Children's Fairyland, the mid-century storybook theme park that inspired Walt Disney and where Frank Oz got his start

Oakland, California is home to a real gem of a storybook theme park. Located next to Lake Merritt, Children's Fairyland has been delighting families of young children since 1950. As the story goes, Walt Disney himself visited Fairyland in 1955 and soon after built Disneyland, incorporating ideas he learned at the park. He also hired Fairyland's first director, as well as one of its puppeteers, to work at his new amusement park in Anaheim.

While Disney's parks went the commercial route, Fairyland turned into a nonprofit after many years of being managed by the city. It remains the charming, lakeside mid-century park where no adult is allowed in the park without a child** and no child is allowed without an adult.

How do I know all of this? Well, I'm excited to share that I've started working with Fairyland. When I first moved to the Bay Area in the mid-1990s, I lived across the street from Lake Merritt and, as a childless young person, I often wondered what was going behind the giant (Old Lady in the) shoe. I remember devising ways to get in, eventually waiting until I had a baby to pass through its gates for the first time. When my daughter (who's now a teenager) was little, she and I visited many times together. Believe me when I say that it's a great thrill for me to be on the "inside" of this Bay Area institution.

Bert, Fairyland Master Puppeteer Lewis Mahlmann, and Frank Oz in August of 1970. Read the rest

Blooper reel from Jim Henson's "Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas"

Enjoy these fun outtakes from Jim Henson's hour-long Christmas special from 1977, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. They give "drum roll" a whole new meaning.

By the way, that's Frank Oz (AKA Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam Eagle, Cookie Monster, Bert, Grover and Yoda) puppeteering the increasingly-frustrated mother.

Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz and Jim Henson

image via Gribbaziggy Read the rest

MOVIES: Talking 'Muppet Guys Talking' with Frank Oz & Victoria Labalme

The muppet creations of Frank Oz, Jim Henson, and their collaborators are fused into my earliest memories as a kid growing up in the ‘Sesame Street’ generation. The long-running ‘Muppet Show’ followed, as did films, and a new generation of kids is growing up with the characters online and in mobile games.

On March 16, Muppet Guys Talking will be released online, and it’s the first documentary to reveal the unusual creative culture behind Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and all the gang, as told by the living performers behind it all. Read the rest