Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Mystery of the Rare 1970's Muppet Show Toy Puppets!

As Muppet collectors we love to talk about the rare Canadian Count toy puppet with the sculpted rubber head, or the rare Herry Monster toy puppet, and the Vicma or Harbert Sesame Street toy puppets. These are all very cool and exciting Muppet collectables to search for, or to display proudly in ones Muppet collection. However they are not the only rare toy Muppet puppets from the 1970's! There are some that, believe it or not, are even more hard to find!

I'm talking of course about those odd hand-made looking Muppet Show toy puppets that are infamous among Muppet collectors... the so called "Mexican Muppet Show puppets". These puppets are such a mystery nobody knows for sure who made them or if they're even really from Mexico! Shown above is Kermit, Gonzo, two versions of Floyd, Dr. Teeth, and Fozzie Bear. Puppets of Animal and Miss Piggy from this line are shown below on this page. I haven't seen any other characters for this set (such as Scooter or Rowlf). Any of these puppets are quite rare to find.

The above collage shows one version of the Dr. Teeth puppet (which I will call Dr. Teeth #1), shown in the first photos of it to appear online. These images have been floating about the internet circa the mid 2000's, and are responsible for starting the buzz about this odd series of Muppet toys. Many thought this Dr. Teeth puppet was just a one off hand-made item, but it does appear to have been manufactured, at least in limited quantity. Dr. Teeth #1 has blue eyelids and a yellowish-tan coloured hat, thin black stripes on his red shirt, light blue pants and yellow sandals. The fur hair is bright orange.

Back view of Dr. Teeth

What is even more bizarre about these puppets is that the bodies are similar in design to the Fisher-Price Animal puppet, but the hands are similar to the Fisher-Price Kermit puppet. It's very likely that this entire line of toys are bootleg products rather than officially licensed items, as the quality of these puppets is lacking. Yet, they are quite awesome none the less! It's a shame Fisher-Price didn't make these as part of their Muppet Show toy line! Who wouldn't want a Fisher-Price style puppet of Dr. Teeth or Floyd Pepper!!!

A second version of the Dr. Teeth puppet (Dr. Teeth #2), shown on the left, and a third version (Dr. Teeth #3) shown in the middle and on the right. There seems to have been many production variations for this puppet. The same is the case for the Floyd puppet, shown below.

Dr. Teeth #2 has pink eyelids (instead of blue) and a plastic looking round nose (could this possibly be a repair job by a previous owner?), what looks to be the same green body and shirt as the first puppet but with darker blue pants (instead of light blue), and an orange hat (instead of yellow/tan). The orange fur hair seems to be darker as well. Puppet #2 seems to be a hybrid between puppet #1 and #3, with similarities to both puppets. The green body and red shirt are similar to puppet #1, but the pink eyelids and orange hat are similar to puppet#3, only the peak of the hat isn't folded. I don't have a picture of the feet for puppet #2 so we don't know what they look like.

Dr. Teeth #3 is quite different, with pink eyelids (same as puppet #2), an orange hat (also like #2) but the green body seems to be lighter in colour, and the shirt is made of different fabric with wide light and dark orange stripes. The light blue pants appear to have a denim look, and the sandals are red instead of yellow. The fur hair is even darker orange than puppet #2.

I always thought it was strange that Floyd Pepper wasn't marketed more often. He is certainly one of the coolest Muppets who would have made for some equally cool toys, as demonstrated by this bootleg puppet. Floyd puppet #1 on the left, with grey hair, is also shown on the left of the blurry image. On the right is Floyd puppet #2 that has the correct orange hair. Floyd #2 also has light blue pants instead of the denim pattern seen in Puppet #1, along with darker coloured eyes and hat. Even the red shirt seems to be darker in colour than puppet #1. Floyd himself is supposed to be purple, but these two puppets were made with different colours. Puppet #1 is Kermit green, while puppet #2 seems to have been made with the lighter green that Dr. Teeth #3 was made with, shown below.

Floyd puppet #2, Dr. Teeth puppet #3, and the only puppet of Fozzie Bear from this series that I'm aware of (aka. Fozzie #1). More images of Fozzie are shown below.

Many collectors say that these puppets are from Mexico and made by Exin. This Muppet Wiki page is about the Dr. Teeth #1 puppet shown above, and provides a link to an English translation of the Spanish Wikipedia page about the Exin toy company. That page states that Exin was a Spanish toy company founded in 1951, with it's main factory in Barcelona, Spain. It closed in 1993. I don't know enough about Exin to know if they had production facilities in both Spain and Mexico, however based on the Spanish Wikipedia it seems more likely to me that these puppets would be from Spain... if they were in fact made by Exin at all!

This Mego discussion board provides a wealth of information about these bizarre Muppet toys. The discussion seems to be from 2008 -2010. One collector "rche" posted images of the Dr. Teeth #1 puppet in 2009, and stated that it was purchased "from a fellow in Belgium" who "claims it is from the Exin toy company in Mexico". That the toy came from Belgium, which is in Western Europe, would support the notion that the toy was made in Spain, however as the seller told the buyer that the puppet was from Mexico it does confuse the situation. The same collector, "rche" also posted the same photos and info on the Muppet Central Discussion board in 2009.

Here is a very nice look at the Fozzie bear puppet. This is a second copy, not the same one as shown above in the blurry image, therefore this puppet is Fozzie #2. As you can see he has clay pads on his hands and feet. His eyes, nose and hat are also clay, and there is a clay shape to form his head which the fur has been placed over top of. This is a very cool full-bodied puppet of Fozzie!

A closer look at Fozzie's face. Unfortunately, one of the black felt irises has fallen off.

Here is a look at Fozzie's back. The puppet opening is the same horizontal style as the others.
The owner of this puppet said that there is a zipper around the puppet hole.

Here are the Kermit and Gonzo puppets. This is the only photo of the Kermit puppet from this series that I've seen. Both photos of the Gonzo puppet appear to be the same copy of the puppet. Some of these images are found on Muppet Wiki on this page, here.

Miss Piggy is by far the ugliest puppet in this series, and was appropriately featured on the Tough Pigs website in an "Ugly Muppet Toy" pageant. This information and photo was brought to my attention by a post left below from "The Crumpit Puppet Troupe". Thank you for this awesome info!

It's funny to see an orange skinned Miss Piggy, and with black hair no less. The fuchsia pink outfit doesn't help much either, but I love those sculpted shoes!

I've saved the best for last..... ANIMAL!!!!!

Here is the very bizarre Animal puppet from this series. I really like that this puppet has red fur for the face as I find it suits Animal better than the typical pink hair that so many toy companies use when making Animal plush toys.

The Dr. Teeth, Floyd and Animal puppets were all made with the same type of body, only Animal's was made with cream coloured fabric rather than green. They all have the Kermit style hands and very odd sculpted feet which seem to be made of a fragile clay, or possibly liquid latex. The eyes and noses of the puppets also seem to be made of the same clay-like material.

A nice closer look at Animals eyes with glued on felt irises.

The owner of this specific Animal puppet, who kindly submitted these photos, said that the mouth no longer opens as the clay has dried out. There are white painted clay teeth inside the mouth but these are the only ones that are visible.

Here is another variation of animal, aka Animal #2, which has a different shirt
and lighter blue denim pants.
The mystery remains... were they made by Exin? Are they from Mexico or Spain? Are they home made or produced in a factory? Alas, we may never know!!!!! But one thing we do know is that Muppet collectors love these bizarre puppets!

If you have any further information about these puppets, or want to share images of copies that you own, please do contact me. You can post a message below or e-mail me at info@artellepuppets.ca

Happy collecting!

-Mikey :)

Photo credit: Many thanks to the Muppet fan who sent me many of the images shown above on this page, including those of Animal and Fozzie Bear. The die-hard Muppet fan in question wished to remain anonymous, but wanted to share these photos from his/her collection with other Muppet fans. Frankly, this blog page wouldn't exist without their enthusiastic input! Thank you so much!!! :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Casting for Big Bird Documentary

A production company in Los Angeles is currently working with Sesame Workshop on a short documentary about Big Bird and looking for stories to share.

They're looking for amazing real-life stories or anecdotes from parents, kids, and fans of all ages who Big Bird has had a positive impact on, from teachable moments to nostalgic ones, to getting themselves or their kids through a difficult time. In other words, what are you favourite Big Bird stories?

If you have a fun, heart-warming or inspiring story that relates to Big Bird, they want to hear from you! If you wish to make a submission, please e-mail Colleen at colleen@matadorcontent.com for more information.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Now Available!!! Funko Shop Flocked Fraggle Rock Five Pack!

Awesome Fragglish Funko News! The five main Fraggle Rock Pop figures are now available in a limited edition boxed set!!! All five figures are flocked and are being sold through the Funko online shop as an exclusive run of 3000 pieces! https://shop.funko.com/pop-television-flocked-fraggle-rock-5-pack.html Get 'em while you still can!

A little bit of speculation.... I'm hoping the arrival of this five pack set is a sign that because the Fraggles have been selling so well Funko is interested in creating more product for us Fraggle/Muppet collectors! It would be awesome if this momentum lead to Funko releasing a 6 inch Junior Gorg at some point! Fingers are crossed! :) He would look so cool next to Ludo, Snuffy and Big Bird!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Yayyy! Fraggle Rock Pop figures coming soon!!!

On Oct 31st Funko announced that they will be releasing a series of 6 Fraggle Rock Pop figures! Each of the five main Fraggles comes with a mini Doozer figure, and rounding out the set is Sprocket the Dog! Thank you Funko!!!!

There's no mention yet of Junior Gorg, though if the series sells well hopefully Funko will add him to the collection too! He would be neat to see as a 6 inch figure. Here is the official announcement for the series: https://funko.com/blogs/news/coming-soon-fraggle-rock-pop

Update: Uncle Matt was announced on Nov 1st, 2017 as a Funko Speciality Series addition:

Here's more info about other Muppet and Jim Henson related Funko Pop figures:

Flocked Red Fraggle is exclusive to Books A Million

Sprocket is exclusive to Toys R Us
Uncle Traveling Matt will be released as part of the Funko Specialty Series!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Count Puppet Mould Mystery!!!

Hello Muppet fans! I'm very excited to report that the mystery of the rare plastic head Count puppet grows ever more mysterious! This past summer I received an inquiry from a Muppet collector who sent me the above photo of a Count puppet head mould. As you could imagine I was VERY surprized to see this photo!!! The collector wanted to know if I thought this could be one of the authentic moulds used between 1972 and 1974 for the manufacturing of the infamous plastic head Count puppets. However, as I have very little knowledge of moulds made for toy production, I am doing a bit of research to determine the answer to that question! Of course, I thought the easiest thing to do is to post the photo and ask for comments on it from anyone who might know more about such things.

Is this the real deal from the 1970's, or is this a modern attempt to re-issue the Count puppet head? Please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, or theories, and if anyone has any actual facts that would shed light on things, that would be most helpful too! :)

In any event, I'm sure there are many Muppet fans out there who would find this photo quite interesting!!! FYI, the collector in question has requested to remain anonymous which I certainly respect, and has given me permission to post this photo. Many thanks to this Super Muppet Fan for sharing their unique find with the rest of us. SMF reports that this mould is 8 pounds and was purchased on e-bay from a US seller. Otherwise, the provenance of the mould has unfortunately been lost.

I'll post any new information from my research down the road, so check back here for future updates! Until then, I hope you enjoy this Muppet oddity as much as I do! -Mikey

Related Posts
I've also posted about the mysterious Count puppet box here:

Here is more info about this series of vintage Sesame puppets:

Text © Mikey Artelle, 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sesame Street Records!!!

At long last I've added all of my Sesame Street records to this blog! I've been putting this task off for years because there are soooooooo many Sesame records to sort through, and I don't even have them all! So today I got with it and documented each of my Sesame records and am glad to finally say they are now online with the rest of the collection! Enjoy! -Mikey

Go to the Sesame Street Records page: http://mikeysmuppetmemorabiliamuseum.blogspot.ca/p/1970-1985-sesame-street-records.html

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It's not easy being... objective!

Above: Puppeteer Steve Whitmire with everyone's favourite (and arguably the most talented) amphibian, Kermit the Frog, at the San Diego Comiccon in 2015. Recently, news that Mr. Whitmire was fired by Disney last October has spread like wildfire. The related news story and above photo are found on the CTV website at this link: http://www.ctvnews.ca/entertainment/former-voice-of-kermit-the-frog-devastated-by-firing-1.3502327

Of Muppets and Manners....

Hey there Muppet fans! Well gee, what seems to be the topic of the day? Did I miss much?

Ya, that was sarcasm. Presumably you have already heard the news that Disney has fired their lead star Muppet performer, Steve Whitmire, in an extremely abrupt and rather disrespectful manner - over the phone - this past October. Disney didn't allow Mr. Whitmire the respect of a face to face meeting, and it seems from the available information they would not compromise or allow him the opportunity to correct any wrong doing. You likely also already know about Steve Whitmire's recent blog post in which he stated:

"I just want you all to know that I am sorry if I have disappointed any of you at any point throughout our journey, and to let everyone know that I am devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero (Jim Henson)."

You didn't Mr. Whitmire! You entertained us and put smiles on millions of people's faces all over the world for the past 40 years. You are not a mere man or mouse, you are a frog! Right now you just seem to be "all scrunched up", so I hope someone close to you will take your arm and pump you back into shape, frog of my heart!

In his post Mr. Whitmire mentions the firing took place due to "two stated issues that had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call". The entire blog post can be read here: https://stevewhitmire-muppetpundit.com/2017/07/11/its-time-to-get-things-started/

This news was so upsetting to people that it didn't just anger Muppet fans, it gained main stream media coverage... everything from local and national news programs to late night talk shows were reporting and commenting on events. In Canada both the CBC and CTV posted the Associated Press report on their websites, as noted above. Meanwhile Stephen Colbert opened an episode of his Late Show this past week with a skit making light of the situation, for which it looked as though the real Kermit puppet may have been used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKW8iI0WlC0  I understand that to a non-puppeteer such a skit might seem funny, but considering Colbert had previously had Mr. Whitmire as a guest performing Kermit on the show, I found the skit to be in poor taste and quite a disrespectful way for Colbert to treat a fellow performer. Apparently there really isn't any honour among thieves. Here is the previous guest appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjAb498Ax60

[Update July 20, 2017: A third skit with Kermit was aired on the Colbert show July 18 toward the end of the monologue, during which Colbert ridiculed Steve Whitmire more directly comparing him to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. http://www.cbs.com/shows/the-late-show-with-stephen-colbert/video/2rRDwe1bJsKXvVAZH76WW7wcsAcHH3_F/kermit-the-frog-s-very-ugly-contract-negotiations/ He also quoted Cheryl Henson as having stated "Steve performs Kermit as a bitter, angry, depressed, victim...".  The quote is taken from this online article: https://io9.gizmodo.com/no-one-looks-good-in-the-ugly-drama-surrounding-kermit-1797013930  Lisa and Brian Henson have also apparently sided with Disney according to this July 17th New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/arts/television/kermit-the-frog-disney-firing.html.]

Without question, the way Disney handled this situation was rather authoritarian and as such if their goal was to do the firing in a manner that minimized any fallout, they certainly didn't help themselves in that regard. This is especially true if they allowed Colbert to use the actual Muppet to mock these events, as it would be purposefully adding insult to injury toward Mr. Whitmire.

Be that as it may, and as upsetting as this news is to everyone, we still do not know what the "two issues" are that led to this point. What could Mr. Whitmire have done, if anything, to have warranted such a harsh response from Disney or cause him to feel that he has "failed" in his duty to Jim Henson? Can the folks at Disney really be so inept and self-absorbed that this is all some kind of personal vendetta against Mr. Whitmire in response to their "two issues"? [Update July 20, 2017: The "two issues" were revealed in the July 17th New York Times article linked above]

When I first heard about the way Disney treated Mr. Whitmire, my initial response was to consider posting an illustration of some kind on this blog showing Mickey Mouse with a big "X" over his face along with a caption in large block letters that read "Disney Sucks!". I still might do that eventually, but I'm glad I held off and didn't respond with a knee jerk reaction. Social media certainly makes it easy to do so! Many fans have subsequently posted anti-Disney sentiments online, some of whom have understandably stated that they will be boycotting anything Disney from here on as a protest of Mr. Whitmire's firing.

Meanwhile the Muppet fan site Tough Pigs, which broke this news in the first place along with their colleagues at the Muppet Mindset fan site, has since posted a rather thoughtful article titled "Take a Deep Breath: The Aftermath of the Kermit News". http://www.toughpigs.com/deep-breath/ In the article they respectfully try to console fans and urge them not to boycott Disney, and to instead be "supportive". Good luck with that one! The article is a noble attempt to put out the flames, and while it is reassuring to see such a thing in the social media jungle, I'm more than a little pessimistic about their message having much effect. I'll explain why....

My take away from the Tough Pigs article is that the message they were attempting to get across is this: "be objective". In my humble two cents worth, it is somewhat of an oxymoron to request such a thing on a fan site, especially in an article that quotes Jim Henson as though he was Jesus. To many Muppet fans that's just who Jim Henson is, and for a younger generation of fans Jesus is Steve Whitmire.

As such, it is likely that the route of people's outrage is not based solely on what the Disney folks did or didn't do in this situation, but rather it is based on a fan's own blind devotion to their idol. Under such a lens objectivity goes out the window. This isn't just true of Muppet fans, this is true for anyone who is a devoted fan of something. Star Trek fans, for example, praise Gene Roddenberry as a god and insist that they be referred to as "Trekkers" rather than the derogatory "Trekkies". George Lucas used to have a similar devoted following until he made the three prequel films and isolated a good chunk of his worshipers, myself included... R2-D2 does not fly for f**k sakes! Pardon my language! The subsequent sale of a good chunk of my Star Wars collection was not as painful as I thought it would be.

So where am I going with all of this?

Well, over the years there have been a number of issues that I have wanted to discuss here on my blog but never bothered to for the very reason that I find devoted fans cannot be objective. At least that has been my experience. That I should have given folks the benefit of the doubt and posted the info anyways is a fair point to make, though a moot one as I didn't, so here we are.

Yet, with recent events I find myself once again pondering if I should post those issues for which I find objectivity went out the window. Not only is this an opportunity to see how Muppet fans will consume the information, but I also feel that it is only fair to correct inaccuracies and give credit where credit is due. So if Tough Pigs and Muppet Mindset are seriously calling on fans to be objective, perhaps I should see if I'm wrong about fans and their objectivity, or at least try again.

Before I do so however, I just want to say for the record that while I'm extremely proud of this blog, I don't pretend that it is nearly as relevant to Muppet fans as Tough Pigs, Muppet Mindset, or others that are out there. My thing is to document collectables and that's it. None the less it is certainly not my wish to be outcast or ignored altogether by posting information about the Muppets which upsets people! So if you are still reeling from the recent news and feel it is poor timing to post additional, potentially upsetting info, stop reading now and come back later. My blog will still be here!

But for those of you who are willing and capable of being more objective about their idol, I'll take the plunge and risk submitting the following fact about Jim Henson for your consideration. I have a few others, but I'll start with one just for the sake of keeping this post from becoming a research paper! (Or is it too late for that? Silly me!) Depending on how this goes I might post the other items down the road. Keep in mind however that I am a huge, life-long fan of Jim Henson and the Muppets, so I'm not doing this to tear anyone down but rather for the sake of being objective and honest. Again, it's only fair to give credit where credit is due. Here we go!

Canadian puppeteer John Conway and his puppets Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock
(photo likely from 1957 or 1958)

Fact: Jim Henson was not the first television puppeteer to use the TV screen as the proscenium in framing the performance of puppets on television.

Back in the early 1950's Canadian puppeteer John Conway, along with director Norman Campbell, used this technique on their CBC program "Uncle Chichimus" before Jim Henson had discovered it for himself. It is still unknown if Conway was the first puppeteer in the world to use the technique as more research needs to be done, but it is clear that he did so before Jim Henson made his TV debut in 1954.

In 2003 I created a video documentary about John Conway and had discovered this information in the late 1990's while doing the research for that project. My documentary was screened at a Puppeteers of America festival in 2004, yet subsequent Henson exhibits still continued to claim that Henson was the first to pioneer the technique, either that or the text was ambiguously written as to mislead the reader into thinking that such was the case. For example the text about Jim Henson currently on the Henson.com website reads: "Jim, along with his assistant [...] Jane Nebel, introduced [...] innovative technical tricks (such as eliminating the puppet stage and using the television itself as the proscenium)." This is somewhat ambiguous and as stated is incorrect. https://www.henson.com/our-founders.php  The Muppet Wiki page about Jim Henson also makes a similar claim, and with more detail, but as stated is also incorrect: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Jim_Henson

Meanwhile, the 2011 PBS documentary "Pioneers of Television" about Jim Henson states "[...] Henson was among the first to understand the potential of the new medium", which is a more accurate statement to make though still somewhat ambiguous because it is not explained, and the narrator says it so quickly the meaning of the statement is glossed over so that the impression is still that Henson was the only one doing that kind of television puppetry, which again is misleading because he clearly wasn't the only one doing that kind of puppetry. I have not yet seen the entire documentary so I do not know if they clarify this elsewhere in the program.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzpS1Gsd69Y

In any case, I am not the first researcher to bring this information about John Conway to light. American puppeteer George Latshaw recorded the facts about Conway and Campbell in his book, Puppetry the Ultimate Disguise, published in 1978. Yet, his research was apparently also ignored even though Latshaw was actually a guest puppeteer on Conway's CBC program in February 1954, making his research a first hand account of the events.

So what does this mean for Jim Henson's legacy? Not much! He is still a genius who accomplished more than any other TV puppeteer ever did, and he is still the first American puppeteer to use this technique, so I find it quite odd that Henson folks refuse to accept the truth in this instance. In fairness credit should be given where credit is due, should it not? Additionally, Jim Henson's legacy doesn't need embellishment with false or misleading facts. What he did for real was awesome enough.

The last point that I want to make, and the one that is personally close to my heart having known John Conway for the final few years of his life, is that just because John Conway is not as famous as Jim Henson does not mean that Conway's accomplishments or his role as a television pioneer are any less valid. We should not be excluding Conway from the history of television puppetry simply due to his inability to win a popularity contest against Jim Henson.

As a side note, I find it quite ironic that like Kermit, Conway's main character Uncle Chichimus is also green.... "It's not easy being green" indeed! For more about John Conway please see my post about the documentary on "Mikey's Art and Puppetry Blog" here: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/john-conway-and-uncle-chichimus.html

In conclusion, just to remind folks what a huge Jim Henson fan I am (in the event that the existence of this blog is not enough!), below is a photo of my Kermit the Frog collection taken in the mid 1990's before I learned that John Conway had even existed! So if you have the impulse to bite my head off right now, please "take a deep breath" and try to be objective! - Mikey