10/1-2/1984 – ‘VTR next 3 Muppet Home Video Wraps’

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

Jim enjoyed getting his work out in whatever format was available – first on the airwaves and then to viewers on various home video formats. In 1984, the first run of The Muppet Show was long finished, and Jim was eager to get compilations of the program out on home video. That year, he and Jerry Juhl chose clips organized by theme, and created wrap-around introductions which were videotaped in October. The tapes, distributed by CBS/Fox under their Playhouse Video label, included such titles as The Kermit and Piggy Story (with Cheryl Ladd, Tony Randall, Loretta Swit, Raquel Welch), The Muppet Revue (with Harry Belafonte, Rita Moreno, Linda Ronstadt, Paul Williams), Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff (with Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Dom DeLuise, Madeline Kahn, Vincent Price, Jean Stapleton), Muppet Treasures (with Loretta Lynn, Ethel Merman, Zero Mostel, Buddy Rich, Peter Sellers, Paul Simon), Children’s Songs and Stories with the Muppets (with Julie Andrews, Charles Aznavour, Judy Collins, John Denver, Brooke Shields, Twiggy), and Rock Music with the Muppets (with Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry, Helen Reddy, Linda Ronstadt, Leo Sayer, Paul Simon, Loretta Swit, Ben Vereen).

Putting out existing shows on video was a wonderful way to reach audiences, but Jim was also excited by the possibilities of creating original material for the home viewer. By the mid 1980s, he was thinking about television as an interactive media, having audiences be active participants rather than passive viewers. And about a decade before Baby Einstein, Jim decided he wanted to develop interactive home videos with educational undertones specifically for babies or toddlers. The result was a series, taped in 1988, called Play-Along videos distributed by Lorimar.

The series was meant to engage children of various ages with activities like making music, drawing, telling jokes and storytelling. Marketed as “video-active”, the Play-Along videos attempted to “treat kids as more than just spectators”. Jim sketched out activities for babies and designed two new humanoid characters, P.J. and Kai-Lee who joined the Classic Muppets in the activities. Jim even got into the act for the Neat Stuff video, demonstrating how to skip rocks in Central Park. The final result was a series of six tapes: Sing-Along, Dance-Along, Do-Along; Neat Stuff…To Know and To Do; Wow, You’re A Cartoonist; Hey! You’re as Funny as Fozzie Bear; Peek-A-Boo; and Mother Goose Stories.

Ideas for baby activities, mid-1980s.

Ideas for baby activities, mid-1980s.

Jim, P.J. and Kai-Lee with other characters featured in the Play-Along videos, 1988.

Jim’s design for P.J., 1988.

Play-Along set design by Lyndon Mosse, 1988.

Kai-Lee and P.J. dance with a Big Bossman puppet.

This entry was posted in 10-October '84, 1984, Muppet Specials and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.