Puppetry . in motion

The Muppets make a

seasonal outing with a

version of Charles

Dickens’ A Christmas

Carol. Alan Morrison

, r . a charts their history. while I Kermit the Frog plays Bob Cratchit. Allan Hunter talks to

faithful clerk at the counting house . t . Cfi’mpflny 0}“ of foam- Plastic and a ? Sitcom Valium) gathered Praise from (“Messrs Scrooge and Mute).- 80m ' SCfOOgC hlmSle. MlChaCl bit ofimaginatlon. In the late 1950s. i eiities and audiences alikeotgut then on a lilypad in a Mississippi swamp. , Caine. 1‘ Wilmington DC TV SINK)“ . f in May 1990. Jim Henson died Kermit worked in American TV ; allowed H8080“ {0 d0 8 flVijantC suddenly from an infection that bet-ore featuring in The Muppet When the drum-roll sounded and late show called .Sam and Friends. causedopneumoma, After the funeral Show, which was produced in thatthyperactiye amphibian WIIti‘IhC t one of whom was a grey-green thing _ at which the organist played the London. «I d0n~t have a problem flailing limbs told us that ‘lley. it s t called Kermit. who wore a blond Wig Sesame Street theme and everyone. with working Opposite piggy as her The Muppet Show. and tonight our and sang :That Old Black Magic . on. Henson‘s instructions. wore only husband’. he sayst .but I just want to very spec1al guest star is . . . we. t After various network appearances bright reds, blues. oranges and make it Clear that thiS is only a knew that some or other showbiz t on the likes of The Ed Sullivan Show. greens— it was left to his 29-year-old movie_ our relationship is Strict]V name was about to make a serious i the Muppets cult followmg was sent Brian, to head jim Henson professional‘ no matter What She’ prat of themselves trying to keeptup established on 11 November 1969 Productions Inc, may saytr mm the most anarchic puppets since With the firstbroadcast oftSesame . The younger Henson had always Baby (‘langer told the Soup Dragon f Street. Such is the success ofthat } aspired to he a film director. a dream ' to sod off. he'd rather have a Big long-running kid‘s education show i he has realised with The Muppet ' Mac. What was the appeal of the 7 that Big Bird has graced the cover of | Christmas Caro/t a seasonal romp i Muppets‘.’ The fact that we didn‘t ' Time magazine. while the puppets ' through Dickens that should manage ; just have to suffer the excruciating used in the Arabic version Iftah Ya to enthial children and tieltle adults 5 song ‘n' dance numbers. but could i Simsim were confiscated by Iraqi in traditional Muppet fashion. it will ! eavesdrop on backstage rivalries? E troops when they invaded Kuwait at be difficult for him to ease out from i The way that we could join the z the start of the Gulf War. under his father‘s Shadow. as jjm l booing and theatre box banter of l Henson‘s empire continued to Henson _ desighei‘ puppeteei, voice l cantankerous professional hecklers l expand with the syndication of The of Kermit _ was The Muppets. l Statler and Waldorf? Or the way that Muppet Show in 1976. with its Nevertheless, as the world‘s most I they never took themselves too t estimated 235 million viewers in 100 famous frog would himself have said i seriously. usually refraining from i countries every week. Then came as the sets came crashing down and a i that sugary. Disney-esun l The Muppet Movie, The Great spurned Miss Piggy hit him with a _ "1 * sentimentality"? Muppet ('aper, The Muppets Take ‘hai-yah‘ karate chop between his I Miss Piggy plays Emily Cruichit‘ The Muppets were the i Manhattan and. for older audiences. ping-pong eyes, the Show must go wife of Bob and mother ofTinv Tim, I brainchildrcn of Jim Henson. 2: l Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. on, Miss piggy enjoyed a happy ' former art and scenic design student 3 Meanwhile on TV. Fraggle Rock and The Muppet Christmas. Carolopens agricultural Childhood on a farm. but who built a multt-mlllion dollar I Dinosaurs (the latter a much-hyped in Scotland on Fri 18 [)ee,

her dreams of stardom encouraged her to leave home and seek work as a

hand model in commercials. A _ i beauty contest won her a chorus role in The Muppet Show. ‘Imagine an

incredibly glamorous superstar like : n r, s

moi playing a dowdy housewife.‘ she

sighs.‘It‘sgotOscarwrittenallover j it.’ t ;

" "figs-Ea 'i ' ° } t ,t I tASIfamuch-hypedaufoblography,newl

. makes sure that they don’t steal the film, is reality. I tried to make my character as real as possible so the rest of the film will work.‘

Experienced in acting partnerships i that range from Laurence Olivierto a dismembered hand, Caine still rates performing with the likes of Kermit as one oi his stiffer challenges. ‘As an

\ u...” I i restaurantandduffthriller(Bluelce) 36W.particu'aflyttnthemovmstV0"

_ ; aren'tenough,MichaelCaine’s getholdotpeoplesevesandhanoon

' r I i" characteristic ubiquitythreatensfo i tothattlflatcmng andreactinotothc ' w v ' ~ 5 reachoverkillthisChristmaswhenhe emotion.'hedfaW|S-‘That’skindot

possible with the Muppets but there was one guy who had a green face, no cam and Wm" eyes and glasses and it was very

. Oscar-winning old lag like oaihe, but difficult; you needed the concentration

i Scrooge in The Muppets Christmas Carol. Following in the hallowed

stars all across the globe as Ebenezer v footsteps oiAlistair Sim’s definitive !

interpretation, Caine has taken his 3 his easy-going professionalism 0' a laser and the Patience 0' a 83'th inspiration from contemporary sources conceals a man in deadly earnest about Whetherthe end "38"" D'Oduces rather than the more traditional ; the demands of his craft. "'93 0' ‘humbug' 0' a lump in a "09's .. t} i t Victorian ones. _ When i first said to people that l was throat, it has certainly earned Caine’s , z" game, . ‘My basic role models came from 9 going to do a movie with the Muppets adm'rauom ‘I’Ve 399" quite a '0' 0' n I The Great Gonzo plays Charles l watching CNN and seeing the trials and they found that kind 0' 8"” and 38"“ 3"“ "’3 "ondmus‘ 50""me 0‘" Dickens, Since making his screen : tribulations of all the Wall Street 5 when I was going to do something hmfldchl'dte" “ll” be “WW 3"“ debut on the first Muppet Show cheats and emhemers, I thought they 3 serioust,’ he recalls. ‘As it turned out, I not because 0" "18 at 8". it"! because 0' eating a tyre to the tune of The Flight l represented a very good picture of : Plated !t absotute'vsltaloht. asthouah "'9 “"999”, "9 “Shes- M” °'"’ °' ofihe Bumble Beet the former i meanness and greed. My Scrooge l l was With the National Theatre orthe mymends did The Muppet Show travelling plumb“S career has looks particularly irredeemable and is = Royal Shakespeare Company. It you’re met" "'9 and "0'" V9 “We a ""0'9 blossomed. ‘l’ve studied Dickens a a more psychotic than most.’ going to be the only human being with "We "'3' ' """W" “'"l 0"“0 "9,3 tot; he tells us,‘and1‘m doing my A film in which he is required to sing, l the Muppets. then you know the picture P9'°""'a' “MSW” masterpiece. own little version ofwhat Dickens } kiss Miss Piggy and Play With a buns“ Will be “we” "om You '9", "9m and would have been like had he been of puppets might seem like a centre, but the one thing you can hang The Muppet Christmas MOVle (U) Opens blue and furry.‘ comparative holiday to an on to that they don’t have. and which 0" Fl't'tttt18 Decembet- 4

24 The List 18 December 1992 14 January i i