Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Muppet Babies: Bunsen in Menlo Park

Bunsen Honey Dew Muppet Babies


Muppet Baby Dr. Bunsen Honeydew in Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratory (scan courtesy of Muppet Wiki) as seen in the 1993 coloring book: The Muppet Babies Visit The 50 States. Thomas Edison is credited with creating the first industrial research lab in Menlo Park, NJ as well as gaining the patent for his advanced version of the light bulb in the U.S.

An animated TV show based on The Muppets sort of defeated the purpose. The magic of the Henson brand of puppetry was what made his characters come alive and leave such an impression on the world. Although they are pieces of felt and feathers, The Muppet characters always seemed to be more charismatic than other random puppets controlled by human hands. Each Muppet's personality was defined by their voices, their little specific gestures, and subtle nuances. Did the Muppet Babies take that all away?

Sure there's been famous ventriloquists and comedians, but The Muppets are in class of their own. Animating them into a 2-D children's cartoon may not have seemed like the most grand idea for a bunch of puppets who previously had their own real-life variety show. Deciding to make them regress to Muppet Babies was an idea that was conceived in one of their live action films and remains way cooler looking 'til this day.

The comparison can be seen in the short sequence of The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) when we first see the Muppets when they were babies. Using actual puppetry and effects, I always find this part of the film the most fascinating, and much more vivd and surreal than the animated show turned out. I'm sure it was cheaper to make an animated show rather than having to use actual puppeteers. The live action Muppet Babies can also be seen in the holiday special, The Muppet Family Christmas.

Aside from their regression to toddler age and their transformation to 2-D animation, Muppet Babies was a huge success. It's 8 season TV run is highlighted by winning four consecutive Daytime Emmy's.

As a kid, I loved watching The Muppet Show and Muppet Babies when it hit the airwaves. But, by 1993, Muppet Babies wasn't even a blip on my radar, but many kids around the world were discovering it for the first time. Although the show ended in 1991, two years later, merch featuring the characters was still being sold, which indicated that the property was still viable with children. During the '90s the show enjoyed long syndication runs on channels like Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Toon Disney among others. Throughout the mega crazes of Batman and Ninja Turtles, Muppet Babies stuck around for a while. The Muppets Babies had McDonald's tie-ins and comic books as well as a slew of other collectibles.

In 1993, a coloring book called The Muppet Babies Visit The 50 States was released. It depicted all the Muppet Babies - each in different states across America. You can read more about this coloring book via this link at the Muppet Wiki. By far the most awesome entry is Animal at the top top top top... of the Empire State Building in New York City. Which one was your favorite?

1 comment:

Brian said...

I loved Muppet Babies way beyond the normal or appropriate age range to do so. I need to find this The Muppet Babies Visit The 50 States book ASAP. Great piece.

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