Monday, October 20, 2008

The Muppets Post Another Viral Video

Earlier this summer, the Muppets released a some special videos on the world-wide-web. Premiering on YouTube, MySpace and Vimeo, these exclusive videos were an Internet sensation. Sam Eagle shared a Muppetational rendition of "Stars and Stripes Forever!"; Gonzo posted an all-chicken performance of "The Blue Danube Waltz"; the Swedish Chef posted a variation of "Habanera"; Beaker shared a unique version on "Ode to Joy"; and Statler and Waldorf posted their own video responses.

Well, today the Muppets have unleashed another brand-new web video! Filmed on location by Fozzie Bear, the video features Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, Rizzo the Rat, and Tyson the Internet's famous skateboarding dog.

The online video is avaiable on YouTube, MySpace and Vimeo. So check it out, and be sure to foward the link on to all of your friends and coworkers to enjoy!


Over the Sea said...

It really dissapoints me to hear Rowlf speak, after all they intended to retire him when Jim died. A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that Rowlf's been talking again for a while, but it's sort of sad that they couldn't have left him silent as a tribute to Jim.

Anonymous said...

Jim would not have wanted Rowlf to be mute. I'm glad he's back!

Anonymous said...

You know I was going to write this here anyway,before I read the 1st 2 posts.
I can do a better Kermit than the one they are using now.
It seems a lot of the voices sound nothing like the originals.
Well sort of close but it seems they could look harder for a suitable voice actor.

Has Dark Crystal II been canceled or what?

Jeff said...

First, the Muppets don't have voice actors they have performers -- there is a lot more to the soul of the Muppets' then their vocal cords. Kermit's vocal cords may have changed a bit back in 1990-91 when Jim Henson died and Steve Whitmire took the reights, but the voice we have today is 100% Kermit's voice and no one can do a better Kermit than Kermit. Maybe you can sound more like Kermit did back in the '70s and '80s (like Jim Henson's Kermit), but you can't sound more like Kermit the Frog does (just like no one can't sound more like you than you can).

I want quailty performers who can bring us the souls and the voices/spirits of the Muppets - not some distant voice over artists that can simply match the sound waves their previous performers created.

I don't want voice actors -- I want Muppeteers.

And "Power of the Dark Crystal" has not been canceled. Brian Henson mentioned that it was still in pre-production at an event last month (remember the first one took over 5 years to make - from conception to screen).

Vaughn Michael said...

oh boy not this argument again,
I think Steve (while other can do a better Kermit an X of mine sounds so much like Jim it's Creepy) is doing an amazing job as him at the moment and he's finally getting the hang of Kermit.
Rowlf on the other hand it's great to have him back but I don't see him as Rowlf, it's more like Bobo as Rowlf. But that's as far as I'll go into it all, I just hope we still get to see Bobo now that his voice is being given to Rowlf.

Anyway these videos are allot of fun and I glady welcome more of them and I hope something like this could become a show.

Anonymous said...

Jeff is sooo right in response to the voices. Kids (and none Muppet experts) don't even know the different voices today. Why? Because the characters they are growing up with have always had their "new" voces and/or the puppet's character and manipulation (mannerisms) are bang on.

Brian Henson is working with puppeteers to improve their improv skills and character development and less on a voice.

I think this Youtube video makes the Muppets more "hip" and "real" it appeals to a different demographic than those who already have an interest in the Muppets (ie. Us) I think the marketing of the Muppets is perfect; and that voices, even though different, doesn't change their character.

Think of all the great Muppet moments you remember growing up. Kids nowadays will now have theirs. Who cares if Rowlf doesn't sound the same, at least he is "alive" creating those memories for the next generation to enjoy. If we silenced every character who's puppeteer died, in 10-20 years there won't be a Muppet franchise.

I also believe everyone thinks they can do a better Kermit impression...honestly, I think they are gravely mistaken. Don't believe me? Go on Youtube and watch some of the garbage out there.

Steve W is doing a great job! A real master of the craft.

Anonymous said...

You know, both sides of this coin are valid. Eric Jacobson is a terrific puppeteer, certainly. But I think it would be hard to claim he's as funny as Frank Oz was with these characters. Yet everyone seems totally thrilled with Jacobson, simply because he frequently sounds astonishingly like Frank Oz. Not to say he doesn't do a darned good job otherwise. But Frank did a GREAT job.
Still, you know, people die. Sometimes characters are allowed to die, too. But I'm glad that hasn't happened with ANY Muppet characters. I think there's pretty firm evidence that Jim didn't want his characters to die. Maybe the Henson company could try a little harder, even within its own talent pool, to find excellent puppeteers who sound closer to the originals. Because, there's no denying it IS disconcerting to hear a strange voice come out of a familiar face.
I think someone like Eric Jacobson is the best we can hope for; an accomplished puppeteer with a good sense of humor who happens to have a vocal apparatus that allows him to come close enough to Frank Oz's characters that he can fool those who have been around the Muppets for years. Yet, for all that...there's still something missing, isn't there?


scotty j. said...

To be fair, if it were simply about the voice, you could do a comparison of Jim's 1960's Kermit with his performances in the late 80's and you would find the voice to be very different. The same is true even with Dave Goelz's voice for Gonzo.

I think looking at the performance merely from a vocal perspective is a little backwards as far as the Muppets are concerned. Jeff is right when he wrote that the Muppets have a depth of soul that requires an actor/performer. Frank Oz himself has said that he gets a little puzzled when people say "you do the voice of Fozzie or Piggy" because the performance is so much more than simply a voice. He worked at a character much like the way you might hear from a skilled actor on Insdie the Actor's Studio (before the show became a little bit of a cultural joke).

Anyway, I could go on but I think others have said it better than I could.

frogboy4 said...

No puppeteer past or present can match wits with all powerful Frank Oz. Jacobson has a different style but Fozzie has been so incredibly funny (maybe too funny) and Miss Piggy has been darn good too. So good in fact that Entertainment Weekly assumed the last NBC Christmas special's pig performance was provided by Oz and gave it great praise! It isn't just Eric's voice for many - it's the entire performance.

Bill does a good Rowlf. I hope he eventually better distinguishes the voice from his Bobo character, but it's good to see the ol' dog back in action.

I don't believe any of the Muppet characters should be retired as long as they are in capable hands and not passed around to various performers. I am particularly tickled by the return of Scooter. I hope Rudman continues with him and grows the character as Steve did with Kermit.

I just love these YouTube vids. Keep up the good work Dave, Eric, Steve and Bill. You are truly rock stars to me. I'm sure that somewhere you are making Jim Henson very proud.

Anonymous said...

I was commentator #3

I think matching a voice to a muppet is very important.
If the voices were more acuratly done then I don't think people would be complaining in the 1st place.
The Muppets are like family to us and some of us don't even bother watching the newer stuff.
I have been watching all my muppet and sesame street dvds for years now. Now my kids do too.

I think part of the problem is the newer stuff isn't my favorite stuff. I stopped with that Oz movie.
Us casual Muppet fanatics feel a little lost with these new voices?
(these recent youtube videos are fabulous)

I'm not trying to make anyone upset here but imagine if Bart Simpson suddenly sounded like Ned Flanders doing a Bart impression?
Simpson fans would get upset.
It's important!

Same deal. I respect the art of performance but a voice to a muppet isn't a minor quib that can be outdone or renewed by a passionate performer.

Sorry about my sarcastic questioning of Dark Crystal II.
I brashly implied it was canceled because of the relativly few updates/news on the project.
If the movie is delayed ( it was )
then throw the fans another bone!
There are many of us who will be there opening day!

Anonymous said...

I think matching a voice to a muppet is very important.
If the voices were more acuratly done then I don't think people would be complaining in the 1st place.
The Muppets are like family to us and some of us don't even bother watching the newer stuff.
I have been watching all my muppet and sesame street dvds for years now. Now my kids do too.

You sure you're not Seth McFarline?

Vaughn Michael said...

You sure you're not Seth McFarline?
hahahahaha I can't lie I was thinking the same exact thing!

Anonymous said...

aw c'mon guys.
Now you're getting personal.
That's not nice.
(if you had any idea how much I hate that ugly show you would see why that upsets me)
And it derails the discussion
And a little confused.

( Family Guy and South Park are both killing the fine tradition of both collectively animation and voice acting )

I don't know very much about Seth Mcfarlane. So Im striving to find the analogy.

Is it because Seth Mcfarlane does most of the voices on his shows?

So I can only conclude you think my argument is to have one voice actor for all the muppets? That would seriously suck!
Am I missing something?


Geez. No fun.

Anybody here agree or disagree?

Jeff said...

I disagree.

Sure I don't want Kermit to sound like Barry White one day and Gilbert Gottfried the next. However the vocal changes that have resulted from recasts (due to death or retirement) are not that drastic. Yes they are noticeable – but none of them have been overly jarring or unbelievable or uncharacteristic.

And what does the “original” voice sound like? Kermit of 1970 sounded different than Kermit of 1990 and Kermit of 1955 (all of whom were performed by Jim Henson and no one complained that his voices was “wrong”); and if you play isolated audio clips of Gonzo (who has only ever had one performer) from over the past 35 years, you might think they were completely different characters talking. The initial vocal transitions may be noticeable (hey, I can still pick out the different Mickey Mouses, Winnie the Poohs, Fred Flintstones and Bugs Bunnys) – but Kermit today sounds just like Kermit should sound to me . Sure it’s not a 100% vocal match to how he sounded in 1955, or 1970, or 1990, or even 1997 – but he still has the same soul and spirit and tone. So in that regard he has the right voice – just with a minor auditory differences. And the same evolution and changes are true of characters with consistent performers Gonzo’s voice continues to evolve.

I agree there is a beloved tradition and mythology with the Muppets – but I’d rather have a good performer who only sounds 95% like the original but makes the character act 100% like the original than have a spot-one voice-actor that doesn’t bring the same spirit, tone and history to the character. There’s a reason only a small handful of people have broken into the Muppeteer ranks – it’s a tough job and it’s a lot more than just doing a voice.

Jeff said...

Some things about the Rowlf/Bobo comparison:

Jim Henson's Rowlf sounded a lot like Bobo (I noticed it back on Muppets Tonight, that this new bear sounded a bit like Rowlf); so naturally Bill Barretta's Rowlf will sound a bit like Bobo too. But there are differences between Bill's Rowlf and Bobo - they are not identical vocal twins - similar but not identical. Listen to some side-by-side clips of Bobo and Bill's work as Rowlf and you'll see.

Listen to Jim Henson's performances of Dr. Teeth and Rowlf the Dog -- vocally they were almost the same "voice" -- but the difference and separation came from the tone, the attitude, and the material they were given.

So I think Bobo and Rowlf can exist side-by-side and not stand out like vocal clones. It's all about the material and the dilvery. Bobo and Rowlf have different personalities.

The "new" voice may not be 100% identical to Jim's, but the spirit is; and I'd rather have than than a perfect sound-alike with a weak performance or hollow soul.

Anonymous said...


Well said.
You've convinced me.

The performance is indeed very important. And it matters greatly.

I know you said it earlier but you've managed to spell it out clearly for this grumpy traditionalist rather eloquently.

I love the idea of a person controlling or "owning" a character.
I'm an animatronics nut really but I have a bad Muppets fix.
So Im not really an expert.
Is that how it's really done?

Is Kermit stored in a locker with the performers name on it under metaphoric lock and key?
(that sounds snarky. im being serious)

And also....The Muppet movies for example. For the voice tracks.
I wonder if the muppets voices were recorded live or added in later?


You said Brian mentioned Dark Crystal II a month ago. Any more details?

Jeff said...

>>Is Kermit stored in a locker with the performers name on it under metaphoric lock and key?<<
Pretty much yes! Only two people have ever performed Kermit - Jim Henson (1955-1990) and Steve Whitmire (1990-present) -- Gonzo has only had one (Dave Goelz). And Rowlf has only had two Jim Henson (until he died) and now Bill Barretta. That's one thing that is so great about the Muppets - their is real continuity and history behind every character. They aren't just past to the best available guy for a production - the puppeteers are these characters! It's tough when a new performer has to come in and pick up the character (due to death or retirement) but these recasts aren't done lightly and they help the characters live on for generations.

As for "Power of the Dark Crystal" no more details than it's in development and coming. They just don't want to rush it and get it wrong. It's been 25+ years since the original, what's another 1-3 years?

Jeff said...

u>>And also....The Muppet movies for example. For the voice tracks.
I wonder if the muppets voices were recorded live or added in later?<<

The voices are recorded live (just like actors in any other live action movie). The Muppeteers have microphone headsets and do the voices live! Although sometimes they do have to do go in to a studio a re-loop some lines due to other noises on the set/location (just like they do in any other live action movie). Now when two characters played by the same puppeteer interact (such as Kermit and Rowlf in the Muppet Movie), they will either pre-record or dub one of the vocal performances; or in some cases (usually live performances) the puppeteer will voice both characters while someone else manipulates the other for the shot -- or they'll use both hands and do them both at once!

Vaughn Michael said...

Sorry but I think Seth Mcfarlane while yes crude at times is a very funny man, south park on the other hand has indeed taken things way to far.
Anyway the Seth Mcfarlane comment was made because he's made comments on Family Guy about the modern Muppets voices.
That's all.

Anonymous said...

I'm the fourth anonymous, as well as the last one about John Kennedy.

I wonder, though, how much effort was taken to determine that Bill Barretta was the best current Henson puppeteer to perform Rowlf? Did they try a lot of people? Or was Bill just THERE, and he sounded pretty good, so it ended up being him?

I'm not trying to ignore the importance of the incredibly difficult art of video puppetry, or the acting required to perform and maintain a CHARACTER. But given the group of puppeteers they are currently drawing from -- and you have to be pretty darned good at all that to get in that group to begin with -- are they really searching, auditioning, finding the BEST person?

Listening to Avenue Q, does anyone else think Rick Lyon is probably capable of sounding much more like Henson's Kermit than Steve Whitmire is? Nothing at all against Whitmire, who I think does a great job with Kermit, but mightn't Lyon possibly have been a better choice? We can never know, but getting someone as close as Jacobson's voice is to Oz's at least eliminates that immediate "THAT'S not Piggy!" (or whoever) reaction that so many people have when they hear a weird voice come out of a familiar face.

Anonymous said...

Um, weird, my John Kennedy post disappeared. I posted that he actually performed Kermit in the Muppets Ahoy show on the Disney Cruse.

Vaughn Michael said...

Would love to see video of John Kennedy performing Kermit.

frogboy4 said...

I tend to dismiss the critical comments about Muppet voice recasts because there are no voice recasts. They can't satisfy everybody, but these performances are making this fan happier than I have been with the gang since before "The Muppet Christmas Carol".

The group of performers that comprise the Muppet players know who fits what mold the best and I trust that. I find it ridiculous to even contemplate swapping-out Steve Whitmire's wonderful Kermit for anyone else. He has done the frog proud and "grown" the character in a special way guided by Jim Henson and Frank Oz' method of character-driven puppetry.

That's my buck o' five and I'm sticking with it. Again, great job with this new stuff coming out from Muppets Studio.

Anonymous said...

I hope it was obvious that I'm not suggesting "swapping out" any other performer for Whitmire as Kermit at this point. He's great, and I totally accept him as Kermit. I'm just wondering, speculating, hoping that the love we all have for these characters is matched on Henson's side with concern over getting the best possible people to take over the characters when necessary.

Are you old enough to remember "The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson", the first time we ever heard Whitmire's Kermit? Man, it was rough. I had many friends upset over how bad he sounded. I was too. Someone equally talented as a puppeteer and actor, but who simply was better able to approximate Henson's voice (Rick Lyon maybe, I don't really know) would have really helped us get over that "hump".

I mean, look at Sam the Eagle. Why did they EVER have Kevin Clash do that character? He was terrible, and he's a phenomenally talented puppeteer. They were just trying to find something for him to do. There was Jacobson right there, it must have occurred to them that he could do all the REST of Oz's characters/voices, perhaps he could do Sam too?

So that's an instance to me of them having their priorities a little off. Clash could come up with a dozen entertaining new characters to interact with the classic Muppets, but he's not a good choice for replacing Oz as Sam the Eagle. And I'll say that the problem wasn't that Clash couldn't capture the character, it was that he couldn't capture the voice closely enough.

frogboy4 said...

I've been a huge fan of the Muppets for all of my 34 years. I've had the privilege to meet some of these fantastic and talented people that give life to the Muppet characters and I trust their judgment. Steve has been Kermit for nearly 18 years. Bill has technically been Rowlf for over 12 years. Other characters have been passed around, but those have remained solid. Kermit's been given much more of a chance to grow than Rowlf, but that will change.

It appears Scooter has found a new performer in Rudman so I hope he grows in time too. I'm thrilled to have the gang back and I hope they do as Steve said in the recent interview and hire new talent that will create new Muppets to mix with our high-profile favorites in their return.

It’s not just the voice, but the embodiment and spirit of the character. Sure, my friend “so and so” does a spot-on Kermit impression, but can he puppeteer? Does he have a rapport with the other cast members? Is he sharp-witted with improvisation? Is he committed to the Muppets? Heck, did he ever meet Jim Henson? Bill and Steve can answer yes to all of these and I accept their Kermit and Rowlf as great contributions to Jim Henson’s heritage of Muppets.

After this new push by Disney I expect that most of the public will do the same. Some folk will dig their heels in, but not everybody can be satisfied. In the end the performers have to do what they feel is right. I strongly feel they have.

Anonymous said...

I've acknowledged many times and know well that there's a lot more to it than the voice; I think where we might disagree is how still-important the voice is. As for having met Jim Henson...I sure hope these characters last until that will no longer have been possible. Careful choosing of replacements can help ensure that.

I appreciate being able to have such a particular discussion with a fellow Muppet-fan. This issue is clearly important to both of us. I think where we're simply different (I think I remember you from the Fraggle Rock 4th season DVD thread?) is that you're more accepting of whatever Henson or HIT or whoever does, and I'm more worried about whether the people there are going to do the right thing. Maybe it's an optimist/pessimist thing. I'll cop to being the pessimist!

frogboy4 said...

Woah, there. I am not follower merely "accepting of whatever Henson or HIT or whoever does" nor go to some other kind of loony extreme as you have stated. It is my nature to believe your intention wasn't condescending as it came out, so no foul.

I do have more of a pragmatically trusting spirit and if the Muppets have taught me anything it is that things have a way of finding their fit. I just don't worry much about it. I've been a great Muppet fan for a very long time and have followed their projects closely.

As for the HIT decision, if you'd read down or over at the Muppet Central site (I'm also the fellow that provides the sparkly graphics in those parts, hence the signature) you will notice my great displeasure with the box set only decision. I was giving HIT the benefit of the doubt, that they clearly didn't deserve. There will likely be an eventual single season set for the patient, but that is still anyone's guess.

Back to topic, Muppet voices are important, but not equally as important as overall performance, puppetry skills and personality traits. I think Kermit and Rowlf sound pretty good these days and both are fantastically performed with wit and depth when they are given the opportunity to entertain us. You appear to disagree about the degree of importance for spot-on voices, Anonymous person, and you do have company in that opinion. A great deal goes into Muppeting. It's a skill few people possess or understand. I’ve been to meetings on the puppetry in general and still can’t grasp the craft myself. My creative talents are better served elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

No, I certainly didn't mean to sound condescending, sorry if I offended.

What could you possibly mean by a "loony extreme"? I'm scratching my head trying to figure out what you mean.

A "trusting spirit", sure. But you admit you gave HIT a benefit of the doubt that they didn't deserve, and you also say there will "likely" be a solo 4th season release, based on absolutely no evidence. So, I'm not too sure about the "pragmatically" part...

Sorry, "frogboy4" (were there really 3 others?), but I am definitely not without company in my opinion about the importance of voices; the fifth anonymous posting here wasn't me, but said exactly what I'm saying.

But heck, the last thing I ever started out to do was criticize you. You're a Muppet fan; there's a very high chance you're a decent person. In truth, I'm guessing we're in agreement on about 98.5% of this recasting issue. That's much more reason to celebrate together than to try to peck each other apart.

So, I'm done with this thread. You may have the last word, if you wish. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Apologies, I misread you; you clearly say that I DO have company in my opinion.

Okay, now I really AM out of here. Peace, again.

frogboy4 said...

I get ya. There's no foul or last word needed. Like I said, we likely disagree with the degree of importance voice work holds in the mixture of other elements. However, I don't understand how their last Christmas album was Grammy-worthy. It's cute, but with voice-only performances the spirit of the characters sure was lacking as much as the cover art. It was a Nobel attempt that I hope will be rectified with their new special.

Witnessing an old core performer like Dave Goelz work his magic with Gonzo right in front of me solidified how unique this gift is - not just for puppetry but the character craft. Gonzo's goofing on me is one of the highlights of my life. I am sure he's filed a restraining order.

Kev said...

How would you audition for the Muppets, or to Sesame street to be a puppeteer?? Email me at!