Interview with Miss Piggy's creator

Bonnie Erickson was the creator of such esteemed Muppets as Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, and Zoot from the Electric Mayhem band. Erickson's work is featured in the traveling Smithsonian exhibition Jim Henson's Fantastic World, and Smithsonian magazine interviewed her for the new issue. From Smithsonian:
 Images Erickson Qa Oct08 Main Let's say you get a contract to make a character. How does your creative process work?
Well let me take the Philly Phanatic as an example. The managers approached us to design a mascot who could encourage fans to bring their families to the games. So we had to design a character who was child-friendly, who was playful and a little irreverent but not too silly. We'd heard from the Phillies that their crowd had booed the Easter bunny, so it was a challenge to come up with something that was not going to talk down to their audience. We wanted a character who had a life and a story. A lot of our characters are still performing today. We created Youppi for the Montreal Expos, and when the team moved out of Montreal Youppi was left without a home. So he was taken in by the hockey team. In my mind I've always thought of these characters as having a life, so they're free agents in many ways. When they lose a team, they go out and try to find another job.
"The Woman Behind Miss Piggy" (Smithsonian)


  1. …This would have been the perfect time to confirm whether or not Miss Piggy:

    1) Finally nailed Kermit!

    2) Was based on Loretta Swit’s portrayal of Hot Lips!

    3) Has implants!

  2. Statler and Waldorf also made an appearance on the NYT oped section discussing the VP and Presdiential debates today.

    Those guys, Miss Piggy, Zoot (LOVE him) they were all pretty phenomenal. Still are. If Disney wants to relaunch a bunch of Muppet’s shows, I’m good with that. The old ones from the 70’s were pretty good, but I’d like to see some more contemporary guest stars.

  3. When you get big big money behind something, then you get big distribution which means more people get to see it. I think the muppets are a great art form, and a democratic one. Anybody can rent Muppets from Space, for example, and experience this creation they’ve made.

    I wish there was a place I could rent books.

  4. @8 If you could find the place that rents books, you might find a quote like this one about history and “phony nostalgia”, not unlike the kind that Disney might be touting with a property like the Muppets:

    “Perhaps history this century, thought Eigenvalue, is rippled with gathers in its fabric such that if we are situated, as Stencil seemed to be, at the bottom of a fold, it’s impossible to determine warp, woof, or pattern anywhere else. By virtue, however, of existing in one gather it is assumed there are others, compartmented off into sinuous cycles each of which had come to assume greater importance than the weave itself and destroy any continuity. Thus it is that we are charmed by the funny-looking automobiles of the ’30’s, the curious fashions of the ’20’s, the particular moral habits of our grandparents. We produce and attend musical comedies about them and are conned into a false memory, a phony nostalgia about what they were. We are accordingly lost to any sense of continuous tradition. Perhaps if we lived on a crest, things would be different. We could at least see.” -Thomas Pynchon, “V”

  5. I think the public library, while probably lacking in the latest urban theory non-fiction, is likely to carry a copy of V. Maybe it is time to tackle that monster.

    I’m guessing that many of the authors Doug mentioned today have articles online that can be read for free. Then if I really like what they wrote, I’ll go and buy the book (or suggest my library purchase a copy.)

  6. Well, Disney will probably gut them and leave their steaming entrails out to rot, but I will hope they actually manage to be true to the original series.

  7. Hey guys, i thought you might enjoy this interview with Steve Whitmire, one of the original Muppet players, and the current voice and player for Kermit. It is an interview with philosopher Ken Wilber, on our website Integral Life. The interview is usually available only for subscribers, but i went ahead and made this accessible for free, just for you guys…. ^_^

    It’s a really great interview, and is a nice way to offset some of the disappointment we all feel around Disney’s handling of the Muppet franchise.

    or, in case that url is too long:

  8. #5 – you beat me to it too. If they continue to work with most of the original creator/conceivers, it’s possible for them to maintain integrity. The NYT article looked promising – the characters will be appearing in ways that are natural to them… or at least so they say.

  9. Very nice interview,DJREKLUS, thank you for posting that. Kermit most certainly represents a higher state of consciousness. Green, green indeed.

  10. I’m not sure that I know why we should hate Disney. We have many of the old Disney movies and the books based on them. The music and animation and artwork I am sure therare all amazing. I’m sure there is bad corporate stuff associated with them, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. ;)

  11. I first met Bonnie when I showed up for my fitting of the Junior Gorg costume on Fraggle Rock.

    I was immediately impressed with her sense of, and devotion to, her craft and, moreover, her open compassion as a human being. The nature of this business can shred and degrade the efforts of artists but the best of them abide.

    The best of all the efforts of those intensely creative people who did abide within the sanctuary of Jim Henson’s Muppets will always be remembered and Bonnie’s voice, touch and taste amongst that sweet brew will forever be savoured.

    Thanks Bonnie.


  12. I’m so glad to see the Muppets making a comeback, in whatever form. I don’t think that, as one of the articles commented, it should be hard to get people to like the Muppets in an age of Wall-E–in fact, both of them are about what makes people great at heart. And if there’s not a market for that, you’re doing it wrong.

    As an amateur puppeteer, I’m rejoicing about this in another way, too, because I have an excuse to break out the puppetry with friends while I’m hanging around the house.

  13. Thanks for posting this. I’m a big fan of the Muppets.

    I think to restore their legacy, they need a return to the classic movies and TV series. I don’t know what was more of a low point – Muppets in Space, Muppets Tonight, or the Muppets Wizard of Oz. They all just seemed too market research-driven, instead of something organic and genuinely entertaining. Oh, and original songs, please.

  14. @ #5 – Considering Henson’s own love of advertising/marketing as a medium, I’m trying to accept the Disney marketing plans, I just don’t think they have the capacity to create the same twisted humor that made the Muppets so appealing to an adult audience as well as kids. I have a hard time picturing an ad for a Hannah Montana doll where the dolls threaten physical violence if you don’t purchase them (BTW, the Henson Exhibit is fabulous).

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