Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It's not easy being... objective!

Above: Puppeteer Steve Whitmire with everyone's favourite (and arguably the most talented) amphibian, Kermit the Frog, at the San Diego Comiccon in 2015. Recently, news that Mr. Whitmire was fired by Disney last October has spread like wildfire. The related news story and above photo are found on the CTV website at this link: http://www.ctvnews.ca/entertainment/former-voice-of-kermit-the-frog-devastated-by-firing-1.3502327

Of Muppets and Manners....

Hey there Muppet fans! Well gee, what seems to be the topic of the day? Did I miss much?

Ya, that was sarcasm. Presumably you have already heard the news that Disney has fired their lead star Muppet performer, Steve Whitmire, in an extremely abrupt and rather disrespectful manner - over the phone - this past October. Disney didn't allow Mr. Whitmire the respect of a face to face meeting, and it seems from the available information they would not compromise or allow him the opportunity to correct any wrong doing. You likely also already know about Steve Whitmire's recent blog post in which he stated:

"I just want you all to know that I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point throughout our journey, and to let everyone know that I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero (Jim Henson)."

You didn't Mr. Whitmire! You entertained us and put smiles on millions of people's faces all over the world for the past 40 years. You are not a mere man or mouse, you are a frog! Right now you just seem to be "all scrunched up", so I hope someone close to you will take your arm and pump you back into shape, frog of my heart!


In his post Mr. Whitmire mentions the firing took place due to "two stated issues that had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call". The entire blog post can be read here: https://stevewhitmire-muppetpundit.com/2017/07/11/its-time-to-get-things-started/

This news was so upsetting to people that it didn't just anger Muppet fans, it gained main stream media coverage... everything from local and national news programs to late night talk shows were reporting and commenting on events. In Canada both the CBC and CTV posted the Associated Press report on their websites, as noted above. Meanwhile Stephen Colbert opened an episode of his Late Show this past week with a skit making light of the situation, for which it looked as though the real Kermit puppet may have been used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKW8iI0WlC0  I understand that to a non-puppeteer such a skit might seem funny, but considering Colbert had previously had Mr. Whitmire as a guest performing Kermit on the show, I found the skit to be in poor taste and quite a disrespectful way for Colbert to treat a fellow performer. Apparently there really isn't any honour among thieves. Here is the previous guest appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjAb498Ax60

[Update July 20, 2017: A third skit with Kermit was aired on the Colbert show July 18 toward the end of the monologue, during which Colbert ridiculed Steve Whitmire more directly comparing him to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/2rRDwe1bJsKXvVAZH76WW7wcsAcHH3_F/kermit-the-frog-s-very-ugly-contract-negotiations/ He also quoted Cheryl Henson as having stated "Steve performs Kermit as a bitter, angry, depressed, victim...".  The quote is taken from this online article: https://io9.gizmodo.com/no-one-looks-good-in-the-ugly-drama-surrounding-kermit-1797013930  Lisa and Brian Henson have also apparently sided with Disney according to this July 17th New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/arts/television/kermit-the-frog-disney-firing.html.]

Without question, the way Disney handled this situation was rather authoritarian and as such if their goal was to do the firing in a manner that minimized any fallout, they certainly didn't help themselves in that regard. This is especially true if they allowed Colbert to use the actual Muppet to mock these events, as it would be purposefully adding insult to injury toward Mr. Whitmire.

Be that as it may, and as upsetting as this news is to everyone, we still do not know what the "two issues" are that led to this point. What could Mr. Whitmire have done, if anything, to have warranted such a harsh response from Disney or cause him to feel that he has "failed" in his duty to Jim Henson? Can the folks at Disney really be so inept and self-absorbed that this is all some kind of personal vendetta against Mr. Whitmire in response to their "two issues"? [Update July 20, 2017: The "two issues" were revealed in the July 17th New York Times article linked above]

When I first heard about the way Disney treated Mr. Whitmire, my initial response was to consider posting an illustration of some kind on this blog showing Mickey Mouse with a big "X" over his face along with a caption in large block letters that read "Disney Sucks!". I still might do that eventually, but I'm glad I held off and didn't respond with a knee jerk reaction. Social media certainly makes it easy to do so! Many fans have subsequently posted anti-Disney sentiments online, some of whom have understandably stated that they will be boycotting anything Disney from here on as a protest of Mr. Whitmire's firing.

Meanwhile the Muppet fan site Tough Pigs, which broke this news in the first place along with their colleagues at the Muppet Mindset fan site, has since posted a rather thoughtful article titled "Take a Deep Breath: The Aftermath of the Kermit News". http://www.toughpigs.com/deep-breath/ In the article they respectfully try to console fans and urge them not to boycott Disney, and to instead be "supportive". Good luck with that one! The article is a noble attempt to put out the flames, and while it is reassuring to see such a thing in the social media jungle, I'm more than a little pessimistic about their message having much effect. I'll explain why....

My take away from the Tough Pigs article is that the message they were attempting to get across is this: "be objective". In my humble two cents worth, it is somewhat of an oxymoron to request such a thing on a fan site, especially in an article that quotes Jim Henson as though he was Jesus. To many Muppet fans that's just who Jim Henson is, and for a younger generation of fans Jesus is Steve Whitmire.

As such, it is likely that the route of people's outrage is not based solely on what the Disney folks did or didn't do in this situation, but rather it is based on a fan's own blind devotion to their idol. Under such a lens objectivity goes out the window. This isn't just true of Muppet fans, this is true for anyone who is a devoted fan of something. Star Trek fans, for example, praise Gene Roddenberry as a god and insist that they be referred to as "Trekkers" rather than the derogatory "Trekkies". George Lucas used to have a similar devoted following until he made the three prequel films and isolated a good chunk of his worshipers, myself included... R2-D2 does not fly for f**k sakes! Pardon my language! The subsequent sale of a good chunk of my Star Wars collection was not as painful as I thought it would be.

So where am I going with all of this?

Well, over the years there have been a number of issues that I have wanted to discuss here on my blog but never bothered to for the very reason that I find devoted fans cannot be objective. At least that has been my experience. That I should have given folks the benefit of the doubt and posted the info anyways is a fair point to make, though a moot one as I didn't, so here we are.

Yet, with recent events I find myself once again pondering if I should post those issues for which I find objectivity went out the window. Not only is this an opportunity to see how Muppet fans will consume the information, but I also feel that it is only fair to correct inaccuracies and give credit where credit is due. So if Tough Pigs and Muppet Mindset are seriously calling on fans to be objective, perhaps I should see if I'm wrong about fans and their objectivity, or at least try again.

Before I do so however, I just want to say for the record that while I'm extremely proud of this blog, I don't pretend that it is nearly as relevant to Muppet fans as Tough Pigs, Muppet Mindset, or others that are out there. My thing is to document collectables and that's it. None the less it is certainly not my wish to be outcast or ignored altogether by posting information about the Muppets which upsets people! So if you are still reeling from the recent news and feel it is poor timing to post additional, potentially upsetting info, stop reading now and come back later. My blog will still be here!

But for those of you who are willing and capable of being more objective about their idol, I'll take the plunge and risk submitting the following fact about Jim Henson for your consideration. I have a few others, but I'll start with one just for the sake of keeping this post from becoming a research paper! (Or is it too late for that? Silly me!) Depending on how this goes I might post the other items down the road. Keep in mind however that I am a huge, life-long fan of Jim Henson and the Muppets, so I'm not doing this to tear anyone down but rather for the sake of being objective and honest. Again, it's only fair to give credit where credit is due. Here we go!


Canadian puppeteer John Conway and his puppets Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock
(photo likely from 1957 or 1958)

Fact: Jim Henson was not the first television puppeteer to use the TV screen as the proscenium in framing the performance of puppets on television.

Back in the early 1950's Canadian puppeteer John Conway, along with director Norman Campbell, used this technique on their CBC program "Uncle Chichimus" before Jim Henson had discovered it for himself. It is still unknown if Conway was the first puppeteer in the world to use the technique as more research needs to be done, but it is clear that he did so before Jim Henson made his TV debut in 1954.

In 2003 I created a video documentary about John Conway and had discovered this information in the late 1990's while doing the research for that project. My documentary was screened at a Puppeteers of America festival in 2004, yet subsequent Henson exhibits still continued to claim that Henson was the first to pioneer the technique, either that or the text was ambiguously written as to mislead the reader into thinking that such was the case. For example the text about Jim Henson currently on the Henson.com website reads: "Jim, along with his assistant [...] Jane Nebel, introduced [...] innovative technical tricks (such as eliminating the puppet stage and using the television itself as the proscenium)." This is somewhat ambiguous and as stated is incorrect. https://www.henson.com/our-founders.php  The Muppet Wiki page about Jim Henson also makes a similar claim, and with more detail, but as stated is also incorrect: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Jim_Henson

Meanwhile, the 2011 PBS documentary "Pioneers of Television" about Jim Henson states "[...] Henson was among the first to understand the potential of the new medium", which is a more accurate statement to make though still somewhat ambiguous because it is not explained, and the narrator says it so quickly the meaning of the statement is glossed over so that the impression is still that Henson was the only one doing that kind of television puppetry, which again is misleading because he clearly wasn't the only one doing that kind of puppetry. I have not yet seen the entire documentary so I do not know if they clarify this elsewhere in the program.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzpS1Gsd69Y

In any case, I am not the first researcher to bring this information about John Conway to light. American puppeteer George Latshaw recorded the facts about Conway and Campbell in his book, Puppetry the Ultimate Disguise, published in 1978. Yet, his research was apparently also ignored even though Latshaw was actually a guest puppeteer on Conway's CBC program in February 1954, making his research a first hand account of the events.

So what does this mean for Jim Henson's legacy? Not much! He is still a genius who accomplished more than any other TV puppeteer ever did, and he is still the first American puppeteer to use this technique, so I find it quite odd that Henson folks refuse to accept the truth in this instance. In fairness credit should be given where credit is due, should it not? Additionally, Jim Henson's legacy doesn't need embellishment with false or misleading facts. What he did for real was awesome enough.

The last point that I want to make, and the one that is personally close to my heart having known John Conway for the final few years of his life, is that just because John Conway is not as famous as Jim Henson does not mean that Conway's accomplishments or his role as a television pioneer are any less valid. We should not be excluding Conway from the history of television puppetry simply due to his inability to win a popularity contest against Jim Henson.

As a side note, I find it quite ironic that like Kermit, Conway's main character Uncle Chichimus is also green.... "It's not easy being green" indeed! For more about John Conway please see my post about the documentary on "Mikey's Art and Puppetry Blog" here: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/john-conway-and-uncle-chichimus.html

In conclusion, just to remind folks what a huge Jim Henson fan I am (in the event that the existence of this blog is not enough!), below is a photo of my Kermit the Frog collection taken in the mid 1990's before I learned that John Conway had even existed! So if you have the impulse to bite my head off right now, please "take a deep breath" and try to be objective! - Mikey






Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mikey's Wish List for Sesame Street Funko Pop Figures!!!

Ever since Funko released their Labyrinth and Dark Crystal Funko Pop collections I've been completely geeking out over Funko's awesome Henson/Muppets related figures. Just this past week I managed to find the Funko Specialty Series Herry Monster figure at Ottawa Comiccon. Herry is the latest addition to this very addictive and fun series of Sesame Street characters! Here he is below, I'm still basking in his tiny "fuzzy and blue" awesomeness...

Thank you for making him Funko!!! He's awesome! :)

As I'm hoping that Funko will be making more classic Sesame Street characters I've posted my "wish list" below! There are so many memorable and classic characters to choose from, it seems that at least another five or ten Sesame Street Funko Pop figures isn't too unreasonable to wish for (especially with characters like Frazzle, Guy Smiley and the Two-Headed Monster!). However, I went all out and made a list of 40 more characters!!! Can't help it, I'm a Muppet freak! :)

Below is my Sesame Street Funko Pop wish list. Please feel free to post a comment below sharing which characters would be on your Sesame Funko Pop wish list. If we're lucky, maybe, just maybe, Funko might be convinced to offer Sesame fans more Pop figures! I hope so!!!

Enjoy! - Mikey :)

Wish List: Series 3
02 Cookie Monster, dark blue variant (reissue of previous figure in dark blue instead of light blue)
11 Frazzle, the orange furry monster with his teeth and tongue sticking out (as seen in "Fuzzy and Blue")
12 Herry Monster, wearing his red and white striped pants Update: This figure was announced on Funko.com Jan 5, 2017 and released in March 2017! Yayyy!!!
13 Guy Smiley
14 Two-Headed Monster
15 Kermit the Frog in reporter outfit (same figure from my "The Muppet Show" series wish list but in a Sesame Street box)
15 Kermit the Frog, released as a variant (reissue same figure from "The Muppets" series but in a Sesame Street box)

Wish List: Series 4
16 Roosevelt Franklin
17 Sherlock Hemlock
18 Biff and Sully the construction workers, two pack set
19 Yip-Yips Aliens, two pack set
20 Grundgetta Grouch, Oscar's girlfriend
10 Big Bird (reissue of previous figure but with the white crest above his eyes painted), comes with his bird nest and his teddy bear Radar (Radar is attached to the next sitting on the edge, and the Big Bird figure can stand inside the next but it would look like he's sitting)

Wish List: Series 5
21 Lefty the Salesman
22 Betty Lou, comes with a small figure of Little Bird
23 Honker, pink variant
23 Honker, green variant
23 Honker, purple variant
23 Honker, orange variant
24 Mr. Johnston/Fat Blue and Grover as the waiter, two pack set
25 Harvey Kneeslapper

Wish List: Series 6
26 Barkley the Dog
27 Forgetful Jones and Buster the Horse, two pack set
28 Telly Monster
29 Sam the Robot, 6 inch figure
30 Beautiful Day Monster (same figure from my "The Muppet Show" series wish list but in a Sesame Street box)

Wish List: Series 7
Little Jerry and the Monotones in their original hippie outfits
   31 Little Jerry
   32 Big Jeffy
   33 Chrissy
   34 Rockin' Richard
And from the human cast:
   35 Mr.Hooper... "that's Hooper, Hooper Big Bird!"

Wish List: Series 8
More characters from the human cast:
   36 Susan
   37 Gordon
   38 Luis
   39 Maria
   40 Bob

Wish List: Series 9
41 Magic Mumford, with small figure of Twiddle Bug Father (round blue head)
42 Prairie Dawn, with small figure of Twiddle Bug Mother (light pink)
43 Farley, with small figure of Twiddle Bug child (orange)
44 Harvey Monster, with small figure of Twiddle Bug child (dark pink)
45 Bruno the Trashman, Oscar's "chauffeur", 6 inch figure holding a trash can that the Oscar figure can be placed into

Wish List: Series 10
46 Alison Snuffleupagus
47 Marshal Grover and Fred the Wonder Horse (same horse as Forgetful Jones' horse), two pack set
48 Don Music with piano
49 Zoe
50 Rosita
51 Abby Cadabby

I doubt Funko would ever come close to making all 51 characters, but if you don't ask how can you ever know! :) There's optimism for you! With that in mind I would also add that with so many awesome characters to choose from, I don't think it's too malicious to hope that Funko does not make figures of Murray Monster or Stinky as in all honesty I find those characters are quite awful! In my view it would ruin the collection if figures of those characters were made! Though that's just my humble opinion.


Muppets Funko Pop figures:
Kermit the Frog from The Muppets series next to Mr.Snuffleupagus, Big Bird,
and the Count from the Sesame Street series!

My previous post below has more info about all the Henson/Muppet related items that Funko has produced: https://mikeysmuppetmemorabiliamuseum.blogspot.ca/2016/11/new-jim-henson-pop-vinyl-figures-from.html#comment-form

Happy collecting!!!

-Mikey
  

Saturday, November 5, 2016

New Jim Henson Pop Vinyl Figures from Funko!!!

I'm sure if you're as obsessed about Jim Henson stuff as me you already know about, and maybe even own, some of the AWESOME new Dark Crystal and Labyrinth Pop Vinyl figures that have just been released by Funko!

Back in 2012 Funko released their first Henson related series of figures with The Muppets Pop figures and Wacky Wobblers. I picked up the Kermit Pop Vinyl figure (shown above) and somehow managed to resist collecting the other nine figures in the series, instead choosing to collect the Muppets Wacky Wobblers set. Then in 2015 along came Funko's Sesame Street Pop figure series!!! As awesome as they are, especially with Big Bird and Snuffy as 6 inch figures to keep them in scale with the smaller Muppets, I was well behaved and didn't cave in to collect them! Yet, they have kept taunting me just as the Muppets series did, and now in 2016 Funko has hit the nerve of my geeky "all things Henson" obsession with the addition of not one, but TWO, more Henson inspired collections: The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth!!!

That's it, I'm toast! Hoist the white flag!

You win Funko... and thank you for winning!!!! These new figures are so amazingly detailed, with the costumes recreated exactly like in the movies, how could I possibly pass them up?!?! The Labyrinth set even includes a harder to find Jareth the Goblin King variant with his magical orb! ...and Ludo is a 6 inch figure! Ack! A Ludo action figure!!!! (Sigh!) So now I want them all... all the Muppets and all the Sesame Street gang, and all the new ones!!!  ....Farewell disposable income, farewell!!!!

Jen, Kermit, and Jareth Pop figures by Funko in their nifty boxes!

Below I've compiled a list of all the Henson related figures that Funko has made to date, because I want to be as helpful a Muppet freak as can be by passing along my obsession with these collectables to others who, like me, have been trying in vain to resist collecting them. Isn't that nice of me! :)

Oh...and dare I forget to mention the Dark Crystal action figure series that Funko will soon be releasing! These are based on the very rare action figures that were briefly available in 1982 during the films original run. Yes it's true, what was sundered and undone, has been fixed by Funko! Dark Crystal action figures that we can actually own will soon become a reality!!!

2012

The Muppets/The Muppets Most Wanted: Pop Vinyl Figures
01 Kermit - The Muppets box
01 Kermit - The Muppets box, metallic variant
01 Kermit - Muppets Most Wanted box
02 Miss Piggy - The Muppets box
02 Miss Piggy - The Muppets box, metallic variant
02 Miss Piggy - Muppets Most Wanted box
03 Gonzo - released only in "The Muppets" box
04 Fozzie Bear - released only in "The Muppets" box
05 Animal - The Muppets box (standard edition box with slanted logo)
05 Animal - The Muppets box (standard edition box with slanted logo), metallic variant
05 Animal - Muppets Most Wanted box
05 Animal - The Muppets box (limited edition box with horizontal logo), flocked variant - reissued Dec 2016 as a Funko.com exclusive, limited to 4000
06 Dr. Teeth - released only in "The Muppets" box
07 Mahna Mahna - released only in "The Muppets" box
08 Snowth - released only in "The Muppets" box
(no number) 3 pack set: Mahna Mahna and two Snowths, metallic variant, The Muppets box
09 Sam the Eagle - released only in "Muppets Most Wanted" box
10 Swedish Chef - released only in "Muppets Most Wanted" box
11  Coming soon! Superhero Kermit - The Muppets box (limited edition box with horizontal logo),  New for March 2017! (Emerald City Comic Con Exclusive)

The back of each Funko Pop box shows illustrations of all the figures that are available in a collection. In this case Sam the Eagle and Swedish Chef are not shown on this "The Muppets" box as those figures were not yet available. They're only shown on the back of "Muppets Most Wanted" boxes along with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Animal.

The Muppets: Wacky Wobblers (Bobble Heads)
Kermit
Miss Piggy
Fozzie Bear
Fozzie Bear, flocked variant
Animal
Animal, metallic variant
Dr. Teeth
Gonzo (not released)
Beaker (not released)
Sweetums (not released)

The Muppets: Plushies (I'm not aware if these were actually released or not)
Kermit
Miss Piggy
Animal

The Muppets: Cupcake Keepsakes (I'm not aware if these were actually released or not)
Kermit
Miss Piggy

Sesame Street


Here is the complete collection of all the Sesame Funko Pop characters along with Kermit from the Muppets series. Shown above in order that they were released are Kermit the Frog, Super Grover, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Bert, Ernie, Snuffleupagus, Count, Elmo, Grover, Big Bird, and Herry Monster.

This is an awesome collection of Sesame figures that I just had to have! It's a fun series and each figure is very well sculpted. I would have preferred the Cookie Monster figure to have been made dark blue to look like the actual Muppet, but as usual with Sesame toys Funko made him light blue. It's so bizarre that Cookie Monster toys are always light blue!!! Big Bird also has a white crest on his head above his eyes but it's never included on toys of the character which is odd. It would be a shrewd bit of marketing on Funko's part to reissue the same Cookie Monster figure in dark blue for die hard Muppet fans like me (Funko that's a little hint!). A limited edition Big Bird with the white crest area coloured in would also be interesting, but if I had to choose I'd rather Funko made a dark blue Cookie Monster figure.

It would also be awesome if Funko continued the series to make more retro Sesame characters as they did with the special edition Herry Monster. In any case, when I was collecting these I left the light blue Cookie Monster figure for last along with Elmo, who I find a tad annoying, but I'm glad to have both of them now as they complete the collection! Below are more pictures of these awesome little Funko Sesame dudes.... which I am a tad obsessed with! :)


Here's a closer look as series 1 of the Sesame Pop figures along with Kermit the Frog from the Muppets Funko Pop series. Below is series 2 along with the recently released Herry Monster.
 



Here is the complete collection of Sesame Street Funko Pop figures in their original boxes. Kermit is also shown in his original Muppets box. It would be neat if Funko re-issued this same Kermit figure in a Sesame Street box to make him officially part of the collection! (That's another little hint Funko!) ;)
 
Below is a complete list of all the figures and exclusive variations that were also made. All of the variant figures have flocking except for the orange Oscar the Grouch. Personally, I'm not too interested in the flocked figures, but I am hoping to eventually add the orange Oscar to my collection.
 
*Note: Be careful when buying flocked variants of Sesame characters as I've seen customized, home-made flocked figures online that were not issued by Funko!
 
2015 - 2017

Sesame Street: Pop Vinyl Figures
01 Super Grover
01 Super Grover, flocked variant* - reissued Dec 2016 as a Funko.com exclusive, limited to 4000
02 Cookie Monster
02 Cookie Monster, flocked variant* (New York Comic Con Exclusive)
03 Oscar
03 Oscar, orange variant (Entertainment Earth Exclusive)
04 Bert
04 Bert, flocked variant* (Barnes & Noble Exclusive)
05 Ernie
05 Ernie, flocked variant* (Barnes & Noble Exclusive)
06 Mr. Snuffleupagus (6 inch)
06 Mr. Snuffleupagus (6 inch), flocked variant* (San Diego Comic Con Exclusive)
07 The Count
08 Elmo
08 Elmo, flocked variant* (Barnes & Noble Exclusive)
09 Grover
10 Big Bird (6 inch)
10 Big Bird (6 inch), flocked variant* (Barnes & Noble Exclusive)
11 Herry Monster (Funko Specialty Series Exclusive) New for March 2017!

Here is the exclusive "Funko Specialty Series" Herry Monster released in March 2017.


The back of the Sesame Street Pop boxes for figures number 2 to 5 (series 1) show an illustration of the first five figures on the back of the boxes, while figures number 6 to 10 (series 2) have the entire collection on the box. The back of Super Grover's box (number 1) has a photo of the actual Muppet with text listing selected characters from both series as "coming soon". The back of special edition Herry Monster box is the same as the series 2 boxes and does not mention any additional characters as coming soon, which I had hoped to find! My wish list for additional Sesame Funko Pop figures is posted here: http://mikeysmuppetmemorabiliamuseum.blogspot.ca/2017/05/mikeys-wish-list-for-sesame-street.html
 
 
Here's a closer look at the series 1 figures in their original boxes. I forgot to take a photo of just the series 2 figures in their boxes, so I'll add that one here soon!

2016

Labyrinth: Pop Vinyl Figures (these were added to the Pop vinyl "Movie" series)
363 Sarah & Worm
364 Jareth (brown jacket with cane)
365 Jareth (white outfit, holding crystal orb)
366 Ludo (6 inch)
367 Hoggle


The Dark Crystal: Pop Vinyl Figures (these were added to the Pop vinyl "Movie" series)
339 Jen
340 Kira & Fizzgig (open mouth)
340 Kira & Fizzgig (closed mouth), variant
341 Aughra
342 The Chamberlain Skeksis
343 Ursol the Chanter

 
The Dark Crystal Pop figures in their boxes, above, and loose, below.


I've included the side and back views to show the amazing attention for detail that Funko has applied to these figures. The costumes are amazing!!! Click on any picture for a larger view.

 
The Dark Crystal: Reaction Figures (to be released Nov 2016)
Each figure comes with a different section of the Dark Crystal...awesomeness!!!

Carded figures:
Jen
Kira (no wings) & Fizzgig (open mouth)
Aughra
The Chamberlain Skeksis

Boxed figures:
Ursol the Chanter
Garthim, Kira with wings and Fizzgig (closed mouth)
Landstrider and Jen

If Funko actually releases all of these awesome action figures then, logically, we'll have to beg them to make a Dark Crystal castle playset in the style of Castle Grayskull, along with some pod people, more Skeksis, and one of those weird light dudes from the end of the movie! Wouldn't that be yummy! :)

And, Oh my goodness, maybe they would - gasp! - do the same for Labyrinth and issue Reaction figures based on those characters too!!!

Mikey's Wish List for Muppet Show Funko Pop Figures!

As 2016 marked The Muppet Show's 40th anniversary this would be a good excuse for Funko to continue the Muppets Pop series, this time using the original "The Muppet Show" logo on boxes!!! Here's how I envision The Muppet Show Pop figure collection, continuing where the original Muppets/Muppets Most Wanted Pop figure series left off:

Series 2
11 Sweetums, 6 inch figure, comes with a small figure of Kermit's nephew Robin the Frog
12 Scooter
13 Floyd Pepper, wearing red jacket and holding his guitar
14 Rowlf the Dog (no costume)
15 Kermit in his reporter outfit (packaged in a Muppet Show box)
15 Kermit in his reporter outfit (same figure packaged in a Sesame Street box)
16 The Great Gonzo - holding a partially eaten rubber tire, comes with a small figure of Camilla the chicken
17 Thog, 6 inch figure with small figure of Rizzo (same size as the Robin the Frog figure)
18 Gorgon Heap (purple Muppet monster that eats everything)
19 Miss Piggy in her Pigs in Space outfit, comes with a small figure of her dog Foo Foo
20 Gonzo as Darth Nader

Plus! ...the Swinetrek spaceship added to the Pop Rides series, with a Pop figure of Captain Link Hogthrob.

Plus! ...a limited edition three pack set, special reissue of original figures for Kermit ("The Muppets" series figure #1), Miss Piggy (#2) and Gonzo (#3) in a "The Muppet Show" box

Plus! ...a display stand for the figures styled after the Muppet Show theatre stage with the arches from the opening Muppet Show theme, with space to put a Pop figure in each arch!!! This would complete the collection perfectly and entice collectors to take part in this Muppet Show Pop series!!!

Series 3
21 Captain Link Hogthrob (same figure that comes with the Swinetrek but in a single box) with small Koozebanian Male alien figure
22 Dr. Strangepork with small Koozebanian Female alien figure
23 Swinetrek Crew Pig (one of the generic crew pigs) with one piece Koozebanian Babies figure
24 Koozebanian Phoob (light blue furry Muppet alien)
24 Koozebanian Phoob, limited edition "Kermit-green" variant
23 The Muppet Newsman
23 The Muppet Newsman, limited edition variant, bandage on forehead, crooked glasses, frowning mouth, dirt marks on suit
24 Zoot with saxophone
25 Janice with her guitar
26 Lips with his trumpet (the 6th member of the Electric Mayhem band!)
27 Beaker
27 Beaker, limited edition post-explosion variant with black soot marks
28 Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
29 Mutations dancer, 6 inch figure (seen with Sweetums and Thog at the beginning of the Muppet Show opening theme) with small one piece figure of the Muppet penguins
30 Beautiful Day Monster, blue monster with square shaped head.. would be perfect for a Pop figure! (packaged in Muppet Show box)
30 Beautiful Day Monster (packaged in Sesame Street box)

Plus! ...the Electric Mayhem Bus added to the Pop Rides series, with a re-issue of Dr. Teeth (figure #6) from "The Muppets" series.

Plus! ...a special reissue of Dr. Teeth (figure #6) in a single "The Muppet Show" box that includes his keyboard

Plus! ... a special reissue of Animal (figure #5) in a single "The Muppet Show" box that includes his Electric Mayhem drum set!

Series 4
31 Statler
32 Waldorf
33 Uncle Deadly
34 Droop (furry green Muppet monster with long snout), comes with small figure of the Fazoobs trumpeter alien
35 Timmy Monster (blue-green monster), 6 inch figure, comes with two small figures of the Fazoobs drummer and drum aliens
36 Marvin Suggs holding a mallet, with a separate one piece figure of the Muppaphone puff balls lined up in a row on top of a small wall
37 Beauregard with anvil and mop
38 Mildred Huxtetter (pink lady with beak-like face)
39 Behemoth (orange Muppet monster that eats everything) with a small figure of the purple Muppet monster that gets eaten in the "I've got you under my skin" skit
40 Luncheon Counter Monster, with one piece PVC figure of Muppet fruits and vegetables in a group (tomato, potatoes, cauliflower, grapes, lettuce, etc)

Plus! ...limited edition three pack set with figures of Fozzie Bear (#4), Statler (#31) and Waldorf (#32)

Plus! ...a special reissue of Fozzie Bear (figure #4) in a single "The Muppet Show" box

Series 5
41 Lew Zealand
42 Flying Zucchini Brothers, two pack set with cannon (one brother with blue head, black moustache and one with pink head wearing helmet)
43 Crazy Harry
44 George the Janitor, holding mop
45 Doglion, 6 inch figure, with small one piece figure of the Muppet creatures from the "Java" skit standing on a small wall
46 Pops (a Pop figure of Pops!)
47 Wayne and Wanda, three pack set with #18 Gorgon Heap, as seen in the "Some Enchanted Evening" skit
48 Mean Mama (brown dog-like monster)
49 Walter, wearing blue suit (packaged in "The Muppets" Box) with small "Robin sized" figure of Pepe the King Prawn
49 Walter, limited edition variant, wearing sweater with a picture of Kermit's face on it (packaged in "The Muppets" Box) with small figure of Pepe the King Prawn in ballerina outfit
50 Clifford, as he appeared on The Jim Henson Hour with his sunglasses (packaged in "The Muppets" box)

Plus! ...a limited edition three pack set, special reissue of Mahna Mahna (figure #7) and two Snowths (#8) in a "The Muppet Show" box, non-metallic/regular version

Imagine that! A collection of 50 Muppet Pop figures!!! That would be so cool!!!

Some Fraggle Rock Pop figures would also be awesome! ...each could come with a small Doozer figure, and the set could include a 6 inch Junior Gorg!

1 Gobo Fraggle / Doozer with a yellow helmet
2 Red Fraggle / Cotterpin Doozer
3 Boober Fraggle / Architect Doozer with moustache and a red helmet
4 Wembley Fraggle / Doozer without construction gear or boots
5 Mokey Fraggle / Wrench Doozer with brown fuzzy hair
6 Uncle Traveling Matt / Doozer with an orange helmet
7 Junior Gorg, 6 inch figure
8 Sprocket the Dog
9 Doc
10 Cantus Fraggle / Doozer with a pink helmet

Plus! ... a small playset of the Doozer village with five more Doozer figures

Plus some more Sesame Street figures.... I've posted my wish list for those here: https://mikeysmuppetmemorabiliamuseum.blogspot.ca/2017/05/mikeys-wish-list-for-sesame-street.html

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mikey's Muppet Moments: My visit to Sesame Street!

Back in 1995, when I was in my mid 20's, I visited the set of Sesame Street in Queens, New York which was a dream come true! While touring the set I briefly met Roscoe Orman who plays Gordon, so I thanked him for teaching me the alphabet. He sincerely replied "You're very welcome!" Then I watched as he recorded a scene with Zoe and Telly Monster. While in the studio I also met puppeteer Fran Brill who was performing Zoe Monster, and writer Annie Evans who had kindly invited me to visit the set after meeting me at a puppet conference. I also got to look inside Oscar's trash can to see where puppeteer Carol Spinney sits while performing his famous grouch. (Mr.Spinney wasn't there but I eventually met him later on in 2003.) Lifting the lid to look inside Oscar's can was something I had wanted to do since I was about three years old! I also sat on the steps at 123 Sesame Street and on a stool in Hooper's store. It was all quite surreal!!!


Another highlight of my visit was having my picture taken with my favourite Sesame Street character, The Count, seen above. One of the "extra" puppeteers helped the Count strike a pose for the photo. The puppet was on set because puppeteer Jerry Nelson, who created the character, had been there a day or two before to record some scenes with The Count and the puppet wrangler had yet to put The Count puppet away. As such it was just luck that this photo happened! The Count was in a red puppet cupboard, seen in the background, which is on wheels so that it can be moved around the studio. Elmo was also in the cupboard hanging out with the Count (in fact there were two Elmo's which was really weird to see!).

During the visit at one point I was waiting in a side room where the puppeteers rest between scenes. Several of the puppeteers who were there passed around my copy of the book "Jim Henson: The Works" and signed it for me, which was awesome!!! This included David Rudman (Baby Bear, Cookie Monster), Pam Arciero (Grundgetta Grouch), Martin Robinson (Telly, Snuffleupagus), Alice Dinnean (various supporting characters), and Bruce Connelly who drew a picture of Barkley the Dog next to his signature! Later the puppet wrangler took me to a rather tiny storage room where all the Sesame Street Muppets are kept when not needed on set. The wall on the left side of the room was covered with large wooden drawers, each with a Muppet in them! In this room I saw Harry Monster, Grundgetta Grouch (Oscar's girlfriend), several monkeys, a horse (probably Buster), and one of the  Yip Yip aliens. I wanted to live in that room forever, alas there were no drawer vacancies for humans. :)

On set, sitting on the steps at 123 Sesame Street next to Oscar's trash can.

This visit took place during the time when the "around the corner from Sesame Street" set was still being used, and had been mounted as an extension of the original Sesame Street set. The addition included a hotel, a subway entrance and a park, among other locations. The entire set has since been disassembled and the original street section of the set moved to a smaller studio, which I understand is still in the same building that I had visited. At one point during my visit I had lunch in the cafeteria with puppeteers Martin Robinson and Pam Arciero. The cafeteria has a wonderful mural painted on one wall featuring Big Bird. I was so excited to be there that I couldn't concentrate enough to eat, which we all thought was quite funny! I was beaming from ear to ear the whole time! Visiting the set of Sesame Street was a wonderful experience that I'll never forget!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mikey's Muppet Moments: A boy and his Muppets


To quote my favourite world explorer, "the other day" when I was cleaning up some of my puppet files I came across the above photo and had quite a blast from the past! This is me in 1985 or 1986, when I was about 11 or 12 years old, proudly displaying what was then my entire collection of Muppet stuffed toys and puppets. This is essentially the humble beginnings of my Muppet collection!!!

As you can see, every single one of these toys is in very rough, much loved condition, which is a testament to how much I adored the Muppets. In fact, despite how ragged some of these toys are I still have all of them with exception to the Fisher-Price Kermit hand puppet (seen above Baby Rowlf) as it simply wore out from being played with so much!

In addition to these toys, other Muppet items that I had at the time include the puzzle of Kermit playing his banjo in the Muppet Movie, a few Muppet Show and Sesame Street records, the Ernie, Bert and Oscar 3D stack-up puzzles by Child Guidance, many of the Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock comic books by Marvel comics, and various books including "Of Muppets and Men" which I considered to be the Muppet bible.  At this point I would have also had a Hasbro Gobo Fraggle plush toy but it's not in the picture, so I either forgot to include it in the photo or acquired the toy very shortly after the photo was taken.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The 1973 Count Puppet Box

This photo was found at this link:

Not long ago, back in late 2014, a photo of the original 1973 box for the plastic head Count puppet surfaced online for the first time (shown above). The origin of the plastic head Count puppet had long been a mystery for Muppet collectors, and fans had to accept the reality of living with a long list of unanswered questions. At first glance this single photo seems to have shredded that long list for good.

However, as I had always supported the theory that this puppet was made by Topper/Educational Toys, discovery of this photo was a mixed bag. Admittedly, my first reaction was to become a "doubting Thomas". It had seemed so illogical to me that Questor/Child Guidance had produced this puppet. For starters, the style is all wrong. The puppet is made with soft plastic just like the Topper puppets while Questor used hard plastic, it's larger than the Questor puppets and to scale with the Topper assortment, and Questor produced a fabric head Count puppet in 1974 so it seemed to me that it was unlikely they had also produced the plastic head version. Even as I write this I'm still feeling sceptical. The photo just seems too staged for my liking, and the box itself has many oddities about it.

Firstly, it's odd that Questor would reuse the same picture of the boy from their Oscar box. Every other box, including the 1974 fabric head Count box, shows a different child on the box. More importantly, the image on the Count box looks edited rather than natural as the puppet is much smaller than it should be compared with the boy. (The Oscar box shown above is from 1974 but the same image of the boy with Oscar was used for the 1973 Oscar box and again for the 1977 Oscar box.)
 
This image of the 1974 Count box with the fabric head Count puppet is from an e-bay auction that ended April 23, 2015, found at at this link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/371187571226

However, compared with the bizarre looking 1974 box for the fabric head Count puppet the newly discovered 1973 box seems to fit. The girl doesn't look like she's holding the puppet as the bottom of the puppet sleeve is to perfectly even, just like the plastic head count shown on the 1973 box image. In this case however the puppet at least looks to be in scale with the girl, and the photo of the girl is unique to this box.

Detail of the 1973 Count puppet box.
 
Then I noticed the title on the 1973 box. Under the Count's name it says "Hand Puppet/Marionette" which seems to have been an attempt at including French on the packaging. However "puppet" in French is spelled "marionnette", so the box is missing an "n". "Marionette" with one "n" is the English spelling which is used specifically for string puppets not hand puppets. In French however, "marionnette" with two "n"'s means any kind of puppet, not just string puppets which would specifically be called "marionnette a fils" while specifically referring to a hand puppet is "marionnette a gaine". In addition the top of the box only has the English text "Hand Puppet" without the French text, so if this is supposed to be a bilingual box what's up with that? Shouldn't the top of the box be bilingual too? I'd be very interested to see the sides of the box and the back to find out if any bilingual text was included.
 
Hmmm... okay, so there's a typo, I can accept that for now. The difference between "marionette" and "marionnette" is confusing. But why the sudden need for a bilingual title on the box in the first place? This seems to be catering to the belief that the plastic head Count was sold only in Canada, but none of the other boxes for Sesame puppets sold in Canada were bilingual. If Questor was starting to accommodate bilingual text on boxes in 1973, then why wouldn't they have made the 1974 fabric head Count box bilingual as well, or any of the 1977 boxes? Fact is, aside from this mysterious 1973 Count box, not a single box in this series was issued with bilingual text during the entire decade that these puppets were in production. Also, on all the other boxes the text for "Hand Puppet" is curved around the Sesame logo, but here on the 1973 Count box it's in a straight line. Perhaps this is because the bilingual text was too long to curve? Perhaps a bilingual title was used because Questor knew that the puppet was only going to be sold in Canada? Perhaps it was just being test marketed which is why this puppet is so rare?

That's a lot of assumptions! And the bilingual box isn't very bilingual... but okay, for now I'll just go along with the idea that the box was issued as bilingual with a typo despite none of the other boxes being bilingual, recycled the picture of the child from the Oscar box despite the 1974 Count box showing a new picture, and was issued only a year before Questor produced their fabric head Count puppet. Hold on though! I still have another criticism of the photo in question. It shows that the puppet was packaged with an insert, while most of the boxed Questor puppets in my collection don't have an insert. In fact out of the eight Questor boxed puppets that I own only one, a Cookie Monster from 1977, has an insert. Those that originally came with arm rods all still have their rod, so it seems odd that all of the inserts would go missing if all of the previous owners had chosen to keep the puppet in mint condition in the original box complete with the arm rod. To me, it doesn't seem likely that the Count would have been packaged with an insert.

Then I wondered, would the puppet even fit into the Questor box with an insert? So I decided to do an experiment!

First, I attempted to recreate the positioning of the original photo with little success. I used my Ernie box as it's from 1973, the same as the Count box in the photo. It's also the most beat up box I have in my collection so I didn't mind donating it to this little test. The box insert is from the 1977 Cookie Monster puppet, as it's the only insert that I have, and I used Ernie's arm control rod. I left the Count's cape collar on as I didn't want to disturb the way it is tied. His tongue had already fallen off some time ago (I have it safely tucked away) as the glue had dried out, so it makes sense to me that the puppet in the photo is missing the tongue. The photo of the Count puppet on the 1973 box doesn't have a monocle, so that apparently solves a long and great debate - the puppet did not originally come with a monocle! The Count's foam arms are quite thick and don't bend easily on their own, so this photo was the best I could do (shown above). Fair enough, looks like the puppet in the original photo is the same size as mine, so I gave this first test a pass.

Next I tried to fit the puppet in the box with the insert. I was highly sceptical this would work. My first attempt was to put the puppet in as it is seen in the photo, with the puppet sleeve through the hole in the centre of the insert. The result is shown above. Epic failure!

So I tried a new approach and inserted both of the Count's arms through the hole in the insert so that only the Count's head was on the top half. This was closer, but still no luck. The head was too big and the ear stuck out. This position even ripped the box a little at the corner, as you can see above.

All the plastic head puppets that I have in a box don't have the insert, so I tried that too. It seems the most logical solution to me and it did work. The Count's long arms fit inside the box without any trouble and the head fit in too. But the fact remains. I need to do this with the insert, so I tried again....

This time I put the puppet in head first, which is how I found the Grover puppet in his box when it arrived from e-bay. This allowed me to bend the Count's arms, and voila! It worked! It's a tight fit, but there was just enough room for the arm rod and if I had the loose vinyl cape to add it could have fit in as well. I could have also turned the box upside down before putting the puppet inside, as then the puppet would be packaged right-side up. None the less, it still seems rather unnecessary to have the insert at all, and it takes extra effort to fit the puppet in the box with the insert. The arms are quite scrunched up, and I wonder if the foam tube inside the arms wouldn't eventually stay in that position if left like that for several years, not to mention decades? In any case, I did fit the puppet into the box with the insert, therefore regardless of how impractical it may be to package the puppet this way, it does actually fit!
 
Okay, so my "doubting Thomas" test to prove this box could not have held the puppet has instead made me stop being such a sceptic. The box in the photo seems more like the real deal, which is quite remarkable! But there is still one critical and very logical question that the photo of this 1973 plastic head Count puppet doesn't answer:
 
If Questor went through the expense to produce a mold for a plastic head Count puppet, had designed a box for it and was manufacturing the toy, then why would they only produce it for less than one year? Why replace it with the fabric head version in 1974? For me, that question will need to be answered with some reasonable evidence before I accept that this box is legit. (Ernie and Bert were not switched to a fabric head version until the 1977 boxes, two years latter, so it seems unlikely that would have anything to do with the mystery surrounding the Count puppet.) To date the only scrap of information I have that might answer this question came from a High School friend who told me that he had one of the plastic head Count puppets when he was a kid. He recalled only having the head which had a hole at the end of the nose. When playing with the Count puppet in the bathtub, he remembers filling the head up and pouring the water out through the nose.
 
That there was a hole at the end of the puppet's nose might suggest that the mold was difficult to produce. There are several pointed areas on this puppet (tip if the nose, the teeth, the goatee, the ears) and when the head is turned upside down it would be difficult to get the liquid rubber to flow up into them, especially without bubbles forming. This is yet another assumption, but perhaps Questor had trouble manufacturing the plastic head Count mold in 1973 which is why they switched to a fabric head version in 1974?
 
I'm not done being sceptical yet though! Muppet fans David and Jeff have done an excellent job documenting their research about the plastic head Count puppet in their ongoing discussion from 2011 to 2015 on the Muppet Central forum, at this link:
 
During their discussion in 2014 they discover that the 1973 Count puppet box seen in the e-bay photo was the same one used in a second e-bay auction paired up with a fabric head Count. If the box is so rare please explain how it is possible to have sold the same one twice on e-bay? Thank you David and Jeff for your excellent research! Got-cha e-bay scumbag! Of course, as the box is being misrepresented by the owner on e-bay as having been paired up with two completely different puppets in two separate auctions, it goes without saying that the authenticity of the box is also questionable.
 
So it seems that my previous long list of questions about this puppet has simply been replaced with a new one about the 1973 box. And although I'd really like to accept this 1973 box as being genuine, I just have too many questions and concerns about too many pieces of the puzzle that don't fit together. I do find it exceptionally strange that if the owner of the 1973 box was trying to sell it on e-bay, knowing that it was so rare and wanting a good price for it, why wouldn't they have included more than one picture? Why not show the box from different angles so that sceptics like myself would be able to have a better look? Perhaps the owner of that box doesn't want sceptics to have a better look? If I could examine the 1973 box for myself it would certainly go a long way to help resolve my concerns. 
 
So for now I'll hold on to my "doubting Thomas" scepticism and conclude that if in fact this is the real box for the plastic head Count puppet.....
 
That's one! One extremely rare Count puppet box! Ha Ha Ha! ...Ka-Boom!



Text and original photos © Mike Artelle