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Unpopular Opinions: Muppet Babies 2018

Back in September, Twinsanity did a Peeks on Disney’s 2018 reboot of Muppet Babies.

MB Reboot Title Card 1

Here’s the intro. Kick it!

Now since I’m The Ancient One, I was around to have seen the original Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies series from 1984. Given this, you might be expecting me to be saying:

Little Lord Fauntleroy

“It’s different than what I remember. Childhood Ruined!”

…However, I’m going to risk ticking off a lot of 80’s kids by saying today’s Unpopular Opinion: having now seen both, I think the Muppet Babies reboot is better.

Believe it or not.

Allow me to elaborate on why I feel that this new Muppet Babies trumps the original:

Muppet_Babies_2018_playtable

For one thing, this show’s premise and setting make more sense. The 2018 series takes place in a day care center, as opposed to the title characters all living together in some strange house with no parents or master and never leaving. As I previously mentioned in our Retro Bin of Little Muppet Monsters, the 80’s Muppet Babies premise makes zero sense if you try to break it down logically.

In addition, on this show the characters actually go outside once in a while!

Muppet Babies 2018 Backyard 1

Seriously, I remember an episode of the 80’s show where the Babies were learning to swim, and they had a wading pool in the nursery! Were those kids agorophobes or what?

I like how they have these little tube slides that take them into the backyard set, and how said yard, in addition to having the standard stuff like a treehouse, a merry-go-round and a tire swing, there are specific props and areas for each character: a faux pond for Kermit, a stand-up stage for Fozzie, a cannon for Gonzo, a dressing room She-Shed for Piggy and an easel for Summer.

Camilla

Not to mention a chicken coop which houses a set of oddly round chickens, including this show’s take on Camilla.

Ed

“I like chickens, Eddy!”

BABY SUMMER

Speaking of Summer Penguin (heh-a penguin named Summer–good one), I’ll bet you’re expecting me to say “She’s an OC and she’s not Skeeter so I hate her!”, but no, I’ve got no beef with Summer. First, the writers didn’t simply put Skeeter’s brain into a new character’s body; Summer has an altogether different personality than Skeeter. Whereas Skeeter was athletic, Summer’s more of a creative artistic type. She carves her own swath, and fits in well.

Summer Asleep

Plus, she’s too freaking cute to dislike!

As for the inevitable “Why Summer and not Skeeter?” question, as Jason noted in Peeks, I think reducing the number of main characters was a smart decision; Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and Animal were always the dominant characters; Scooter, Skeeter and (especially) Rowlf, aside from the occasional stand-out moment, were for the most part just kind of there. While we’re on the subject, I’ll hit you with another Unpopular Opinion regarding Scooter and Skeeter:

Skeeter_Scooter_MB_2018

I like the idea of 2 of the characters being twins more than I liked those specific characters. Yeah, I did think it was kind of interesting how the girl was the bolder twin and the boy was the more reserved one, but I’ve seen better examples of that.

Kim and Kam

Kim and Kam from Cartoon Network’s Class of 3000, for example. Google it.

This show’s takes on some of the characters are also just plain better. One example of this is Animal.

Animal

When I first saw the original series in ’84, I thought Animal was an odd inclusion, but at the same time I did see some potential in a kid version of his character, unfortunately, the ’84 series completely screwed him up. They tried to tack on this whole lame “He’s younger than the others” shtick as a way to explain his wild, feral behavior. This show doesn’t try any of that, as it’s simply not needed. We don’t need an explanation as to why Animal is wild, he just is. A feral kid is no stranger than anyone else on this show. If you don’t need an explanation for banjo-playing frogs, stand-up comedian bears and diva pigs, then you should be able to accept that one of the kids is a Wild Child.

Baby_Animal_drums_2018

I also like how this show remembers that Animal is a freaking drummer. This was barely mentioned in the first series (I remember Animal playing the drums once in the musical number of the episode “Dental Hyjinx”, but that was about it.) No, I’m not implying that Animal should carry his drum kit around with him wherever he goes, his hands should be drumsticks and his head should be a giant drum, but that is his character (Animal was partially inspired by the Rolling Stones’ drummer Keith Moon, who is likewise a wild man, even famous drummer Buddy Rich once said of Animal: “He’s the drummer; all drummers are animals”), so it only makes sense for Animal’s role on The Muppet Show to be incorporated into Muppet Babies like the others’ shticks.

Baby_Piggy_2018

I also greatly prefer this show’s take on Piggy. She’s still a full-tilt diva, but Miss Piggy’s always been a prima donna, that’s her character, I wouldn’t expect her not to be vain and a spotlight hog (sorry, couldn’t resist!), but here she manages to be a prima donna without crossing over into being obnoxious and overbearing about it. I also like the modifications to her daily outfit, like making the bow in her hair sparkly and dark pink and the stars on her dress, reflecting her ‘superstar’ nature. Nice touch.

Gonzo Upside Down GIF

And I’m really digging this show’s take on Gonzo. Kudos go to Disney for bringing the character back to his roots.

Gonzo Stunt

Gonzo here is an excitable adrenaline junkie and all-around oddball who lives for mind-blowing stunts (like with Animal, this show’s producers remembered that Gonzo does stunts) and high-concept stuff that only he understands, loves chickens and is not afraid to march to his own beat. THIS is the Gonzo that I admired, identified with and was one of my favorite Muppets as a kid; I like this show’s version of Gonzo MUCH more than that thing was walking around in his skin in the later seasons of the 80’s show. I’ll never forgive the original series for turning who was always one of the coolest Muppets into some wimpy, lovesick loser hopelessly pining away for Piggy (who in turn treated him like the scum you scrape off tomato soup) and whose sole motivation for doing anything was to get with her.

The 80’s show turned Gonzo into Wilshire Brentwood from Beverly Hills Teens, and I couldn’t stand it.

Wilshire Brentwood

For those who don’t know, Beverly Hills Teens was a cartoon produced by DIC in the mid-to-late 80’s. The character of Wilshire was a teen who was hopelessly smitten with the show’s resident mean girl, Bianca Dupree, to the point where he acted as her personal chauffeur/lackey/doormat, despite his being as rich as the other teens, just to be with her. Google that also.

That revised take on Gonzo infuriated me so much that I stopped watching the 80’s show after a while; I didn’t see the point in continuing to watch when one of my favorite characters was essentially gone. But there’s (thankfully) none of that here: on this show we get ‘classic’ Gonzo back, and I couldn’t be happier.

Gonzo

I also dig the new symbol Gonzo wears in his overalls, a blue lightning bolt with wings. Reminds me of a Cutie Mark.

I also prefer this show’s shorter stories and the revised story structure. The simpler, 11-minute plots are an improvement, as I felt that many of the 80’s show plots seemed padded out. There are still fantasy sequences, but they’re always brief, to-the-point and never overdone, and here the characters don’t toss around pop-culture references like dollar bills at a strip club; no doubt it was felt that a ton of pop-culture references would likely fly over the heads of the younger viewers, not to mention date the show ferociously, which kind of happened with the 80’s show. (There are also no TV show or movie clips inserted into the action, since Disney would have to pay for clips of any property they don’t own, which was also a hindrance the 80’s show suffered from. It’s because of the extensive use of licensed footage that the 80’s Muppet Babies never got a proper DVD release.)

So overall, I feel that this new Muppet Babies stands head-and-shoulders above the original. If I have one nitpick about this reboot, it’s this:

Muppet_Babies_2018

On this show, the characters are around 4 years old, so the title’s a misnomer, as they’re technically not babies, but I guess Muppet Pre-Schoolers didn’t have the same ring to it.

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14 Comments

  1. A recent episode of the series , “The Best Best Friend”, has an appearance of Rowlf, and he’s voiced by supervising director Matt Danner (voice of Kermit, Beaker, and Waldorf).

    Like

  2. I forgot to post this, so here it is. The episode “Muppet Rock”, which came out a month after this article, had an appearance from Dr. Teeth, with Bill Barretta reprising the role from other Muppet media.

    Like

    • So Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem were all adults when Animal (the band’s drummer) was a 4-year-old? Interesting…

      It’s best to just think of Muppet Babies as taking place in it’s own separate universe. Don’t try to make sense of the timelines in Muppet Babies; your head will explode.

      Like

      • Well, this series has definitely left quite a mark when it comes to its quirky brand of storytelling, like how “Planet Gonzo” revealed him to be an alien, much like Muppets From Space.

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  3. silverstar

    True dat; continuity is just circling the drain at this point. But, as I noted in the post itself, it’s one of this show’s strengths that they acknowledge that Animal is a drummer, something the original series never did.

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  4. Basically, Disney is doing this so that that the kids at home will have something Muppet Babies related to watch while they’re waiting for the premiere of season 2. It’s interesting that I have to get used to seeing these characters as puppets when the adult characters that these characters are based on are puppets. These Muppet Baby puppets look a little bigger than the ones used in “The Muppets Take Manhattan”. The baby muppets’ small size was the main reason why puppets weren’t used for the original Saturday morning series.

    Also, not to nitpick, but Piggy’s head seems unusually large there.

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  5. I found this Ducktalks podcast that Matt Danner took part in. While he primarily talks about his career and Legend Of The Three Caballeros , he does talk about the development process from 29:40-42:55. One thing I find interesting is why the show sticks primarily with a cast of 6 characters, with other Muppets making occasional appearances. At about 38:40, he mentions that there was a lot of influence from the adult Muppets’ appearances, which have complex designs, and of course, time and budget threw a wrench into things. He mentions more Muppets in season 2, but still keeping the style of focusing primarily on 6 characters.

    Like

  6. https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/muppet-babies-season-3-disney-junior-1203279595/

    Season 2 of Muppet Babies premieres on Friday August 9. The show was also renewed for season 3 .

    Like

    • So, for all of you fans of the original series who’ve been wondering when you’ll get to see Scooter & Skeeter, the cathode gods have answered your prayers!

      I think that it’s a good move on the part of the show’s producers to bring other Muppet characters onto the show while still keeping the main cast at only 6. No one else needs to brought in to the main circle; the main 6 with the occasional guest Muppet works just fine.

      Like

  7. The most recent episode brought in Sweetums as a guest star (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) , and an upcoming episode called “The Great Muppet Cook Off” mentions an appearance from The Chef.

    Like

    • silverstar

      “The Chef”? So he’s not the Swedish Chef anymore? Is this another example of the PC Police striking again?? The character’s original name was a play on Julia Child’s series The French Chef, BTW.

      Still, one thing I like about this series is despite the numerous guest stars and allusions to The Muppet Show, the producers keep the main cast relatively small and intimate, never going beyond the main 6. Guest appearances and supporting roles are fine, but it starts to look like a naked cash-grab when shows just start throwing in other characters for the sake of their being there; I’ve seen that happen in far too many shows.

      Like

  8. I’m just blown away that someone else remembers Sweetums!

    Like

  9. Joseph Bradley

    I’ve really enjoyed the episodes i’ve seen of this reboot. I think it’s funny, there’s some really great moments, the characters are lovable, and it has the spirit of the original series while being different. I also really like how the characters look like puppets. Gonzo is easily my favorite character since I find him hilarious and he’s just a really fun character. He’s always been my favorite Muppet.

    Even though I was born in 2000, I do remember watching the old Muppet Babies show and being fascinated at the mixed media aspect of it with having 2D animated characters in drastically different backgrounds and such. I don’t know how I watched it, but i’m guessing my parents introduced me to it like they did “The Muppet Show”. I even had atleast one Muppet Babies book as a kid.

    I do know that the original Muppet Babies had a few plush in Late 2003/Early 2004 that came with their own DVD each containing one episode. They did it with Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, and Gonzo and the episodes were uncut. This was a few months before Disney bought The Muppets actually and the Gonzo plush in particular came with the Star Wars episode. I also read online that a head writer on the show Jeffery Scott said ““If the legal was handled properly, there really shouldn’t be any issues regarding the use of clips. They are typically bought in perpetuity for the very reason of being able to exploit the series in the future.”

    Honestly I think the reason why Disney never put season sets of Muppet Babies on DVD isn’t just because nostalgia is fleeting but also because quite frankly, they never really cared much about putting season sets on DVD. Just take a look at “Phineas and Ferb”, a show that was hugely popular in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. Yes, they released 7 DVDs of it, but each of them only contained a few episodes each. Aside from Season 1 (and apparently also Season 4) of Hannah Montana, they didn’t even release Season sets of their Live Action shows on DVD (Meanwhile Nick was able to release Season sets of Avatar when it was currently running and they were also able to release Season sets of SpongeBob starting in the early 2000’s). If Disney couldn’t release season sets of already running shows, then there would be no way Disney would release season sets of a really old show that already had it’s heyday. Even when they released old shows, they never finished them (And when they did like TaleSpin, it took years for them to release the last volume)

    From what i’ve heard Disney+ is going to have a lot of old shows (Like the old and new DuckTales, Recess, Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and even lesser known shows like Bonkers, 101 Dalmatians, The Mighty Ducks (Mighty Ducks is even on the Netherlands free trial), The Book of Pooh, Quack Pack, and Teacher’s Pet, which makes me think that maybe the original Muppet Babies will be on Disney+ someday. Maybe not at launch, but someday. The original was a huge success (It’s success back then is kind of why there’s a reboot of it now) and was even on Nickelodeon and (despite not being a pre-school show) Nick Jr., lasting from October 1992 – January 1999 on there and then on the Odyssey Network (Which most people unfortunately didn’t have) from April 1999 – April 2000 or so. That’s a really good lifespan if I say so myself and like I said, they even released a few uncut DVDs of it a little before Disney bought the Muppets. Also, I do know that people said that shows like the 60’s Batman and Wonder Years would never be on DVD, but now they are on DVD. I don’t think Muppet Babies will ever get Season Sets on DVD, but I think a Disney+ release is possible, especially if they’re going to have stuff that most people don’t remember like Mighty Ducks and Teacher’s Pet on there. Personally, I would love to see the old Muppet Babies on Disney+ and i’m glad that the reboot will be on there.

    I also really hope Bear in the Big Blue House (Which Disney bought along with The Muppets in 2004) will be on Disney+ since it was the flagship show of Playhouse Disney during the late 90’s and early 2000’s (As well as being one of the most popular shows for pre-schoolers back then) and it was one of my favorite shows as toddler (Up there with Blue’s Clues and Sesame Street). I hate that a lot of episodes were never legally released, meanwhile shows that I don’t really care much for like Aaahh Real Monsters and Angry Beavers (The latter of which I loved as a kid, but now I only like for nostalgia) get all of their episodes legally released, even though they were never all that popular and were honestly kind of mediocre. To me, that just isn’t fair, since Bear was clearly more popular than those two shows (and tbh was a way better show)

    Like

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