Unless you’ve been living under a rock you may have noticed that the Muppets are everywhere these days. I’ve seen them on everything from Good Morning America to WWE’s Monday Night Raw. The Disney Company (who owns the Muppets) has the great publicity blitz running on full speed.
This is a wonderful thing for someone who is as much of a Muppet fan as I am. Believe it or not there are a lot of us out there. There’s websites and even an I-Tunes podcast devoted to all things that have to do with Jim Henson’s creations.
Muppet merchandise has also come back to the shelves of major retail and toy stores; among them FAO Schwartz. The toy store most famous for the piano scene in the Tom Hanks movie
Big has an exclusive department called the “What Not Workshop.” It’s the Muppet version of a “build a bear”.
What’s a “What Not?” you ask. Well it’s that special group of Muppets whose eye, nose, ears and hair can be changed to create any character that’s needed. At FAO Schwartz, you can choose from a variety of body parts and clothes to build your own What Not Muppet.
Ever since they were first introduced as the “Anything People” on Sesame Street in the late 60’s I’ve wanted a What Not of my own. I was excited when I heard about this What Not workshop and then found out that you can create and order one a What Not from the toy store’s website. But I was taken back a bit when I found out that the price of this custom made Muppet is a bit steep ($100).
Then I heard some good news on “Inside The Magic” Disney podcast a couple of weeks ago. In a cooperative marketing effort with FAO Schwartz, ToysRUS had begun carrying a line of FAO products.
One day after work I went by the newly renovated toy store in Bowling Green to try and find out if they had the FAO Schwartz products. I planned on asking one of the employees where I could find them. As soon as I walked in the door I was in the middle of the special display of the limited edition products.
Among them were special editions puppets of the top Muppets characters; Kermit, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Beaker. Also there was a pair of limited edition What Not characters. One was blue and one was orange. They each were in their own see through plastic carrying case and had their own exclusive set of accessories. The clothing offered at the workshop in New York was available separately. The price of the What Not kits and the clothing was still a bit expensive but relatively cheaper compared to the “in-store” price in New York.
When I saw the What-Not kits my heart literally skipped a beat. While this might be considered a bit dangerous for someone over 50 it wasn’t for me. I hadn’t felt this type of excitement about a Muppet since I first saw the Ernie puppet in a store when I was 10 years old. I wrote a post about my Ernie puppet back on November 18, 2009.
As I said when I saw the What Not puppets I got the same excitement in the pit of my stomach as I did that day in autumn day in1970.
I left the store with one of the What Nots (the blue one) and a suit with a plaid jacket and a solid tie to dress it in.
That night I opened it and could not believe how great it was. A new kind of excitement took over. For some time now I have been putting together in my mind a list of specific ventriloquist characters for specific situations. That list includes: A game show host, a laboratory scientist, and an infomercial pitchman to name a few.
Up until I made my latest puppet purchase I thought if I wanted to ever use those characters, I would have to purchase a customized ventriloquist puppet for each of them. But upon opening the package and discovering all the kit contained I realized the What Not puppet and it’s variety of accessories would be able allow me to create a lot of those characters with just one puppet.
I also realized that I needed (or would the right work be “wanted”) both of the What Nots to take advantage of their potential. The next day I returned to ToysRUS and brought home the 2nd What Not.
That was about 2 weeks ago. This past Sunday my first What Not puppet, the blue one, made his public debut during the children’s sermon portion of our church worship service. I’ve named him Henson B. Anything after the Muppets creator, Jim Henson. The “Anything” part of the name is taken from the previously mentioned anything people from Sesame Street.
The children’s sermon, which was about the different members of the church body and based on the scripture 1st Corinthians 12:12-20 went well. The children really liked Henson and laughed at his jokes.
Below is a picture of me with Henson B. Anything and the, yet to be named, other What Not. I’m the one in the middle.
I’m genuinely optimistic about the potential for using the What Nots in my ventriloquist ministry and children’s church. I have a plethora of ideas about new characters, new accessories, sketch possibilities and more. The skies the limit for me and the What Nots.