As we come closer to the opening of the new Muppet Movie, here are some musings on the Muppets.
The two franchises I love most are Star Wars and The Muppets. A friend pointed out the other day that there’s probably a lot more to the Star Wars Universe than The Muppets. He has a good point. The only video game I know of for the Muppets is Muppet Party Cruise, whereas Star Wars has a plethora. The Knights of the Old Republic series is a whole world unto itself. In addition, both Star Trek and Star Wars have countless novels expanding the storyline and the universe, exploring minor characters, expanding on behind the scenes incidents, and developing whole rules and organizations that only exist in a collected and agreed upon imagination.
The Muppets, however, is a different organism. The characters are able to be placed within alternate situations and universes. Consider the Muppet movies alone: The Muppet Movie, Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets From Space. The Muppet Movie and Muppets Take Manhattan both create origin stories for the Muppets success. In the Muppets Take Manhattan they even apparently have a college education. In The Great Muppet Caper, they are set in a completely separate world of mayhem, mystery, and adventure, until various characters break the fourth wall. Thus, The Great Muppet Caper could be an extension of the Muppet Movie where their break into the movie business is documented. Both Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island are a form of ‘Story Time With The Muppers.” Thus, by extension a continuation of the Muppet movie career as established in the first movie. Muppets From Space has entertaining moments, but is truly a shadow of what the Muppets really are, and is not worth much analysis. If they are going to try to explain Gonzo at all, the writers and producer and director don’t get the Muppets. Maybe I don’t really get the Muppets as I am over-analyzing their universe and need to break the fourth wall and acknowledge my own ridiculousness. Wokka. Wokka. Wokka.
The Muppets, coming out next Wednesday, seems to be a continuation of the Muppets as band of actors universe. It is a reboot of sorts that continues the storyline of The Muppet Show. Whether the filmmakers acknowledge The Muppets Tonight, the short-lived variety program of the 1990’s, is another question.
Therefore, there are several potential universes within the Muppetverse: 1. The Muppets are actors from The Muppet Show who have gone on to do the various movies. 2. The Muppets are able to cross dimensions and place themselves in alternate universes, or movie-verses – and thus are able to sustain the paradox set-up in the Muppets Take Manhattan if taken as a literal origin story, complete with success on Broadway, which we have not seen in our own universe. 3. The Muppets were created by a set of brilliant puppeteers and became a post-modern/Brachtian franchise that succeeded due to being hilarious, fun, family-friendly, and cuddly. 4. The Muppets are just plain awesome.
If you consider anything produced by Jim Henson and the Jim Henson company before the sale of The muppets franchise to Disney, there are many potential expanded universes just from the non-Muppet television shows and films produced.
Here’s a list:
The Muppet Babies – This is not considered the same because it is an animated cartoon, and not live puppets. Also, I only vaguely remember any details from this show. My memory mainly involves the babysitter’s striped stockings, and finding her lack of anything but legs strange.
Fraggle Rock – Down here in Fraggle Rock, it’s a close cousino The Muppets, but a little bit further out than Sesame Street. It’s a fun, warm fuzzy world with lots of crazy puppets, and pretty good music.
Labyrinth – David Bowie.
On one hand, this movie is completely ridiculous and shouldn’t work, but that’s kind of what David Bowie was like in the eighties, which is why, with their powers combined, this movie really works. It’s a fun fantasy adventure, with a cute blue worm, a young Jennifer Connelly, and lots of awesome puppets.
The Dark Crystal – An incredibly dark, but technically amazing film made completely with puppets. Not a very good story, but definitely an artistic achievement.
The Story Teller – First season is a fun, sometimes a little dark, retelling of fairy tales from around the world. Second season is a dark, depressing retelling of dark, depressing Greek Myths. Skip the second season, and watch the first season on Netflix. It’s awesome – especially the griffin from The Luck Child.
Also, the first season has ____ as the host, and Brian Henson puppeteering his awesome, adorable, and imaginative dog. Dogs make a lot of things better.
Sesame Street – The closest cousin to the Muppets, and yes, Big Bird, and Telly, and Elmo, and Grover, and the whole gang are actually Muppets. However, they are a different group altogether, even with the small bit of crossover. Sesame Street is a universe unto itself, with expanded universes already, such as Elmo’s World, which may be a psycho ward with a goldfish and crayons. White walls, imaginary friends, talking to himself? Or maybe I’m bitter about Elmo’s World because when I watch an episode of Sesame Street, I want to see the show for the full hour, not for forty minutes and then give up the last twenty minutes to a single character. Elmo is adorable, and a character with good merits on his own, but twenty minutes is a long time to spend with one character.
So, in the following days leading up to the release of the Muppets, I’m going to put together potential ideas for novels in a Muppets Expanded Universe. If you have any suggestions or critiques, share them in the comments section.
And, finally, I want to leave you with one of my favorite Muppet skits from the original show: