Sunday, November 6, 2011

Muppet Babies are Baby Muppets

Since this is Muppet Month, I am going to talk about Muppets this month. But for some reason, something was on my mind recently that is somewhat related...and is related at the same time. So rather than the regular Muppet Month post I was going to do today, I'm going to do a diversion and talk about Muppet Babies.

Muppet Babies was a cartoon that ran from 1984 to 1991. Inspired by the "I'm Gonna Always Love You" sequence from The Muppets Take Manhattan, the cartoon involved baby versions of the Muppets living together in a nursery and imagining things. It won an Emmy Award and is most likely fondly remembered by a certain generation, and due to its unique and constant use of clips from movies and TV shows to illustrate the characters' fantasies, will most likely never be legally released on DVD. Muppet Babies raises many questions about the Muppet universe. If the Muppets were babies (and Kermit's nephew was a tadpole), were all the Muppets babies as the same time? (Statler and Waldorf occasionally appeared on the show in adult form, but this is not surprising, seeing as Statler and Waldorf are older than dirt.) What happened to Scooter's sister Skeeter that caused her never to be seen again outside the series save for a Happy Meal bag and a four-issue story arc of Roger Langridge's Muppet Show comic book where she could only actually be called "Skeeter" for two pages in the last issue due to some bizarre legal reason? Why was Nanny only seen from the waist down? Did she have no head? Her model sheet actually implies such. But none of these things are what I'm going to talk about today. I'm just going to say random things about the Muppet Babies. Because I feel like it.

-In 1985, Muppet Babies was combined with a new series called Little Muppet Monsters in a one-hour block called "Muppets, Babies, and Monsters." Little Muppet Monsters combined original puppet segments with animated segments featuring the adult Muppets. 13 episodes were produced, but only three aired, apparently due to the fact that Jim Henson himself was disappointed with the quality of the series. Despite this, the "Muppets, Babies, and Monsters" block theme, which combined the themes to both series, continued to be used as the closing theme for Muppet Babies throughout its run.   

-One of the things that has always randomly stuck with me regarding Muppet Babies (besides a passage in a book called Playing with Power referencing the Lone Ranger's crotch) is a scene in one episode where Miss Piggy is playing Little Miss Muffet but has no idea what a tuffet is. I was surprised to discover that Jeffrey Scott, the head writer for the series, is a Scientologist, and stated in an interview that that scene was inspired by L. Ron Hubbard's theory of the Misunderstood Word, which is frankly the only one of Hubbard's teachings that I know of that both actually makes sense and I agree with. As Scott himself explained it in an interview: "I also used one of L. Ron Hubbard's discoveries in the field of study in a Muppet Babies episode I wrote. Hubbard discovered that the number one barrier to study was the MISUNDERSTOOD WORD. He found that the moment a student went past a word he/she didn't understand the rest of the material became more or less "blank". If I told you to attach the creddlefur to the neuron, chances are whatever I said after that wouldn't make much sense. So in a "Muppet Goose" episode I wrote Piggy was reading Little Miss Muffet, and when she read "sat on a tuffet" her imagination went blank until she cleared up her misunderstood word."

-Earlier this year, a bizarre yet amusing series of videos went viral online. Called "Tiny Fuppets", the videos by certified Internet Humor Genius and frequent Funny or Die contributor Scott Gairdner managed to spoof both Muppet Babies and the bizarre direct-to-DVD ripoffs of big-budget CGI movies created by Brazilian company Video Brinquedo such as The Little Cars, The Little Panda Fighter, and Ratatoing. Gairdner created a bizarre yet believable backstory involving a blind Portuguese man named Arturo Lima, who proudly describes in fractured English how the Tiny Fuppets came to be, their use in hundreds of cartoons and commercials, and the rivalry between him and the poorly-made Tiny Fuppets ripoff Juniors Minis. Here's perhaps the funniest of the Tiny Fuppets cartoons, in which our hero Kormit wishes to be taller, then not.

-You know when you see a bizarre video online, then think about it months later only to discover it isn't there anymore, but it's so strange that if you describe it it sounds like you made it up? Well, I was going to end this post with one of those. Not only was it bizarre, it was actually well-made for what it was, in that a lot of time obviously went into it. It would have also proved even more so than usual I can connect everything in the freakin' universe to Phineas and Ferb. It was called "Phineas and Ferb's Conker's Bad Fur Day Adventure" or something like that, and it was clearly made by someone who probably both had a lot of time on their hands and is a mentally disabled teenager. In not-really-that-shoddy-but-still-kind-of MS Paint, it opened with the opening theme from some Clifford the Big Red Dog VHS tapes from the late '80s but with Phineas and Ferb characters doing the actions, creating bizarre visuals like them licking Candace. And having a song about Clifford playing while Phineas and Ferb are doing things. Then it was just the Phineas and Ferb characters acting out the opening to the "It's Only Pretendo" episode of Muppet Babies until they find Conker's Bad Fur Day and play it. Then I think there was some sort of High School Musical parody.

But, like I said, that video (which definitely existed at one point) isn't online anymore. But I have it on good authority (in that I believe he's said it a couple times) that "It's Only Pretendo" happens to be my pal Galileo (he of Beaming for Bunnies and In 10 Words)'s favorite Muppet Babies episode. So let's end with that.


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