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The Muppets

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The Muppets

The Muppets
Logo used since 2010
Creator Jim Henson
Original work Sam and Friends
Print publications
Comics Comics list
Films and television
Films Film list
Television series Television list
Role-playing Disney Universe
Video games Video game list
Soundtracks The Muppets discography
Web series Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony
The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora
Theme parks Muppet*Vision 3D
Muppet Mobile Lab

The Muppets are a group of puppet characters known for an absurdist, burlesque and self-referential style of variety-sketch comedy. Having been created in 1955 by Jim Henson, they are the namesake for the Disney media franchise that encompasses films, television series, music recordings, print publications, and other media associated with The Muppet Show characters.

Henson once stated that the term "Muppet" had been created as a portmanteau of the words "marionette" and "puppet", but also claimed that it was actually a word he had coined.[1] The Muppets debuted on the television program Sam and Friends, which aired locally on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. from 1955 to 1961. After appearing on skits in several late night talk shows and advertising commercials during the 1960s, Henson's Muppets began appearing on Sesame Street when that show debuted in 1969. The Muppets then became the stars of multiple television series and films, including; The Muppet Show (1976–1981), The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), and The Jim Henson Hour (1989). After Henson's death in 1990, The Muppets continued their presence in television and cinema with Muppets Tonight (1996–98), a series continuation of The Muppet Show, and three films, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets from Space (1999); the former two were co-produced with Disney, who sought to acquire the characters since the late 1980s. In 2004, The Walt Disney Company purchased the rights to The Muppets (except for the Sesame Street characters, which were sold separately to Sesame Workshop, as well as Fraggle Rock and other characters retained by The Jim Henson Company),[2][3][4] and later formed The Muppets Studio; a division created specifically for managing The Muppets franchise.

Disney re-branded the franchise beginning in 2008, in anticipation of the seventh film, The Muppets.[5][6] The film, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller and directed by James Bobin, was released by Walt Disney Pictures on November 23, 2011, and met with critical acclaim and commercial success.[7] An eighth film, Muppets Most Wanted, was released on March 21, 2014.[8]


Appearance and design

A common design for a Muppet is a character with a very large mouth and big protruding eyes.

The puppets are often molded or carved out of various types of foam, and then covered with fleece, fur, or other felt-like material. Muppets may represent humans, anthropomorphic animals, realistic animals, robots, anthropomorphic objects, extraterrestrial creatures, mythical beings or other unidentified, newly imagined creatures, monsters, or abstract characters.

Muppets are distinguished from ventriloquist "dummies"/"puppets", which are typically animated only in the head and face, in that their arms or other features are also mobile and expressive. Muppets are typically made of softer materials. They are also presented as being independent of the puppeteer, who is usually not visible—hidden behind a set or outside of the camera frame. Using the camera frame as the "stage" was an innovation of the Muppets. Previously on television, there would typically be a stage hiding the performers, as if in a live presentation. Sometimes they are seen full-bodied. This is done by using invisible strings to move the characters' bodies and mouths, and then adding the voices later.[9]

Muppets tend to develop, as writer Michael Davis put it, "organically", meaning that the puppeteers take time, often up to a year, slowly developing their characters and voices. Muppets are also, as Davis said, "test-driven, passed around from one Henson troupe member to another in the hope of finding the perfect human-Muppet match".[10]

When interacting with Muppets, children tended to act as though the Muppets were living creatures, even when they could see the puppeteers.[11]


The puppeteer, often dubbed as the "Muppet performer", holds the Muppet above his head or in front of his body, with one hand operating the head and mouth and the other manipulating the hands and arms, either with two separate control rods or by "wearing" the hands like gloves. One consequence of this design is that most Muppets are left-handed as the puppeteer uses his right hand to operate the head while operating the arm rod with his left hand. There are many other common designs and means of operation. In advanced Muppets, several puppeteers may control a single character; the performer who controls the mouth usually provides the voice for the character. As technology has evolved, the Jim Henson team and other puppeteers have developed an enormous variety of means to operate Muppets for film and television, including the use of suspended rigs, internal motors, remote radio control, and computer enhanced and superimposed images. Creative use of a mix of technologies has allowed for scenes in which Muppets appear to be riding a bicycle, rowing a boat, and even dancing on-stage with no puppeteer in sight.


Jim Henson era

The Muppets were created in the 1950s, beginning with Kermit the Frog, who would become Jim Henson's signature character. Jim Henson said the word "Muppet" predated Sam and Friends, the first television program featuring the Muppets. Oftentimes, Henson would tell people the term had been created by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet", but also claimed that it was actually a word he had coined.[1] During the 1960s, the characters (notably Kermit and Rowlf the Dog) appeared on skits in several late night talk shows and advertising commercials. Rowlf became the first Muppet with a regular spot on network television when he began appearing as Jimmy Dean's sidekick on The Jimmy Dean Show. After the debut of Sesame Street in 1969 (for which Henson designed and performed several characters), Henson decided to pursue the creation of a television program that would be aimed towards adults and children. By 1976, The Muppet Show, a sketch comedy variety series debuted, introducing new characters such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and Animal, as well as showcasing regulars Kermit and Rowlf. The Muppet Show became increasingly popular due to its unique brand of humor and prolific roster of guest stars. The show's success allowed Henson Associates to produce three theatrical features based on the group: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan, which followed in 1979, 1981 and 1984, respectively.

Disney era

By the late 1980s, Jim Henson entered discussions with The Walt Disney Company, in which the latter would acquire Jim Henson Productions and in turn, own The Muppets franchise.[2] However, negotiations broke off after Jim Henson's 1990 death. Still interested in the franchise, Disney co-produced the fourth and fifth Muppet films; The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, with Jim Henson Productions in 1992 and 1996, respectively. Following that, the characters starred in Muppets Tonight which ran from 1996 to 1998 and a sixth film, Muppets from Space, released by Columbia Pictures in 1999. Eventually on February 17, 2004, The Walt Disney Company purchased The Muppets intellectual properties, consisting of rights and trademarks to The Muppet Show and Bear in the Big Blue House characters.[2][3][4] Exceptions included the Sesame Street characters (as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop), the Fraggle Rock characters which were retained by the Jim Henson Company, and the distribution rights to The Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppets from Space, which remained with Sony Pictures Entertainment. Although the term "Muppet" is often genericized to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show, the term is a legal trademark owned by Disney and The Muppets Studio division, a wholly owned subsidiary responsible for managing the Muppet characters. However, Sesame Workshop continues to apply the term for their characters (and archival footage of Kermit the Frog) under license from Disney.

The Jim Henson Company retains the rights to a number of productions featuring the Disney-owned Muppet characters, including Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, The Christmas Toy, Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting, Henson's Place, Billy Bunny's Animal Songs, the original Dog City special, and Donna's Day. While some of these specials have since been released uncut, current releases of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas and The Christmas Toy have removed the appearances by Kermit the Frog.


Disney began gradually reintroducing the franchise to the mainstream in 2008.[5][6] As a method of regaining a wider audience, Disney began to produce and air their own comedy shorts on YouTube.[12] After the "Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody" was posted on the Muppet Studios' YouTube Channel, it ultimately gained 25 million views and took home two Webby Awards. Videos are being posted on the site regularly.[13] Recently, the Muppets starred in an online web series with Cat Cora called "The Muppets Kitchen With Cat Cora", where they show people how to cook several items.

A television special, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, premiered on NBC on December 17, 2008. It was released on DVD on September 29, 2009.[14][15] A Halloween special featuring the Muppets was expected to air on ABC in October 2010,[16][17][18] but was shelved.[19]

On March 31, 2008, First Showing revealed details about a seventh Muppet film.[20] It was announced at Disney's D23 Expo that the title would be The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made.[21] The title was later referred to as The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time.[22] In January 2010, James Bobin signed on to direct The Muppets, the newly renamed film which already had Jason Segel, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper cast as the film's main characters, and Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie serving as music supervisor.

Filming wrapped up in February of the following year and The Muppets was released on November 23, 2011. The film was met with a positive reception, commercial success and an Academy Award win for Best Original Song ("Man or Muppet"). In December 2011, Google released a video of the Muppets as a way to promote their social networking site; Google+.[23]

On March 20, 2012, the Muppets received a collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The ceremony featured such notables as then Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross, The Jim Henson Company's Lisa and Brian Henson, and incumbent Muppet performers; Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel, and Peter Linz.[24] That same year, the Muppets hosted a Just for Laughs comedy gala in Montreal.[25]

After the film's successful performance, Disney greenlit a new film in March 2012, with Bobin and Nicholas Stoller returning to direct and write, respectively.[26] The film, a musical comedy caper titled Muppets Most Wanted, was released on March 21, 2014 with Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and Ty Burrell in supporting roles.[8][27]


Famous Muppets from The Muppet Show and related spin-offs include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Rowlf the Dog, Scooter, Rizzo the Rat, Pepé the King Prawn, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, Johnny Fiama, Clifford, Bobo the Bear, Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef, Sal Minella, Sam Eagle, Sweetums, Robin the Frog, Walter, Annie Sue, Pops, Lew Zealand, Beauregard, and the band Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem featuring Dr. Teeth on keyboard, Animal on the drums, Sgt. Floyd Pepper on bass, and Janice on lead guitar, Zoot on saxophone, and Lips on trumpet. Other well-known Muppets include Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Cookie Monster, and the main characters of Fraggle Rock.

Television shows featuring Muppets have included The Jimmy Dean Show, Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, Bear in the Big Blue House, The Jim Henson Hour, The Ghost of Faffner Hall, Dog City, Secret Life of Toys, Muppets Tonight, The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss and Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony. A recurring adult-oriented cast of Muppets (in a setting known as The Land of Gorch) were featured throughout the first season of Saturday Night Live.

Guest stars on some of these programs have occasionally had Muppet versions of themselves. It was a regular practice for the first few episodes of The Muppet Show, and ZZ Top, among others, have appeared as Muppet versions of themselves on Sesame Street. Muppet versions of real people have also appeared in other shows, such as in 30 Rock, when one of the characters, Kenneth Parcell, views his co-workers as Muppet versions in the episode "Apollo, Apollo" on March 26, 2009.

The puppet characters of [29][30]

The Muppets' popularity has been so expansive that the Muppet characters have been treated as celebrities in their own right. The Muppets have presented at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards;[31] made cameo appearances in such feature films as Rocky III,[32] An American Werewolf in London[33] and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium;[34] and have been interviewed on the news magazine 60 Minutes. Kermit the Frog was interviewed early on in Jon Stewart's run on The Daily Show,[35] guest hosted The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, America's Funniest Home Videos and an April Fools' Day edition of Larry King Live;[36] and has served as Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade.[37] The characters also appeared in-character on such sit-coms and dramas as The Cosby Show, The West Wing and The Torkelsons. The music video for the Weezer song "Keep Fishin'" is premised on the band performing on The Muppet Show and features appearances by several characters. On September 28, 2005, the United States Postal Service released a Jim Henson and the Muppets postage stamp series.[38] The Muppets also appeared on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve for the 2008 countdown on December 31, 2007. Kermit, Rizzo and others welcomed in the new year with a series of messages to welcome viewers back from the advertising breaks. After one such segment, with Kermit in Times Square, co-host Ryan Seacrest thanked his pal "Kerms" for the help bringing in '08.[39] Miss Piggy has appeared as a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Kermit the Frog appeared on Hollywood Squares and as one of the celebrity commentators on VH1's I Love documentary series. In September 2010, the Muppets launched a new online cooking show called "The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora".[40]

On July 25, 2007, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta announced the opening of a new Jim Henson Wing, which will house anywhere from 500 to 700 retired Muppets. The new wing will also include films, sketches, and other materials from the Jim Henson Company archives. The wing was originally slated to open in 2012, but has been delayed by a lack of funding and rescheduled for a possible 2014 or 2015 debut.[41][42]


Theatrical films

Film Release date Director Producer(s) Studio
The Muppet Movie June 22, 1979 James Frawley Jim Henson, David Lazer, Sir Lew Grade, Martin Starger Associated Film Distribution
The Great Muppet Caper June 26, 1981 Jim Henson David Lazer, Frank Oz, Bruce Sharman, Martin Starger Universal Pictures
The Muppets Take Manhattan July 13, 1984 Frank Oz David Lazer TriStar Pictures
The Muppet Christmas Carol December 11, 1992 Brian Henson Brian Henson, Martin G. Baker, Jerry Juhl, Frank Oz, David Barron Walt Disney Pictures
Muppet Treasure Island February 16, 1996 Brian Henson, Martin G. Baker
Muppets from Space July 14, 1999 Tim Hill Columbia Pictures
The Muppets November 23, 2011 James Bobin David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman Walt Disney Pictures
Muppets Most Wanted March 21, 2014


Film Rotten Tomatoes Box office gross
The Muppet Movie 89% (44 reviews)[43] $65,200,000[44]
The Great Muppet Caper 79% (19 reviews)[45] $31,206,251[46]
The Muppets Take Manhattan 81% (21 reviews)[47] $25,534,703[48]
The Muppet Christmas Carol 69% (35 reviews)[49] $27,281,507[50]
Muppet Treasure Island 70% (23 reviews)[51] $34,327,391[52]
Muppets from Space 63% (56 reviews)[53] $22,323,612[54]
The Muppets 96% (204 reviews)[55] $165,184,237[56]
Muppets Most Wanted 80% (166 reviews)[57] $78,183,113[58]
Average Rating / Total gross 78% $449,240,814

Television films

Film Release date Director Producer(s) Distributor
It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie November 29, 2002 Kirk Thatcher Warren Carr, Martin G. Baker Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
The Muppets' Wizard of Oz May 20, 2005 Bill Barretta Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Television series

Title Premiere date End date Network
Sam and Friends May 9, 1955 December 15, 1961 WRC-TV
The Muppet Show September 13, 1976 March 15, 1981 CBS
Muppet Babies September 15, 1984 December 29, 1990 CBS
Jim Henson's Little Muppet Monsters September 14, 1985 September 28, 1985 CBS
The Jim Henson Hour April 14, 1989 July 30, 1989 NBC
Muppets Tonight March 8, 1996 February 8, 1998 ABC / Disney Channel

Direct-to-video releases

Film Release date Director Distributor
Muppet Classic Theater September 27, 1994 David Grossman The Jim Henson Company
Kermit's Swamp Years September 3, 2002 David Gumpel Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Web series

Title Premiere date End date
Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony June 26, 2005 September 20, 2006
The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora September 13, 2010 2010
Muppisodes[59] December 6, 2013 2014
Disney Drive-On with The Muppets[60] August 1, 2014 August 15, 2014

Television specials

Title Release date
The Muppets on Puppets January 5, 1970
Hey, Cinderella! April 10, 1970
The Great Santa Claus Switch December 20, 1970
The Frog Prince May 12, 1971
The Muppet Musicians of Bremen April 26, 1972
The Muppets Valentine Show January 30, 1974
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence March 19, 1975
Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas December 17, 1978
The Muppets Go Hollywood May 16, 1979
John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together December 5, 1979
The Muppets Go to the Movies May 20, 1981
Of Muppets and Men 1981
The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show September 17, 1982
Rocky Mountain Holiday with John Denver and the Muppets May 12, 1983
The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years January 21, 1986
The Tale of the Bunny Picnic March 26, 1986
The Christmas Toy December 6, 1986
A Muppet Family Christmas December 16, 1987
The Song of the Cloud Forest July 16, 1989
The Muppets at Walt Disney World May 6, 1990
Disneyland's 35th Anniversary 1990
The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson September 11, 1990
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree December 6, 1995
Studio DC hosted by Dylan and Cole Sprouse August 3, 2008
Studio DC hosted by Selena Gomez October 5, 2008
A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa December 17, 2008
Lady Gaga and the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular[61] November 28, 2013

Other appearances


On September 17, 2002, Rhino Records released The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More, a compilation album of music from The Muppet Show and subsequent film outings.

Under Disney ownership, albums featuring or relating to "The Muppets" characters, have been released by Walt Disney Records, including Best of the Muppets: The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005), The Muppets: A Green and Red Christmas (2006), Muppets: The Green Album (2011), The Muppets: Original Soundtrack (2011), and Muppets Most Wanted: Original Soundtrack (2014). Legal rights to Muppet-related songs such as "Rainbow Connection" and the "The Muppet Show Theme", are controlled by Fuzzy Muppet Songs and Mad Muppet Melodies, divisions of Disney Music Publishing.

The Muppets also released John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, with John Denver in 1979.

Other media

Print publications

Since the late 1970s, numerous Muppet-related comic books have been released over the years. The first comic strips based on The Muppets appeared on September 21, 1981, in over 500 daily newspapers, just months after The Muppet Show ended its five-year run. The Muppets Comic Strip was printed daily from 1981 to 1986. By the end of its initial run, the comic strip was seen in over 660 newspapers worldwide. Special strips were also created in color, exclusively for issues of Muppet Magazine.

The only film in the franchise to see a comic book adaptation was The Muppets Take Manhattan. The comic book series was adapted by Marvel Comics in 1984, as the 68 page story in Marvel Super Special No. 32, August. The adaptation was later re-printed into three limited series issues, released under Marvel's Star Comics imprint (November 1984 – January 1985).

In the wake of the success of the Muppet Babies television show, Star Comics began releasing the Muppet Babies comic book title on a bi-monthly basis. These were original stories, not adaptations of the show's episodes.

In the final Disney Adventures issue, with a cover date of November 2007, a one-page story single strip focusing on Fozzie Bear, Smedley, Statler, and Waldorf (with a cameo by Scooter) was released. Roger Langridge wrote and drew the comics intending it to be more long running.

In 2009, Boom! Studios began publishing The Muppet Show, a mini-series based on the eponymous television show and written and drawn by Roger Langridge. An ongoing series titled The Muppet Show: The Comic Book followed and ran for eleven issues. Additionally, Boom! Studios also published Muppet fairy-tale comic adaptations similar to The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. In 2012, Marvel Comics took over the publishing duties for the series.[63]

A comic strip by Guy Gilchrist and Brad Gilchrist circulated in newspapers during the 1980s. Many of the strips were compiled in various book collections.[64]

Muppet Magazine was published from 1983 to 1989. The magazine took on the format of being "by" the Muppets more than about them, and had such features as celebrity interviews and comic stories.[65]

Theme parks

The Muppet Show characters have been making worldwide appearances at Disney theme parks and the Disney Cruise Line since 1990. Their first attraction, Here Comes the Muppets, was a live stage show that opened shortly after Jim Henson's death and ran at Disney's Hollywood Studios (known then as Disney-MGM Studios) for a year. Muppet*Vision 3D opened on May 16, 1991, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and is notable for being the final Muppets project to be produced by Jim Henson, the attraction had a subsequent opening on February 8, 2001, at Disney California Adventure Park, part of the Disneyland Resort. Directed by Henson and written by Bill Prady, the show is a 3D film featuring the Muppets in a plot similar to what was seen on The Muppet Show.

Walt Disney Imagineering designed the Muppet Mobile Lab, a free-roving, audio-animatronic that was later tested at Disney California Adventure Park and at Epcot at Walt Disney World. It is currently deployed at Hong Kong Disneyland.[66]

Video games

A number of video games featuring the Muppets have been produced since the 1990s.

In popular culture

Muppet-like and Muppet-inspired puppets star in the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q (which disavows any relationship with Sesame Workshop or the Jim Henson Company, possibly to avoid lawsuits from the two companies). Peter Jackson's film, Meet the Feebles is another parody of the Muppets. A vomit-spewing Kermit the Frog was a recurring character on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the Muppets were frequently preempted at the beginning of episodes for the Canadian series You Can't Do That on Television. Seth Green's short-lived show Greg the Bunny was about sentient hand-puppets working in a Muppet-like children's show. Many other films and television shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, The West Wing and Robot Chicken have referenced The Muppets.

See also


  1. ^ Theatrical and home media distribution rights were transferred to The Walt Disney Studios in 2004, and such films were subsequently reissued as a Walt Disney Pictures release in 2005.


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  66. ^ "The Themed Entertainment Association’s 15th Thea Awards – Delightfully Disney – Muppet Mobile Lab Profile". Themed Entertainment Association. Archived from the original on 2010-11-30. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Official UK site
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