Whether you’re Team Kermit, Team Ms. Piggy, or even Team Elmo – if you were born in the last forty years, it’s safe to assume The Muppets (and their Sesame Street brethren) played a significant role in your early childhood. Now, just in time for the release of The Muppets later this year, (written by and starring Jason “I haven’t been able to picture you clothed since Forgetting Sarah Marshall and that was three years ago” Segal) the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, Queens has provided us with the perfect opportunity for a walk down Muppet memory lane.
Jim Henson’s Fantastic World, a traveling exhibition which opened July 16th and runs through January 16th, 2012, offers both a career retrospective of the artist/puppeteer and an ever-changing array of films, lectures, and educational programs. Unfortunately, while the exhibition as a whole is certainly insightful, it is also slightly unfulfilling given that surprisingly little attention is paid to some the biggest, most successful projects. Sure, it’s great to see a few of the actual puppets in person, (c’mon, who can resist Miss Piggy in all her Muppets Take Manhattan wedding gown glory?) but it’s also kind of annoying that Sesame Street is mentioned almost as an afterthought and the costumes and props from the Dark Crystal are given more real estate in the gallery than any of the Muppet movies.
In all fairness, the MOMI does seem to understand that Jim Henson’s legacy is greater than the sum of its parts – which is where the film screenings come in and compensate for what’s on display upstairs. Without a doubt, the chance to see a Muppet movie on the big screen is worth the price of admission, so planning a visit around the schedule of the on-site theater is the best course of action. Of particular interest are the upcoming documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year and the as-yet-to-be-scheduled appearance by Frank Oz (that’s Mr. Miss Piggy, to you) which was announced this past weekend.
But whether you plan on trekking out to the museum or not, perhaps we should all take a minute to remember our favorite Muppet moments – personally, I was always fond of Kermit as the serious, vintage-style news reporter on Sesame Street. Despite the fact that his assignments often required him to cover the familiar predicaments of various fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters, he always brought an Edward-R.-Murrow-like level of integrity to the job. Let’s just say if NBC ever wants to replace Brian Williams, I know just the guy.