The Muppets are an ensemble cast comprising puppet characters with unique characteristics that come together to form a sketch comedy program. The characters are known to be absurd and burlesque, which makes their interactions much more fun for the audience.
Initially, the Muppets were created in 1955 by Jim Henson. Now, they are the main characters of a media franchise company that has its roots everywhere. The Muppets are now owned by The Walt Disney Company and include film, music, television shows, and other kinds of media.
The origins of the Muppets stem from the tv series known as Sam and Friends. This series aired from 1955 to 1961, and after appearances on various late-night talk shows and advertisements, the Muppets began appearing on Sesame Street.
On Sesame Street, they achieved celebrity status and became well known internationally. The Muppets also got their own show called The Muppet Show, which ran from 1976 to 1981 and gained the Muppet cast even more popularity. The show also won many awards, including four Primetime Emmy Awards and 21 nominations.
As the Muppets managed to turn their show into an entire franchise, they had a significant impact on children’s television and pop culture. The Muppets are so famous and influential that the cast has also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Impact of the Muppets
Over the six decades that the Muppets have been around, they have often been regarded as staple characters of the entertainment industry and pop culture. They are mainly popular in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Still, most children worldwide will be able to recognize them thanks to their distinct looks.
Furthermore, the impact of the Muppets became more pronounced due to the recognition by various cultural institutions such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the American Film Institute, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Library of Congress.
Appearance on SNL
The Muppets appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1975 in The Land of Gorch sketches. For these sketches, characters were specifically created to suit the adult audience. The Land of Gorch was a recurring skit in which the featured Muppet characters were shown to be a part of the royal family but lived far away from their kingdom.
These characters were far from their counterparts on Sesame Street and referenced drug abuse, sex, alcohol consumption, etc. The cast included King Ploobis, Queen Peuta, Wiss, their son, and their servants Sacred and Vazh.
The SNL is still on air, and being a part of their first season shows that The Muppets were huge and essential to pop culture of the 90s and beyond.
The Muppet Movie
The Muppet Movie was released in 1979. It was a musical road comedy directed by James Frawley and produced by Jim Henson. This movie marked the first time that the Muppets appeared on the big screen.
The Muppets Movie was co-produced by both United States and the United Kingdom, and Jerry Juhl and Jack Burns wrote it. The movie was released between the first and the second half of The Muppet Show, so it keeps the story going between the two parts.
In the movie, Kermit is shown to embark on a cross-country trip to Los Angeles to find success in show business. Along the way, he meets other muppets who have the same plan.
When the movie was released, it was a huge success and received critical praise. Furthermore, it was also nominated for two Academy Awards for the musical score and the song Rainbow Connections. The massive success of The Muppet Movie opened a gateway for different media, including feature films and television series.
The Muppet Movie is considered to be culturally, aesthetically, and historically significant, and it was also selected to be preserved by the National Film Registry. The Muppet Movie proved that the Muppets could be utilized much more fruitfully in other kinds of media.
The Great Muppet Caper
After the huge success of The Muppet Movie, next came the Great Muppet Caper. This movie was released in 1981 and was a musical heist comedy. The Great Muppet Caper was directed by Jim Henson and written by Jay Tarses, Jerry Juhl, Tom Patchett, and Jack Rose.
Like the first movie, The Great Muppet Caper was also a collaboration between the United States and the United Kingdom. This time around, it had a much larger cast and included Diana Rigg and Charles Grodin alongside the muppet.
In the movie’s plot, the Muppets are in the midst of a jewelry heist while investigating a robbery in London. The film was released after the final season of the Muppet Show.
The Great Muppet Caper is the fifth highest-grossing Muppet film. Many found the movie easy to watch, and the reviews were generally favorable.
The Muppets Take Manhattan
By the time the next Muppet movie was released, the Muppets had established themselves into a franchise, and we’re branching out in all directions. This new Muppet movie was The Muppets Take Manhattan, directed by Frank Oz.
Released in 1984, the movie was the third movie in the Muppet franchise and was an addition to the Muppet performance. The film also features special appearances by Joan Rivers, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Linda Lavin, Art Carney, and James Coco.
The Muppets Take Manhattan was well-received by the public and earned $25.5 million in both the United States and Canada. Thus, it became the second highest-grossing G-rated film of 1984. Overall, the movie reviews were positive, and it was even nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Original Song Score.
It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
In 2002, the Muppets returned stronger than ever with a musical fantasy comedy Christmas movie. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie was released in 2002 and was written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis. Kirk R. Thatcher directed the movie on NBC, which premiered on November 29, 2002.
The stars of Its a Very Merry Muppet Christman Movie include Dave Goelz, Dave Arquette, Whoopi Goldberg, William H. Macy, Eric Jacobson, Bill Barretta, and Mathew Lillard. The plot revolves around Kermit the Frog, who loses all hope for saving the Muppet Theatre. Then, an angel appears and shows him what the world would have been like had he never been born.
The film is an homage to Its a Wonderful Life, a film by Frank Capra released in 1946, which has a similar plot. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is the last production while Jim Henson owned the Muppets as they were sold to Disney in 2004.
It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie was the first Muppet production that was made for television, which shows their growing popularity and demand. By branching out to television, the Muppets slowly but surely made themselves a staple in the 1990s and 2000s pop culture.
The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More
The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More is a Muppets soundtrack or compilation album. It was released in 2002 by Rhino and Jum Henson Home Entertainment to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Muppet Show.
The disc contains songs from The Muppet Show, the Muppet Soundtrack, and two tracks from Sesame Street. This compilation album was a way to market the Muppets and extend them beyond skits and the television shows they were a part of.
Muppet Vision 3D
The impact of Muppets in modern times is pronounced by just how widespread and well-known the characters are. They are such an important part of pop culture that they have their own attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is the Muppet Vision 3D.
The attraction includes a pre-show leading to Kermit the Frog, who guides the park guests on a tour of the Muppet Studios. As Kermit does so, the rest of the Muppets prepare sketch acts to show their breakthrough in 3D film.
The entire show is directed by Jim Henson, and to entertain the guests, the show is shown to unravel when Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s experiment with 3D sprite Waldo starts to cause chaos.
The attraction has started to incorporate 4D effects as well, including Audio-Animatronics, soap bubbles, smoke, projection, etc.
Tickle Me, Elmo
Tickle Me Elmo was a plush toy from Tyco Preschool based on one of the Muppet characters named Elmo. When this toy was squeezed, it would shake, vibrate and giggle. The toy was first released in 1996, but it became extremely popular as everyone wanted it.
During the 1996 Christmas shopping season, it is reported that many people got violent over obtaining one of the Tickle Me Elmos from a very limited supply. The toy was also resold for thousands of dollars. It is reported that the original retail price was $28.99, but on the internet, it was priced up to $1500.
Due to the popularity of the toy, the Muppet franchise made more Tickle Me toys based on all the different Muppet characters. The popularity of the Tickle Me Elmo toys came at the right time as it helped the Children’s Television Workshop recover from the financial problems it was facing. It also helped skyrocket the popularity of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street features a variety of characters besides Elmo. One of these characters is Little Bird, who was supposed to be the smaller counterpart of the show’s tallest character, Big Bird. Little Bird is inspired by the Gooney Bird, a Muppet that was used as the official mascot of toy company Kenner during the 1970s to promote a toy called the Easy-Bake Oven. If you want to know more about the Easy-Bake Oven, read our article titled “Popular Toys of the 70s that Bring Nostalgia.”
The popularity of the toy also resulted in Elmos being pushed into the limelight more than the other characters. He got more center time and different roles too. Many Elmo-centric segments have also debuted after the craze of the Tickle Me Elmo.
The Muppets are a staple part of the television industry. The popularity of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street established the puppets as an entire franchise with tv shows, movies, albums, attractions, and more.
They are such an essential part of media that they have their very own Hollywood star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Thus, they have enormously impacted pop culture for multiple decades.