Nickelodeon Is Delivering A Sword And Sorcery Series… With Puppets?

Friends, I want to give a big tip of the hat to Rob Bricken of io9 for the heads up on the fact that Nickelodeon is preparing to release a brand new series entitled The Barbarian and the Troll. A show set to debut on April 2nd but more importantly one that takes place in the sword and sorcery genre and also happens to feature puppets who are quick to draw weapons and get into fights in taverns. At least that seems to be the case judging by the six minute preview that Nickelodeon released a few days ago, not to mention that The Barbarian and the Troll certainly appears to be very meta in its approach to humor.

The story for the upcoming series focuses on Brendar (voiced by Spencer Grammer of Rick & Morty), a mighty barbarian who finds herself on an epic quest… along with a bridge troll, a talking owl, and possibly a bumbling wizard to battle a demon in the hopes of freeing her brother.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY Nickelodeon.

While I am definitely an easy mark when it comes to any entertainment involving puppetry, I suppose we need to chalk that one up to the legacy of Jim Henson and The Muppets, but I believe that preview shows a lot of promise. There were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, in particular I have to admit that I giggled for a bit when seeing the skeleton minion wearing braces.

The Barbarian and the Troll was co-created by Drew Massey and Mike Mitchell, the former is not only co-writer along with Mitchell but provides the voice for Evan the Troll. In addition Massey has worked on the likes of Men in Black, Muppets Tonight, as well as the overlooked Disney+ series Earth to Ned. Mitchell has been known to provide voice work as well, just a few highlights include Monkeybone, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Megamind. Although having said that he might be better known for his role as a director with Sky High, Trolls, and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part to name just a few.

In closing out this article, it looks like we have a lot of entertainment headed our way in the next couple of weeks. From the just released Pacific Rim: The Black, to the upcoming The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Godzilla vs. Kong, the second season of Shudder’s Creepshow, and now The Barbarian and the Troll.

Do You Remember Sesame Street’s Lefty The Salesman?

Friends, the other day I happened to stumble across a 1979 lunch box for Sesame Street, and felt that it should be shared on the Pop Culture Retrorama Facebook page. The reason being is that besides the likes of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie as well as other familiar characters – it also prominently displayed Sherlock Hemlock and even Lefty the Salesman. To my chagrin, especially as much as I tout my love of the Muppets and the legacy of Jim Henson, I have to be totally upfront and admit that I had completely forgotten all about the character of Lefty the Salesman. Which is a shame as the character, which was originally voiced by Frank Oz, was an early reoccurring character who made his debut on February 26th of 1970 – the 79th episode of the long running and beloved Sesame Street television show.

Video and Article Image Provided by Sesame Street.

Lefty the Salesman even had a popular song entitled “Would You Like to Buy an O?” – which was not only featured on The Muppet Alphabet Album in ’71 – but would be featured in a segment on Sesame Street too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml6Yqu-spnM
Video Provided by SPGOALS TV.

As previously mentioned, the character of Lefty the Salesman was initially voiced by Frank Oz – thanks to the Muppet Wiki though we know that it was the legendary Don Sahlin who was responsible for the construction of the puppet. Not only did Sahlin build the Rolf the Dog puppet but he also constructed Bert and Ernie, Grover, and Cookie Monster to name just a few. In addition to becoming the chief designer and puppet builder until his passing in 1978 – Sahlin also worked with Henson on the stop-motion shorts The Queen of Six and The King of Eight.

Video Provided by Sesame Street.

Lefty the Salesman, as I understand it, while still showing up in various books, background shots, and other merchandise over the years – stopped being featured in new Sesame Street skits back in 1975. However those original segments were apparently still showing up on the TV series as late as 1998 – and the character even had a prominent appearance in the Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 2019 – now voiced by Ryan Dillon (My Sesame Street Friends). Lefty the Salesman has recently been seen as a member of the studio audience in the HBO Max series The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo) – the titular host being voiced by Dillon.

So in closing out this article – do you happen to remember Sesame Street’s Lefty the Salesman? Let us know in the comments section!

Enjoy Kermit The Frog Hosting This 1979 Episode Of The Tonight Show

Friends, ever since I first laid eyes on the Muppets, obviously thanks to episodes of Sesame Street – I have been a lifelong devotee to puppetry as well as the works of the late and great Jim Henson. That love for the characters created by Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and so many other talented puppeteers – grew in leaps and bounds though once The Muppet Show began airing in my neck of the woods in 1977. So much so that I can remember the excitement I felt when my Father informed me one morning that none other than Kermit the Frog would be hosting The Tonight Show. While I would normally fall asleep before Johnny Carson even had a chance to exit those iconic multicolored curtains, thanks to an evening nap I was all ready to stay up and watch Kermit fill in for Carson.

You might be interested to know that this particular episode of The Tonight Show originally aired on April 2nd of 1979 – just a few months shy of the release of The Muppet Movie here in the States. Kermit is joined on the show by the likes of Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Uncle Deadly, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, and Gonzo to name a few. The special guests on the program however are the legendary Vincent Price as well as Bernadette Peters – both who had already made appearances on The Muppet Show in ’77. In addition to singer and songwriter Leo Sayer and Dr. Michael Fox – a veterinarian that was at that time working with the Humane Society of the United States.

Musical numbers for this episode include Peters performing “Wake Up and Live” and “Just One Person“, the Electric Mayhem providing their rendition of “New York State of Mind“, the Javas dancing to “Java“, with Sayer singing “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “When I Need You“, and Kermit of course ending the show with “It’s Not Easy Being Green“.

Now before I let you enjoy this awesome 1979 episode of The Tonight Show with Kermit the Frog – I have to inform you that it gets even better – as this video includes the commercials that aired that night on NBC!

Video and Article Image Provided by Connor Ratliff.

Retro Records: The Case Of The Missing Mother (1984)

Friends, thanks for joining us for another Retro Records offering – this time we are sharing The Case of the Missing Mother. Released back in 1984 it appears this read-along story is long out of print – which is a shame as The Case of the Missing Mother most assuredly possesses that familiar Muppets charm. Interestingly enough the story was first published by Random House the previous year as just a book – written by James Howe and masterfully illustrated by William Cleaver. James Howe by the way wrote an additional Muppet story entitled The Muppet Guide to Magnificent Manners. To say nothing of the fact that along with Deborah, his late Wife, they co-wrote 1979’s Bunnicula.

William Cleaver, whose art in my personal opinion is perfect for The Case of the Missing Mother, would go on to do some illustrations for the Sesame Street Magazine in 1988. A magazine that I strangely have no recollection of whatsoever.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUtIoZ4AdmQ
Video Provided by promosman24.

There are some differences between the children’s book version of The Case of the Missing Mother and it’s book and record adaptation. Perhaps these changes to the text of the original book were altered to match the dialogue provided by the amazing cast? Jim Henson provides the voice of Kermit the Frog with Frank Oz performing Fozzie, Miss Piggy, as well as Animal. Jerry Nelson handles the voice of Floyd with Dave Goelz as The Great Gonzo. In addition to Richard Hunt as Scooter, Janice and LaVerne… Animal’s Mother!

Which brings us to the plot for The Case of the Missing Mother. The Muppet gang can’t help but notice that Animal is acting strangely – more manic than normal… for Animal that is. Then to his friend’s dismay, Animal leaves without telling anyone, forcing Kermit and the Gang to follow the trail of destruction left by everyone’s favorite drummer. But will they be able to find Animal in time for the special show, a Salute to Motherhood?

Video and Article Image Provided by MuppetsSongs.

Let’s Talk About The Podcasts – Bonus Episode

Lets Talk About The Podcasts - Bonus Episode

Friends, with the end of March fast approaching I’ve found myself running out of time on producing the latest Pop Culture Retrorama podcast – which means in the end that it has been nearly two months since the last episode. Quite frankly with the way things have been going of late I haven’t quite felt I possessed the energy to do all of the research for the new show – that goes for both Diary of An Arcade Employee as well as the Saturday Frights podcast. So I thought I would sit down in front of the microphone and talk about the state of the shows and what has been weighing on my mind in regard to their direction and possible futures. Don’t worry, as I state in this bonus episode for all three podcasts (crosses fingers that it uploads to all three properly) – I’m not doing anything drastic like quitting writing or podcasting. This is just a situation where I can sit down and say “Hey, let’s talk about the podcasts”!

In addition I hope besides acting as an apology to all of you that have been loyal to the podcasts – you will understand the circumstances that have delayed the shows. As well perhaps as some new directions I might take – if you the listeners think that is prudent – with each podcast. As always with an episode I am honest with you – although in this case I hope in addition I been able to properly explain the situation I find myself in as a creator. Actually even though it is addressed in this bonus episode, if you possibly have thought about becoming a writer and might like to share your personal memories and experiences on pop culture or retro related subjects – throw me a line at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com!

All right then, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen to this Let’s talk about the podcasts episode – to say nothing of your support and understanding in the matter of tardiness of said shows.

You can also contact me on Facebook or even Twitter. Or perhaps check out the Saturday Frights Facebook Page, Diary of an Arcade Employee, and Pop Culture Retrorama Facebook page?

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Jim Henson Made A Pilot For The Wizard Of Id?

Jim Henson Made A Pilot For The Wizard Of Id - 1969

Friends, I have never hidden the fact that from an early age I was absolutely devoted to Jim Henson and the Muppets – perhaps I was just the right age, but thanks to Henson and his associates I learned to embrace my imagination. For quite a while I had thought about going into puppetry thanks to watching the brilliant and still entertaining The Muppet Show on TV. It was in fact Episode #207 with guest star Edgar Bergen that originally aired on October 7th of 1977 that made me decide to focus on becoming a ventriloquist.

Video Provided by Muppet Songs.

That is a dream that would get derailed thanks to the terror of the clown doll scene in 1982’s Poltergeist – although my love of the work of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, and so many other puppeteers remained strong throughout my life. A few years back I was lucky enough to receive Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal which collected a majority of the pages from Jim’s Red Book. This was the title given to the notes in a log that Henson began in June of ’65 – recording in these books highlights in his career as well as what jobs or projects he was working on – all in single line entries.

A couple of years ago, one of my best friends was kind enough to share a discovery that he had made – Jim Henson had worked on a pilot for Johnny Hart and Brant Parker’s The Wizard of Id. A fact that the online version of Jim’s Red Book went into greater detail in a post from 2011:

“3/22/1969 – ‘Shoot “Wizard of Id” pilot’
Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:
In the summer of 1968, Jim Henson met Johnny Hart, the creator of the popular comic strips B.C. and The Wizard of Id. They discussed the idea of creating a television show based on The Wizard of Id that would combine puppets with an animated background. That fall, puppets were built, and Jim and his colleagues made a presentation to Hart’s publisher, the Publishers-Hall Syndicate. The response was positive and in early 1969, Jim shot a test pilot. Robert Reed of Publishers-Hall spent the next year and a half trying to sell the show to the networks as a series or as several specials. In September of 1970, ABC expressed interest in making a Wizard of Id feature film, but, by that time, Jim was busy with Sesame Street, the Tales of Muppetland specials, and his variety show appearances and decided not to take the idea any further.”

Video and Article Image Provided by The Jim Henson Company.

If you too love the work and legacy of Jim Henson, you must visit and enjoy the Jim’s Red Book site – although I believe it sadly stopped being updated 2014. Speaking of The Wizard of Id – while the pilot that Jim Henson worked on never led to a full series or film special – Chuck Jones directed a short featuring the voice talents of Paul Winchell (Wacky Races) and Don Messick (Scooby-Doo)!

Video Provided by Mister Big Animation.

Check Out Shigeru Miyamoto Visiting The Jim Henson Studios

Shigeru Miyamoto - Jim Henson Studios - Nintendo

Friends, there have been a few people in my life of late that have expressed concern on both my work schedules as well as how much time is spent on writing and podcasting. I only bring this up as it is the only explanation as to how I missed it back in 2015 when Nintendo released this video on YouTube of the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto (Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda) paying a visit to the Jim Henson Studios. As someone who works in an arcade and has a podcast about classic gaming – I would have thought that one of my fellow co-workers would have tipped me off that Nintendo joined forces with the Jim Henson Studios to create puppets for the E3 Nintendo Direct . The Jim Henson Studios created puppets of Reggie Fils-Aime – then president and CEO of Nintendo America, the late and great Satoru Iwata (EarthBound, Kirby) who was the then President and CEO of Nintendo, and Shigeru Miyamoto… in addition to Fox McCloud, Peppy Hare, as well as Falco Lombardi!

Video Provided by Kotaku.

Changing subject for just a second – I was and still am a HUGE fan of the Star Fox series – so much so that I am lucky enough to have the 1993 poster that was included in a issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly still on my bedroom wall – a mere 27 years later. I am not sure of how many hundreds of hours I spent before work and after – plopped down in front of my TV set – playing both Star Fox and Star Fox 64, helping Fox deliver a stunning defeat to Andross… over and over again.

It is Shigeru Miyamoto we have to thank for the design of Fox McCloud and his fellow pilots of Star Fox or Team Star Fox depending on what game you might be playing. Which is why it is plain to see he is excited to see three members of the team made into puppets by the Jim Henson Studios. In fact you can see that joy for yourself thanks to this interview with Miyamoto and Brian Henson – the video game designer explaining how much it meant to see characters he helped to create become Henson puppets.

Video and Article Image Provided by Nintendo.

That looked like a really fun day for all parties involved… who knows… maybe Netflix can somehow get Nintendo and the Jim Henson Studios to bring a Star Fox series to life? If they did I would dare say that news would be worthy of performing a barrel roll, right?

John Denver And The Muppets – A Christmas Together (1979)

John Denver And The Muppets - A Christmas Together - 1979 - Rockford Jay

Friends, I amrunning extremely late with today’s article I am afraid to say – long story short, work the other evening threw a massive monkey wrench into my original plans, which was to have the brand new Pop Culture Retrorama podcast uploaded for your listening pleasure. As the subject of the new episode takes places on Christmas Eve… well… it would have been perfect but at least you will get a chance to listen to it on Christmas morning. I want to give a huge thank you to Allison Venezio-Preston for stepping up and publishing her article on Stetson – so you had that to enjoy earlier today. However, once again it was Rockford Jay who contacted me and provided another fantastic idea for an article – in this case the 1979 classic John Denver and The Muppets – A Christmas Together. An absolutely wonderful album filled with 13 tracks of some of the best Holiday music – that was originally released in October of 1979 – it was two months later on December 5th that ABC aired the John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together television special. And while it was re-aired a couple of times over the year… the shocking fact is that this TV special has not been released on any home media format – not VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray. Which is a shame as it really is a remarkable Holiday special – it also marked the first time that Jim Henson and his studio created more realistic puppets for a production. Which he mentioned in an interview with Press Democrat in an article that was published on the day the special aired:

“they were carved from urethane foam, like most of the Muppets, and painted in New York. We had to be careful not to offend anyone by giving the figures comic characteristics. These are the first serious puppets we’ve made.”

Video Provided by Xtremepizan.

For myself I was first introduced to 1979’s John Denver and the Muppets – A Christmas Together courtesy of my grade school. This was in November in music class when we were gearing up for what to perform for the school pageant – our teacher brought along this still fantastic album and did her level best to keep order as we kids naturally lost it with Denver and The Muppets rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.

Video Provided by Corn Bread Obrien.

John Denver and the Muppets is an album I listen to every single Holiday season… or if I am just feeling a little blue. I want to thank Allison Venezio-Preston once again for picking up my slack today and for always crafting a wonderful article. Of course as always I want to thank Rockford Jay for being kind enough to remind me about this 1979 album and planting the seed of writing about it – to say nothing of the fact he took time to take photos of his personal collection of said album!

Do You Remember 1978’s Increda Bubble Gum?

Increda Bubble Gum - 1978 - General Foods

Did you know that bubble gum got it’s start all the way back in 1928 – to say nothing of the fact that it is considered a variety of chewing gum? The popular type of gum became popular around 1848 – at least that is when John B. Curtis began the producing and selling The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. Bubble gum was courtesy of an employee of Fleer Chewing Gum Company by the name of Walter Diemer who was in fact an accountant for the company – he was just messing with various gum recipes. It seems that Diemer was using a formula for an unsuccessful brand of gum known as Blibber-Blubber which had been tested – although never released – in 1906, the creator was none other than Frank H. Fleer. The reason for Blibber-Blubber never making it to market was that it was quite sticky and brittle… and if Gary Shuster’s 2006 book From Manila to the Monkey Trial is to be believed, when Blibber-Blubber was popped it would require a solvent and scrubbing to remove the gum from the face. So it was Diemer who would perfected the recipe – although his gum would come out a rather unappetizing gray color – the only food coloring at the Fleer Chewing Gum Company was pink – which is why bubble gum has mostly remained that color ever since. Walter used a salt water taffy wrapping machine and as a test produced 100 pieces of this new bubble gum – by the end of the day all 100 pieces had been sold for a penny a piece. If the inflation calculator is correct it would mean that Walter had earned himself the equivalent of $146 dollars and some change today. Presenting this new creation to the company – Fleer began producing it as Dubble Bubble gum and in it’s first year alone earned over 1.5 million dollars in sales… one penny at a time!

I bet you didn’t think you would get the history of bubble gum when you checked out this article, right? So let’s leap ahead to what I believe is the late ’70s – that is when General Foods debuted Increda Bubble gum. A gum that advertised a few benefits – such as:

Feel the pop! Taste the Flavor!
Chew the soft juicy bubble gum!
Blow the fabulous bubble!
It’s loaded with long laughing flavor!

It would seem that someone chewing the gum could feel the pop because there were Pop Rocks in the gum itself – now I will admit I do not remember ever trying Increda Bubble gum – but I do recall the TV commercial for it. One that features the likes of Count Dracula, some puppets that are heavily inspired by the Muppets as well as featuring quite a few happy children.

Video and Article Image Provided by the Spuzz Lightyear Too YouTube Channel.