Though one of the most memorable movie experiences of my childhood was probably getting to see Star Wars at the drive-in, a close second came in the form of The Muppet Movie. The Muppet Show had been on television for just about three years, and I was thrilled to see the characters make their big screen debut in 1979. Though Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy were the touted stars of the show, of course, I was most taken by the bizarre music group known as Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem featuring Dr. Teeth (of course), Janice, Floyd Pepper, Zoot and my absolute favorite which I’ve quickly doodlewashed here: Animal. He’s the frenzied, frenetic drummer who talks like a cave man and is truly one of the more bizarre characters to ever appear on a children’s show. Frank Oz, who created the voice of Animal, has stated that his character can be summed up in five words: sex, sleep, food, drums, and pain. Yep, that about sums it up and catapults him to the ranks of the strangest childhood character ever.
The thing I loved most about The Muppets was the surreal sense of humor and jokes that were simply funny for everyone watching. Unlike other children’s characters, I never felt like they were talking down to me, as if I were stupid. It was good silly fun with jokes that were actually clever if you could understand them. I could, and so I thought it was brilliant! It was like they understood me and realized that I wasn’t a baby, just a little kid who liked to laugh. But the best part of the movies was that they were musicals! Each one had a fabulous soundtrack to accompany it and I can remember locking myself in my room to learn each song. There, I also learned to do a rather convincing Kermit the Frog impersonation, while belting out his Rainbow Connection to nobody in particular. But the reckless abandon of Animal was definitely the most fun. He was so into his music that it made him utterly mad.
Seeing the reboot of The Muppet Movie a few years ago, I was thrilled once again. These were all the characters that grew up with me going through their own mid-life crisis. It was strangely comforting to see that they were still trying to figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up. Surprisingly, my interest in Animal never led me to wanting to play the drums. I loved melodies more than rhythm so I ended up playing the piano and violin and much later, actually singing professionally. Well, I got paid at least, so I guess that counts. But I still have a fondness for The Muppets and the wonderful songs they sang that were always about happiness and hope. And sometimes, when I’m down and I’m certain nobody is looking, I’ll still sing the last line from the Rainbow Connection in my best Kermit voice: “Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.”