Jim and Jane Henson rolled out the first Muppets in 1955, and the ensuing 65 years have given the franchise time to expand into virtually every medium, from film and TV to music and theater, and on to internet memes, Vines, and an AR app. There’s an awful lot of Muppet history to sort through, but inevitably, we all have our favorite Muppet moments. As the newest Muppet TV series, Muppets Now, heads to Disney Plus on July 31, Polygon’s entertainment writers are spending the week looking back on the Muppet creations that have meant the most to us over the years.
My relationship with the Muppets mostly came through Sesame Street. I watched and loved Muppet Treasure Island and The Muppet Christmas Carol as a kid, but I didn’t really watch any other Muppet stuff until the 2011 feature film The Muppets. Since then, I’ve caught up on the movies, and come to appreciate the world of the Muppets for its earnestness.
A big part of my love for the Muppets comes from the wonderful music Paul Williams wrote for Jim Henson’s creations. Williams has a knack for coming up with music that really sounds heartfelt — just listen to his compositions for Phantom of the Paradise — which makes him a perfect fit for the sincere world of the Muppets. He’s one of the only Muppet Show guests to have puppets in his likeness for a reason. Hence:
Favorite official Muppets release
Since its debut in The Muppet Movie, the song “Rainbow Connection” has become inextricably linked with the Muppets, to the point that it’s recurred in many other Muppet productions, including the 2011 movie. It’s a perfect song, which Williams describes in the liner notes for the album Music, Mayhem and More! as being intended to capture Kermit’s soul, as well as the general Muppet philosophy that anyone can achieve their dreams.
The song’s performances at the beginning and end of The Muppet Movie, sung first just by Kermit, then by almost every Muppet up to that point, drive home the scope of the song — that it’s meant for everyone — and turn it into an anthem of hopefulness. It makes sense that it would become a Muppet anthem, too.
I own a banjo, so it’s also a song my friends have been badgering me to learn. Someday I’ll find it, the time to learn “Rainbow Connection” on the banjo.
Favorite unofficial release
Any time you can see Kermit’s legs
If I had to pick a Muppet to marry, it would have to be Kermit, because he’s neurotic in a way I generally find appealing, plus he’s good at playing the banjo. That said, I find it incredibly funny whenever his legs are onscreen. Mostly, the Muppets, by virtue of being puppets, are only ever seen from the waist up, so seeing their whole bodies always comes as a surprise. Kermit is no exception to the rule.
The egg shape of his body, especially paired with his slightly gawky, dry spaghetti-like legs, befits his well-meaning but also awkward personality, never more so than when he’s riding a bike — his bike-riding in The Muppet Movie is particularly charming, and people loved it so much that The Great Muppet Caper put a whole crowd of Muppets on bikes. And the degree to which his legs seem too skinny, especially in comparison to his body and his neck, is hilarious. It’s part of what makes him perfect to me.