The Muppet Babies Cannot, And Should Not, Be Treated As Muppet Canon
Ghostbusters. Star Wars. There’s lots of things getting a timely reboot at the moment. Some have been a success, such as Channel 4’s new Crystal Maze. Whereas some, like Wayne Rooney’s attempts to remodel himself as a central midfielder, have been a failure. The latest in a long-line of reboot announcements came recently when Disney released the news that Muppet Babies is set to be remade. Which is a shame. Because the Muppet Babies are trash.
Don’t get me wrong, the Muppets are amazing. Kermit. Fozzie. Gonzo. Rowlf. They’re funny. They’re great. They’re amazing. I grew up with The Muppets and never grew out of The Muppets. But not the Muppet Babies. No, sir.
The Muppet Babies, a cartoon about the Muppets when they were babies, was originally on our screens for seven years until 1991 but the origins began in a dream sequence in the 1984 film The Muppets Take Manhattan. The scene, featuring childhood versions of our favourite Muppets, was another in a long line of pioneering pieces of cinema that can be credited to Jim Henson.
From raising film sets to hidden stitches via television screens inside costumes and performing puppetry underwater, Jim Henson was a maverick of television and cinema. Many of Henson’s inventions and techniques are still used in cinema today. However, where he really raised the bar was to reimagine puppetry as an entertainment form that wasn’t only aimed at children but could be enjoyed by adults too.
Jim Henson fought tirelessly for years against a tide of television executives, network producers and fellow performers to give puppets, and the Muppets, their moment in the primetime spotlight. He even went so far as to give one of his Muppet Show pilots the name Sex & Violence to underline its intended audience wasn't just children. The Muppet Show was eventually commissioned by British television after its mass market appeal to both children and adults was finally noted.
And that’s what makes Muppet Babies terrible. There is no intended adult audience with Muppet Babies. Muppet Babies is aimed solely at children. So why did Henson do it? The answer is simple; because Marvel, yes that Marvel, came knocking on the door of Jim Henson’s office with a bumper pay cheque and all those years of fighting for the Muppets to be taken seriously disappeared.
But even if we ignore the fact that Muppet Babies is awful as a concept, which it is, we cannot ignore the fact that the concept is flawed. The Muppet Babies is not, and cannot be, Muppet canon.
In the 1979 Muppet origin film The Muppet Movie, we’re led to believe that The Muppets met on an epic road trip to Hollywood where they would go on to create The Muppet Show. Now we, the refined and educated Muppet viewer, are expected to believe that the Muppets went to nursery together? It just doesn’t make sense.
And if that is the case then why is there such surprise when they all meet for the first time in The Muppet Movie? Are they just feigning their love and acceptance of one another, of their backstories and their characteristics and the lessons and friendships they learn along the way, or did something more sinister happen between the Muppet Babies at nursery and the Muppets of The Muppet Movie fame? (Fozzie) Bear with me...
Was there a terrible accident that led to the Muppets losing their memories and one Muppet tragically losing their life? Did some of the Muppets, as playful adolescents, go too far and kill one of their childhood friends?
You see the Muppet Babies features Skeeter; a female Muppet and Scooter’s twin sister. Skeeter, however, does not feature in The Muppet Movie, The Muppet Show, or any of their other subsequent television or film appearances. What became of Skeeter? Why do none of the other Muppets talk of her, not even her twin brother?
Did Skeeter die in her Muppet adolescence? Did her tragic death cause The Muppets to blank out all memories of their childhood, and their time at nursery together? Was her death part of an incident that caused all other Muppets to lose their earliest interactions with another? Did the Muppets kill her, go their separate ways and swear never to breathe a word of her again? Does this explain Scooter’s skittish and particular nature?
There’s lots of questions, will any of these be answered in the reboot of Muppet Babies? Probably not. Will the reboot of Muppet Babies still be trash? Yes. Definitely.