Behind the Scenes of "The Muppet Movie"

Was Once Ernie

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Hi All!

Thanks for making me feel so welcome.

Here is Part One of the story:

The short version of how I got the gig is that when I read that they were going to shoot the movie in Hollywood, I just contacted Jim. I already had a relationship with him dating back 7 or 8 years at that point. He said they might need some extra puppeteers at some point and he would contact me if they did. They did and he did.

We reported to a sound stage at CBS Radford Studios. This, although you wouldn't know it from the name, is a major Hollywood Studio, having once been Mack Sennett studios, then Republic Studios. In the 60's and 70's, a lot of television shows were shot there, including "My Three Sons", "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Gilligan's Island". In fact, Gilligan's lagoon used to be on the back lot. MTM later used the lot for all their shows. But I digress...

This was for the big finale, in which almost every Muppet character ever built was to appear. I don't believe the Saturday Night Live characters were included... and probably not some of the earliest Muppets, particularly the Sam & Friends characters... but everyone else was there.

We rehearsed for awhile by just holding our bare hands up in the air and doing the mouth movements to the song. It was tricky because there are pauses between "Thanks to the lovers... the dreamers... and you" and you just had to feel the pauses. You didn't want to anticipate the words and open the mouth too soon, just as you didn't want to be late.

We then went over to the stage we were shooting on. As many of you know, most of the time, the Muppets work standing up with the puppets raised over their heads. This means that the sets are either built up on stilts or the performers have to be standing in a trench. For this shot, they built up the entire stage floor, leaving an oval shaped hole where all the puppeteers stood. The camera was then on a huge crane that had to roll all the way to the back wall and the top corner of the soundstage to fit all the characters in.

The other technical problem was the rainbow. They shot it two ways. First, there was a giant scrim hanging across the stage with a rainbow painted on it. A scrim is a theatrical netting that when you shine light on it from the front, you can see what's painted on it, but when you shine light behind it, you can see through it. The other way was to remove the scrim and put the rainbow into the film optically in post production. Can you guess which method was used in the final film?

END OF PART ONE

:stick_out_tongue:
 

Vic Romano

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It seems like you knew Jim on a personal level, almost like family. How did you come to meet him? And was puppetry always something you wanted to do? Or did knowing Jim inspire you to do so?
 

Beauregard

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Oh my! This is an awesome story! Can't wait for part two!

So, THAT was how they did the rainbow? I always wondered. That is, asuming they did in fact use the scrim. Is that what they did for the other time it burst in, do you know?

Which Muppet were you performing in the end?

*dances in seat waitig eagerly for part 2*
 

Kimp the Shrimp

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Beauregard said:
Oh my! This is an awesome story! Can't wait for part two!

So, THAT was how they did the rainbow? I always wondered. That is, asuming they did in fact use the scrim. Is that what they did for the other time it burst in, do you know?

Which Muppet were you performing in the end?

*dances in seat waitig eagerly for part 2*

i think he said he was Erine


i always thought that the rainbow was post prod
 

ryhoyarbie

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Great story. It seems the ending and the beginning where Henson was performing Kermit in the swamp were the hardest to do.

ryan
 

Whatever

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Wow, that's awsome! Thanks for telling us about it!
 

Was Once Ernie

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Vic Romano said:
It seems like you knew Jim on a personal level, almost like family. How did you come to meet him? And was puppetry always something you wanted to do? Or did knowing Jim inspire you to do so?
I wouldn't say quite like family, but he was very nice to me when there was nothing in it for him to be that way. He always indulged me, talked to me on the phone, let me come to tapings and even watched a pilot for a children's show that I did and critiqued it for me.

In the early 70's, I was working at New Jersey Public Broadcasting. I mailed Jim my "Pictorial History and Resume", which was basically my resume with a bunch of cartoons interjected in between my work experience. It made an impression and he remembered me from it. At some point, I just called him on the phone and because he remembered me, he took the call. After that, any time I called, he would talk to me. I can't imagine getting to the head of a company that easy nowadays, but remember, although the Muppets were well known by this time... many appearances on Ed Sullivan, Rowlf on the Jimmy Dean Show and into the third year of Sesame Street... this was before "The Muppet Show" and superstardom.

I think I was always interested in puppetry. I watched all the early TV puppet shows... "Kukla, Fran and Ollie", "Howdy Doody", "Time for Beany", plus ventriloquists Paul Winchell and Shari Lewis. But I would say the Muppets definitely increased my desire to be a puppeteer.

Next time: Part Two!


:stick_out_tongue:
 

FISH'N'WOLFE

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Wonderful story, thanks for sharing, I'm looking forward to part two very much. :smile:
 

MuppetDanny

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Weclome to the MC forum :smile:

Cool story!

Was Once Ernie said:
I don't believe the Saturday Night Live characters were included...
I just watched TMM a few nights ago, I could have sworn I saw Queen Peuta at the far back :confused:
 
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