13 Secrets About The Muppets You Probably Don't Know

Muppet Guys Talking, a new documentary featuring some of the performers and creators behind our favorite Muppets, premiered at SXSW this weekend. Here are some of the coolest facts we learned.

Pepe the King Prawn, Kermit the Frog, and Gonzo the Great appear at the Whatnot Workshop at FAO Schwarz on Nov. 11, 2008 in New York City.
Jane Henson donated 10 of her late husband Jim Henson’s characters from “Sam and Friends” to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, on Aug. 25, 2010 in Washington, DC.

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images for The Muppets Studio, Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images, Mark Wilson / Getty Images

1. To record Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection” in the swamp for 1979’s The Muppet Movie, Jim Henson was put in an underwater canister with a monitor. He was cramped inside it for so long, he had trouble unfolding his limbs after.

Jim Henson Co.

2. Henson appears as one of the puppets in the opening to The Muppet Show.

Jim Henson Co.

3. Dave Goelz (who’s behind Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen, and Zoot) creates his puppets’ characters by finding a flaw within himself, amplifying it, and making it lovable.

Gonzo the Great
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
Zoot, the saxophone player of The Electric Mayhem

Jim Henson Co.

Gonzo is “crazy but free,” Bunsen is “specific but misses the big picture,” and Zoot is “in his own world, but has no connection to anybody.”

4. Because Fran Brill, the puppeteer behind Prairie Dawn and Zoe, is 5’4” tall, she had to wear 6-inch platform boots and sneakers to operate the puppets from underneath and be closer to the same height as her co-workers.

John Shearer / Getty Images

5. Grover is based on Fred, the dog of Grover’s puppeteer Frank Oz (who is also behind Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and Animal). Grover often tilts his head to the side just like Fred did.

Jim Henson Co.

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

6. Oz believes Miss Piggy is a truly three-dimensional character. She mirrors his own insecurities.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

7. During an early rehearsal, Piggy was supposed to slap Kermit, but Oz decided she should karate chop him instead and her signature move was born.

Jim Henson Co.

Jim Henson Co.

8. Oz describes Piggy as “a truck driver underneath.”

Mark Davis / Getty Images

9. Animal, however, is an entirely two-dimensional character. According to Oz, he can be summed up in five words: drums, sleep, good, sex, and pain.

Jim Henson Co.

10. Fozzie’s voice changed dramatically from the first time Oz voiced him in 1976 to what it is now. Eric Jacobson has been puppeteering the Muppet since 2002.

Malcolm Clarke / Getty Images

11. Pepe the King Prawn is based on Bill Barretta’s wife’s aunt. When a Muppet Show writer asked him to describe the aunt, Barretta accidentally described her as “shellfish” instead of “selfish,” and the character was born.

Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

Barretta is also responsible for Johnny Fiama and Bobo the Bear.

13. Henson was committed to properly executing every aspect of his creations. During one scene with the Southern Colonel, Henson hired a teenage archer to actually fire at an apple on the puppet’s head — despite the fact that he and another puppeteer were crouched down operating the puppet’s hands when the arrow flew.

Jim Henson Co.

To learn more about Muppet Guys Talking, check out the film’s website.

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