10/29/1968 – ‘Tonight Show – “Beautiful Day”.’

“Beautiful Day” was the name of both a short comedy piece and later the monster that was featured in it. The bit represents a recurring theme in Jim’s work where the meek (yet smart) and/or good prevails, a product of the optimistic world view that Jim shared with his colleague and writing partner Jerry Juhl. Starting in 1962, an innocent little girl was often used to foil the nefarious plans of a monster, witch or generally annoying person. For a series of traffic safety test films created for the National Council of Churches, a pointy-nosed monster named Sneegle tried to corrupt two innocent children (Billy and Sue). In each situation, however, Sneegle was the one that was hurt in an accident. While those films went unused, Jim and Jerry saw the comic potential for the contrasting personalities of the sweet little girl and the monster and wrote what would become a classic for a March 26, 1963 appearance on The Today Show.

In the “Beautiful Day” bit, Sue is enjoying the lovely weather. When Sneegle arrives, so does a rain storm, but that doesn’t dampen Sue’s enjoyment of the day. She explains that the rain makes flowers grow, and when Sneegle eats the flower, she enjoys the beauty of the pot. When Sneegle breaks the pot, she scolds him, calling him evil, but then changes tack and tells him, “You’re so evil that it’s beautiful…you are beautifully evil.” This reduces Sneegle to tears, giving Sue the upper hand. The bit ends with her telling the audience, “If you can’t fight him on equal terms, you gotta use psychological warfare.” About a year and a half later, for a Pak-Nit sales film, Billy and Sue (as Shrinkel and Stretchel) outsmart the witch Taminella, surviving the oven with their wits and positive attitude.

In 1966, Jim and Muppet builder Don Sahlin made some new monsters for a test commercial for General Foods Canada’s snack products, Wheels, Flutes and Crowns. A flat-headed blue monster, the Crown Grabber, would become the monster of choice for “Beautiful Day” and take the title for his name. That summer, Jim did a week of Mike Douglas Shows and pulled out everything in his repertoire, including “Beautiful Day”. He and Jerry added some business and rewrote the last line, having the girl say at the end, “You’ve got to talk your troubles down to a size where you can handle them.” That was followed by an October 26, 1968 Tonight Show appearance which featured a little girl, now blond, and the Crown Grabber. This time, when she talked her troubles down to size, the monster shrank and a mini version was used to end the bit. Jim performed the piece again the following year on The Ed Sullivan Show and then Beautiful Day became a utility player on the early seasons of Sesame Street and then The Muppet Show. The monster still appears, most recently in The Muppets feature film, and the smart and efficient Prairie Dawn of Sesame Street is a direct descendent of that feisty little girl.

See the Crown Grabber in action and two sizes of Beautiful Day helping Kermit explain Big and Little on Sesame Street.

“Beautiful Day” script by Jim and Jerry Juhl for The Today Show, March 26, 1963.

“Beautiful Day” script by Jim and Jerry Juhl for The Today Show, March 26, 1963.

Beautiful Day sketch created by John Lovelady when rebuilding the monster for The Muppet Show, 1970s.

Jim’s idea for a situation in which a little girls bests a monster, late 1960s.

Jim’s idea for a situation in which a little girls bests a monster, late 1960s.

Beautiful Day and other Muppet monsters (and one witch), c. 1969.

The Beautiful Day monster and his little girl nemesis (a.k.a. Susie), 1960s.

The Beautiful Day monster and his little girl nemesis (a.k.a. Susie), 1960s.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

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