There's a feeling of kinship, bordering on ownership, associated with Jim Henson's fury and felt creations, long ingrained in the lives of fans who have grown up (or, more to the point, retained a piece of childhood) as Muppet babies.
Perhaps the connection remains strong because the Muppets are never very far away: "Sesame Street" is set to launch its 42nd season next month, and we can't wait for Jason Segel's big-screen take on the Muppets, come Thanksgiving. In the meantime, we've been enjoying some Muppet-inspired efforts, in multiple media, as fans lovingly fill the gap with their own odes of sorts to Kermit and his pals.
We're still laughing at a recent viral video – a mash-up of the Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot" with old "Sesame Street" clips synced to the music – sprung last month by the folks at an outfit called Wonderful Creative. Whatever their relationship, Ernie and Bert can sure bang the drums together – and Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster’s big mouths suggest they're the original Beasties.
Even more elaborate is a "Muppet Babies" spoof unspooling on Funny or Die in a series of animated videos. "Tiny Fuppets" is supposedly a beloved Portuguese series coming to the U.S., complete with less than idiomatic subtitles. "I am anxious for my trip to America," growls Animanuel, whose playmates include Komit and Ms. Woman.
But our favorite new tribute is "The Green Album," featuring covers of Muppet-associated songs by the likes of Weezer, My Morning Jacket and Andrew Bird. NPR is streaming the album, which is well worth a listen.
Weezer and Hayley Williams' version of "Rainbow Connection" is surprisingly sweet and strangely affecting. Ok Go offers a rollicking "Muppet Show Theme Song," and Alkaline Trio's rocking "Movin' Right Along" is worthy of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
We’re most enamored, though, with Rachael Yamagata's hauntingly beautiful version of “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” from "The Muppet Movie," even if it doesn't quite match the original, which was Gonzo's greatest moment. The poignant song speaks to the struggle of trying to find your place in the world, while striving for a sense of home rooted in familiar, seemingly simpler times. Like childhood.
Check out the album and videos below, and think a little about the rainbow connection we all share:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.