Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"It's Time to Play the Music, It's Time to Light the Lights"

In anticipation of our visit to the Museum of Science and Industry (and specifically the Jim Henson's Workshop exhibit), Abby and I have been watching The Muppet Show on DVD through Netflix. I don't remember watching it when I was younger (Muppet Babies was more in my era, and Muppets Tonight, though that one didn't last very long), and I remember watching a few of the movies but don't really remember anything about them.

Watching The Muppet Show now is a riot, even though I've only recognized two guest stars so far. I am continually impressed at the range of emotions the puppets are able to convey (more than some actors). I've also found my favorite Muppet character: Sam Eagle.

I was one of the Star Wars fans who was upset when the Yoda puppet was replaced by a CGI Yoda. Yes, CGI-Yoda had a greater range of movements, but at what cost? First of all, Yoda shouldn't have been flipping around like an acrobat (or fighting--that seemed like a cheap trick). And also, computer-controlled mouth movements are not as realistic (believe it or not) as puppet mouth movement, especially when puppet/CGI characters share a stage with actual actors. (Then again, imagining a Gollum puppet is hard.) But I suppose there are bigger problems with the new Star Wars movies than CGI Yoda (i.e., the scripts, the acting, etc.).

To return to our trip to the museum, the Jim Henson exhibit was fascinating, though I was a little disappointed to not see many of the Muppets. Rowlf, Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Menomena (and the cow things) were there, as were a few other puppets he did, but most of the exhibit were drawings and designs Jim Henson did. What was especially cool, though, was to see storyboards for commercials or stories that Jim Henson did and then, later in the exhibit, to see the finished products. If you're looking for an exhibit that provides a window on the creative process, Jim Henson's workshop might be the exhibit for you.

And now, in talking about the Muppets, here's one of my favorite Muppet sketches:


  1. I had a revelation about what CGI has done for the wise sensei type in film. As I saw a preview for Kung Fu Panda 2, I noted a contrast: this wise teacher was just as frenetic as the young students, whereas, e.g., Splinter in the first TMNT movie, never hurried, never had whoosing-air sound effects. The second example that came to mind was contrasting Yoda in Empire with . . . Yoda in Clones. Sad. He was a noble jedi master; then he became bouncing flubber.

  2. I thought the same thing when I watched Kung Fu Panda (but the first one...sans scary parts, since one of the girls I was watching was easily scared). Gone are the days of Mr. Miyagi--the slow, methodical, calculated, considered, peaceful guru. Everything is fast, fast, fast, and not just gurus. Cartoons are so frenetic these days as well. (I didn't see the new Karate Kid movie. How does the sensei compare there?)