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MAN-ATEE AND WOMAN-TARAY: UPSTART SUPERHEROES, OR DIABOLICAL VILLAINS?

MAN-ATEE AND WOMAN-TARAY: UPSTART SUPERHEROES, OR DIABOLICAL VILLAINS?
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Meet the Sea Dragons of OZ and the Yeti Crab

Meet the Sea Dragons of OZ and the Yeti Crab
OZ is shorthand for Australia, and not related to a Wizard

NEWSFLASH! CRIME WAVE EXPECTED TO HIT FLORIDA BEACHES!

NEWSFLASH! CRIME WAVE EXPECTED TO HIT FLORIDA BEACHES!
Catch Man-Atee And Woman-TaRay, Surfacing Soon

Bad Biker Kitties Are On The Prowl

Bad Biker Kitties Are On The Prowl
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Muppets Take Indianapolis

In 1985, I got to visit a special Jim Henson exhibit at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.  This was presented on the ground floor, and I believe it required separate admission.  There were all sorts of puppets on display, as well as documentaries, models, puppet materials, interactive exhibits, and a store!

The Muppet Babies from the 1984 film, The Muppets Take Manhattan, were some of the newer characters on display.
Here I am with Junior Gorg from Fraggle Rock.  This show was especially interesting to me.  During its initial run, Fraggle Rock was exclusive to HBO, which we did not have.  A visit to Indianapolis meant a visit to my grandparents, and they had HBO!  So this particular trip to Indiana was really great.
The Fraggles themselves could be seen here, too!  Here's Wembley, Gobo, Boober, Red and Mokey.  The songs for Fraggle Rock (written and composed by Philip Balsam and Dennis Lee) were simply brilliant.  I still have my Fraggle Rock album, but no record player (you can find the songs on iTunes).
A touch of a button activated motion in a Doozer construction site behind glass.  The Doozers were a technical marvel, utilizing radio-control puppetry.  In Fraggle Rock, the Doozers were constantly building their towers, which the Fraggles enjoyed knocking down and eating.
Another interactive display featured characters from the 1977 TV special, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.  This was also shown on HBO, and I remember watching this at my grandparents' house.  Visitors could press a button to make Emmet Otter and his Ma row their boat.  In 2008, Goodspeed Opera House adapted this special into a live musical, mixing costumed actors and puppets (it looked very impressive).  Seen in the background of this photo are puppets from Jim Henson's first TV series, Sam and Friends, which aired from 1955 to 1961 out of Washington D.C.
Seen here are Emmet's rivals from the Riverbottom Nightmare Band.  One of my favorite characters is the Catfish (seen here in a bucket on skis).  This puppet was manipulated immersed in water, and often spit on other characters.
I got Fraggle Rock PVC figurines from the Muppet Store at the Museum.  Pictured here are Pa Gorg, Ma Gorg, Red, Wembley, Gobo, Mokey and Boober.  These figures were made by a company called Schleich.  Junior Gorg was also part of this set (as was a Doozer) but the store did not have any to sell.  Schleich also produced PVC toys of the Muppets and the Smurfs many years ago.

I was very excited to visit this exhibit (I want to tell younger me to smile for the camera)!  There were also puppets on display from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street (Big Bird is huge!) and Saturday Night Live.  I felt really lucky to get to see this.  Get it?  Muppets?  Felt?  Wocka-wocka!

8 comments:

  1. I have fond memories of visiting this exhibit when it came to Chicago, same year I think. How exciting this was! Didn't take any pictures, so seeing these again brings back lots of memories. I remember ALL of those cases! The Junior Gorg had an opening behind it (and even a dummy inside I think) so you could see how the puppeteer stands inside it and works it. I remember thinking how cool that Dozer display was. (Never had HBO either) I had no idea what some of those puppets were (Sam and Friends, Emmett Otter, etc) but I loved seeing Ernie, Bert, and the other Sesame Street puppets who were there too. They had some "Dark Crystal" stuff too.

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  2. Very cool! Thanks for sharing these personal photos. I believe there is a new Muppet Movie being made right now with Jason Segel. Did you see Forgetting Sarah Marshall? Henson's company made all of the puppets for the "Dracula Musical" finale.

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  3. This looks awesome! As a kid I remember seeing adds for a couple different Henson exhibits but they were never in my area. As an adult I just haven't found the time to track this sort of thing down. But man, to see all of the Fraggle Rock stuff in person :D . I remember Toys R Us selling Plush fraggles, which I really wanted at the time, but in retrospect probably didn't look that great. I did like the McDonalds Happy Meal Fraggles, each in a little vegetable vehicle, but never saw any PVC's though I loved the Smurf PVC's that you mentioned. Regarding the Fraggle/Muppet merch, I almost wonder if merchandise from a show like that is harder to sell. A toy of a 2D cartoon character if done with any sort of quality, is pretty cool to a kid- it's what they see on the screen brought to 3D life. But a show like Fraggle Rock, made with what are essentially ultra detailed, highly expensive toys, can never be reproduced as beautifully in toy form. The toys will always be a step (if not several steps) below the character portrayed on the show- materials and manufacturing have to be compromised for the sake of mass production. As kind of a picky kid, I wonder if I had gotten those Fraggle Plush, how much I would have really enjoyed it.

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  4. Tom: I had no idea that this was a traveling show, but that sure makes sense, since it was so expensive looking! It would have been nice if I had gotten more pictures, because my memory is fuzzy about some of the displays (I did not remember the details about the Junior Gorg display). I totally forgot that the Dark Crystal characters were there!

    TokyoMagic!: Thank you for your comments! Yes, I think the Jason Segel project is sounding very cool, as he is a funny guy and a Muppet fan himself. I did not know about the Dracula Musical finale (I gotta check that out!).

    Hey, Eric! I'm just lucky that I have family spread out everywhere, and they knew how crazy I was for the Muppets. I don't know if that museum exhibit went anywhere close to me (maybe it went to Atlanta?). I also remember going to Toys R Us and seeing the Tomy plush Fraggles! They were way off-model! I did buy Gobo, but I no longer have him. I only saw the Schleich Fraggle PVCs for sale at the Museum, and in issues of Muppet Magazine. I think the "Muppet Stuff" store in New York may have sold them. The McDonald's Fraggle toys were very cool! There were actually two different McDonald's sets--a test market set, which featured Gobo, Red, Cotterpin Doozer, and another Doozer (I don't own these) and the National set with Gobo, Red, Mokey and Wembley with Boober (plus "Under 3" PVCs--one of Gobo holding a carrot, and one of Red holding a radish). The Sababa plush Fraggles that were made years ago are pretty cool. I also like smaller versions made by Nanco (for theme park prizes) because they remind me of the tiny Fraggle puppets used in the Gorg scenes. Thanks for your comments!

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  5. Regarding the McDonalds toys, the only one I don't recall ever getting was Gobo, and I still have Wembley and Boober. May have the others in a box somewhere. Wow I didn't even know about the atlernate Under 3 toys. In my experience the Under 3 toys are always generic, not usually tied to a particular property- I wish I had known cause I have always loved PVC's. I'll have to see if I can track down some of those or the other Fraggle PVC's on ebay. I also seem to have a memory of a Toys R Us Doozer from back in the heyday, which in my memory was exactly like the ones from the show, same textures, detail, size etc... but I'm sure that's impossible. Texture is a big thing for me with the Muppet stuff- all that foamy goodness- you could just feel it through your TV screen. I hope the new Fraggle Rock movie spawns some good merch- mainly toys! Thanks Dan for this trip down memory lane.

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  6. Hey Eric! During the 1980s and much of the 1990s, the "Under 3" toys in McDonald's Happy Meals were tied to the same property as the other toys. For example, "The Jungle Book" in 1990 featured wind-up toys of Baloo, Kaa, Louie and Shere Khan. The "Under 3" toys were simple wobble toys of Mowgli and Junior Elephant.

    Yes, I remember the Doozer at Toys R Us, too! It was pretty accurate!

    Applause did some Fraggle Rock PVC figures, but I only have one (a Doozer).

    A company called MINDstyle had planned to release a set of Fraggle Rock figures a few years ago, but they were never released. Maybe they are waiting for the movie.

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  7. Were the MINDstyle figures PVC? I seem to remember seeing pics of them (at Comic Con I think). I hope it happens. Did you ever see pics of the Gobo prototype action figure that Palisades did back when they were doing Muppet Action figures. It didn't look anything like him, which is wierd since their Muppets were almost without exception spectacular.

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  8. Hey Eric! The MINDstyle figures were described as "vinyl"---I found a picture of them here:

    http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Fraggle_Rock_25th_Anniversary_figures

    Yeah, the Palisades Gobo looked more like the Muppet Show's conductor character than a Fraggle! Palisades did a great job on the other Muppets, though.

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