The Muppets

The Muppets are a group of puppets and costume characters, and the company created by Jim Henson. Individually, a Muppet is properly one of the puppets made by Jim Henson or his Creature Shop – though the term is often used erroneously to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street characters, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark linked to the characters created by The Jim Henson Company. After frequently changing hands since the death of creator Jim Henson in 1990, The Muppets have been owned by The Walt Disney Company, through the Muppets Holding Company, since early 2004.

The word "Muppet" itself was said by Henson to have been created by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet"; however, Henson was also known to have stated that it was just something he liked the sound of, and he made up the "marionette/puppet" story while talking to a journalist because it sounded plausible.

Muppets are distinguished from ventriloquist "dummies", which are typically animated only in the head and face, in that their arms or other features are also mobile and expressive. Muppets are typically made of softer materials. They are also presented as being independent of the puppeteer, who is usually not visible, hidden behind a set or outside of the camera frame.

The most common design for a Jim Henson Muppet is a character with a very wide mouth and large protruding eyes. The puppets are often molded or carved out of foam rubber, and then covered with fleece. Yarn, nylon string, or (most commonly) ostrich feathers are used to create hair. As there is no "eye store" from which they can be purchased, Muppet eyes are often made (as in the case of the original Kermit) from ping-pong balls, from fishing floats, or from a hemispherical toy called a Wacky Stax. Muppets may represent humans, anthropomorphic animals, realistic animals, robots or anthropomorphic objects, extra-terrestrial creatures, mythical beings or other unidentified, newly imagined creatures.

The puppeteer typically holds the puppet above his head or in front of his body, with one hand operating the head and mouth and the other manipulating the hands and arms, either with two separate control rods or by "wearing" the hands like gloves. One consequence of this design is that most Muppets are left handed as the puppeteer uses his right hand to operate the head while operating the arm rod with his left hand. There are many other common designs and means of operation. In advanced puppets, several puppeteers may control a single character; the performer who controls the mouth usually provides the voice for the character. As technology has evolved, the Jim Henson team and other puppeteers have developed an enormous variety of means to operate puppets for film and television, including the use of suspended rigs, internal motors, remote radio control, and computer enhanced and superimposed images. Creative use of a mix of technologies has allowed for scenes in which Muppets appear to be riding a bicycle, rowing a boat, and even dancing onstage with no puppeteer in sight.

Famous Muppets include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo, and Oscar the Grouch. The most widely known television shows featuring Muppets are Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and The Muppet Show. A recurring adult-oriented cast of Muppets (in a setting known as the “Land of Gortch”) were part of the first season of Saturday Night Live. Other, less popular series have included The Jim Henson Hour and Muppets Tonight. The puppet characters of Farscape, The Storyteller, The Hoobs, and Dinosaurs, as well as from the films Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Dark Crystal, are not considered Muppets, although they were also made by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. For a history of Jim Henson's Muppets, see Jim Henson.

After earlier unsuccessful attempts, The Walt Disney Company finally bought the Muppets in 2004. Exceptions include characters appearing on Sesame Street (as they were previously sold to Sesame Workshop), the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock, along with the above-mentioned non-"Muppet"-brand characters.

The show's popularity has been so expansive that Muppet characters have been treated as celebrities in their own right, including presenting at the Academy Awards, making cameos in Rocky III and An American Werewolf in London, and being interviewed on the newsmagazine 60 Minutes. Kermit the Frog was interviewed early on in Jon Stewart's run on The Daily Show, and Michael Parkinson once famously interviewed Miss Piggy on his UK chatshow.

Muppet-like and Muppet-inspired puppets star in the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q (which disavows any relationship with Sesame Workshop or the Jim Henson Company).

In 2005, ABC announced it was purchasing a six-episode mini-series titled America's Next Muppet. The mini-series is going to be produced by The Jim Henson Company for Disney, and is going to be a direct parody of America's Next Top Model. The show is going to feature many famous Muppets holding a talent contest to find the next Muppet to add to their famous group. The show was tentatively scheduled to air in spring or summer of 2006, but there has been no public mention in recent months.

In Great Britain and in Ireland the word muppet has come to be used as a mild term of abuse, meaning a stupid, incompetent, or moronic person, or the obvious interpretation of someone who is inanimated or somehow not there. It can also be applied (in the United Kingdom but not in Ireland) to an aesthetically displeasing individual.

The Swedish translation mupp is often used in a similar manner.

The term muppetry is also rapidly gaining popularity as a description for an individual, or group of people collectively behaving in a muppet like fashion. The origins are believed to have come from workers in large organisations, who were unhappy with the low to non-existent level of thought or application, that other colleagues put into their work. For example - "I'm sorry the figures will be late this quarter, due to the high amount of muppetry going on in the accounts department", or "Gregory's muppetry appears to have been infectious."

In Law Enforcement circles, Muppet has been held to stand for 'Most Useless Police Person Ever Trained'.

* In The Simpsons episode 3F15: "A Fish Called Selma", actor Troy McClure stars in the fictional film The Muppets Go Medieval. Kermit and Miss Piggy are shown as well. Homer tries to explain what a muppet is with "It's not quite a mop, and it's not quite a puppet, but man...(laughs)...So to answer your question, I don't know." Later in the episode, Selma and Troy McClure are watching the movie on a drive-in movie screen, and before kissing, they speak right along with the characters.

* The film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels: "Hatchet" Harry: "I don't want to know who you use, as long as they're not complete muppets."

* The music video for the Weezer song "Keep Fishin', is premised on the band performing on The Muppet Show and features appearances by several characters.

* On September 28, 2005, the United States Postal Service released a Jim Henson and the Muppets postage stamp series.

* The 1987 film Dragnet: As a car chase crashes through a carnival display of stuffed animals: Friday: "Look out! Muppets!".

* A skit on the MTV series The State involved dinner guests luring generic Muppets to their window, catching them and eating them.

* In the 2005 animated Teen Titans episode "Bunny Raven... or How To Make A Titanimal Disappear", the final scene takes place in a theatre that resembles the set of The Muppet Show. There is a puppet Amazing Mumbo stage manager that mimics Kermit's mannerisms and a pithy one-liner joke is delivered by two Mumbos that look like Statler & Waldorf.

* In "The Goodies" episode titled "Earthanasia", Tim, Bill and Graeme are waiting for the end of the world. As Tim does some ironing, he explains that there will be no more Muppets when the world ends. Graeme then explains that they are just puppets and even takes some socks and imitates the voices of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, which causes Tim to go insane.

* Originating from Australia, "Muppet" is used as a derogatory and racist term describing someone of African descent who is commonly viewed as an incompetent immigrant worker.

* In a Family Guy episode, in one of Peter's visions, he was watching Lost on TV, and there was a balcony with Statler & Waldorf saying "Lost? I'll say! I couldn't follow any of it!".

* In "Worms 3D", a certain voice box of worms has a death sentence that says "You Muppet!".Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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