Answers from BJ Wanlund
1. Who are your three favorite characters from The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, The Jim Henson Hour, the Muppet movies, etc. and why?
That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child! I love them all, but my three very favorites are Gonzo (which will figure into another answer later on), Beaker (mainly because he’s one of the funniest Muppet of the entire crew) and (in a bizarre twist) Uncle Deadly (mainly because when he was on he was absolutely hysterical).
This one is WAY easier. Grover, Ernie, and Bert. Grover is what I feel is what Elmo SHOULD have been: A monster that was overly cute, but not overtly so. Ernie and Bert, along with Grover, have been my favorites since I was a child, and since I have Asperger syndrome, a higher-functioning form of autism, it actually makes sense that these three have been my favorites for the longest time. So yeah, when Grover took over the @sesamestreet Twitter for “The Monster At The End of This Twitter Conversation,” I was absolutely in Grover fan heaven along with the rest of the Internet.
3. Who are your three favorite characters from Fraggle Rock and why?
Gobo, Wembley, and Red. And I’m NOT just saying this to please a certain Chris Hardwick and his friend Karen Prell (I’m jealous the two of you are friends, BTW), but I think Gobo was the most sane one of the Fab Five, Wembley was the excitable one, and Red was the tomboyish one. But the interactions these three had along with the other members of the Fab Five were priceless and made the show that much more memorable.
4. What is your favorite television program starring any of Jim Henson’s creations (e.g. The Muppet Show,Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Dinosaurs, etc.) and why?
Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies. I watched this show when I was very, very small, and I remember my father taping episodes of this off of CBS for me (and I would love nothing more than those old commercials to be restored along with the rest of the show onto Blu-Ray or digital download as a result). This show was, and still is, the most imaginative, creatively made show on television. Absolutely NO show, before or since, has even come close to matching this show’s creativity, imagination, and inspiration. Plus, this is why I love Gonzo. Baby Gonzo, voiced by Russi Taylor, was, and is, the very best thing about that show. From the various situations poor Baby Gonzo put himself into to the great parody elements that brought on, this show has truly withstood the test of time like no other cartoon from those days. Of course, I’d love it if Disney finally put this amazing show onto DVD, Blu-Ray, and/or digital download, but I am very biased towards this show, and it has a special place like no others in my Muppet fan heart.
5. What is your favorite Muppet movie and why?
Too easy: The Muppet Christmas Carol. Paul Williams’s effortless songwriting, the heart shown by all the characters, including Beaker and Kermit, and the best part of all: Michael Caine’s definition to my mind of how the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is SUPPOSED to be played. Michael Caine played this role like I believe everyone should play this role: With a ton of heart, but with a twinge of evil until the very end. Not even the movie that came after (Muppet Treasure Island) came even remotely close to this one in terms of heart, humor, etc.
As far as the Muppet song specifically, I’m going to give you one of my personal favorites of just Muppets performing, and that is “Rainbow Connection.” I have a very special emotional connection with that song in that the version performed at the end of The Muppet Movie was quoted in my high school yearbook from senior year in the section that was dedicated to “senior ads.” I still get teary-eyed thinking about how sweet my mom was to do that for me.
Of course, I have to do at least one Muppet Babies song. Obviously. My very favorite song from Muppet Babies is “The Future Is Counting On You” from Muppet Babies: The Next Generation. Second favorite is “Guiding Star” from Where No Muppet Has Gone Before.
7. If you could have dinner with any living Muppet performer who would you choose and why?
I think I’d like to have dinner with Dave Goelz, just because he’s awesome.
Thank you. Thank you for giving me and so many others the kind of pure joy that would have been impossible to experience otherwise.
9. If the President called you and asked to discuss Muppet projects, what would you tell him was the “Greatest Muppet Moment of All Time”?
Yikes, that’s tough. I think I’ll go with when Kermit is sitting on the log in The Muppet Movie, just Kermit and his banjo, and singing about rainbows, what’s on the other side, and all of that.
10. What’s the name of that song?
“La-dee-dah-dee-dum…” (because why not?)
11. If a judge ruled that Grover had to be your personal assistant for a month, what jobs would you have him do?
Just being Grover. And being a motivator. That’d be the only things I’d make him do.
12. In your opinion, what is the worst Muppet production ever made?
Easy: The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz. Not only did this total misfire of a production have the unfortunate distinction of being the first Muppets project under the Disney umbrella, this was just the WORST thing ever. And it wasn’t just Ashanti that made this movie totally awful, either. The part of the Scarecrow was woefully miscast as Kermit, the Cowardly Lion sounded way too much like Bert to be even remotely believable as Fozzie, and the songs were worse than Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
I am going to cheat here and have two, but it’ll make sense: Carol Burnett and Vicki Lawrence. Carol because she needs to redeem just how bad her Muppet Show episode was (sorry Carol, that didn’t showcase your many talents at all) and Vicki so that they can bring the “Hannah Montana” crowd in to see the movie. Because I felt that there were too many bad cameos in the last Muppets movie.
14. If you could take a picture with any Muppet, who would you choose and how would you pose?
Gonzo, and I’d pose with just plain old jazz hands, because why not.
15. What is your favorite piece of Muppet merchandise that you own? (Feel free to include a picture!)
I do not have a picture handy at the moment, but I am proud to own no less than 3 Muppet Babies McDonalds VHS tapes (Daily Muppet, Snow White and the Seven Muppets, and The Great Muppet Cartoon Show), along with every single Muppet Babies VHS tape Disney released under the Jim Henson Video line, including Time to Play (with the episodes Muppet Babies: The Next Generation and Beauty and the Schnoz), Explore With Us (with the episodes The New Adventures of Kermo Polo and Transcontinental Whoo-Whoo), Let’s Build (with the episodes Six to Eight Weeks and Eight Flags Over The Nursery), and Be My Valentine (with the episode My Muppet Valentine, my favorite MB episode ever).
BJ Wanlund has been a Muppets fan all his life, and is eagerly awaiting the glorious day when Disney stops being jerks about Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies on current home video formats.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org