The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by Jim Henson starting in 1954–55. Individually, a Muppet is made by Jim Henson or his company's workshop.
Although the term is often used to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark linked to the characters created by Henson.
The word "Muppet" itself first appeared in 1956, and was said by Henson to have been created by combining the words "Marionette" and "puppet". However, Henson was also known to have stated that it was just something he liked the sound of, and he made up the "marionette/puppet" story while talking to a journalist because it sounded plausible.
After earlier unsuccessful attempts, the Walt Disney Company bought the Muppets in 2004. Exceptions include characters appearing on Sesame Street (as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop, although they have always had creative rights, only paying The Jim Henson Company to create and provide their Muppet characters for their use) and the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock (which are still owned by The Jim Henson Company). The legal trademark on the term "Muppet" is currently held by The Muppets Holding Company (now The Muppets Studio, LLC, a division of The Walt Disney Company); although Sesame Workshop and The Jim Henson Company continue to use the term on their characters with certain permissions.
After over a decade, a new movie is in the works. Disney recently enlisted Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller to create the next Muppet movie for the studio. This will be the first Muppet theatrical film since Muppets from Space. In January 2010 James Bobin signed on to direct.
The Muppets' latest television special, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, premiered on NBC on December 17, 2008. It was released on DVD on September 29, 2009.
A Halloween TV special featuring the Muppets was expected to air on ABC in October 2010, but it turned out that it had been shelved due to the upcoming film.
Physical appearanceA common design for a Jim Henson Muppet is a character with a very wide mouth and large protruding eyes.
The puppets are often molded or carved out of various types of foam, and then covered with fleece, fur, or any other 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.
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".
When interacting with Muppets, children tended to act as though the Muppets were living creatures, even when they could see the puppeteers.
OperationThe Muppeteer or Muppet master always 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 Muppeteers 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.
Language of the birds: part 2
How to Create Recipe Card Albums
Fact of the Day: Electrons