Header Ads

Saturday Morning Cartoon Club: Muppet Babies

Grab your bowl of cereal and put on your PJs and join us for Saturday Morning Cartoon Club, AFA's feature that celebrates the cartoons we grew up with (and the modern shows that keep their spirit alive).

On the face of it, animated versions of Jim Henson's Muppets would seem to defeat their very purpose. Their very existence is tied to the fact that they are puppets. How can a cartoon capture that? Yet somehow, the animated adventures of the Muppet Babies went on to become one of the most successful, beloved parts of Muppet history. How did that happen?

The animated series was born out of their 1984 movie The Muppets Take Manhattan. In one sequence, Miss Piggy imagined what it would be like if they had all known each other for their whole lives. The dream sequence features utterly adorable baby versions of the muppets performing a musical number. The sequence proved to be hugely popular and the Baby Muppets starred on their own merchandise- and starred in their own animated series.

Muppet Babies ran from 1984-1991, and would also be in syndication for many years after. It featured the adventures of junior versions of Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo, Rowlf, Fozzie, Scooter and Skeeter (who was created especially for the show). They all shared the same nursery and were looked after by the benevolent Nanny (whose face was never shown). It was produced by Marvel Productions. Japan's Toei Animation produced the first few seasons, with South Korean studio AKOM taking over later in the run.

The fact that the series was created by Henson himself, and that he wanted to create something of a higher quality than most of the Saturday morning cartoons of the time, ensured that Muppet Babies retained the charm of the original. It may have skewed much younger, but the muppet's personalities were all there- Kermit was the leader, Gonzo wacky and Piggy was... the one and only Miss Piggy. But the series's utterly version of Animal always stole the show.

The series revolved around the babies' imaginations, which took them out of the nursery and into fantasy sequences, that allowed them to have fairy tale adventures, travel through time or go into outer space. As the iconic theme song says "close your eyes and make-believe and you can be any-where"

The series was gently educational while never feeling preachy. The voice cast was something too- Frank Welker played Kermit and Howie Mandel (the voice of Gizmo in the Gremlins films) was the voice of Animal (but only for the first season). Throughout the run, Peter Cullen, Jim Henson and even Stan Lee popped up in cameo roles.

The series succeeded where other Henson spin-offs such as the short-lived animated Fraggle Rock and Little Muppet Monsters failed. Despite its popularity, however, the series never received an official DVD release nor is it available for legitimate streaming.  This might be down to the fact that the series had a habit of using stock footage- from movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Universal Horror movies and Ghostbusters- probably making them a copyright minefield.

In 2018, Disney Junior launched a new series- this time featuring CG that makes them look much closer to the puppet originals. But to those of us who grew up with it, the original will always hold a special place in our hearts.  They may not be actual puppets, but for many, these mini muppets are as fondly remembered as the originals.

More Saturday Morning Cartoon Club can be found on our Patreon Page.