The story of the ever-popular:
Sesame Street characters
Like a lot of people, many of us grew up with Sesame Street and the
Muppets. But did you ever stop to wonder where they came from? Many
Muppets came from humble origins; Kermit once was made of a coat and
ping-pong balls Some of the characters we know and love were recycled
from other TV shows and commercials Jim Henson worked on, while others
were invented by using whatever materials were around. Be prepared for a
Cookie Monster: Jim Henson drew some monsters eating various snacks
for a General Foods commercial in1966.
The commercial was never used, but Henson recycled one of the
monsters (the “Wheel-Stealer”) for an IBM training video in 1967 and
again for a Fritos commercial in 1969.
By that time, he had started working on Sesame Street anddecided this
monster would have a home there. Elmo: The way it’s described by a
Sesame Street writer, apparently this extra red puppet was just lying
around. People would try to do something with him, but nothing really
panned out. In 1984, puppeteer Kevin Clash picked up the red puppet and
started doing the voice and the personality and it clicked -- thus, Elmo
was born. Kermit was “born” in1955 and first showed up on “Sam and
Friends,” a five-minute puppet show by Jim Henson.
The first Kermit was made out of Henson’s mom’s coat and some ping
pong balls. At the time, he was more lizard-like than frog-like. By the
time he showed up on Sesame Street in 1969, though, he had made the
transition to frog.
There are rumours that he got the name Kermit from a childhood friend
of Henson’s or a puppeteer from the early days of the Muppets, but
Henson always refuted both of those rumours.
Miss Piggy is apparently from Iowa. She started as a minor character
on “The Muppet Show,” but anyone who knows Miss Piggy can see that she
wouldn’t settle for anything “minor.” Her first TV appearance was
actually on an Herb Alpert special. It wasn’t until 1976, when”The
Muppet Show” premiered, that she became the glamorous blonde with a
penchant for frog that we know and love today. Frank Oz once said that
Miss Piggy grew up in Iowa;her dad died when she was young and her
mother was mean. She had to enter beauty contests to make money.
Fozzie Bear. Poor Fozzie. He’s the perpetual target of Statler and
Waldorf because of his horrible jokes and puns. It actually created a
bit of a problem during the first season of The Muppet Show, because
when Fozzie got heckled, he got very upset and sometimes cried. Viewers
didn’t feel sympathy;they felt embarrassed. The problem was solved by
making Fozzie an optimist so that even when he got heckled he was
good-natured about it. It’s often thought that he was named after Frank
Oz, who was his puppeteer, but Frank said it’s just a variant of “fuzzy
bear.” Yet another story says he was namedfor his builder, Faz Fazakas.
Bert and Ernie are the Muppet version of Felix and Oscar (“The Odd
Couple,” for you young’uns).Lots of people think Bert and Ernie were
named for some minor characters in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, but
according to the Henson company, that’s just a rumour. Jim Henson always
maintained that it was just a coincidence -- the names just went well
together and seemed to fit the characters. Jerry Juhl, one of the head
writers, corroborated this and said that Jim Henson had no memory for
details like that and would have never remembered the name of the cop
and the taxi cab driver in the old Jimmy Stewart movie.
Other rumours to clear up: The original Ernie used to have a gravelly
voice similar to Rowlf the Dog’s. Frank Oz was Bert’s puppeteer and
hated him at the beginning.
He thought Bert was ridiculously boring, but then realised that he
could have a lot of fun with being boring. Jim Henson once said, “I
remember trying Bert and Frank tried Ernie for a while. I can’t imagine
doing Bert now, because Bert has become so much of a part of Frank.