Sunday, November 20, 2011

"Muppet Magazine" Memories

In my earlier post about Dynamite and other magazines of my youth, I forget to mention Muppet Magazine. In general, I've found magazines spun off from characters or movies/TV shows to be all over the place in terms of quality -- but Muppet Magazine, which ran from 1983 to 1989, was always top-notch. Like the earlier television show that inspired it, the publication integrated the top pop-culture stars of the day, creating (along with Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live), a sort of happy and safe environment where all celebrities human and muppet knew each other and could have fun.

Most of all, this was an environment that was kid-accessible, with neither the Muppet Show or Muppet Magazine talking down to children. Certainly, this is something that kid properties from Spongebob Squarepants to many of the recent Disney/Pixar movies have attempted to do. But maybe the Muppets were particularly successful because of the liminal state of reality they inhabited -- not quite real, but three dimensional and able to concretely interact with our world in a way that cartoons could not.

That said, though I watched the original Muppet Movie when it first premiered in New York City, I didn't really get into the Muppets as a child until the Muppet Babies were introduced in 1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan. From there the era of Kermit and the crew as actual puppets waned, to be replaced by the Muppet Babies animated TV show and a whole bunch of other Jim Henson projects that were really cool but were not the Muppets. And while the Muppet Babies cartoon was very intelligent for its time, it unfortunately spawned a whole genre of infantalized versions of established characters of varying degrees of quality.

So I look upon this current Muppet revival with great anticipation -- I think it has the right mix of what made the original Muppets great, with a contemporary aspect that should appeal to both hard-core fans and new viewers. And who knows -- with Jim Henson's creations now solidly in Disney/Marvel's wheelhouse, maybe we'll see a new version of Muppet Magazine as well. Certainly Jason Segel should be on the cover of the first issue!

Find more info on Muppets Magazine at the Muppets Wiki

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