The Muppet Movie
It must have been around 1985. I was seven or eight. We visited my auntie in Älmhult and I found out they had just bought a VHS-player. My ten year older cousin took me to the video store and we rented Star Wars V – The Empire Strikes Back and The Muppet Movie. Imagine seeing those two films for the first time on the same day! I used the technique I had developed for Fragglarna and recorded the sound of The Muppet Movie by hanging a microphone in front of the TV loudspeaker. Back home I listened to the tape over and over again. Thus I knew all the lines and sounds from the film by heart, even though for many years I had only watched it once.
It’s a special film in many ways. I think everything that the muppets represent for me is in that film. Seriousness and zaniness happily married. And the music is outstanding. When Kermit and Rowlf sing “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along,” the melancholy is for real. When Gonzo sings “I’m Going to go Back There Someday,” he really means it. I don’t even have to mention “The Rainbow Connection.” The message of the film–follow your dreams, and pick up crazy friends along the way to share it with you–and those songs had a big impact on me.
In fact, making art wasn’t the only thing Jim Henson and the Muppets inspired me to do. Through the Muppets I came in contact with pop, rock, and jazz. I dug The Electric Mayhem, Rowlf and all the crazy music numbers of The Muppet Show. Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock also had great music. Later I realized how music oriented the Muppets really are. The music runs through everything, not least their sense of timing. The musical precision is often what makes it funny. “Mahna Mahna” is the perfect example of that.
When I was ten my mother registered me in the music school of Växjö. I got to choose which ever music instrument I wanted. It was like Christmas! And the choice was not hard. The coolest Muppet of them all was Zoot, so I picked the alto saxophone. It was love at first sight, and the sax has been my axe ever since. Today I play regularly in a big band run by an old friend.
When I studied 3D animation last year, I felt I had to do something to sum up my appreciation for the muppets and the music. I chose to do a version of the classic sketch “Sax and Violence” from season one of The Muppet Show.
Triangle vs Saxophone from Andreas Qassim on Vimeo.
Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock have returned every now and then to Swedish television. They did a rerun of Mupparna in the late eighties. But after the intial media hype of “Mupparna returning to Swedish television screens,” the show only lasted one season. Season 1 to be more specific. As Muppet fans know, the show as we remember it came together in later seasons. Why didn’t Mupparna make it the second time around? Seemed like times had changed somehow. Since it wasn’t dubbed (which I’m very happy about) the preschoolers didn’t get it, school kids weren’t really interested, neither were the parents after the initial nostalgia had worn off. And by now commercial TV had entered Sweden. Everyone didn’t watch the same programs anymore.
Anyway, the rerun started off with The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years, which was the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I was up in the air for weeks about that TV special. My grandparents had also gotten a VHS player by then, so my grandfather recorded the 30 year special and some of the episodes from season one for me. He also recorded A Muppet Family Christmas, another one of those rare occasions when ALL the Muppets, Fraggles and Sesame characters are gathered. I always loved that, when the whole screen is filled with Muppets. And now, for the first time in my life I could watch the Muppets whenever I wanted. And so I did.
When I was thirteen, we went on vacation to Florida. Me, my mum, and her partner. This was in the summer of 1990. I was still very much a kid at heart, but by that time I was more into the Teanage Mutant Ninja Turtles than the Muppets. I guess the turtles are not too far from the Muppets anyway.
The first Turtles feature had just come out, and I was exhilarated about playing the arcade game at the highway restaurant between Miami and Orlando. I saw both the Turtles and the Muppets (people in scary costumes) at MGM Studios and I had an amazing time. Unfortunately this was a year before Muppet*Vision 3D came out, so I had to stick with the Michael Jackson 3D-film Captain EO, which wasn’t too bad.
When we were about to leave the country, I saw some magazines in the airport kiosk. There were covers of Jim and Kermit, and headlines like “The Muppets say goodbye to their best friend” and such. My heart froze. I didn’t know too much about Jim Henson back then. I knew that he created the Muppets, but the Muppets were the Muppets for me and Jim Henson was just a name. I regret not buying some of those magazines.
Ten years later I had started pursuing a career in cartooning, and I had rediscovered all those things I loved during my childhood and why. In that process I read some of those articles about Jim Henson’s death on the internet. It made me peculiarly sad. It was almost like having lost a family member, even though it was so many years later. It’s strange how someone you’ve never met can have such an impact in your life. I guess that’s the power of art and entertainment. It can overcome any geographical or language barriers and reach the hearts of people.
Today I try to make a living as a cartoonist, working in comics, illustration and animation. I’d love to draw the Muppets professionally one day, if only a cover for a comic book or so. But more importantly, I always try to be creative and acknowledge the power of the imagination. That’s what Jim taught me. Whenever I need inspiration, I return to the Muppets. It was where it all started for me, and I’m pretty sure I won’t grow out of it as long as I live.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier