Kermit the Frog

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Kermit the Frog

Kermit the Frog, arguably Jim Henson's most famous Muppet creation, was the star and host of The Muppet Show, played a significant role on Sesame Street, and served as the logo/mascot of The Jim Henson Company. He continues to star in Muppet movies and make numerous TV appearances.

Kermit has commented on many occasions that he grew up with thousands of siblings, and has talked infrequently about other members of his family. More of his childhood adventures were chronicled in Kermit's Swamp Years. Robin is Kermit's nephew and closest relative.

As a running joke in the shows and movies, Kermit was pursued by leading lady Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy insists that she and Kermit got married in The Muppets Take Manhattan, however Kermit disagrees, claiming that it was just a movie and that in real life, they have a "professional relationship".

Contents

Character origins

Kermit on Sam and Friends.

The earliest version of Kermit first appeared in 1955 on Sam and Friends, Jim Henson's five-minute puppet show that aired twice daily on WRC-TV. Henson made the first Kermit puppet out of his mother's old spring coat, using ping-pong balls for eyes.

Kermit wasn't a frog in the early days of the character. Although he was somewhat lizard-like in appearance, Jim Henson noted in a 1982 interview that "all the characters in those days were abstract."

Kermit first referred to himself as a frog in The Muppets On Puppets, a one-hour special that Henson produced for public television in 1968. However, it was not until the TV special Hey Cinderella! that the Kermit puppet was redesigned; his round feet were replaced with flippers, and he was given an eleven-pointed collar. By the time that Kermit appeared on the premiere of Sesame Street in November 1969, he was a full-fledged frog.

Kermit on Sesame Street

Kermit's most famous role on Sesame Street is his role as a news reporter for the Sesame Street News Flash segments, interviewing characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. One of his most memorable works on the show was the song "Bein' Green."

Unlike other Sesame Street characters, Sesame Workshop never had any ownership of Kermit the Frog. Because of this, Kermit has rarely been part of Sesame Street merchandise. He has appeared in many Sesame Street videos, most notably Big Bird's Storytime and, of course, The Best of Kermit on Sesame Street. His songs have also appeared on many Sesame Street albums. The only Kermit toy that was labeled as a Sesame Street toy was the Magic Talking Kermit toy, released in 1999. In 2005, he appeared on a Sesame Street winter hat by Berkshire Fashions.

Interestingly enough, in 1970, Kermit the Frog was intended to be dropped from Sesame Street, only to be shown in the second season in existing segments. "When the new season starts November 9, expect changes. There will be no more know-it-all frog, since Kermit, the one Muppet who is not exclusive to Sesame Street, is opting out to do commercials" (Look, Sept. 22, 1970). Time Magazine reported with slightly more detail: "Kermit the Frog is being canned for commercialism. When Sesame Street was just a glint in Joan Ganz Cooney's eye, Kermit taped a special in Canada. When it was given a network airing, the frog was compromised. Or so Henson decided. .... He is being phased out of the show. He will be replaced by such Muppets as Herbert Birdsfoot and Sherlock Hemlock" (Time, November 23, 1970). Ultimately, of course, that did not turn out to be the case, as Kermit reappeared as a Sesame Street character in the third season (1971).

Specials

Kermit has appeared in almost every major special from The Jim Henson Company. He had a fairly major supporting role in Hey Cinderella, had a major role in The Frog Prince, and narrated Tales of the Tinkerdee, The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, The Christmas Toy, and Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree.

However, when The Muppet Show was in development, Kermit was not intended to be the main character. In The Muppet Valentine Show, he had a major supporting role, and starred in two sketches, but the main character for that special was Wally. In The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, Kermit appeared in the audience during the wrestling sketches, and had one line in "At the Dance." After that special was made, Jim Henson realized that the pilot's host, Nigel the Conductor, was not working out as a main character, and it was suggested to Henson that Kermit be the star instead.

Since Kermit was the main character on The Muppet Show, it makes sense that he appeared in every special relating to The Muppet Show, usually as the main character. In The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show, he had the job of being the director of the special.

The Muppet Show

Kermit at his desk, backstage at The Muppet Show.

Kermit became a star when he hosted The Muppet Show, acting as the host and the person ultimately in charge of what went on during the show. During the first season, it seemed as if he treated his fellow cast and crew members more like employees, but later on, as the characters developed, it became clear that they were his friends as well.

In addition to hosting, Kermit regularly got to chat with the guest stars and even duet with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Connie Stevens, Andy Williams, and Debbie Harry.

Being the main character, Kermit also interacted with most of the main cast of the show. He was often pursued by Miss Piggy, who made no secret of her love for him, but Kermit generally rebuffed her advances. Although Piggy loved him, that didn't stop her from karate-chopping him whenever she got mad at him.

He was also good friends with Fozzie Bear. They have appeared together in acts and Kermit has reluctantly joined Fozzie for some of his monologues, such as "Good Grief! The Comedians a Bear!" and Fozzie's phrenmology act.

Although he generally functions as the "normal" and calm center of the show, at times Kermit would panic or become annoyed and frustrated with the chaos around him.

Movies, Cartoons and Muppets Tonight

Kermit at home in the swamp.

For the first three Muppet motion pictures, Kermit was very much the protagonist. His role as a leader, first established on The Muppet Show, was perpetuated in the movies as well.

Kermit appeared in animated form on Muppet Babies, where Baby Kermit was an adventurous baby with an active imagination, much like his fellow nursery-mates. A few of his imagined identities were Kermo Polo, Luke Skyhopper, Indiana Frog, and Charlie Brown.

On Muppets Tonight, Kermit was the producer instead of the host. However, Kermit was still a major character on the series and appeared in many sketches and duets.

Changing Performers

After Jim Henson died, Steve Whitmire took over as Kermit. Whitmire's first performance as Kermit was in The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. Kermit appeared at the end of that special. For the next few years, Kermit's function in Muppet productions turned towards functioning as either narrator or in supporting roles, observing or commenting on the action but rarely as the central focus or starting point of the plot. On Muppets Tonight, though Kermit still introduced the guests, he usually played a more detached role, as producer.

Jane Henson reflected on the recasting, in a 1990 interview: "Steve Whitmire as Kermit: "When Jim was alive, he said if anything happened to him, Kermit must go on right away. Because of Kermit's significant place, Jim had essentially chosen who he thought could do it. But we don't want to say who it is before the show. The performer needs time. Kermit won't come back so strong at first. Then little by little, he will get his whole personality back." [1]

Awards and Honors

  • He was awarded an honorary doctorate of Amphibious Letters on May 19, 1996 at Southampton College, where he also gave a commencement speech.
  • Kermit received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 2002.
  • Kermit's song "The Rainbow Connection" was nominated for an Academy Award, as was "The First Time It Happens" from The Great Muppet Caper.
  • Kermit has also received fictional awards, such as the aforementioned Fred Award, and in The Best of Kermit on Sesame Street, The Frog of the Year Award.

Trivia

  • A statue of Henson and Kermit was erected on the campus of Henson's alma mater, the University of Maryland, College Park.
  • Kermit is the only amphibian to have had the honor of addressing the Oxford Union.
  • Kermit claims he can puff out his neck to croak, but claims it wouldn't be appropriate for a G-rated website.[2]

Sources

  1. TV Guide, Nov.17-23, 1990
  2. http://9.yahoo.com/2006/12/08
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