Since starting a book review blog in November of 2011, I’ve gone to a lot of book readings.
So you have to believe me when I confidently say that this weekend’s Muppet Character Encyclopedia presentation and signing at the Museum of the Moving Image was definitely in the Top 5 of book signings. Maybe even in the Top 2.
Craig Shemin, President of The Jim Henson Legacy and writer of the Muppet Character Encyclopedia, opened up the event (which was sold out!) with a few words about the recently deceased John Henson. Soon after, the excitement began. Craig didn’t want to over-promote the book (buy it here) or anything (or buy it here) so he created a very interactive atmosphere with super creative (and deceptively difficult) games like:
- Piggy, Babs, or Both? -> which fact matches which diva: Piggy or Barbara Streisand, or both? (Fun trivia: Miss Piggy had her own perfume called Moi.)
- Tune-a-finish -> Can you finish the musical lyric?
- Reel to Real -> Which film fits the Muppet parody?
- Man or Muppet -> Is the name provided a Man or a Muppet? (Seriously difficult!)
- Tough Pigs challenge -> where the supremely awesome guys behind Tough Pigs competed to see who was the Toughest Pig (they also competed against a young gal who was really good at sound effects).
See? These were not for the tame Muppet fan. (I was so impressed by the young kids who must study Muppet culture during all their free time. They were so smart!) It’s obvious that each of these activities took time (and love for the subject matter) to put together, and after going to reading after reading, that was so refreshing to experience.
The audience participation of the event came to a close with kids 13 years and younger braving the stage and doing their best Muppet impressions. Guys, seriously. At 29, I still get nervous at book signings and I don’t even have to stand in front of a whole group of people. No one can even hear me! But these kids, they had guts and there were some amazing ones including a girl who did the best Dr. Teeth impression I’ve ever heard. (Truth: I haven’t heard any before but this girl had the character down, believe me.) I alternated between laughing and crying.
There was a short Q&A period where we found out that Craig approached Disney with more than 200 characters to include in the book. Some were cut because they were too too obscure or because of possible legal ramifications (i.e. Spamela Anderson). The opening note of the Muppet Character Encyclopedia has a note from Kermit pertaining to this as well:
This book features many of my Muppet friends, but there wasn’t enough room for everyone. To the cows, horses, lions, tigers, bears and assorted unidentifiable creates who couldn’t make it: I apologize. To the Muppet monsters who aren’t here: I’m asking you nicely — please don’t eat me.
And lastly, before the signing began, Craig played a 20-minute set of clips that included many of the characters you will find in the pages of the Encyclopedia. Truth be told, there is something about a montage like this that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I laugh because it’s funny but part of me feels so sad because the Muppets are just that good! That makes me so mushy inside, and I’m hoping more attention promises more of a future for them.
This gem was one of my favorites:
(The clip reel featured the opening Michael Eisner piece, and I was dying over it.)
Sadly, our stomachs didn’t give us much of a choice when it came to standing in line for the signing. We quickly picked up a copy of the book in the museum gift shop and headed out to eat. We were absolutely starving.
Anyway, another wonderful event at the Museum of the Moving Image! As I’ve mentioned in the past, 2015 will bring a permanent Jim Henson exhibit to the museum and until then, there will be Muppet events held every month. Be sure to check out the museum’s website if you are in town. It’s such a neat place to check out (and we strongly suggest heading to Sunswick 3535 afterward — about block over from the museum — for a bite to eat and an awesome craft beer selection).
Of course, don’t forget to pick up your copy of Muppet Character Encyclopedia. I’ll be writing a review of the book for an upcoming March post, but (spoiler alert) you need this in your collection!