Friday, July 21, 2017

New WE Day Promo Featuring Rowlf and Alicia Keys!

A new promo featuring Rowlf and Alicia Keys hit the web promoting this year's youth empowerment WE Day.


The special was filmed back in April and will feature Fozzie Bear performing stand-up with with Josh Gad while with Statler and Waldorf learn "an important lesson about bullying." 

Other Muppets appearing include Miss Piggy, Animal, and The Swedish Chef who will be appearing along with such celebrities as Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Lilly Singh, Rowan Blanchard, Laverne Cox, Bryan Cranston, Jessie J, and aforementioned Alicia Keys.

You can lean more about WE Day at We.org

The WE Day special will air August 4th 8/7c on CBS.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Steve Whitmire and Cheryl Henson on Today Show!

The Disney/Henson/ Whitmire feud hit the Today show this morning.

For some reason we're having trouble embedding the clips directly into the post you, but watch them at the links below.


FirstToday interviewed Cheryl Henson at the Museum Of The Moving Image's new Jim Henson exhibit

In part two, Steve was there in studio to comment in person about in his firing.





Even More Muppet Thoughts of The Week!


While we wait for the premiere of Matt Vogel's Kermit, join us again for some recent Muppet "Thoughts of The Week."









Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Adorkable Rachel Reacts to Steve Whitmire's Departure!

Our friend Rachel is back with a tribute to Steve Whitmire's work with The Muppets.


Archaia's Labyrinth 2017 Special Coming in November!

BOOM! Studios' Archaia label announced a new special Labyrinth comic will be coming later this year. 

Main cover by Derek Kirk Kim

So far this special comic is creatively titled Jim Henson’s Labyrinth 2017 Special. But, don't let the title fool you though, it looks like a lot of great artists will be contributing to the anthology book. 


The diverse assembly of artists include Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show), Adam Smith (Jim Henson’s Labyrinth), Katie Cook (Fraggle Rock), Jeff Stokely, Delilah S. Dawson, Ryan Sook, Derek Kirk Ki, and more.

Subscription cover by Jeff Stokely

“Jim Henson’s Labyrinth is home to some of the most memorable characters in pop culture,” said Sierra Hahn, Senior Editor. “Through our partnership with The Jim Henson Company, Archaia has been able to expand this world in meaningful and innovative ways. This Special is the first of a few projects that will excite longtime fans of the film and reveal to newcomers the magic and wonder of this singular world.”
Variant cover by Ryan Sook

This second annual special is an all-new collection of short stories that celebrates the various characters and creatures from the world of Labyrinth (1986). This includes the never-before-told story of how Sir Didymus met his trusted steed Ambrosius, and the story of a goblin running late to the famous “Dance Magic Dance” sequence from the iconic film.

Look for it in comic shops this November!

Song of The Dark Crystal Now Available!

J.M. Lee's second original Dark Crystal companion novel, Song of The Dark Crystal is now available. 

The second original companion novel to Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal follows Naia and Kylan as they seek help from the Gelfling clans to prevent the Skeksis from implementing the next stage of their sinister plan.
Kylan of Sami Thicket is a skilled song teller, but singing the tales of long-gone heroes won’t help his friends as they journey into dangerous, unknown lands. After uncovering the betrayal of the Skeksis Lords, he and his friend Naia are on the run, pursued by the Skeksis’s underlings and outcast even among their fellow Gelfling. But Kylan knows the truth must be told, no matter how difficult the telling. Maybe there’s use for a song teller after all . . .

 The book also features illustrations by Cory Godbey.

You can get your copy now wherever books are sold and on Amazon where you can also read a few sample pages!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sesame Street Slings for Chrysler!

The Muppets have always been known for making commercials. Since the very beginning, Jim Henson financed his company by using his characters to sell products. You can see many of these early commercials here



The Sesame Street characters, however, were mostly shielded from this practice. They were used to sell numbers and letters, not actual commercial products. Even when they did stray into shilling for products they usually featured a Sesame product whose sale fed back into Sesame Street itself. 

That doesn't seem to be the case of these new Sesame Street spots for the Chrysler Pacifica. Their very clever just like the old school Henson commercials were (minus the carton violence) and the characters and relationships are all intact. It just feels odd seeing these characters hawk a product that's not directly aimed at children. 









More Details Emerge in The Rift Between Disney/Henson and Whitmire!

Last night The New York Times posted an article on the ongoing war between Disney, The Henson Family, and Steve Whitmire over his firing.


The executives gave two reasons for the decision, Mr. Whitmire recalled.
“They were uncomfortable with the way I had handled giving notes to one of the top creative executives on the series,” Mr. Whitmire said, referring to “The Muppets,” the most recent television revival of the franchise, which aired on ABC for one season, ending in March 2016.
“Nobody was yelling and screaming or using inappropriate language or typing in capitals,” he said. “It was strictly that I was sending detailed notes. I don’t feel that I was, in any way, disrespectful by doing that.”
The second reason, he said, had to do with a small video shoot involving Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and an outside company, which Mr. Whitmire declined to name, that took place more than a year before the phone call. There was a contract dispute between the Screen Actors Guild, of which Mr. Whitmire is a member, and Disney over how much the performers behind the puppets should be paid. Eventually, the union advised Mr. Whitmire not to do the project. Mr. Whitmire agreed.
After the phone call with the Muppets Studio executives, Mr. Whitmire said he had a lawyer approach Disney executives afterward to propose adding a provision to future contracts saying he would never give creative feedback again or talk to the union again while a deal was being negotiated. Disney declined the offer, Mr. Whitmire said, and he soon found himself separated from his life’s work.
Henson’s family, which still runs the Jim Henson Company, chose Mr. Whitmire to replace Henson as Kermit in 1990 after Henson unexpectedlydied of pneumonia at the age of 53. Some of those same family members say they supported the decision to replace Mr. Whitmire, though they are no longer involved with the Muppets.
“He played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations,” Lisa Henson, president of the Jim Henson Company, and Jim Henson’s daughter, said in a telephone interview.
Ms. Henson said Mr. Whitmire was adamantly opposed to having an understudy for his role, which presented problems when it came to what she called “B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting.” She said he was unwilling to appear on some of these occasions but also refused to develop an understudy and that he “blackballed young performers” by refusing to appear on the show with them.
Brian Henson, the company’s chairman and Jim Henson’s son, said that while Mr. Whitmire’s Kermit was “sometimes excellent, and always pretty good,” things changed when he was off set.
“He’d send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director,” he said.
You can read the full article here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Muppets Studio and Cheryl Henson Release Statements!

While Steve Whitmire is making his case on his personal blogboth Disney's Muppets Studio and now Cheryl Henson have released statements of their own regarding his firing.


Our friends at Tough Pigs received this statement from The Muppets Studio:



The role of Kermit the Frog is an iconic one that is beloved by fans and we take our responsibility to protect the integrity of that character very seriously. We raised concerns about Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years and he consistently failed to address the feedback. The decision to part ways was a difficult one which was made in consultation with the Henson family and has their full support.

That support from the Henson family seems to be confirmed with this Facebook post from Cheryl Henson:
 

Steve Whitmire: "The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable"

Steve Whitmire continued to use his new social media platform over the weekend, posted two new blog posts. 


First he address some fan questions:


The Latenight Double Feature ‘Post’ Show
Second Show
Website Woes: Notifying all of you who have asked is not quite working, but I’m trying to figure it out…
Having read literally every comment left on the first post, I want to point out one left by Peter A. Cancilla. If you’re interested here are the answers to the questions he poses:
Are you burnt-out and disillusioned?
Burnt-out, no. Disillusioned, yes. Or maybe a better term is disappointed. I firmly stand by my belief that the needs of a large corporation can indeed be balanced with the creative needs of an anomalous franchise like the Muppets. In my opinion, this relationship should be the very definition of symbiosis, and though these two factors have often appeared to be seemingly irreconcilable, the integration of Jim Henson’s essentials with doing business progressively and effectively has been my primary goal for the Muppets over the last dozen years within Disney.

At this point what is your desire? Do you feel taking an indefinite break from a ‘Muppets’ you possibly no longer recognize may be the only option for your peace of mind? Or, if given the chance would you jump back into the work and continue pushing for the tone and personality you know to be appropriate for these sacred characters even if you cannot win every battle?
You’re correct that the Muppets are fast becoming something I no longer recognize, but my desire stays the same: to continue doing what I think is best for the Muppets to whatever extent and on whatever level I am asked. If that means doing nothing more than performing Kermit and the other characters in which I am established and forsaking the offering of unsolicited input, then so be it.
For the record, I officially offered to do exactly that within that first telephone call, a second time by communicating it through my attorney, and I committed to memorializing it in writing. It was flatly refused. Do with that what you will
…More tomorrow. Best to you all!

But it was his later post that really got people's attention.
The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable.
Muppet Performers are not created equal, and that’s a good thing! We all bring unique strengths to the ensemble. That’s why we never switch around characters between us (except to stand in) because, despite all the conjecture, there is actually no such thing as Jim’s Kermit and Steve’s Kermit – There is only Kermit.
He either shows up intact with all his historical mental faculties at his disposal, or it isn’t him. This is true for each of the Muppets. Anything else is manufactured, and the Muppets haven’t lasted for all these years without fully showing up. When they haven’t, you’re not shy about pointing that out. Neither am I, and we’ll talk more about that soon.
For discussion purposes, lets split the present-day core Muppet Performers into two broad categories. We’ll call them the ‘Jim-Era Performers’ and the ‘Post-Jim Performers’, those Jim chose to bring in himself, and those who were chosen in a variety of ways after his death.
It’s a real blessing that the Post-Jim performers are brilliant and devoted to doing the best they can to preserve Jim’s legacy by carrying on classic characters as faithfully as they know how. At the same time, they never knew Jim or Richard, and barely worked with Frank if at all, so when it comes to those characters, the starting point in assuming the roles is often limited to their observations as fans. Now, it’s not that fans don’t know who the characters are, they do; you do. It’s just that our job as the linear souls of the Muppets is different than your job as the impassioned viewers.
As fans, you can interpret the characters however you please in whatever way you relate to them. When you sense that something is off, you don’t have to fix it, but I do. It’s up to the Muppet Performers to be purposely maintaining the consistency of the characters they perform. That’s because beyond owners, producers, directors, and writers, that singular performer will be the ongoing thread in the life of a character indefinitely. 
Once even the most educated and devoted fan is charged with inhabiting one of the core characters that has its origins in another performer, it becomes necessary to gain as much knowledge of the interior depth of that character and that original performer as possible. 
The point is that there is so much vital and significant knowledge that was gained by the dwindling few of us who consistently stood next to Jim. From his characters to his methods and philosophies, it’s stuff you can never fully intuit from watching the Muppets. I know that to be true because I, too, was a completely obsessive Muppet fan with preconceived notions of my own that had to be unlearned when Jim hired me in 1978. 
I approach The Muppets as a lineage tradition. For the inside knowledge-base steeped in its origins to survive and be passed down, there has to be a line of transmission, or you had to be there. For the Post-Jim performers to really understand enough about the Muppets to carry on the lineage they need to continue to be around the core performers Jim mentored as long as any of those people are willing and able to share. 
None of this is a value judgement of any individual, it is a pointing out of the value of historical perspective so long as that perspective is used progressively. Having had the opportunity to spend the last 27 years cultivating knowledge of Jim along with feeling his presence through Kermit, I find myself at a place where evolving Jim’s vision has begun coming from a deep empathetic connection to him. 
So, I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done.

The takeaways from both are that Steve is not only reading and really hearing your  your questions and concerns, he was/ is trying to make the Muppets the best they can be, he's not liking the way things are headed.  The very headline of his second post "The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable" is eerily similar to the "One frog one voice" campaign fans circulated when Disney first bought the franchise. Back then they planned to have different "Muppet" performers in the parks, cruise ships and other meet-and greet areas.


The campaign worked and Disney struck a compromise with the recently unveiled live show at Walt Disney World "The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History!" Local puppeteers not only do the show to pre-recorded tracks, but are also trained by the Muppet performers themselves.

This time around someone has created a Change.org petition asking Disney to reverse its decision. Who knows. It's worked before!

Friday, July 14, 2017

New Deluxe Labyrinth Game Pieces On The Way!

River Horse announced this week that in addition to their Labyrinth goblin expansion pack, they will now also be offering deluxe game pieces of the main set of characters.



Each of the "deluxe" figures is three times the size of the regular game pieces and are the same size of the original sculpts. River Horse is touting these as "copies of the originals."




You can see the human scale of them above and below you can see how they compare to the original game pieces:







Here's how they will look in the packaging!
The set is currently only available for pre-order through River Horse and no street date (other than late 2017) for a general release has been given at this time. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Throwback Thursday: New Viral Videos!

Last week two very different Muppet viral videos made their debut:


The first, a new 4th of July video from The Muppets:




The second, is a mash-up by "Mylothecat" combing scene from Follow That Bird with the Beastie Boys' Sabotage. 


It's kind of sad that at that time of this writing the unofficial mashup has over 1 million views, while the official Muppet video has only slightly more the 28,000!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Steve Whitmire Responds To Departure!

Our friends at ToughPigs discovered what appears to be a newly created blog by non other than Steve Whitmire. 


While the blog has yet to be verified, the bio sounds very authentic:



About Me

When I was a kid growing up in Atlanta, I’d beg my parents to let me stay up to see Rowlf the Dog on The Jimmy Dean Show. Though I was only five, I distinctly recall his large, black mouth on our black and white television, and thinking it was something you could climb inside of. Little did I know…Even then, I knew he was a puppet, but I was mesmerized by the ‘magic’ of how he was able to do what he did.
 
The Muppets have been a part of my whole life, and by the time I was ten they became an undeniable calling. After nine teenage years of being the nerdy puppet guy, I met Carroll Spinney at a puppetry festival and after seeing my puppets he suggested I contact Jim Henson to audition. I joined The Muppets less than a year later in 1978 at age nineteen and was involved in virtually every Muppet endeavor up to 2016. Who knows what the future will hold…that’s what the edit button is for. 
Though I may be most well known as Jim’s choice to step in as Kermit the Frog, in all honesty arguably my favorite work goes straight back to Rowlf when I would assist Jim as Rowlf’s piano playing hands. 
My immediate goal for this blog is to leave anyone interested in the Muppets at any level, past, present, or future, with the deepest possible understanding of my discoveries in taking the intangibles of Jim’s unique methodologies and giving them a basis in fact.
Still the nerdy puppet guy at heart,
S
That certainly sound like same guy that took this photo as a kid:



 In his first post, Steve directly addresses the issue of his leaving The Muppets.  
It’s Time To Get Things Started…

Dear Friends, 
In 1978 when I was asked to join The Muppet Show, the Muppets were the hottest thing on the planet. I was invited to sit at the feet of the true masters, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz; working alongside them, absorbing different skills from each, as we, along with many talented others, contributed towards the same shared vision, the vision of one man. The result became a skill-set for myself that was sort of a compilation of the best of them all. 
For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life. This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.
As I am sure you can imagine, I have experienced every possible emotion since October 2016, when I received a phone call from The Muppets Studio’s executives to say they were recasting. Through a new business representative, I have offered multiple remedies to their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call. I wish that we could have sat down, looked each other in the eye, and discussed what was on their minds before they took such a drastic action. 
I have remained silent the last nine months in hopes that the Disney company might reverse their course. Doing what is best for the Muppets is the lens through which all my interactions have been filtered. Given the opportunity I remain willing to do whatever is required to remedy their concerns because I feel my continued involvement with the characters is in the best interest of the Muppets. 
For decades, you have been an invaluable partner in co-creating the existence of the Muppets, and I am humbled by your devotion to them. There is so much more for us to talk about so I have created this site as a place to connect and share on all things Muppet, past, present and future. 
Please forgive any faux pas as I have not been active in social media previously and have a serious learning curve. I just want you all to know that I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point throughout our journey, and to let everyone know that I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero.



It appears this was Disney's decision and not just Steve "retiring" or "moving on." There's still a part of me that hopes there is a way for reconciliation between them.

I hope Steve continues to be the beacon of light that Jim, Jane and the whole Henson team knew he could be, whether or not that light is in the frog or not. 

Sesame Street Sleep Masks!

Have you ever wanted to sleep next to Cookie Monster? Freak out the person next to you on a plane? How about see what darkness lies behind Oscar's eyes?

Well, Kalan has your dreams/nightmares covered!


As we saw at Toy Fair, Kalan has a line of Sesame Street sleep masks that has made their way to Five Below stores. 


As you can see they come in Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Oscar.

I'm sure you'll look great (if you can see) while you dream of cookies, trash, and whatever Elmo dreams of. Let's say 2D crayon inspired worlds.

You can pick these at Amazon, or Five Below locations.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Skin & Ink Magazine Talks Dark Crystal!

Sometimes you find Muppet stuff In the most unexpected places! The latest issue of Skin & Ink Magazine has a feature on The Dark Crystal including interviews with Tim Clark and Mike Quinn.

Besides the interviews and photos of Tim and Mike in action, 
Tim Clark
Mike Quinn
there are some great photos of the characters on display at The Center of Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, along with Tim and Mike's personal behind the scenes photos, and even a few Dark Crystal inspired tattoos (it is a tattoo magazine after all).



They even have a page dedicated to Dark Crystal toys:


Unfortunately, the interviews (especially Tim's) are riddled with typos and punctual errors. So much so that it's actually painful (maybe like a tattoo?) to read at times. 

Fozzie is named "Fuzzy", The Empire Strikes, but not "Back" according to a few notable errors in the article which, by the way, was conducted by the magazine's own editor!

Therefore, I can only recomended the issue for the insights in the interviews and the photos. If you're looking for something that doesn't read like a 5th grader's book report, you'll be sadly disappointed. Apparently this is what constitutes an actual cover story in a national magazine these days. 

Gluttons for punishment can pick up your copy at Skin & Ink, Barnes and Noble and wherever magazines are sold. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Steve Whitmire "No longer working with the Muppets."

Our friends at ToughPigs and The Muppet Mindset (thanks for reaching out to us BTW) have finally put to rest the rumors that have been swirling around the Muppet fan community for months:

Steve Whitmire is "No longer working with the Muppets."

That is the statement they received from the folks at Disney when asked. 


We here at Muppet Stuff heard this a few months ago from a VERY reliable source. Despite the growing concern among fans, we were politely asked to keep it quiet. 

Steve Whitmire and I in 2002
It looks like the cat (or frog) is now out of the bag. While we won't get into the details we heard - let's consider them office gossip and not worthy of our time - it still comes as a shock.


We, like the rest of you were still holding out hope that this was merely a rumor, temporary, or just a matter of scheduling and convenience. 


The news to us, is that instead of hiring a new performing or elevating the ranks of a current assistant puppeteer, Matt Vogel will be Kermit the Frog's new right hand man. We'll also get to see the first footage of Matt's as Kermit in next week's “Muppets Thought of the Week” video.


Whitmire had been with The Muppets since the third season of The Muppet Show where he originated the roles of Rizzo and Lips. He was personally selected to take over Kermit after Jim Henson passed away in 1990.  


Steve recently also stepped down from his role as Ernie on Sesame Street where he was replaced by Billy Barkhurst.


There's no word yet on replacements on Whitmire's other characters or if he will work with The Henson company on their much delayed Fraggle Rock feature film.
We wish Steve all the best. He's been a great steward of Kermit and all characters he's played with The Muppets for the last 40 years.

Diamond Select Toys Muppet Action Figures Series 3 Now Available!

After a couple delays, last week Series 3 of Diamond Select Toys' Muppet Action Figures were finally released!



This wave includes, Rowlf, Crazy Harry, Mahna Mahna, Floyd, Janice, Miss Piggy, Foo-Foo, and a Penguin (not Gloria Estefan).

Here's how they look in their packaging:




We will have a more in depth review soon, but in the meantime check out these great shots of the figures in action! (Be sure to click on them to the see them in all their HD glory!)





You can get them now though Amazon, directly through Diamond Select Toys, and at your local comic shop. These will NOT be sold in less accessorized versions as Toys R Us and Barnes and Noble.