We watched them get the band back together the first time with Muppet Guys Talking, a fun documentary we discussed two years ago here at borg. Now not even sheltering at home will hold back the fun-loving Muppet Guys, who are returning once again to share some more about Muppet creator Jim Henson, and the incredible creative process and their experience as Muppet performers, all while earning some money for front-line COVID-19 workers. Part in honor of Jim Henson, who passed away 30 years ago, and part reason to get some of our favorite people back together virtually, it’s all happening this Saturday, and everyone is invited.
Bill Barretta, Fran Brill, Dave Goelz, and Frank Oz will take part in the livestream discussion, which also invites fans to submit questions in advance that may be answered during the event. The reunion of the Muppet performers, who also appeared in Oz’s acclaimed documentary Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched, is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. Victoria Labalme, who conceived and co-produced Muppet Guys Talking, will facilitate the livestream. The event is free and open to anyone around the world who remains inspired by Henson and his unique brand of creativity, entrepreneurship, and leadership. While there is no charge to participate, virtual attendees will be encouraged to make a donation to a selected COVID-19-related cause. Participants must pre-register at http://muppetguystalking.com/jim/ .
The performers who will participate in Saturday’s reunion discussion are:
· Bill Barretta, whose Muppet characters have included Pepe the King Prawn, Johnny Fiama, Bobo the Bear and Big Mean Carl.
· Fran Brill, whose Muppet characters have included Prairie Dawn, Zoe, Little Bird and Betty Lou.
· Dave Goelz, whose Muppet characters have included The Great Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot and Boober Fraggle.
· Frank Oz, whose Muppet characters have included Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster and Grover.
Check out more about the earlier documentary Muppet Guys Talking here. In 1978 the Muppets were seen weekly by more than 235 million people in more than 102 countries, and Time Magazine called them “the most popular entertainment on Earth.” Created by Jim Henson in 1955 and starring in Sesame Street, in feature films, and in animated films, the Muppets endure to this day. Regularly returning on television and in movies, they continue to entertain and educate young and old alike. Frank Oz, the creator and actor behind Sesame Street and The Muppet Show’s Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster, Grover, Animal, and Sam the Eagle, Aughra and Chamberlain in The Dark Crystal, and the performer and voice of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (and director of countless other films), produced and directed the earlier documentary film with four original Muppet performers to recount the development–and fun–of working in their timeless fantasy world. Jerry Nelson was featured in the film, but passed away before its premiere. Richard Hunt passed away years ago, and Caroll Spinney only recently.
As we discussed previously at borg in our reviews of books on The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Jim Henson, and a documentary on Big Bird actor Carol Spinney, by all accounts Jim Henson was the most collaborative creator and co-worker. All the contributors in the new film echo that sentiment. Oz mentions that when not performing Henson was always watching and getting pleasure out of seeing everyone else performing. Goelz said Henson created a work environment where they all truly ended up loving each other, “He was so generous with everyone and so kind. And it created a culture in which his generosity was always returned, and that culture has been perpetuated.” They all noted how Henson was responsible for the gentle, sweetness of the characters and stories. “A lot of people who feel disenfranchised in life feel accepted in that Muppet world,” said Jerry Nelson. “Bears and frogs and chickens and pigs hanging out together–kids related to that–being different and then accepted.” But Oz added that they never wrote the characters and stories just for the kids–at least half of the 235 million fans in the 1970s were adults.