them in person.

I am wondering what they will do. I am wondering who will be there and I’m wondering how I will react. I know I was overwhelmed at the last performance. It was truly profound and I am hoping for something similar this time. It is fairly safe to say that, if Kermit appears and tells a joke or sings, I will be overcome. But I am very interested to see what this Just For Laughs performance will be like. Much different from the celebration of Jim Henson that occurred in Carnegie Hall, I’m sure. For one, they have not recommended the show for anyone younger than 16, I believe. These are comics after all, so it probably won’t be a lot of Sesame Street Skits. Which wouldn’t be right anyway, as they are owned by a different company. Regardless, it is sure to be a special experience. Certainly cost more than Carnegie Hall. But I’ll bet it will be worth it. Besides, a short holiday in Montreal is never a bad thing.

Wish me luck on this new adventure. I’ll tell you all about it as it happens.

Why am I here? Why are you here?

Life’s like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending…..

I lead a pretty creative life. I regularly make things that have music, drama or dance involved in them. I teach the arts. I am surrounded by creative folks all the time. And I’m privileged to work with them. But I felt Ike something was somehow missing. I felt I needed a forum for my own creative impulses to take shape and a place where I could explore the creative impulses of my own work and my colleagues. I’ve been creating and staging work that others have written and I felt it was time to write something of my own.

I’ve been thinking about creativity, inspiration and leadership and wondering where that all comes from and how you can cultivate creativity and inspiration. This year I was reminded of one of my greatest sources of inspiration and I began to explore his philosophy of creativity and leadership. Mr. Jim Henson.

This is the source of my inspiration for this podcast and website. I want to explore creativity and the different ways that people are inspired to fulfill their dreams. I hope to to uncover some interesting stories and philosophies during the life of this blog, website and podcast. I hope that you will join me on this exploration and participate in the discussion.