Now be honest, can it be that it was all so simple then? When you consider the way you were and what you have become; the makings of you. Given how fast life can come at you, and how it is going so far, maybe we should just slow down and take a look around. We might be missing out on something.
This will require a conversation which careens toward one of today’s more controversial classroom topics – history. While the basis for each argument varies they all ultimately come down to the same essential question. Can, or more importantly should, one attempt to alter history?
Not that any of us have, or at least admit to possessing, the ability to actually change the past; if that is possible at all. What becomes apparent is that the world is really what we (or someone else) want and allow ourselves to see at any given moment. Realizing a trusted teacher only told you so much may seem like treachery but is that really the case. Or is it another lesson? Hai, Sensai.
As teachers go, one of the most recognizable instructors for many of us is Jim Henson; in some form (foam) or another. Whether it was on PBS Sesame Street or some other station, the magick of this man extends beyond his marionettes. The ability to bring The Muppets to life, creating a separate albeit similar world, in order to imitate and instruct us on our own, is an amazing thing; a wonder of the mind, a work of art.
A World of Pure Imagination
First appearing in the 1984 film Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppet Babies are Jim Henson’s vision of the beloved characters when they were much younger. The short musical montage features all of the recent Muppet graduates with the exception of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Though primarily an ode to Piggy’s affection for Kermit, the melody also highlights all their wishes and the wonderful opportunities that await them once they grow up.
Two months after the film’s debut Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, at the time referred to as simply Muppet Babies, would debut as part of CBS Saturday morning lineup on September 15, 1984. The show not only retains the playful energy of the original it also expands on it by both adding and altering elements; some would be familiar to the franchise while a few are completely new.
First, unlike their previous Muppet shows or the Manhattan minutes, Muppet Babies is a cartoon rather than a live action/puppet production. There are sequences that make use of real world photographs and live-action footage but the show’s main background and characters are all animations.
Another change is that while only six Muppets received the toddler transformation in Miss Piggy’s dream sequence, the show features two additions. Kermit, Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo and Rolf would welcome another Muppet alum in the form of The Electric Mayhem’s drummer
Animal. The other kid was not only new to the nursery, they were an entirely new Muppet. Joining her twin brother, The Muppet Theater’s resident gopher/geek Scooter who audiences had already seen as a baby in the film, is the more athletic Skeeter.
However, neither Animal or Skeeter were the most significant changes introduced by the show. While most of us would admit to always seeing The Muppets as adults – taking care of generations as both babysitters and best friends – now that they were children obviously Jim knew he could not allow these minors to remain unsupervised; at least not all the time. And so Muppet Babies would welcome a new… well, what exactly was Nanny?
Humanoid Muppets, a category of Muppets with human appearances, have been around since the earliest days of Henson’s creations. These include characters like Sesame Street’s Guy Smile and the Muppet Theater’s resident hecklers and jecklers, Waldorf and Statler – themselves appearing in episodes of Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies. But The Muppets are also famous for being inclusive, so actual humans were welcome too. Piggy, are you sure you want to marry Kermit, because you seemed to get lost in Mark Hamill’s eyes for a minute.
Viewers did not know much about Nanny, but one thing that was noticeable was what the caregiver was wearing. Nanny’s role on the show is a bit baffling when you look at it in retrospect. Though her words were more intelligible than Charlie Brown’s adults, Nanny often only appeared from the ground to waist; Jim’s Muppet Babies still gave the world that glimpse and understanding of how children view adults. This makes her presence at times somewhat problematic. More monitor than mother figure, Nanny rarely shared in exploring (or explaining) the Muppet Babies experiences; her arrival would often bring the babies’ fun to an end.
Which is disheartening when you think about it because that moment will slip away before you know it. After all, time is not a construct that can be contained; seasons change – even shows come to an end. After eight years many who grew up enjoying The Muppets when they were also “babies” became teenagers; turning to shows that were radical and aligned more with our age.
Guess we didn’t know times were changing, and that was only just the beginning. The world definitely got real. But this wasn’t the first time we had been here, in fact we were going back to the future. We were told there weren’t going to be any roads, so what rules?
Clearly The Muppets are the Burger King of productions, because fans only want them certain ways. Since Muppet Babies final episode some endeavors, like A Muppet Family Christmas, have gone on to become beloved Muppet classics, others have not fared as well. Shows like Muppets Tonight, ABC’s The Muppets and even Muppets Now suggest the world doesn’t care for them acting our age. Do the folks making these shows even know how The Muppets got their start?
The Muppet Babies would return to audiences once again on March 23, 2018, airing on Disney Junior and the Disney Channel. While retaining much of the childhood charm that made its predecessor a success – the title song itself is only slightly different – there are notable differences that make this new show more than a mere reboot or remastering. One major change is that Jim Henson’s episode runtime is almost double the length of the Disney Junior’s; notice that each of Disney’s Muppet Babies shows have two titles in the listing. Similar to how they successfully shrunk the Muppets into kids, the new series eliminates anything extraneous. This allows the true personalities and problems to be easily identified and explored. Which is good, since like what Marvel’s mutants have come to enjoy in the Krakoan era, this feels like an almost new timeline.
If the opening lyrics don’t illustratrations that this isn’t a complete remake of the original, you will no doubt notice this once you see the setting for the new show. – it is no longer merely a nursery. Instead Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies takes place in a location which resembles a modern daycare; complete with an outside play area. Fans of the original series may recall that the original Muppet Babies took place completely indoors; few episodes took place outside the confines of the nursery room itself. There is a place for them each to enjoy their favorite activities in the backyard.
The additional area allows the preschoolers to work out these types of problems, which are bigger than, and seem at times to exist in worlds beyond the boundaries of their typical play areas. The Muppet Babies, as well as many modern children’s shows, seem to solve problems with a heuristic strategy. With the amount of freedom – and free time – the Muppet Babies are given there is plenty of time for each of them to use the outrageous ideas through trial and error, which ultimately leads them to a moment of self actualization/sufficiency. And the backyard isn’t the only location these Muppets visit, there are episodes where Nanny takes the babies to visit the Library and even an Art Museum.
Speaking of art, the animation style for this new Muppet Babies has come a long way since the 80’s original; Henson’s lab obviously learned some new science along the way. The CGI technique of this new show makes these Muppet Babies look more like the original performers. This gives the characters textures and allows their outfits and furs movement to create colors and accents that look more like the Muppets from the silver screen.
But while the graphics quality of the characters was improved this didn’t stop the creative team from going back to the past. Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies still relies on the use of a mix of other art forms and types as background elements, and classical plus contemporary cultural references, which made the original (movie(s) and series) such an enjoyable, entertaining experience.
Layers Add Depth and Dimension
Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies take time to think about what matters, because these aren’t exactly babies. In today’s terms they would be considered toddlers. Even Animal is now walking and wearing some chill clothes – not simply a bonnet and diaper. Now Animal can play drums, Animal no can play drums in diaper.
Okay, so Kermit still likes adventure and action-platforming, judging by the swamp outside. Piggy, meanwhile, is no longer looking to be typecast – she wants to be a star. Something funny happens next…before Fozzie even tells his joke. Mixed in with these returning Muppet Babies, which also include Animal on drums and Gonzo, is a purple penguin whose name is Summer. The lyrics state that Summer likes to paint which may be why Gonzo is no longer simply blue. No, they didn’t change anything about the beloved weirdo, the song just gives this Muppet more characterization; Gonzo, and later Chef, remind us to look beyond stereotypes.
On that note and with the show now showcasing Summer, you may notice that Muppet Babies from the previous show lose some of the spotlight. Instead of being listed as stars of the show in the title song, Muppets’ Scooter, Skeeter and Rolf are now guests of the daycare. As are later Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies additions Bunsen and Beaker. In the new series an introduction from Nanny, or Miss Nanny, is the first time some Muppet Babies meet.
The first episode of the original Muppet Babies establishes Nanny’s role in the nursery. Her first appearance is to inform the Babies that their loud play is interrupting their neighbors sleep. This sets up a pattern where Henson’s Muppet Babies were free to explore this room and enjoy playtime, but it also felt like they were not to disturb the peace – these children weren’t meant to be heard or seen. They would rush to remove any and all evidence of the imaginative realities they were playing in before Nanny entered the room.
Not in this neighborhood of make believe. Now, even the next door neighbors, Mr. Statler and Mr. Waldorf, are on their best behavior with Disney’s Muppet Babies. Interrupting kids’ dreams while wearing stripes; the street you’re looking for is a few blocks over.
Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies Miss Nanny interacts and engages with the toddlers as much as they do with their own creativity. And Miss Nanny’s socks aren’t scary, in fact they are emoji indicators of the episode; specific and silly. While they are still the same knee length as the original, instead of just stripes these socks are novelty with the print picture relating to the show’s topic. Which is truly amazing because even with this new series scripts some similarities with the original begin to show. Almost like the old print is peeking through onto the new pages; it still leads to the same story (stories) somehow.
Considering the sizable cast of The Muppets through over half a century, anyone could get confused. Thankfully Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies offers some shorts to let you learn a little bit about each one of the main characters. With Show and Tell each of the Muppet Babies gets to explain how they see the world. During these shorter segments eagle eyed observers may also notice that the posters and pictures seem to reference a few more Muppet members. For instance there’s Sam. The blue bird also gets to check meeting the other Muppet Babies off the agenda, since Sam shows up in the playhouse to show the others the importance of structure.
What should become evident to any self is that problems and circumstances don’t go away. Or how The Muppets are able to create a bridge by using the things that connect us to show how we all aren’t so different.
Think back, in the original series Ep. 103 it was Beaker who was scared of the dark, but the new series Ep. 101 casts Sir Kermit the Brave in the role. What’s interesting is that if you remember, or rewatch the original, it was Kermit who ends the episode afraid of the dark after everyone else goes to sleep.
And you may notice that in Ep. 211 of Henson’s original and Ep. 303 of Disney’s that neither group of Muppet Babies actually make it to the art museum, both emphasize the lesson of personal responsibility.
Meanwhile, in Ep. 107 of Disney Junior’s Babies, they actually make it to the museum, with the same message – and a moment from a famous ditch day. With the show giving the impression that the Muppets don’t ditch anyone. It could be a work of the imagination, but it feels like full-bodied Muppet Fletcher shows up as a statue. And the Wacky Alpacas on Fozzie’s lunchbox certainly resemble Sopwith the Camel.
Sometimes, something of significance at one point may not be so accurately recalled, and even overlooked. Which one of you can admit to knowing that Adam had a sister who was abducted shortly after birth and taken to Etheria? And while audiences are about to discover that Optimus is both a Prime and Primal, they’ll also see Barbie’s World is bigger than Big Al’s Toy Barn.
Sweetums is even less scary at this size, but the Muppet Babies aren’t so sure. Good thing Sweetums lives right next door, that way they don’t waste an entire movie figuring out they can all be friends. Good thing because they meet so Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies can get Gonzo’s friend back.
Not Camilla, Gonzo’s feathered friend is no longer stuffed full of fluff. Don’t be dismayed, this daredevil has a new best bud, who happens to be a spud. Is that okay Elmo, it looks like you lost something on the dance floor?
And this just in, there is also an appearance from the Newsman. In fact, Kermit gets his first mic and the rest…well it is history.
An interesting agreement in storytelling is the audiences accepting everything in the tale as history. There is an assumption that you’ve been shown everything. Recently, however, a trend is emerging where writers are revealing parts of the story which viewers were previously unaware existed. Sometimes to see what you saw (or should have) – years later – requires us to reminisce. Which currently in modern media and productions allows for some retooling along with the retelling. Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies make sure fans remember the time, by recalling some of the (long) forgotten Muppets that we’ve been given throughout the years. The show also continues the legacy of adding members to this tremendously talented troupe.
So let’s look at some more Muppets, Kermit did say that is what the story and show needs. No one is considered backstage, here are some old familiar faces, along with new ones who are about to be right where they belong.
We meet Carlos, who looks the same as Kermit. Like Scooter and Skeeter they all learn a lesson on individuality and being your authentic self. Fozzie is afraid of losing a bear’s best frog friend to Rolf, and Bunsen Honeydew is out to build a better one with Beaker 2.0. Expanding on the original showrunners, Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies each present audiences with what is best described as an eccentric, yet authentic, assemblage of identities.
There’s no mistaking the famous bright flamingo colored figures on one poster. But depending on your age, or knowledge of Muppet history, you may know this Muppet trio by one of two names. We’ll just go with Bip Bppadotta and the two Anything Muppets. Mah na mah no, sorry some folks might not like things like that on children’s television.
The show proves that sometimes just stick with what has been working. Kermit’s nephew Robin returns to Muppet Babies to remind the playroom that they were once that size; look out for the little guy. Since the show must go on, and Janice is out jamming, Jill makes a visit instead. Both keep their cool, like an ocean breeze; neither staying mad at the Muppet Babies for long. You can’t be when the Muppet Babies are simply playing to their strengths. Not taking no for an answer.
To not be merely puppets but offer life and sensitivity, The Muppets mission, is in perfect proportion to the Muppet Babies melody of making dreams come true. Whatever their size, the substance of The Muppets has always been the same. Poking fun at society by showing our sarcasms, silliness and sensitivity.
World of Pure Imagination
While showing us all sides of life. Not all of the days will be sunny, but even when the seasons change Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies can find a reason to celebrate. Encouraging everyone to acknowledge and understand some moments that we all experience, from holidays to a rat race for the playhouse. Learning about them and how to accept the outcomes.
You have to accept that not every Muppet, or everything in life, will make the cut every time. Things will not always go as planned. You just have to stay in your groove and that requires some flexibility. Look at Rizzo, who returns to a Muppet series, coming in through a hole in the wall, to help Kermit get his moves back. Another groovy thing is the Muppet Babies now know, thanks to Mister Manny, the statements “not anyone can do this job” and “anyone can do this job” can be true at the same time.
As you may find with any Muppet production there are no shortage of Easter eggs, even if Bean doesn’t make it to this Muppet Babies this time. Do you think Pepe is okay with being shrunk down to fit into Scooter’s handheld videogame.
Or wonder if Fozzie’s knows what happened to his adopted sister Rozzie. Wocka, wait, what?
At least we know who was responsible for dropping Animal off at daycare.
It just shows, sometimes everything in life isn’t immediately clear. When it comes to these moments, and the posters and pictures in the playroom, not everything is with the Muppets either. These include a picture of another bear, which looks like Bobo. And we may never know the stories of Muppet Babies Lew (Zealand) or Beauregard, both seen in pictures on the wall.
So when you look at all the nostalgic nods Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies provides, you realize that over the years that somethings (or some Muppets) have been left out in the cold. Such is life. But there are no small roles, Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies shows that. And the significance of Summer.
They say all dreams end and admittedly so do all movies and shows. On Febuary 18, 2022 the school year came to an end at Miss Nanny’s. Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies get one last chance for an amazing showcase before the start of Summer. It also hints at some of their futures. While leaving some stuff out, like who is Blerp?
Like everywhere, even the menagerie of Muppets, there are some people or groups that have been stuck in the middle all these years. Take Penguins, part of the stage crew and cast, they were considered so unique that the term is used to refer to them as both a collective or as individuals. While some have been named, they were interchangeable, an animalistic entry for a type of Anybody Muppets.
At times they were even treated like nobodys. Remember, Kermit even turned The Penguins down when they were looking for work at the diner. Jim Henson even admitted to just tossing them in at times, to help out with a plot.
Which is exactly what Summer Penguin does. Like every Muppet before, Summer adds to the pagentry and tapestry. As with any of them, it is in an unforgettably unique way. By bringing bright artwork, energy and enthusiasm, Summer is another luminous being. Adding another color to the radiance that eminates from the playroom.
If The Muppets are a work of art, then Summer Penguin is that spirit animal. While also completing the rainbow connection. Didn’t you notice that with the addition of Summer that Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies color schemes are practically a lucky charm.
Just shows how we all write a story, a script; one then woven among others. Each intersecting and vibrating amongst an unending entanglement. And to what end, because a show must go on. Like destiny, there isn’t only one.
Summer is the season of life when those decisions start getting made. It is important to remember that part if you find out you don’t like what you’ve become. Piggy has plenty of time make the decision between being Wonder Woman or a Pig in Space. Right now is a time, take as much of it as necessary, to figure out what it means to be Super Fabulous.
When the world looks kind a weird, when it feels like you’re about to burst at the seams it is time to step into your dreams; make yourself seen. Adults may call it manifestation, but the Muppet Babies knew it was about making your dreams come true.
Don’t let your Summer go Bye Bye.