We've all grown up with The Muppets and we're much better for it
‘The Muppets: Most Wanted’ hits US theatres today, and our guess is that both young and old are going to be queueing up for this one. For many of us The Muppets have been part of our consciousness since childhood and our love for them doesn't seem to wane as we get older. So what is it about Kermit and his loveable band of felt misfits that keeps us coming back for more?
The Muppets and Ricky Gervais in 'Muppets Most Wanted'
Back in 1955 Jim Henson created ‘The Muppets’ and they first appeared on a five minute show entitled ‘Sam and Friends’ They then began being used on children’s show ‘Sesame Street’, which brought Henson's puppeteering attention but he was still trying land his creations their own show. It didn't happen until 1976 when ‘The Muppet Show' was finally picked up by British channel ITV, after being passed on by American networks. The show featured a combination of sketches and musical performances and was presented with an old vaudeville style feel, albeit being performed by puppets. The show soon built up a reputation for being able to attract a wide variety of big name guest stars to appear alongside the Muppet characters with guests at the time including Elton John and the then Bond Roger Moore.
In 1979 they hit the big screen for the first time in ‘The Muppet Movie’ and its success lead to the franchise being able to grow even further. The film has always been able to find an audience and it still holds an 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Two further movies followed, 'The Great Muppet Caper' and 'The Muppets Take Manhattan', before creator Henson’s death in 1990. After Henson’s passing his production company would begin working with Disney who would eventuallly buy the franchise in 2004. Before then they continued to have been screen outings, giving a very Muppet's twist to two classic tales. 'The Muppets Christmas Carol,' a take on the Charles Dickens classic and 'Muppet Treasure Island', both received favourable reviews from critics. The next cinematic release saw them explore a very different setting, in 1999s, 'The Muppets from Space'.
The Muppets hit the London Underground
As we got more into the millennium the Muppets faded slightly from the mainstream, There were less TV appearances and merchandising. But in 2008, Disney began gradually began brining them back to the public's imagination, first with a series of Youtube shorts including a take on Queen classic 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. At the same time actor Jason Segel was pitching to Disney the idea of a new Muppet movie which he would write with Nicholas Stoller. Segel's idea was green lit and The Muppets made their long awaited return to the big screen in 2011. Segel was sure to pack the movie with plenty of celebrity cameos and great songs, written by Bret McKenzie from ‘The Flight of the Concords.’ But what he really did was manage to recapture the original charm of the Muppets.
The characters and stories have always been funny, Maybe not too clever or sophisticated, but it has the kind of humour that both children and adults are able to laugh at. It’s silly and it’s over the top but it manages to make people laugh not matter what age they are, and few franchises can say that. What also helps is that all the Muppets no matter how big or small their roles have been over the years, are memorable. Everyone has their favourite Muppet. Maybe its Kermit, Fozzy or the Great Gonzo. Or maybe it's the Swedish Chef or Ralph the Dog. Personally I’ve always had a soft spot for Beaker. If you’re a girl you also probably learnt a few things about female empowerment and loving yourself from Miss Piggy, or a few things about relationship from her and Kermit. There's just so many to choose from that even attempting to list the best Muppets is just too hard. Each one was has its own unique identity, something rare in a franchise that has such a massive cast.
All singing, all dancing The Muppets
The Muppets also manages to be oddly touching at times. This is no better demonstrated than when they said goodbye to their creator Jim Henson on his memorial special. Their touching tribute to their creator showd their ability to strike a chord with people emotionally, depsite being very far from human, Indeed for a surreal looking group of puppets they're often very real in their emotions. Maybe it comes from the strong bond the puppeteers have always hand with the characters they’ve handled, something which Henson instilled in everyone he worked with from the beginning.
Of course the Muppets has always managed to stay relevant by using celebrity culture perfectly. Anyone who’s anyone has appeared with them and they’ve done countless talk shows and tv appearances over the years. Really celebrities seem willing to do anything if Muppets are involved, probably because they grew up with them too.
'Muppets: Most Wanted' hits theatres today
If you want to see why perhaps people have so much affection for the Muppets just sit and think about your own favourite Muppet moments or characters, You might come up with something that just flat out funny or something a little poignant. For instance watch a clip of grumpy old men Statler and Waldorf just being mean about everything and try not to smile then watch Kermit perform the Oscar nominated ‘Rainbow Connection’ from the original Muppet Movie and try not to well up. The Muppets over the years have managed to invoke a range of emotions from their viewers and that's a big part of their longevity. Really for most of us the Muppets have been constant characters in our lives even if they're not always in the forefrotn of our minds. Hopefully Kermit and his friends will always be there to make us laugh and sing and escape into their unique and crazy world whenever we need to.