If you read my “Top 10 Favorite Disney Villains” post, you’ll remember I said I always wanted to watch the Muppets as a kid. Everybody always relates magic and the belief in dreams with Disney animated films, and I can finally see why. However, I always related those things with the Muppets. The Muppets were always creative. I was blown away by what they did! As a kid, I wondered how the Muppets worked; sometimes I still wonder how they work. How are the puppets operated? How are they built? How are we able to see a full-bodied Muppet from head to toe without seeing the puppeteer? However, I wasn’t just amazed by the puppeteering, but I also loved the Muppets and the productions themselves. I love the characters, the TV shows, the movies, the TV specials, etc. They are so wonderful. So much passion and work is put behind them. Thus, I thought it’d be fun if I shared my top 10 favorite Muppet productions. Jim Henson and his Muppets have made so many fantastic productions for nearly 60 years now, and so, as you can imagine, it was hard for me to figure out which 10 Muppet productions were my favorites. However, I was able to compose the list, and I’ll share it with you now. Join me inside the Rainbow Connection!
Number 10: THE MUPPETS: A CELEBRATION OF 30 YEARS (Peter Harris, 1986).
This is one of the many Muppet productions I didn’t see until my teenage years, about six years ago. In this special, all of Jim Henson’s Muppets gather together to celebrate their thirtieth anniversary. We see the characters from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and even the very first Muppet production, Sam & Friends. That’s one of the reasons I like about this special: we see all the Muppets in the same place. The other thing I enjoy about it is the celebration of the Muppets themselves. We celebrate their movies, their TV shows, their music – even the celebrities that have appeared with the Muppets over the years! I like watching the history behind the Muppets, seeing everything they’ve done that led them to celebrating 30 years. Who knows? Maybe within the next couple of years the Muppets will have a special celebrating 60 years! The only question I have, though, is why did this special air in 1986? The Muppets’ 30th anniversary was in 1985; was the Jim Henson company too busy to make it and release it in 1985? Oh well, it doesn’t matter. It’s a fun celebration with some of our favorite characters.
Number 9: SESAME STREET: 20 YEARS AND STILL COUNTING (Peter Harris, 1989).
Another anniversary special, this special gives us the history and legacy of the world famous children’s television program, Sesame Street. I think I enjoy this more than The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years because we get to see the Muppets behave and interact with others in their own environment. They’re actually on Sesame Street, and so it feels like the home we’ve been apart of for the past 20 years. I enjoy listening to how much of an impact this show has had on people. I love listening to the human cast talk about their experience on the show. I love watching Bill Cosby, Ray Charles, and Plácido Domingo interact with the Muppets. I especially love watching the kids who were on Sesame Street, and how they look nearly 20 years later! It is adorable to watch! If you haven’t seen it, find it and watch it! You’ll love it!
Number 8: THE MUPPETS CELEBRATE JIM HENSON (Don Mischer, 1990).
This is a TV special that aired in November 1990, six months after Jim Henson passed away. The Muppets (along with Carol Burnett, John Denver, Ray Charles, Steven Spielberg, Harry Belafonte, and Frank Oz as himself) come together to put on a special tribute for Jim Henson. This is especially close to my heart because some of my favorite characters come together to honor one of my favorite celebrities. Whenever we gain a favorite celebrity we really, really love, we always hope to meet that person. Jim Henson passed away nearly 2 years before I was born, so I didn’t have a chance to even hope to meet him. But to hear so many people come together to talk about his legacy and his art and the impact he left on so many people all over the world brings you a bit of joy. Not only that, but the Muppets also assure us that they will continue to entertain and continue Jim Henson’s legacy. The tribute the Muppets give Jim Henson creates such a bittersweet moment. You don’t want to except the fact that he’s gone, but you feel good knowing that he will never be forgotten. This special is such a gem.
Number 7: A MUPPET FAMILY CHRISTMAS (Peter Harris and Eric Till, 1987).
I look forward to watching this special every Christmas! There are two main reasons I love this film so much: 1) Something the Muppets can do very well is put on a Christmas special. Many of the Muppets’ Christmas specials and movies are very simple. They’re not trying to force a message or a feeling down our throats; they don’t try to impress us or grab our attention with flashy lights or Santa Claus. It’s just the Muppets getting ready for the holidays, and that’s all we need! Its simplicity causes us to feel the joy and the wonder that Christmas brings! It’s so innocent, yet so genuine and passionate! 2) All of the Muppets are together! Yes, much like The Muppets Celebrate 30 Years special, we get to see our favorite characters here: the gang from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and we even get a bit of Muppet Babies! I wouldn’t know where to find this on video or DVD. In fact, I’d be surprised if it’s still available on video or DVD at all. Unfortunately, since these characters are owned by different companies, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to purchase this. It also makes me sad that we’ll never get to see these characters together like this again in the future. This is what Jim Henson wanted – it shows in several different Muppet productions, but it’ll probably never happen again. With that being said, if you are able to get your hands on this (either on video, DVD, or online), grab it and don’t let go! You’ll enjoy it. It’ll bring you a warmth for the holiday season!
Number 6: THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (Brian Henson, 1992).
While I love A Muppet Family Christmas, I didn’t see it until my teenage years. This film, however, I grew up with. It’s probably the first Christmas movie I ever saw! It’s the first Muppet movie released after Jim Henson passed away, and I think it’s a wonderful tribute to him. It is a fantastic adaptation of the original Christmas Carol story – it’s a great way to introduce the tale to children. There are changes, of course, but it’s not sugarcoded that much. And, again, it’s very simple. The filmmakers don’t try to impress us with any over-the-top song numbers; they focus more on trying to faithfully retell this story, and they do it very well. My family and I have to watch this movie every Christmas season – it’s a sin if we don’t! We love the songs, the scenes, the characters, everything! See it if you haven’t already!
Number 5: SESAME STREET (Joan Ganz Cooney, 1969-Present).
Oh my crud, I could on forever and a day about why I love this show so much! Do you realize that this November, Sesame Street will be 45 years old?! This is the show our parents grew up on, and they were so proud to introduce it to us as well. This program has taught us so much, not just about numbers, shapes, and letters, but also about life situations like marriage, childhood, and death. I’ll admit, I’m in my early 20s and I look forward to watching both classic and recent clips of Sesame Street on television and online. Why? Because this is one of the first TV shows I ever saw. Because of that, it always feels like I’ve come home whenever I see this show. Watching the characters is like seeing your favorite family members or your best friends. Admit it, you probably found yourself watching an old Sesame Street sketch or listening to an old Sesame Street song and said to yourself “I remember that! Good times!” Hopefully and God willing, this show will exist another 45 years so we can watch it with our grandchildren!
Number 4: THE MUPPETS (James Bobin, 2011).
I’ll admit, I was expecting to hate this movie! Beginning with the TV show Muppets Tonight (1996), it seemed as if the Muppets were releasing bad production after bad production. Movies, specials, television shows, straight-to-video films – you name it, it ranged from OK to horrendously awful! So when I heard that the Muppets were releasing a new movie in 2011, I was not looking forward to it. After it came out, critics and audiences were praising it. My friends and peers were telling me I had to see this movie. Independence Day 2012, my family and I finally sat down and watched it. And, I must say, I was FRICKIN’ BLOWN AWAY!!! This is the type of movie I had been waiting for the Muppets to release in a long time! It’s hilarious, it’s musical, it’s heart warming, it’s impressive – it’s everything you’d see in the earlier Muppet productions when Jim Henson was alive! That what this film does, it captures that classic Jim Henson/Muppet spirit! There are even a number of tear-jerking scenes in this film! When Kermit is singing “Pictures in My Head,” you want to become one of the pictures on the wall so you can come out and give Kermit a hug! When all the Muppets sing “Rainbow Connection,” I was overwhelmed with emotions! And I nearly lost it when the filmmakers recreated the whole The Muppet Show introduction! That was incredible!!! I still haven’t seen Muppets Most Wanted (James Bobin, 2014), but after seeing this film I’ll watch anything the Muppets release in the future! This film truly restored my faith and love in the Muppets!
Number 3: THE MUPPET MOVIE (James Frawley, 1979).
What kind of list would this be if I didn’t include the grandfather of Muppet movies? This movie is so precious, so wonderful! I do wish this film were more appreciated; I think it deserves to be up there with The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1979), and all the other great American film classics. It’s really a great story to see how the Muppets got started. In fact, if I’m correct, this is actually a parody of how Jim Henson rose to fame. We get to see our favorite characters do things we never thought were possible before. Did you ever think you’d see a puppet riding a bicycle? Audiences were completely amazed when they saw this! What’s incredible about this film to me is that a lot of the scenes are completely unnecessary and pointless. For example, why did we need to see Gonzo blow in the wind with the balloons? It didn’t add anything to the plot; the Muppets didn’t get to Hollywood any quicker. The strange thing, though, is that it really works in this movie! All of the scenes, moments, and songs work in this movie because they help further the Muppets’ identity. Speaking of songs, this movie also gave us some of the most memorable Muppet songs ever: “Can You Picture That,” “Movin’ Right Along,” “I’m Going to go Back There Someday,” and, of course, “Rainbow Connection!” This film is definitely a classic in my book!
Number 2: THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER (Jim Henson, 1981).
This isn’t just my favorite Muppet movie of all time, it’s also one of my favorite comedies of all time! The jokes in this movie are unbelievable!! Nobody can break the fourth wall like the Muppets! Take, for example, the scene when Piggy is hired as Lady Holiday’s receptionist. Lady Holiday goes into an unwarranted monologue about her no good brother, Mickey. When she’s done ranting, Piggy asks her “Why are you telling me all this?” Lady Holiday replies, “It’s plot exposition, it has to go somewhere. Anyway…” That’s genius! It’s so funny! There’s another joke when Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo take a cab back to their hotel with Beauregard as the driver. They share this dialogue:
BEAUREGARD: It takes a while to get to know the town.
FOZZIE: Well, how long have you lived in London?
BEUAREGARD: All my life.
KERMIT: How come you don’t have an English accent?
BEAUREGARD: Hey, I’m lucky to have a driver’s license!
I’m telling you, you can’t find these jokes anywhere else! I believe this was the film that showed me the difference between children’s comedy and adult comedy. Children hear some things, but they can’t understand everything, thus they are mainly laughing at what they see. Adults, however, can both hear and see everything. A lot of the jokes in this film are so subtle, you have to pay attention so you can hear them all. Not to mention, we still get the traditional celebrity cameos, and we still get the traditional impressive puppet scenes – in this film we see the Muppets outdo themselves by creating a more complicated bicycle scene after the first movie! I love this film! I put it on whenever I’m in the mood for a good laugh!
And my Number 1 favorite Muppet production is:
THE MUPPET SHOW (Jim Henson, 1976-1981).
This television show had a huge part to play in the Muppets’ identity. They were weird, they were quirky, they were goofy; but they could still be artistic, smart, and heart warming. This put a stamp in the type of entertainment the Muppets would be known for. They mixed classic forms of entertainment with their own unique brand of entertainment, and it really worked. I think it was really smart of Jim Henson and his collaborators to make this a variety show rather than a program with a traditional narrative. It opens the door for more possibilities and chances. They could be more creative and artistic because they weren’t bound by a story line or specific style. The sky was the limit. They could do whatever they wanted. This is where some of our favorite characters originated: Fozzie, Gonzo, Piggy, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Scooter, Dr. Honeydew and Beaker, the Swedish Chef, Statler and Waldorf, Robin, Sweetums, Camilla, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Sam the Eagle, and so many others. What’s interesting to me, though, is that this was the number one show in the entire world while it was on the air, yet I don’t hear too many people talk about it today. I know Saturday Night Live (Lorne Michaels, 1975-Present) is entertaining, but it has nothing on this show in my opinion! This show embodies the spirit of the Muppets and Jim Henson himself! I enjoy it, and I will always watch it to gain the fantastic feeling of that wonderful spirit that only Jim Henson and his Muppets can give us!
What are your favorite Muppet productions? Who are your favorite Muppets? Did I leave one of your favorite movies, shows, or specials off this list? Leave a comment down below, and let me know what you think of some of the world’s most beloved entertainers. God bless you, and I love you! BOOYIKA!