Producing The Muppets

Anyone who ever had a childhood has heard of The Muppets (so everyone, then). Many of us grew up with them and still smile when we think of all those times they made us feel giddy. Now the parents of Melbourne can help their kids to discover The Muppets for themselves at the Muppets, Music and Magic: Jim Henson’s Legacy expo at ACMI. There will be many sessions covering the puppets’ long history, and we got to speak to Martin Baker about his session, Producing The Muppets, where he will talk about his long history with these furry little rascals.

Have you been to Australia before?
I have, but not to Melbourne. I’ve been to Sydney plenty of times though.

How did you get involved with The Muppets and Jim Henson’s creations?
It goes back many years. I first met Jim Henson in the late ’60s-early ’70s at ATV television where The Muppet Show got produced. Jim and Frank Oz came along serveral times as variety act on The Tom Jones Show in the ’60s, as a guest act. The years followed,  and Jim kept doing guest spots. We started producing on The Muppet Show in the mid-’70s.

It’s been 25 years since Jim Henson passed away. How do you feel his legacy has gone on since then?
The fact we’re talking about it is something and that I’m coming to Melbourne because of his career. The characters are clearly timeless. The characters have had different evolutions and they try to find the right project to keep the characters alive. It’s an ongoing business, now that the Walt Disney company owns them.

What do you think the appeal of The Muppets are since they have been around for so long? Both adults and children love them.
I think it’s the young parents because they grew up with it. They bring their kids to the Muppets, and they will love them too. It’s not just kids entertainment. Jim’s struggle was that The Muppets Show was a family show, not just for children, unlike Sesame Street. The humour is skewed for older people, but not crossed that line either.

What will you be talking about in the masterclass you are running?
I hope to share my career, how it got into TV and working with Jim. I will share some personal stories about working with Jim, and the impact the experience had on me. I’ll talk about working with the Muppets, and what’s involved. I hope it will be informative and entertaining. I’d rather call it a conversation though; “masterclass” sounds so formal!

What can people expect from the exhibition?
I think the program is well put together. A real eclectic mix of Jim’s shows. That in itself is a broad landscape of what Jim worked on. One minute it was Kermit the frog, the next it was Dark Crystal.

Originally published here at milkbarmag.com on Wednesday 23 September 2015

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