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Sesame Family Robinson – From making Muppets to Raising Moppets

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The Itsy Bitsy spider Shoot

Word of the Day:   Fun

My "Itsy Bitsy Spider" show shot today. I’ve posted about it several times and now the script is on its way to its final incarnation.

Watching your show shoot is both tremendously exciting and tremendously humbling. It’s thrilling to watch the Muppet performers take those words you’ve slaved over for months and put them into their characters’ mouths. However, if something isn’t working, there’s no hiding from it. The scene will lag, yawns will happen, cuts will be suggested. What is usually most exciting is when, during rehearsals, the performers find something better and funnier than what you wrote. Much like theatre, the final element is the actor and they usually have good suggestions to make your work come alive. Often, when the writer is on the Sesame set, the performer will ask you if it’s okay to make the change. The only time it really can’t happen is if it changes or hinders the curriculum or the structure of the script. One time, Frank Oz added some incredibly funny lines to the end of my “Banana Imagination” insert with Bert and Ernie. Bert is using his imagination to talk on a banana to Ernie’s friend the cow. (Link to:  Bert and Ernie:  Banana Imagination). He finished the bit saying lines such as, “I’m tall, blonde and handsome.” I could never have written that and gotten it approved through the research department. However, Frank Oz can pull it off on the set in Bert’s character. That’s the magic of the Muppets.

"Itsy Bitsy Spider" could have been a killer shoot since it has a lot of little insect characters. However, the director Ken Diego had it under control by wisely not trying to shoot the insects separately in larger form. Instead, with Marty’s help, they actually shot through a magnifying glass that Telly was holding so you could really see these little guys up close. The only bug that was shot separately in a bigger form to be edited into the scene later was the Itsy Bitsy Spider. This made sense since she has a large role in the story.  

I’m glad I was there because Leslie Carrara, who was playing the Itsy Bitsy Spider, was going a certain way with her voice, which was more like an old movie star. However,  for the script to work best, we needed her to sound more motherly. I gave some suggestions to Leslie and she found a voice that was warm, low with a little southern drawl. The voice was perfect.

We also brought Lyra and Ripley to the set with us. Most of the crew had never met them so there were viewing opportunities at breaks with lots of hand sanitizer being passed around for those wanting to hold a baby. The girls only got overwhelmed when practically the entire production team was at the craft service area. There were SO many people clamoring to meet them that Ripley cried and Lyra got very fussy. Once they were back in Marty’s dressing room and visited on a more individual basis, they were their jolly selves again.

At one point, Lyra was sleeping. Clory, our nanny, watched her while I brought Ripley on the set with her goofy teeth binky. She was incredibly well behaved, never making a peep when we were shooting. (The binky helped.) This is a good sign for a kid with parents in the TV industry. We can do lots of “take your daughters to work” days.

 Ripley in Oscar the Grouch's garbage can with funny pacifier.

(Ripley the Grouch. Love that teeth binky. Got lots of laughs on the set.)

Rosita looking up at Ms. Itsy Bitsy and the egg sac.

(Rosita looking up at Ms. Itsy Bitsy and the egg sac.)

Director Ken Diego giving notes. The Muppet performers are on the ground sitting on their “rollies.”

(They perform often this way, rolling about while holding their puppets up into frame. They have to watch small monitors that are on the floor around them to see what they’re doing while performing their lines. People often ask this and yes, the performer does the puppetry and voice, at the same time. A very difficult skill, which takes a lot of talent and practice.)

Elmo and Telly looking upward. Telly has spider web stuck to him.

(Elmo and Telly looking upward. Telly has spider web stuck to him.)

So, the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" show is in the can. I won’t see a final edited version until it airs, probably in late 2010.


Twin Day

Catch a glimpse of us on the "Twin Show" that was shot yesterday!

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Happy Halloween!

Word of the Day: Boo!

Halloween is big in our household. Marty began his journey to puppetry through Halloween doing scary monster make-up and costumes as a kid. He started throwing wild Halloween bashes while living in New York City, and I joined the tradition when we got together. Our house lends itself to Halloween, with high ceilings, gothic chandeliers, and stairways that lead to a variety of balconies, nooks, and crannies. Here are some highlight photos from Halloween parties in our recent past:

Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Our chandeliers take on a more haunted house appearance.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011                                                   Decorations usually begin a day before and include everything from flying bats to talking heads.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011     
Annie and Marty in Halloween outfits with Larry, the evil rooster (deceased).


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (Abby Cadabby) and Bob McGrath with true Halloween spirit.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Marty always sets up a mad scientist laboratory on our dining room table.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Marty offering a Halloween toast to our guests.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Filmmaker Cindy Meehl (Buck) as a Halloween cocktail waitress.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Marty in one year’s ghostly costume and puppeteer Heather Asch.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Annie with our daughter Lauren and fiancé Sam as frozen mountaineers.


Blog Halloween Slideshow 2011
Annie and partygoers dancing in a smoke filled room. Marty loves using the smoke machine.


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Like your family we have twins, boy/girl, that turned three last month. I saw your blog entry for January and it looks like we have something in common, potty training twins. Like one of your girls, my son WILL NOT pee in the potty but his sister was doing well until she caught on to "Bubbie" not trying. I was just letting things run their course but our local pre-schools/mommy day out programs require the children to be potty trained and this mommy needs a day out. Bribery isn't working. Have you had any success?

Sommer

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How often is the telly puppet renewed or replaced?

Katherine Sydney, Australia

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I read in 40 Years of Life on the Street about an incident involving Snuffy's puppet where a sombrero caused the wood frame to collapse on you and Bryant Young. Did they rebuild the puppet after that or did they just make a new one?

Edward

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I just wanted to say thanks for the blog. My daughter Kylie (who just turned two yesterday) loves to ask if we are going to see "the babies." Thank you so much to you and Marty for bringing the joy of Sesame Street into our lives every day.

Kendal and Kylie Montreal, Canada

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I've noticed that there are fewer Muppets and people in an episode now than there were twenty years ago. Does everyone show up on the set for filming days or only certain ones? Who decides who gets to play the Anything Muppets? There are some voices I hear more than others.

Glenda

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