Wednesday, October 12, 2005

New Cast on Muppet Web-Show?

It was back in June that Statler and Waldorf, the two lovable Muppet curmudgeons, got their own regular web-show on Movies.com titled “Statler and Waldorf: From The Balcony”. For the first eight episodes of the bi-weekly show, viewers were treated to the performances of Muppeteers Steve Whitmire (Statler) and Dave Goelz (Waldorf) playing the two grumpy film critic. Muppeteer Bill Barretta also performed in each web-episode providing a slew of his characters as special “guest stars” on the show (such Pepe the Prawn, Bobo the Bear, Rowlf the Dog, Johnny Fiama, and the Swedish Chef). However, today the ninth episode of the webshow hit the world wide web, but Steve, Dave and Bill were not behind the classic characters.

Victor Yerrid and Drew Massey are now lending their talent to Statler and Waldorf (and some other characters) in a few “trivial” and “passing” external Muppet gigs (including Movies.com’s “From the Balcony” and ESPN’S “Reel Classics Extra”). Both are experienced puppeteers and have done a lot of work with the Muppets and the Henson Company over the years (Some of you may remember them from the test-pilot episode of From the Balcony back in February). Victor and Drew are now the principle performers of the little bi-weekly "From the Balcony" web-show.

Disney does not see the weekly web-show as a key priority to keeping the principle Muppeteers on. The question has been raised if the key performers will come back to the regular web show; and at this time it is unclear if the show's recasts are temporary or not (or if the key performers will even show up again for a guest spot).

Those speculating if Statler and Waldorf will be permanently taken from Dave and Steve can relax, although the key Muppeteers are not going to be performing their characters in these segments, I was told the characters have not been recast. Victor and Drew will just be working the characters in these small bits. However, depending on audience and producer response the two may see a promotion of sorts in the Muppeteering ranks. I was insured that there are no plans to “take” characters away from their already existing puppeteers – nor is anyone going to loose their jobs due to recasts. Many fans hope that the "secondary performers” or “replacements" stay just with the “small stuff”, while the key Muppeteers continue to carry the characters in the “big stuff” (and even some small stuff too from time to time) – this is the general feeling of Disney right now (however the fan’s definition of “small” and “big” projects may differ from Disney’s; only time will tell).

Whether you agree with this practice or not – this is what is happening right now. There are also plans (already underway) to hire puppeteers to perform the characters in scripted stage shows for the Disney theme parks and cruise ships. If you disagree with this type of multiple casting, than feel free to check out the “Save the Muppets” campaign. And if you don’t mind the alternate performers in these marginal productions then sit back and watch all these upcoming Muppet bits, embrace the new performances, and enjoy all the new Muppet synergy at work. Feel free to let Movies.com know how you feel about the recasts with their feedback form.

5 comments:

Television's Kynan Barker said...

MHC's comments are all obvious spin. If these webisodes and ESPN pieces are so trivial and wasteful of the performers' time, then why bother producing them at all?

The answer is that MHC wants the flexibility to use whatever performer they want for whatever appearance they want.

There is also some suggestion -- anonymous, but credible -- that this recasting is actually taking paid work from the key Muppet performers. Were Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire offered these jobs, or did MHC unilaterally decide to use these other puppeteers?

If the answer is the latter, then this work by Yerrid and Massey, however talented they may be, amounts to scab labor.

kynanb@gmail.com

Jon Clarke said...

At least this means that there IS some 'big stuff' going on. When was the last time we could say that?

Anonymous said...

Except it's pure spin, so the fact they say there's big stuff coming doesn't exactly mean that there is any.

Jason said...

And yet... These guys feel less "wrong" than the people who have been doing Statler & Waldorf for the past ten years.

Mallory said...

Oh my God - That Dr. Teeth was horrible (had they ever listened to Jim, John, or Bill do the character? Wow it was so not Dr. Teeth)!