Jarrod Fairclough – Over on Twitter about a month ago I made a startling realization. I noticed that every single piece of merchandise of Sesame Street’s Gonger was incredible. Not just incredible, but by far the best I think I’ve ever seen, and consistently so.
Muppet fans have been checking out ugly Muppet merch for years. ToughPigs had a running series for years, and we had our own Little Shop Of Horrors series a couple of years back. God knows that puppets can be extremely difficult to make look good.
And why is that? Muppets are so simple. Aside from perhaps Kermit, who’s head shape is reliant on the puppeteers hand, the others are all uniform. So specs shouldn’t be that hard to pass on to toy manufacturers, right? And yet for every great Gonger toy we get, we see 45 horrible Bert’s or 27 wonky eye Elmo’s. PVC figurines make the characters proportions out of whack in a fun cartoony way, and yet Gonger will still look exactly right each time.
Perhaps it’s Gonger’s actual appearance. He’s little, he’s simple, and his skin isn’t particuarly furry. His hair and beard covers a lot of his body and allows for a lot of mistakes to be covered, and his apron is as simple as they come. So then why can manufacturers seem to nail Gonger, but not nail someone like Elmo, who is basically just red fur? It’s a mystery. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk.