Michael Wermuth – I am sort of an expert on Muppet knowledge. I know a lot of Muppet facts. I frequently visit Muppet Central, Tough Pigs, The Muppet Mindset (when I’m not writing articles), Muppet Wiki and other great websites. I’ve seen many Muppet-related documentaries and read many biographies on Jim Henson, read many interviews with people involved with the Muppets, and so on. But it might be a shock to you that I don’t know everything there is to know about the Muppets.
Somebody had assumed that I knew more about Muppets than anybody else. While I’m sure that I know more about Muppets than anybody that I know, and while I don’t doubt I’m among the top 25 most knowledgeable Muppet fans (and there’s probably no way to prove it), there are a number of fans who I’m sure can give me a run for my money, err, knowledge. After all, I haven’t seen every Muppet production (even in an era when nearly everything can be viewed on YouTube, and there are fans who have seen a lot before the start of such websites, while I have never been involved in a tape trade), have never attended any official Muppet events, and have never met anybody involved with the Muppets (the closest would be seeing a few celebrities who have been guests for the Muppets or Sesame Street in concert). But it is common for me to learn facts that I didn’t previously know. Not just facts about new productions or facts that I wasn’t wondering/didn’t know I wanted to know/didn’t really care about, but facts about past productions, information I wanted to know for years, confirmation on things I have always suspected, and so on. And sometimes, I’ll learn that certain information I had wanted to know had been out there for years and I just hadn’t seen the right sources.
So today, I’m going to list some of the things that have been on my mind for years that I hope to one day find out (and if I can somehow learn all of the answers by Christmas, it’ll be one of the best presents ever). Now I won’t be super nitpicky with these questions (though your opinions on what constitutes as “super nitpicky” may vary). I won’t be asking things like why Walter hasn’t appeared on The Muppets as of this writing, why characters like Bunsen, Beaker, Lips, and Rowlf weren’t in the bicycle scene in The Great Muppet Caper, if we’ll get The Muppet Show: Season Four in our lifetime, if there’ll be a new classic clip-heavy Sesame Street release next year, why they continue to put out new Elmo’s World DVDs long after the segment’s been discontinued and nearly every segment has already been released on DVD (the only one not on DVD, “Transportation”, is reportedly set for release on the upcoming Elmo Wonders release), no “what if” questions concerning the past like what would have happened if The Jim Henson Hour remained on the air after 1990, or if Diamond Select Toys will include Sal in its Muppet action figure or Mini Mates lines.
Why does Herry Monster wear striped pants?
In most illustrations and merchandise, Herry Monster wears striped pants. On the show, in the few instances where he is shown in full-body form, he doesn’t wear pants (though they rarely made any effort to give him legs in those full-body shots). And he’s one of the few monsters to do so. Herry was drawn without pants in his earliest illustrated appearances, and he does look weird that way, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I’m used to seeing him with pants. He usually doesn’t wear a shirt to go along with the pants (I wouldn’t question the pants if he was fully dressed). Does he have a horrible shedding problem below the waist or something?
If Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff were rereleased on video, would “All of Me” and “You’ve Got a Friend” be edited out?
Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff includes these two numbers that would later be cut from The Muppet Show: Season One. I assume that the deal in clearing song rights only applied to the compilations and not video releases of the actual show. But if this video was rereleased, would those numbers have to be cut? They were cleared for one video release, and I’d like to assume that means that they were cleared for any possible rerelease (though the videos have never been rereleased). On a similar note: if rereleased, can the clip from The Muppets Take Manhattan be included (as that’s owned by Tri-Star, but at the time, CBS Fox had the video rights, in addition to owning the Playhouse Video label which released this compilation)? If the Muppet Sing-Alongs video “It’s Not Easy Being Green” were to be rereleased, would it have to edit out the clips from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas and Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs (which have both been retained by Henson)?
What’s the name of the Solid Foam Drummer?
The drummer for the band Solid Foam was never identified by name. Did she have an official name? The other members had names, so it’s not a stretch to think that her name would have eventually been mentioned if The Jim Henson Hour lasted longer. And if she never had a real name, what was she called in the design sketch and scripts (to Henson Company Archivists: I recommend checking the script for the episode “Videotape” with Buster Poindexter)? Back in 2008 when it was announced that Fran Brill would be interviewed for The Muppet Cast, I requested asking her about the character’s name, but her reply was that she didn’t remember performing the character (there is behind-the-scenes footage of her performing the character, and that’s clearly her voice when she said her one line in the whole series), but I wonder if she would remember now. And when The Muppets Character Encyclopedia came out, I was hoping she’d be included and we’d learn her name. Not only was she not (as the book only included a few characters from The Jim Henson Hour), but the entry on Clifford acknowledges his history with Solid Foam, listing all of the members except for her (mistakenly referring to Animal as part of the band, though Animal was part of the band in one episode, but Zoot was also with the band in that episode and he wasn’t… Oh, never mind). Also: What’s the name of the drummer from the Inner Tube pilot? I assume he’s more likely to have a real name than her.
Why are certain Sesame Street videos not on DVD?
The majority of made-for-video Sesame Street releases are on DVD, but there is a small handful that are not on DVD. Sony Wonder started putting out Sesame Street videos in 2000, and as the video rights have switched to Genius Products and then Warner Home Video, all previous Sesame Street DVDs were reissued by the new video rights holders. But there are quite a few that have not been on DVD. I don’t think Sony Wonder rereleased everything from Random House, but even some of the videos that I know were rereleased by Sony Wonder (such as Getting Ready to Read and The Best of Ernie and Bert) haven’t been released on DVD (Editors Note: The Best of Ernie and Bert is available on DVD in Australia and several other countries). In the past few years, various DVDs have included bonus video releases, but they’re always videos that have been on DVD (even recent video releases have been given this treatment). Even if you think it’s because the DVD market is dying, the fact remains that Sesame Street DVDs began when DVDs were selling better (and everything could have been released), and even if that is the case (these days when I see Sesame Street DVDs in stores, there’s rarely anything besides releases from the past few years), they could at least make the remaining releases available digitally.
Who owns the Dinosaurs characters?
While Disney always owned the distribution rights to Dinosaurs and Jim Henson Productions produced the show with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop built the characters, I wonder whether the rights to the characters are held by Disney or Henson (the rights didn’t change in 2004). The credits don’t note anything about character ownership, and neither do the packaging for the VHS and DVD releases.
If anybody knows the answers, let me know in the comments section here (or in the comments on The Muppet Mindset’s Facebook or Twitter pages). All of the questions asked in the former “?” series of articles ended up answered (and I’ve been told that, at least at first, the author didn’t expect to get official answers), maybe we’ll find out these soon. (Editors Note: That’s true, when I asked the ‘?’ questions I was lucky enough to be contacted by people such as Bill Barretta, Joe Matthieu and Jim Lewis with the answers!)