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When Jim Henson created a lizard-like puppet for his Sam & Friends show in the mid-1950s, he probably did not realize he was creating a world-wide phenomenon. The puppet transformed into the lovable frog we all know today as Kermit the Frog. Even after creating Sesame Street, though, The Muppets hadn’t quite taken off, and it wasn’t until The Muppet Show premiered in 1976 that the characters’ popularity exploded. Gonzo, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Animal...these are all names that everyone grew up with. The movies began in 1979, becoming the real force for them, even after Henson died in 1990. The Muppets return to a new generation on Wednesday, in their first film since 1999’s disastrous Muppets In Space. To celebrate, it’s time to take a look back at some of the best Muppets moments, which is quite the challenge.
1. The main titles to The Muppet Movie (1979) with “Rainbow Connection” by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher
I don’t know about you, but all I have to do is think of the song and my eyes immediately start to tear up. The song means so much as not just something that tells you what the Muppets are all about, but what life should really be about. Paul Williams wrote so many songs for the Muppets, but nothing ever, ever tops “Rainbow Connection.”
2. The rest of The Muppet Movie
The Muppet Movie is just great all around. Sure, The Great Muppet Caper and, to a lesser extent The Muppets Take Manhattan, are also pretty good, but if I could only take one piece of Muppet memorabilia on a desert island, it would probably just be my DVD of The Muppet Movie.
3. “Mana Mana”
The above video is the original 1969 version of “Mana Mana” from Sesame Street. Unfortunately, the classic Muppet Show version is only available without the audio on YouTube, but I’m sure you’ve seen it. I can’t imagine how far The Muppet Show might have gone without “Mana Mana” in the first few episodes since it is easily one of the iconic moments in Muppet history.
4. Elton John’s episode of The Muppet Show
Elton John’s appearance on the show probably isn’t the best episode, but it’s up there. Sir Elton had actually moved away from his flamboyant persona by the time of the second season of The Muppet Show, but he revived it for one last go because Henson and his people knew how perfect those outfits were for the Muppets. They were outrageous and over the top. Perfect for the Muppets.
5. Alice Cooper’s episode of The Muppet Show
Again, he was perfect. I think this one and the Vincent Price one are two of the best episodes.
6. Veterinarian’s Hospital
Without a doubt, Veterinarian’s Hospital was the best recurring sketch on the show. Pigs in Space was good, but some aren’t that funny. Veterinarian’s Hospital is always funny. On a side note, Rowlf the Dog (Dr. Bob in the sketches) was among Henson’s first creations, even before Kermit.
7. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Throughout the 1990s, Henson’s son Brian took the Muppets in some odd directions after his father died. From Muppets Tonight to Muppets in Space, some of his decisions might not have been the best. However, he did make the vastly underrated The Muppet Christmas Carol, which features a tour de force performance from Michael Cane as Scrooge. It also took unique liberties with the Muppets, taking the great Statler and Waldorf out of their seats and using Gonzo and Rizzo as hilarious narrators. The film is also incredibly moving with wonderful Paul Williams songs.
8. The opening to The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
When I was young, I was brought up on a VHS copy of The Great Muppet Caper...literally. I can remember countless times seeing the old Henson Company logo with the etched Kermit coming up before Animal did the hilarious MGM parody. Then those magical credits (“Nobody reads those names, do they?”) came on and the gang goes into “Hey, a Movie!,” all part of the Muppet tradition of demolishing the fourth wall.
9. Muppet Babies (1984-91)
One of the great crimes against humanity is that Muppet Babies has never been available on DVD. That might be a little over dramatic, but if you remember spending hours watching reruns or ruining VHS tapes, you probably agree. The show grew out of the wonderful dream sequence in Take Manhattan and featured wonderful parodies of popular films at the time.
10. Muppet*Vision 3D at Walt Disney World
There is only one 3D show I can ever enjoy seeing multiple times and that’s Muppet*Vision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios). It’s hilarious, from Fozzie’s remote control pie to the battle between the Swedish Chef and Waldo C. Graphic, the first computer generated Muppet. For a young kid going to Disney World, it made the Studios park the best. I mean, a Star Wars attraction and a Muppets attraction...right next to each other?!?
Let’s hope that some day, Jason Segal’s The Muppets will find its way on this list.