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Famous Movie Puppets

This post was inspired by Matthew Ponsford’s CNN article at http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/08/showbiz/10-greatest-movie-puppets/index.html. The first ten puppet writeups below are from him. I have added my own commentary and five additional classic movie puppets. Enjoy.

01Kermit

Kermit the Frog
Originally fashioned from a green ladies coat that Jim Henson found in a bin (plus a pair of ping pong balls for eyes), Kermit the Frog has gone on to be one of the world’s few internationally recognized puppets — or, rather, Muppets. He can already count seven hit films, a recording contract, a bestselling autobiography and countless TV appearances among his achievements –and he’s set to appear on the big screen again next year in “Muppets Most Wanted.”

Henry: Superb choice. Kermit and the Muppets are quintessential puppets.

02Yoda

Yoda
Despite being a three foot green alien puppet, Jedi Master Yoda manages to give off a convincing impression of wisdom and deliver some of the “Star Wars” saga’s most crucial lines. George Lucas drafted in legendary Jim Henson-collaborator Frank Oz to bring the elderly Jedi to life, a choice which ensured Yoda had a sense of humor to match his worldly knowledge.

Henry: “Judge me by my size, do you?” Excellent choice.

03ET

ET
When Steven Spielberg chose to create a heart-warming alien story for children, the easy option would have been to cast a cute and cuddly puppet. Instead audiences got waddling, faintly frightening E.T. But Spielberg’s instincts were proven correct again, as the film went on to become the highest-grossing film ever released (at that time).

Henry: “Phone home.” Excellent choice. Plus, he likes Reese’s Pieces.

04Gizmo

Gizmo
Audiences loved “Gremlins” adorable mogwai Gizmo — but the puppeteers did not. The tiny rubber puppet was prone to malfunctioning and so frustrated the crew that they added a scene in which the creature gets strapped to a dartboard and pelted with darts.

Henry: Dry clean only. Excellent choice.

05Pinocchio

Pinocchio
Cinema’s most famous puppet — no strings attached. Animation, rather than puppetry, brought “real boy” Pinocchio to the world — famously in the Walt Disney classic, and later to a new generation (this time CGI) in an oddball turn in Shrek. Live-action adaptations of the classic novel by Tim Burton and Guillermo Del Toro are rumored to be in the pipeline.

Henry: Not a movie puppet per se, but a character that’s a puppet. Well played, sir.

06Chucky

Chucky
Puppets can be terrifying too. Case in point: Chucky, the “Good Guy” doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer in the movie “Child’s Play.” The mixture of childlike puppets and murderous violence provoked controversy — with protesters claiming Chucky made children violent — but the film’s popularity was not damaged. It has since spawned five sequels.

Henry: Arguably the most bad-ass of all movie puppets. Excellent choice.

07Ludo

Ludo
When teenage babysitter Sarah is transported to Labyrinth’s strange maze-world (populated by Jim Henson’s puppet creations), she is helped by kind-hearted hairy beast Ludo, who sees her through the quest to recover her baby brother. The cumbersome puppet was operated by puppeteers underneath the monster suit, who could watch events unfolding on a TV screen inside Ludo’s stomach.

Henry: “Rocks friends.” One of the best characters in this movie, along with the young but already lovely Jennifer Connelly. Excellent choice.

08RedBalloon

The Red Balloon
Not all of cinema’s finest puppetry makes use of such complex animatronics. Albert LamorisseIt managed to turn a helium balloon (with a mind of its own) into the joint-protagonist of his classic short film “The Red Balloon.”

Henry: A classic movie from my childhood. A bit of a stretch calling a balloon a puppet, though. 

09Alien

Alien
It’s just a few seconds of cameo, but makes a big impression and turns the film on its head. Not even the cast members (who were left in the dark about what was about to take place) were expecting the titular “Alien” to burst out of John Hurt’s chest. The shock of the creature’s arrival disguises the fact that what we’re looking at is actually a relatively simple puppet — and a whole load of blood from a butcher’s shop.

Henry: I hate when that happens. They made Alien vs. Predator, so how about Alien vs. Chucky: Battle of the Puppets?

10KimJongIl

Kim Jong Il
Even after the advent of photorealistic CGI, puppetry isn’t dead — in part thanks to South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, whose clumsy marionettes in “Team America: World Police” satirized Hollywood’s slick action blockbusters. But it’s the film’s villain — then Korean leader Kim Jong Il — who steals the show.

Henry: How can you not love a marionette version of one-third of the Axis of Evil? Excellent choice.

I’d like to add the following honorable mentions that failed to make Mr. Ponsford’s list:

Gerry Anderson death

The Thunderbirds
Per Wikipedia: Thunderbirds is a 1960s British science-fiction television series, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. Filmed between 1964 and 1966, it was produced using marionette puppetry interwoven with scale-model special effects sequences, in the form of a mixed technique dubbed “Supermarionation”.

Henry: I suspect Parker & Stone got some inspiration from The Thunderbirds. Either way, I can tell you is that this was one of my favorite TV shows growing up. The vehicle designs still look fresh after 40 years. THAT is good design work.

11Skeksis

Skeksis
Per Wikipedia: The Dark Crystal is a 1982 American–British fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. The plot revolves around Jen, an elflike ‘Gelfling’ on a quest to restore balance to his alien world by returning a lost shard to a powerful but broken gem. Although marketed as a family film, it was notably darker than the creators’ previous material. The animatronics used in the film were considered groundbreaking. The primary concept artist was the fantasy illustrator Brian Froud, famous for his distinctive faerie and dwarf designs.

Henry: The image above is of an evil Skeksis, but the movie is filled with other delightful creatures, including: Mystics, Landstriders, Podlings, Gelfings, Garthim, and Aughra, the lovable ogre-witch with one removable eye.

14Critters

Critters
Per Wikipedia: Critters is a 1986 cult comedy horror science fiction film. The film begins on a prison asteroid in outer space. A group of unseen creatures known as Crites are set to be transported to another station. When the seemingly intelligent creatures cause an explosion that kills two guards and injures three, hijack a ship away from the station, and escape, the leader of the station hires two transforming bounty hunters to hunt the “Critters” down.

Henry: The seemingly contradictory description “cult comedy horror science fiction” aptly summarizes this movie. Definitely worth a rent by any self-respecting horror or sci-fi fan.

15SesameSt

Sesame Street
Henry: Do I really need to explain this one? Bert, Ernie, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and the Cookie Monster belong in the top ten! We were robbed!

13MeetTheFeebles

Meet the Feebles
Per Wikipedia: Meet the Feebles is a 1989 New Zealand black comedy film directed by Peter Jackson. It features Jim Henson-esque puppets in a perverse comic satire. Like Henson’s Muppets, the Feebles are animal-figured puppets (plus some people in suits) who are members of a stage troupe. However, whereas Henson’s Muppets characterize positivity, naïve folly, and innocence, the Feebles present negativity, vice, and other misanthropic characteristics.

Henry: This movie makes the list as a nod to the great Peter Jackson making films before he had 9-digit movie budgets.

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Muppets & Fraggles meet the scifi cult classic Firefly

Joss Whedon (@JossWhedon) created an innovative and popular sci-fi (space Western, really) TV series ‘Firefly’ (and a subsequent movie ‘Serenity’). Diehard ‘Firefly’ lovers have lamented for a decade the cancellation of the series, much like the die-hard fans protested the cancellation the original Star Trek TV series (and not without good cause).

A recent San Diego Children’s Book Examiner post, showed a hilarious mashup of ‘Muppets’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ by Yehudi Mercado (@ymercado). Here is an equally clever mashup of the ‘Muppets’, ‘Fraggles’, and ‘Firefly’ characters, affectionately and appropriately entitled ‘FireFrog’ by artist James Hance (@JimJeroo). You can purchase your own copy of this poster at http://www.jameshance.com/prints.html

Thanks to @LaurenDavis at @io9 for bringing this to our attention.

firefrog

Kermit the Frog as Mal

Mal

From wikipedia.org:
Kermit the Frog is puppeteer Jim Henson’s most famous Muppet creation, first introduced in 1955. He is the protagonist of many Muppet projects, most notably on The Muppet Show, and Sesame Street, as well as movies, specials, and public service announcements throughout the years.

Nathan Fillion as Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds—the owner of Serenity and former Independent sergeant in the pivotal Battle of Serenity Valley. Malcolm grew up on a ranch, and was raised by his mother and the ranch hands. In the Unification War, he fought for the Independent Army, the “Browncoats”, as a platoon sergeant in the 57th Overlanders. He is cunning, a capable leader and a skilled fighter. Mal’s main character drive is his will for independence. While he is not above petty theft, smuggling or even killing to maintain his free lifestyle, he is generally honest in his dealings with others, fiercely loyal to his crew and closely follows a personal moral code.”

Miss Piggy as Inara

Inara

From wikipedia.org:
Miss Piggy is a Muppet character who was primarily played by Frank Oz on The Muppet Show. In 2001. Miss Piggy began as a minor character on The Muppet Show TV series, but gradually developed into one of the central characters of the show. She is a pig, specifically, a mangalitsa who is convinced she is destined for stardom, and nothing will stand in her way. She has a capricious nature, at times determined to convey an image of feminine charm, but suddenly flying into a violent rage (accompanied by her trademark “hi-yah!”) whenever she thinks someone has insulted or thwarted her. Kermit the Frog is often the target of her alternating anger and affection.

Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra—a Companion, which is the 26th century equivalent of an escort, mistress, hetaera, courtesan, or oiran, who rents one of the Serenity’s two small shuttles. Inara enjoys high social standing. Her presence confers a degree of legitimacy and social acceptance the crew of Serenity would not have without her on board. As a highly educated Hooker with a heart of gold, Inara displays great dignity, civility and compassion. There is strong romantic tension between her and Mal, who share many character traits, but each jokingly objects to the other’s “whoring” or “petty theft”, respectively. Both neglect to act on their feelings, and try to keep their relationship professional.”

Wembley Fraggle as Wash

Wash

From muppet.wikia.com/wiki/:
Wembley Fraggle is one of the five main Fragglecharacters in Fraggle Rock. His skin is yellowish green. He has a long nose and big movable eyes, and a big tuft of yellow hair on his head. He usually wears a banana tree shirt.”

From wikipedia.org:
Alan Tudyk as Hoban “Wash” Washburne—Serenity’s pilot and Zoe’s husband. Deeply in love with his wife, Wash expresses jealousy over his wife’s “war buddy” relationship and unconditional support of their captain, most particularly in the episode “War Stories”, in which he confronts Mal regarding their relationship. He joined pilot training just to see the stars, which were invisible from the surface of his polluted homeworld, and he joined Serenity despite being highly sought after by other ships. He is very light-hearted and tends to make amusing comments, despite the severity of any situation.”

Red Fraggle as Zoe

Zoe

From muppet.wikia.com/wiki/:
Red Fraggle is one of the five main Fraggles in Fraggle Rock. She is yellow and her hair is red with yellow and orange highlights which is always in big pigtails. She usually wears a red sweater and has the most hair of any Fraggle.”

From wikipedia.org:
Gina Torres as Zoe Alleyne Washburne—second-in-command onboard Serenity, a loyal wartime friend of Captain Reynolds, and the wife of Wash. Her surname during the Unification War was Alleyne. She was born and raised on a ship and served under Mal during the war as a corporal. Described by her husband as a “warrior woman”, she is a capable fighter who keeps calm even in the most dangerous situations. She demonstrates an almost unconditional loyalty to Mal, the only exception noted being her marriage to Wash, which the captain claims was against his orders.”

Fozzie Bear as Jayne

Jayne

From wikipedia.org:
Fozzie Bear is a Muppet, created by Jim Henson. He is an orange, particularly fuzzy bear who works as a stand-up comic and has a catchphrase, “Wocka Wocka Wocka!”. Shortly after telling the joke, he is usually the target of rotten tomatoes and ridicule, especially from hecklers Statler and Waldorf. He wears a brown pork pie hat and a red and white polka-dot necktie.

Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb—hired gun. He and Mal met on opposite sides of a rivalry; Mal, while held at gunpoint, offered Jayne his own bunk and a higher cut than his current employer, so he turned coat and shot his then-partners. He is someone who can be depended on in a fight. He tends to act like a “lummox” who thinks he is the smartest person in space, but occasional hints of intelligence peek through this façade, giving the impression that he acts dumber than he is.”

Sam the Eagle as Shepherd

Shepherd

From wikipedia.org:
Sam the Eagle is a character from the syndicated television show The Muppet Show, performed byFrank Oz. Sam’s patriotic spirit differentiates him from the rest of the Muppet cast, as does his general stuffiness and pomposity. Because of this, it has been a running gag in either The Muppet Show, or Muppet movies, that shows his patriotism towards the United States.

Ron Glass as Derrial Book—a Shepherd (equivalent to a pastor). Although presented as a devout Christian, Book has profound knowledge about criminal activities and police corruption. In “Safe”, he was shown to have sufficient status in the Alliance to receive medical treatment from the military with no questions asked. He is also proficient in hand-to-hand combat and the use of firearms. While objecting to violence most of the time, on a rescue mission he joins the fight, stating that while the Bible is quite specific about killing, it is “somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps”. Book is a moral guide for Mal and the rest of the crew, a voice of reason, conscience and spirituality. Ironically, he seems to get along well with the amoral mercenary Jayne, with whom he works out repeatedly.”

Janice as Kaylee

Kaylee

From muppet.wikia.com/wiki/:
Janice is the lead guitar player in the Electric Mayhem onThe Muppet Show. She also portrays Nurse Janice inVeterinarian’s Hospital, and appears in various other sketches, frequently as a chorus member. She is occasionally seen in the orchestra during the fifth season of the show. She has a very close relationship with the Electric Mayhem’s bass player, Floyd Pepper (although, in the first season of The Muppet Show, she’s involved withZoot in the At the Dance sketch).”

From wikipedia.org:
Jewel Staite as Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye—the ship’s mechanic. In the episode “Out of Gas”, it is established that she has no formal training, but keeps Serenity running with an intuitive gift for the workings of mechanical equipment. Jewel Staite explains Kaylee’s character as being wholesome, sweet, and “completely genuine in that sweetness”, adding “She loves being on that ship. She loves all of those people. And she is the only one who loves all of them incredibly genuinely.] She has a crush on Dr. Simon Tam.”

Beaker as Simon

Simon

From wikipedia.org:
Beaker is a Muppet character from The Muppet Show. He is the shy, long-suffering assistant of Dr.Bunsen Honeydew, and is likewise named after a piece of laboratory equipment, although his shape more closely resembles an Erlenmeyer flask.

Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam—a medical researcher and trauma surgeon of the first caliber (top 3% in his class at a top core-planet institution), who is on the run after breaking his sister River out of a government research facility. In the episode “Safe”, it is revealed that he and River had a privileged upbringing with access to the best education. Simon sacrificed a highly successful future in medicine, over his stern father’s severe objections, when he rescued River. His bumbling attempts at a romantic relationship with Kaylee are a recurring subplot throughout the series, and at every turn he seems to find a way to unwittingly foil his own attempts at romance. His life is defined by caring for his sister.”

Mokey Fraggle as River

River

From http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/:
Mokey Fraggle is one of the five main Fraggles in Fraggle Rock. She has mauve skin with darker purple fur, long turquoise hair, and wears a long gray robe-like sweater, which is worn open. She wears a ring on a string of beads around her neck.”

From wikipedia.org:
Summer Glau as River Tam—smuggled onto the ship by her brother. A highly intelligent, compassionate and intuitive child prodigy. Experiments and invasive brain surgery at an Alliance secret facility left her delusional, paranoid, and at times violent, though her uncanny ability to seemingly sense things before they happen leaves question to where the delusions end and reality begins for her. The experiments seemed to have made her a psychic, providing her with a seemingly innate ability in hand-to-hand combat, and she is capable of killing or incapacitating several stronger opponents with ease. She gets frequent fits of anxiety and experiences post-traumatic flashbacks of her time in the Alliance facility. Her mental instability and uncanny abilities, paired with several erratic and violent acts, is a recurring source of fear and doubt among the crew, especially with Jayne, who very frequently requests that they be taken off the ship.”


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Game of Thrones meets The Muppets

Many kids love The Muppets. Many adults like Game of Thrones. But would a normal person conflate these two franchises? No, a normal person would not.  But, in a “Hey, you got peanut butter in my chocolate!” moment, animator Yehudi Mercado did just that with his ‘Game of Thrones of Muppets‘.

As the ultimate proof of his creativity, Mr. Mercardo has a poster in his office signed “Yehudi, you are a genius.” — JJ Abrams. He has other interesting projects in the works. Coming this fall, Archaia Publishing (those wonderful madmen who brought us Mouse Guard) will launch Yehudi’s next graphic novel, Pantalones, TX. It’s about troublemaking kids in tiny Texas town. Mr. Mercado also has two graphic novels in development: Throne of Secrets and Rocket Salvage.

This mashup raises some interesting questions. Would Cookie Monster ever utter the immortal words “Cookie is coming”? Is Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can made from the finest Valyrian steel? Perhaps @Dedalvs has some more language creation opportunities here…

Thanks to @charliejane of @io9 for bringing this to our attention. 🙂

got3

Tyrion Fozzister (Prince Tyrion Lannister) – “A Lannister always pays his wogga wogga wogga.”

got6

Jaenerice Targaryen (Daenerys Targaryen) – Mother of Dragons

got8

Animahl Drogo (Khal Drogo) – Greatest of the Horse Lords

got7

Prince Joffrizzo (Prince Joffrey) – There’s a reason incest is forbidden

got1

Petyr Beakish & Dr. Varys Honeydew (Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and Lord Varys “Master of Whisperers”)got2

Kermit the Stark (Lord Eddard Stark) – Both Kermit and Ned have trouble keeping their heads.

got4

King Rolf Baratheon (King Robert Baratheon) – First (and, sadly, last) of his name

got5

Queen Cersei Piggister (Queen Cersei Lannister) – Is it a coincidence her name sounds the same as Circe? I think not. That is one evil bitch.

got9

Linky Lannister (Prince Jaime Lannister) – Kingsguard, King Slayer, and inventor of the phrase “incest is best”