Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Muppet Influence: Part Three

Only two days left to vote for my design at the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge .
Be sure to give me a score of 5. Thanks!

I've had a connection to the Muppets my whole life. I cite them as my earliest and biggest creative influence. They were with me since birth and during my early childhood through Sesame Street. As I grew and matured, so did the Muppets with The Muppet Show and the productions of Jim Henson's Creature Shop. As Jim became more of a public figure and I researched him incessantly, I realized what a remarkable creative force he really was. When he died in 1990, I was heartbroken.

Control of the company went to Jim's children, who did their best to preserve their father's legacy. But the Muppets were never the same. The Muppets were bought by Disney in 2004, and they weren't sure what to do with them either.

Coincidentally, I had become a bit of a "rudderless ship" myself. I had failed my way through art school, got married and took on a series of "real jobs." I was stuck in a rut. I didn't even draw that much anymore, but when I did, I always picked up right where I left off, and somehow in the back of my mind, Jim Henson was still there.

Here's a picture I did as a present for my parents some time in the mid-1990's. I drew my sisters and I with the things we were interested/involved with at the time. Look, there's Ol' Kermit on my hand!

In 1996, an amazing thing happened. My son Alex was born. Of course, I had to introduce him to an old friend early on:I loved being a father. My whole outlook, EVERYTHING, changed. After my daughter Kathy was born in 1998, I realized that by working those "real jobs", I wasn't being true to myself. I wanted to make my children proud and do what I was BORN to do. Be an artist. So I devised an exit strategy.

In 2000, I moved from Wisconsin to Florida to work as a caricature artist at Disneyworld. And wouldn't you know it, the Muppets were there too. I often visited one of the last Muppet projects Jim worked on, Muppetvision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

I tried to expose the kids to the Muppet's world whenever I could.

Things seemed to be going great for me. But a rough and emotional divorce in 2005 shook me to my very core, and I was in desperate need for SOMETHING to go right.
Things were still in a state of flux for the Muppets at that time as well. A few moderately successful films were released as well as some made-for-television movies, but the response to them was lukewarm. The future of the Muppets didn't look very bright.

But there were glimpses of hope. The internet created a new, unexplored venue for the Muppets. They returned in the form of regular appearances by the old men Statler and Waldorf in their own movie review site and several viral videos. But when they released the Muppet's Bohemian Rhapsody on YouTube, I was amazed. For the first time since Jim Henson's death, someone finally got it RIGHT.

The characters were spot on. The tone was perfect. There was heart, humor and anarchy. The Muppets were back, and so was I.
In 2009, that very same year, I got married. I've been in heaven ever since. We've expanded the family with the birth of our son Jett and the Muppets have expanded with a new movie to be released in November. From what I've seen so far, it promises to be a return to the heart and soul of the Muppets. I can't wait!
See how the parallels have occurred between my life and the Muppets? How we've matured together without losing who we really are? We've shared ups and downs, growths and declines all at the same times in history.
Our futures are both incredibly promising as well. With the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge I have vowed to return to my roots and keep Jim Henson's legacy alive. I have a ton of Muppet-related artwork that I plan to work on and as always, you'll be the first to see it all, right here on this blog.

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