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“Music. I m elvis mitchell and on this episode of the evolution of the muppets muppets from comedy material to nsomething much more foreboding and revolutionary dramatic music narrator. Another. Another time in the age of wonder.
The opening narration nthe 1982 fantasy film of the kind of enchantment npuppets draw upon in every culture from ancient greece to nthe edo society of japan puppet theater allowed artists to display the hunger of the nid under a proscenium arch it s been a long road nfor puppets in america. And they re chiefly recognized these days as a brand name a brand name that straddled the line between kids entertainment. Nand sophistication since their creation that name is the muppets jim henson created a new ntype of creature choreography. When he brought his muppets to tv.
Combining the theatricality of vaudeville and the intimacy of television to make something wholly other each iteration of the muppets from appearances on old nschool variety shows to to was a step further in developing deeper richer scenarios until finally in 1982 in which humans were supplanted by a world made entirely of jim henson ncreations down to the plants. His daughter. Lisa henson. Who nnow runs the henson company reflects on that i remember my father was asked and he wouldn t even answer at all he would just be like i feel like we have to be nwary of being pretentious particularly when we re ndoing puppet production people are like worried nthey re either gonna be creepy and boorish or it s gonna nbe ridiculous and childish each iteration.
What nthey did with muppets was about sort of getting naudiences to invest more and to sort of say mm hmm. We have to be very careful nabout tone. You know we don t want to tell people nthis is an important show. Because it s puppets.
They re gonna say things people can t say they can do things people can t do i mean. That s the whole npoint of punch is doing incredibly awful things and people are just laughing watching it. But if it was a person ndoing that whole routine you would be shocked by it puppets squealing henson s ambition to ninnovate created worlds from appearances on but the muppets broke new nground with the little known grim fantasy. There is a little bit of comedy.
But it s not like joke comedy that didn t work on so it was sort of this brief nthing that came and went. But my father wanted to experiment with other sorts of textures. And he started using sort of a nmuch more realistic treatment on the outside of the puppets. They had glass eyes that were painted to look more realistic you know it wasn t just creating puppets that were more believable.
But also animating a whole environment sculpting casting the plants the rocks creating this idea that nthe whole environment was alive..
Still seeing that world and how much attention was npaid to each aspect of it. It s almost like his entire career was building up a rehearsal nfor in some way wasn t it. He was tremendously curious nabout trying new things his desire to do something nvery different with puppetry to create something more nreal more authentic or maybe believable like you could look at it nand say. It s believable in its own environment.
He kept that going after the failure of and after years and years of r and d and creative development ultimately. Became that s always been the excitement that there s always been so nmuch ambition in the muppets in terms of just sort of npushing back boundaries and making. People think that you can offer something more than what they nwere used to from puppets. Yeah.
You know my father nfound. Both the most exciting thing that he did the most rewarding. But at the same time very challenging when he npresented it to the public. This is not what you except.
But you ll enjoy it muppets and puppets don t nhave to be just one thing one important collaborator nfor. My father was brian froud. It was really when my nfather saw his artwork that he thought that nthis is a kind of image that i could bring to life in film that sort of fantasy nlandscape. The creature how it fits in the environment.
I think it was partially meeting brian and getting excited about that imagery that ignited his creative juices to start to put it all together like that and then we were lucky enough nto have brian froud come back and that is our most important connection to the past production on our new series. So he and his wife. Wendy froud. Who he met on the movie who designed the gelfling characters they and their son.
Toby froud. All worked on the show as nour kinda. Main design team elvis for years. There nhave been storied attempts to revive including a feature film followup that would ve been nsomething a little different from the original movie.
I don t know if he nknew or if anybody knew that the movie would continue nto have this cult status that it had it s just like maintained its npopularity for so many years and i think it s just nbecause..
Nobody ever tried to do anything like it there were no copycat movies. There s no faux. Nobody even tried it n. Elvis laughs.
There s nothing there was originally ntalk about this being an animated series n. Mm hmm and then they came back. And said actually we were pursuing nparallel development of a sequel film which nwould be with puppets and then a prequel television series and that would ve been animated. So we were sort of thinking about that and presented that to netflix and ted biaselli at netflix nwas.
An advocate of that as well as everything he came back. And said. The idea of doing puppetry. Along the lines of the feature film was ngonna be a gigantic project and a huge undertaking nand kind of expensive.
So we said with we ve actually made it much bigger by going back to a prequel period of time. We re showing a world where nthra is not all crumbling and dark and decaying. It s a much more vibrant colorful world. It s much more populous.
There s so many puppets. It was evident that all roads would lead henson back to if only because it touched on material that kind of a thematic legacy. We go from each world nbeing bigger and deeper to the muppet movies and actually having the ncharacters ride bicycles and all that kind of stuff kind of felt like what you guys were doing was trying to train naudiences to think of puppets as more than just puppets. Yeah.
The challenge with nsomething like is for people to really nsuspend their disbelief more than when the muppets ninteract with actors. Because for instance. If the muppets are interacting with actors you re well aware that nthey re not the same this is a person this is a puppet. But when you go into our goal is for people to nreally suspend their disbelief and kind of just go with it and maybe hopefully forget nthat they are puppets now that we re blending nthe puppets with so much cg in the backgrounds.
It s really we hope creating na..
Very complex kind of image. Where maybe your eye doesn t nknow exactly what it s seeing like how much of that is puppetry how much of it is cg background. How much is the real set and we don t want people nto think about it but because it is a nkind of a complex image. I think you will hopefully njust get drawn into it and allowed to feel that it s real again if we look at the beginning of how subtly we re brought into the world.
It really takes its time part of it was also necessity. The puppets had very little mobility. The mystics and the skeksis characters were hauling cables and people around and they had to be nhidden under everything so one of the things nwe embraced right away is that our characters can be more nimble. Even the skeksis can scuttle down a hall whereas before the walked nreally.
Really slowly just with some basic green screen removal and puppeteer removal. We nwere able to puppeteer the puppets in all kinds nof action. Chase scenes fighting flying. We ve ngiven them a kind of mobility.
Which was not possible nat all back in the time of the original films with support the idea of nbringing was also the knowledge that nso. Many people had grown up with the film as a formative influence percentage wise. How much of nthe talent came to this project. Having been huge fans of the original 100 of everybody n.
Both laughing. Everybody who worked on the nshow was a fan of the film louis leterrier. Our director and taron were sharing stories of how much the movie. Terrified them nwhen they were kids.
I know that taron egerton nis. Really invested in this well he came to us very very early he loved and he loves puppets. He really respected the nart of the puppetry and he really understood nalso that performance was ultimately going to be a collaboration between the puppeteer nand. The voice artist the puppeteers are really actors all the subtlety that you see on screen is from the puppeteer and then we had the voice cast people who complimented that perfectly and had the voiced ncharacter that we wanted every voice is somebody amazing yes.
And that actually is something nwe..
Didn t entirely predict in fact. We originally nplanning just to have the maybe lead five puppets. Nbe voiced by celebrities and the rest would be voice artists. But after we got taron egerton.
We started getting one nmore star another star another star and then nsuddenly. We realized we gonna have a star play nevery role. We think laughs. It wasn t originally the intention amongst the gelfling.
We really nwent for british movie stars and british performers. So that they feel they nare of a culture together with the skeksis. We really njust wanted to go big. We have awkwafina as a skeksis.
We have harvey fierstein as a skeksis mark hamill. His character nof. The scientist is angry is resentful nbut. He s also horrible and torturing.
We have the best of nall puppetry has met social nturmoil with a response tradition that jim henson. Follow perhaps. Even unconsciously and the newest edition of has allowed a chance to do that again. Keeping the conversation alive while constantly exploding the definition of what puppetry is ” .
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