Our dear friends, The Muppets, regressed back to infanthood in 1984 for their first foray into the world of animation. Produced by Jim Henson, Muppet Babies was an instant hit and enjoyed a run in various incarnations for six years, proving that this collection of furry friends had the Midas touch no matter where they appeared.
In the 1984 film, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Miss Piggy imagined what it would have been like if her and Kermit had spent their childhood together. That little segment was the catalyst for this animated series, which took place entirely within the walls of a nursery, cohabitated by all of the familiar felt faces. All the Muppet tykes were under the watchful eye of their kind nanny, who viewers never saw – other than the lower portion of her pink dress and green and white socks. But it was when the nanny wasn’t in the room that the fun really began.
While the walls of the nursery might be able to hold the infant Muppets, they certainly couldn’t control the imaginations contained within. Chairs were transformed into rocket ships, clothing hampers became dark and mysterious caves – there was no limit to where these journeys might lead. And often, they led to the re-telling of familiar fairy tales, or even popular movie recreations, where the Muppet heads were superimposed over the faces of the real-life characters. In one episode, Kermit Skywalker and Princess Pig took on dark side – in the form of Animal Vador. In another, Indiana Kermit desperately tried to run for safety, being pursued by a giant rolling boulder. Although not all Muppets were present in the first few episodes, they gradually made appearances as time went on. Baby Statler and Waldorf eventually arrived, as did Janice and the Muppet Band. And a new face was added as well – Skeeter, sister to Scooter was added to provide a much-needed additional female character.
Muppet Babies was originally intended as a half-hour show but the length was doubled in 1985 and the show retitled Jim Henson’s Muppets, Babies & Monsters, too!. The new version, which now included additional live segments, only lasted a year, when it reverted back to the original title, with nary a monster to be found. Luckily, it did manage to keep its hour-long format, however, and eventually tacked another 30 minutes on, much to the delight of loyal fans.
Surprisingly, neither Jim Henson of Frank Oz provided any of the voices for Muppet Babies. That task was handled by voice-over legend Frank Welker, who received some star-powered assistance from Howie Mandel, Dave Coulier, and even the Beaver’s mom, Barbara Billingsley – who lent her voice to the kindly nanny.
Critically acclaimed and popular with kids and adults alike, Muppet Babies managed to rack up 4 consecutive Daytime Emmys, one for each year from 1984-1988. Of course, none of this likely comes as a surprise to anyone who ever paid any attention to The Muppets. Whether in their infancy or as full-grown adults, the Muppet franchise has always been a quality act.
If you have fond memories of watching this animated series in the 80s, we hope you’ll share all of your Muppet Babies recollections in out comments section.