Tag Archives: Muppets

Losing Steve Whitmire

I’m not going to sugar coat this post. I can’t. If your opinion is different from mine, I respect that and your thoughts, but I’m going to say what I feel on this abrupt and painful event that has occurred this week.

In 1990, we lost Jim Henson. That was enormous. I was depressed and in denial for ages. I was in denial until Steve Whitmire and the Muppet/Henson team brought back the beloved Frog. Then, I began to feel better and heal. Steve Whitmire brought back hope and love and laughter when I thought it was gone.

He has done so for 27 years. He has done so while he was hurting. Far more than I could ever imagine. I lost a hero. He had to try to REPLACE his hero. I’m my eyes, he succeeded. I’ve been lucky enough to see him perform live. He’s tremendous. I’ve heard stories of what he is like to work with and to meet. He’s delightful.

No one can deny his skill, talent or dedication. No one.

And yet, Disney has seen fit to summarily dismiss him from his roles with The Muppets. His job since he was 19. His only dream as a youth. Over 40 years. People is that excellence and expertise are generally given lavish celebrations and opportunities to have retirements when they choose. They are also, frequently, given extra benefits to their contracts and perks that younger, newer folks generally would need to “pay their dues” to receive.

Steve didn’t receive these. Steve was quietly and abruptly dismissed. People noticed. People talked. People missed him. And then, a quiet little announcement came out with very few details that he was gone.

Think about this for a moment… when there’s a new Bond or Doctor Who, the outgoing actor, writer, director for the show is given a fanfare, a special episode, and loads of attention and appreciation.

WHY would Steve not merit, at the very least, something like that? Disney is hoping this change will be quiet. They are hoping we will all move on, and that most won’t even notice. After 40 years of dedicated and excellent service, this is an appalling way to say farewell to any performer, regardless of what the reasons for the departure may be. This is APPALLING AND SHAMEFUL.

Dear Steve, (in case you see this), THANK YOU. Thank you for restoring my faith, for healing my loss and for making millions of people happy for over 40 years. You have been brilliant. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult this role (and this period of time) has been for you, but you are a star. And regardless of anything hanging onto this controversy, I feel that you deserve the appreciation of our planet. At the very least, know you have mine.

Thank you, Steve.

Miss Piggy’s MTM Fantasy Sequence: Stop the Adorableness!

Oh Miss Piggy… do you ever stop fantasizing and imagining how perfect your life is?

No, of course you don’t. And why would you, when you are so good at it?

Miss Piggy’s dream sequence in Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) is really superb in the level of fantasy that she creates. It is so excellent that it made her, (and all of her friends), look younger than they’d every looked before – or since! This dream sequence introduced us to the wonderful Muppet Babies, who, for many fans of the Muppets were the first real, lasting introduction to our felted friends.

It is surprising to realize that there is a sort of generation gap between the fans who watched early Sesame Street and the Muppet Show in real time with those who began their watching with Muppet Babies – but it is true and very interesting to me. I think it can somewhat explain how fans who go to the trouble of ranking their favourite Muppet films, (as I do) choose as they do. What you most connect with and what is your entry point into the Muppets can leave a lasting impression that you might not even register consciously.

TMTM-MuppetBabies

When the Muppet Babies first appeared, I was not particularly enamoured of them. I felt they were a bit of a ploy to sell merchandise and I was actually worried that it would mean I’d see less of my beloved muppet friends. Over the years, however, this particular dream sequence has grown on me, for a number of reasons. The performances are great, the puppets are adorable and when I consider what it must have taken to manipulate the smaller puppets, I am even more impressed. Plus, there’s the inside jokes of Kermit riding a tricycle in prep for his later bicycle exploits, Piggy starting life with little purple gloves and Rowlf playing with a stuffed Big Bird.

The sequence also doesn’t age, which in and of itself is kinda funny, but it really doesn’t and it shows how Piggy, (and her writers and handlers), chose wisely in writing and structuring the sequence. They look great, they sound great and the sentiment has stood the test of time – Piggy certainly seems like she will always Love Kermit. She has definitely fulfilled the Movie Star portion of that lyrical promise!

Watch it, and enjoy!

Miss Piggy’s Water Ballet

Miss Piggy’s beauty is undeniable. Mostly because, if you deny it, you get hurt by the Pig. But in this sequence, she really imagines a most elaborate showcase of her beauty. An Esther Williams inspired Water Ballet that would put any old Hollywood producer to great shame.

Frank Oz commented on the shooting of this sequence…

“The water ballet scene with Miss Piggy was really wonderful. I was under the water for a week. I had three days of scuba training and then down I went. Having them swim for the first time really was exciting!” Source: Muppet Wikia – http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/The_Great_Muppet_Caper

Miss_Piggy_Swimming_1

This whole dream sequence is one of my favourites. I think it stems from the fact that Miss Piggy is fantasizing about everyone’s love for her. It’s all about her. The way it should be.

It all starts with Piggy having to replace a model in the swimsuit section of a fashion show. Perfectly plausible, right? Of course right. Especially when she’s being set up for a frame job by the major criminals of the caper – but you’ll need to watch the whole film for those details.

So, the incandescent Pig enters the stage, (much to the chagrin of the designer and her boss, Lady Holiday), but the crowd goes wild. Hog wild! (sorry, I had to…) Or at least that’s what we are led to believe. That’s one of the great things about Miss Piggy’s fantasies, we are never sure what IS real and what is imagined by the Pig. But her confidence in her fantasy is such that we see what the Divine Swine imagines the world feels about her – and then, we end up feeling that way about her. Talk about the power of suggestion!

Happiness, Miss Piggy

One Caress, Miss Piggy

All the world ever wanted way YOU! A dream come true….

What ensues is an elaborate water ballet, that you just have to witness to truly appreciate. I think my favourite moment is the insert of Kermit and Charles Grodin who are “apparently” fighting over her affections. The true tenor of Kermit’s voice gets me every time.

And then…. and then…. well, it ends badly for our heroine. And we see the crowd jump to their feet – not in adoration, but concern. So, I’m always thinking… how much can this gal cram into her imagination in a matter of seconds? It’s pretty amazing what goes on in that brain. At what point did they stand? And where does that actually fit in her fantasy sequence?

Ah, who cares? Watch it. It’s awesome.

Check out the design of her swimming costume…. I need personal designers… Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

PiggySwimmingCostume

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).

muppetmovieposter

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?

 

 

Rainbows are miracles

I hate my drive to work.

I don’t think that’s a secret. I love what I do – teaching is great, but any commute to work that is in excess of 20 minutes is too much for me. It is part of the reason we left the big city for London, Ontario – we didn’t like the commute and since it isn’t something I chose, per se, I find it difficult and exhausting.

Today was particularly challenging. The roads were icy, the traffic was wanting to go brisk and it was quite windy. Now, in order to afford this commute, I had to exchange my beautiful Cool Vanilla PT Cruiser, (which I adored), for a deisel smart car. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the smart, but it’s no Cruiser and it’s certainly not Cool Vanilla AND in the wind on an open road, it does get batted around a bit. So, this morning was a little tough. Makes it even harder to enjoy the drive.

To make it more bearable, I listen to… what else? Muppets. This helps, for the most part. Today, with the ice and the wind though, I was finding it a little tough to concentrate on Kermie and the gang, until in the distance – on my route and directly in my line of sight… a rainbow appeared. A vertical rainbow that seemed to be rising out of the road and approximately located over my destination. Now, I certainly didn’t try to take a photo while driving, (even though I wanted to do so), but it looked something like this one found on flickr…

rainbowmorningmist

That helped immensely. I couldn’t really believe my eyes at first because it was so faint and I figured I was wishing it into being, but during the commute it became brighter and more focused until I was about 10 or so minutes from my destination, and by this time parallel with it and of course the sun was brighter and higher… then it vanished. I so wanted it to be bathing my school in glorious light, but perhaps that’s too much to ask. However, I will say that today, I was very, very grateful for that particular rainbow phenomenon.

(do doo dee doo do)

Retrospective…

It is a custom at the end of one year and the start of the next to look back on things. Make a review of sorts of your efforts, accomplishments and plans for the future. 2012 was a big year and we are hoping that 2013 will just keep on with the amazing.

Some wonderful things happened this year. First and foremost of importance for this website is that it came into being. Summer of 2012 was the incarnation of The Lovers, the Dreamers and You. There are lots of contributors to this event, but of major importance is the work of Grant Baciocco, (http://www.mrgrant.com/) on the Henson Company podcast, (http://henson.com/podcast.php) and Steve Swanson with his work on The MuppetCast, (http://muppetcast.com/WordPress/).  Listening to these two gentlemen opened the world to us at TLTDAY and we thought, why not?

Of other importance was all the Muppet-ness and related puppet wonderful-ness that took place this year. Again, there was lots that contributed to that success, but here we’ll mention www.muppetcentral.com, www.toughpigs.com, and http://themuppetmindset.blogspot.ca/

These sites are invaluable for finding out what is going on in the world of our felt and fabric friends. They aren’t the only sources, of course, but they are a super place to start.

All of these adventures have contributed to a wonderful year and possibilities for the future that we can only wonder at. And wonder we will. We look forward to reporting the adventures back to you through the blog and the podcast. Right now, we are just thankful for the adventure and for YOU who have joined us.

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)!

Play

Nerdist and Inspirationalist

Being a nerd used to be a bad thing. It isn’t anymore. The question now is, how do you share your nerd-iness?

The Nerdist Channel, (www.nerdist.com) has exploded in the last few years with celebrations of all things nerdy. Comics, theatre, music, gaming, Muppets, – you name it and they’ll celebrate it. And that’s wonderful.

I find the celebration of something you are passionate about always leads to something good. Maybe not right away, but if you are a dedicated nerd, then that dedication will pay off. Your audience, whomever they may be, will appreciate your passion, your attention to detail. It’s a great thing.

So, what are you a nerd about? Doesn’t really matter, does it? So long as you share it.

What a difference a year makes.

I went out for groceries and such today, and the whole time I was running errands, I simply wanted to be at home making puppets. Me, making puppets. I wouldn’t have been doing that a year ago. This time last year, The Muppets was in theatres and I was enjoying sharing it with friends and family.  I was reading about them online, finding out more about muppetcentral.com, toughpigs.com, muppetmindset.blogspot.ca and I didn’t even know that The MuppetCast existed yet. One year later and I have multiple puppets that I’ve made, I’ve helped others to bring their own puppets into the world, I’ve appeared on The MuppetCast and interviewed Steve Swanson for my own podcast. I’ve seen the Muppets perform live in New York and Montreal and I’ve seen a performance of Stuffed and Unstrung.  I’ve also visited The Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta and the PuppetsUp Festival in Almonte. Quite an adventure in one year. I wonder, what will this next year bring?

Podcast #8 with Special Guest Steve Swanson!

It’s double your pleasure, double your fun this week as we say happy birthday to both Walt Disney and our very own Ceris Thomas!  This time we interview web designer, musician and fellow podcaster Steve Swanson of the MuppetCast!  Steve talks with us about his love of the Muppets and Disney and what drives him to share his love with the world.  Steve is the inspiration for our own little podcast and we are very excited to have him on.  Also stay tuned at the end for a moving rendition of “Sing” from Sesame Street, featuring Steve on piano and vocals and Ceris, Luke and Kerry on vocals!  Let us know what you think in the comments, we’d love to here from you!

Play