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Jim Henson's Muppet Babies
MuppetBabiesTitle.jpg

Jim Henson's Muppet Babies title screen
Also known as Muppet Babies
Genre Animated series
Created by Jim Henson
Voices of Greg Berg
Dave Coulier (1986–1990)
Katie Leigh
Howie Mandel (1984–1986)
Laurie O'Brien
Russi Taylor
Frank Welker
Barbara Billingsley
Theme music composer Hank Saroyan
Composer(s) Robert Irving
Hank Saroyan
Robert J. Walsh
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of episodes 107 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Michael K. Frith
Lee Gunther
Jim Henson
Margaret Loesch
Joe Taritero
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) The Jim Henson Company
Marvel Productions
Distributor Claster Television
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Original run September 15, 1984 (1984-09-15) – December 29, 1990 (1990-12-29)
Status Ended
Chronology
Preceded by The Muppets Take Manhattan

Jim Henson's Muppet Babies (commonly known as Muppet Babies) is an American animated television series that aired from September 15, 1984 to December 29, 1990 on CBS. It was spun off from a dream sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan, released two months earlier, where Miss Piggy imagined what it would be like if she and Kermit the Frog grew up together. The show portrayed childhood versions of the Muppets living together in a large nursery in the care of a human woman called Nanny (the whereabouts of their parents are never addressed). Nanny appears in almost every episode, but viewers never see her face, only the babies' view of her pink skirt as well as her distinctive green and white striped socks.

Muppet Babies was produced by The Jim Henson Company and Marvel Productions. The rights are now held by Disney-ABC Domestic Television. Although the episodes were 30 minutes (including commercials), it was typically shown in 60 and even 90 minute blocks during the peak of its popularity. Outside of the United States, the show was distributed by Walt Disney Television Animation.

Contents

Overview

The Muppet Babies live in a large nursery watched over by Nanny, the only human character in the show that appears on a regular basis. The babies have active imaginations, and often embark on adventures into imaginary worlds and perilous situations from which they are eventually returned to reality by some external event, such as Nanny coming to see what the noise was. They are constantly finding creative ways to entertain themselves and learn to work together to solve problems and survive their wild-imagined adventures.

Each episode included a single storyline. Usually the babies were confronted with a child-like problem, such as fear of the dentist, or a question, such as 'where do muffins come from?' Other times, they were simply finding ways to amuse themselves with old toys or video tape equipment. The babies would then enter into their imaginations, transforming their toys into everything from time machines to pirate ships. Nearly every episode contained one song, and occasionally more than one. After the credits, the episodes would end with Animal shouting out his catchphrase 'Go bye-bye!' usually while Gonzo blasted off into the sky due to some accident he or Animal had caused.

Although the program was a cartoon, live-action film sequences were added in unusual moments. Whenever the babies opened a door, box or book, they were often confronted with anything from a speeding train to a space ship. Foreign landscapes in their imagination were usually photos or bits of stock footage which the babies would walk across, interacting indirectly with the film’s actors. Though much of the live-action came from stock footage and old black-and-white horror/monster films, more recent films such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones were also played and parodied.

The show was drawn from the babies’ point of view, meaning the babies were always looking up to view the world. Objects like couches and doors were far larger than normal and more momentous obstacles for the babies. As a result of the upward view, the faces of adult characters were never shown. Nanny was only ever seen from the shoulders down as were the adults in the babies’ fantasies. Exceptions were made for Uncle Statler and Uncle Waldorf and a few ‘Muppet style’ adults in the fantasy worlds.

Characters

The series stars Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Scooter, Skeeter, Rowlf the Dog, and Gonzo as the main muppets. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker made regular appearances as did Camilla in the form of Gonzo's stuffed baby chick. In the final two seasons, Bean Bunny and Statler and Waldorf began making regular appearances.

Several Muppets made guest appearances including Janice, and Kermit’s nephew, Robin.

The Muppet Baby character Skeeter, Scooter's twin sister, only appeared in this series, and was never a live-action Muppet. This was done because the producers wanted another female character added to the cast. Despite this, Skeeter was always voiced by a male actor.

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Voice cast

Other appearances

Baby Kermit, Piggy, and Gonzo made small appearances in the drug prevention TV special (later released on home video) Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.

A live action version of all the characters except Skeeter also appeared in A Muppet Family Christmas in the form of a home movie which the adult Muppets watched during the Christmas Party. The segment was cut out of the home video releases because the rights to "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" could not be obtained.

Production history

In 1984, The Muppets Take Manhattan, the third full length Muppet film, debuted. The movie included a fantasy sequence in which Miss Piggy imagined what growing up with Kermit would have been like. While Piggy sang, baby versions of Rowlf, Fozzie, Scooter, and Gonzo acted as backup singers. The sequence was so successful that The Jim Henson Company turned the idea into a half-hour cartoon program. In order for 107 episodes to be produced, Henson and Marvel hired two companies: the Japanese-based Toei Animation for Seasons 1-3 and five episodes of Season 4, and the Korean-based AKOM Productions for Episode six of Season 4 through Season 8, both of which also animated G.I. Joe and The Transformers for Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions.

Muppet Babies proved highly popular and ran from 1984 to 1992, a total of eight seasons. At the height of its popularity it ran in two or three episode blocks.

For a brief run in the second season, the program became Muppets, Babies & Monsters, too!, and a second half-hour was dedicated to a new show called Little Muppet Monsters. This show featured live action puppets and cartoons starring the adult Muppet characters. The program lasted three weeks before Jim Henson pulled the plug, despite 18 episodes having been made. The show then reverted to an hour of Muppet Babies; however, a portion of the Little Muppet Monsters theme could still be heard in the show's end credits for the remainder of its run. Muppet Babies later expanded to 90 minutes after The Garbage Pail Kids was canceled before it aired.

Muppet Babies is noted for starting a trend of relaunching popular character franchises as younger versions of themselves. This trend can be seen in numerous series such as A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Baby Looney Tunes, The Flintstone Kids, The New Archies & "Jungle Cubs" (based on characters from Walt Disney's animated film "The Jungle Book") as well as merchandise items such as Baby Snoopy, Baby (Betty) Boop, Disney Babies, Baby Popeye & Friends & Garfield Baby.

Muppet Babies was a critical success during its time on the air: the show won four consecutive Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Animated Program, 1985-88, and won a Humanitas Prize for Children's Animation in 1985.[1]

Muppet Babies was voted "Top Cartoon of the Childhood Days" by the Irvin Hall newspaper's weekly review of the Pennylvania State University in 2007.

Syndication

Muppet Babies entered local syndication in 1989, through Claster Television. The series ran on local stations until 1992, often on affiliates of the new Fox Network. Syndication rights were sold to Nickelodeon/Nick Jr. (1992-1999) and Odyssey Network (1999-2000) in the United States with only 94 episodes in regular rotation. In the United Kingdom, it aired in reruns on Playhouse Disney UK, Disney Channel UK, and Disney Cinemagic with all 107 episodes in regular rotation. In the UK, it is best known from its first run on UK TV on BBC 1 on Saturday mornings during Going Live! at 8:15am. Muppet Babies has been off the air since 2000. In reruns on Nickelodeon and Odyssey Network, the intro was truncated and the 1984 closing was replaced with the 1985 closing.

Music

Approximately 100 of the songs were co-written by Alan O'Day and Janis Liebhart, with the exception of the theme song written and performed by Hank Saroyan and Rob Walsh.

Episodes

Merchandise

In the mid 1980s PVC Muppet Babies Toys were available as prizes in McDonald's' Happy Meals. Each non-articulated character came with a wheeled vehicle (IE: Baby Kermit came with a skateboard, Baby Gonzo had a big-wheel, etc.) Some time later, special Christmas stuffed versions of the Muppet Babies were available in the Happy Meals too.

In 1992, after the last aired Muppet Babies episode in 1991, an episode book collection of Muppet Babies was produced from the book company Grolier. It was called The Muppet Babies Press Books. The book talked mostly about character traits and learning for young children. It was produced and ended in 1992.

Comics

From 1985 until 1989, Marvel Comics produced a monthly comic book of the Muppet Babies with their Star Comics imprint. The series lasted for 26 issues. In 1992, Harvey Comics acquired the rights to produce Muppet Babies comics and produced a further 3 issues (restarting at issue #1).

The Muppet Babies also appeared in Star Comics Digest (also known as Star Comics Magazine). This comic was printed in digest size format, and features a number of short stories in each issue. The series itself lasted for 13 issues from 1986 until 1988. It should be noted that the Muppet Babies appeared in some, but not all the issues. Other short stories contained in Star Comics Digest included Madballs, Heathcliff, the Care Bears, and Top Dog.

Video and DVD releases

Although not every Muppet Babies episode was released on VHS, a number of them were released between 1993–1995.[citation needed] One series released on VHS called "Yes I Can" included three videos, which featured two Muppet Babies episodes inside. The series focused on Robin the Frog, who asks his uncle Kermit for assistance in different chores he was struggling with such as cleaning his room or doing homework. Kermit would lead off into a Muppet Babies episode which told of a similar situation. Sometimes, he would give examples about achieving Robin's trouble. For example, in one Yes I Can video, Robin is worried about making new friends, and Kermit tells him that sharing is an example of having a good friendship, which leads directly to a Muppet Babies episode.

Although the show was (and still is) quite popular, there have been no plans announced of any DVD releases of Muppet Babies. One possible reason is that clips from other TV shows and movies (such as Star Trek, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark) were used extensively in imagination sequences and closet opening scenes and thus could pose difficulties in terms of resolving possible copyright issues.[citation needed] Recently, a few episodes were made available, in uncut form, as bonus DVDs with Muppet Babies plush toys.

Reception

In January 2009, IGN named Jim Henson's Muppet Babies as the 31th best in the Top 100 Best Animated TV Shows.

See also

References

External links


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