Seeing How Muppets Work Will Not Ruin Anyone’s Childhood

Published: February 26, 2024
Categories: Commentary, Feature

This article was written by Tough Pigs pal Meagan Barbeau. Thanks, Meagan!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved seeing anything that shows the behind-the-scenes of the Muppets, and learning the answer to the question “How do they do that?”

I grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, and when I was a kid, my dad had tons of VHS tapes; he’d record anything that came on TV that sounded interesting to him. My sister and I would fast forward through episodes of 60 Minutes to get to David Copperfield specials or whatever else sounded fun to us. My childhood copy of The Muppet Movie was on a tape with The Little Mermaid and a Sesame Street sing-along.

But among my favorite things my dad had recorded were The World of Jim Henson and The Muppets Celebrate 30 Years. Both talk about Jim and the other cast and crew behind the scenes of the Muppets, showing their history and work. Although we had Muppet movies and Sesame Street VHS tapes, I probably watched those behind-the-scenes things more. Because I thought they were cool! I loved to see how movies were made, and seeing the work that goes into bringing the Muppets to life was among the best, to me, even as a kid.

And I still get excited to get behind-the-scenes content of the Muppets! Photos of the Muppet performers at D23, interviews from the cast and crew on podcasts… Then, a few days ago, a video like that popped up on my Instagram feed: Puppeteers Bradley Freeman Jr. and Megan Piphus had posted a video of themselves on the set of Sesame Street, showing how they and their fellow puppeteers make Muppets play basketball.

You can see them with their puppets on their arms, “bouncing” and shooting the ball in and out of frame, and working with monitors. I thought it was a fun little video! Then I looked down and realized it had over 18 million views and over a million likes! Whoa!

I went to the comments to see what all these people had to say. But as soon as I opened the comment section, I was smacked with reality:

“I don’t wanna see this!”

“Why would you post this? ?”

“The magic is ruined.”

“My entire life is a lie.”


“Delete this. For real.”

And the definitive: “This ruined my childhood.”

I had momentarily forgotten the way many adults on the Internet react to seeing puppets, especially Muppets, being operated, as if a crime has been committed against them personally. As if the puppeteers showing their work are actively trying to hurt someone’s feelings by doing so. And it’s not even a few choice comments, it’s most of the comments saying things like this, and those comments have received hundreds, even thousands, of likes.

Maybe it’s because I grew up seeing how the Muppets worked, but I have never understood this mentality. I think most other Muppet fans would feel the same as me, that seeing the process enhances the experience of watching Muppet productions. And it’s especially weird to me because people don’t react that way to other performers.

People don’t hear a voice actor do their character’s voice and react so angrily. People don’t drown out actors talking about acting in a scene on set with frustrated comments. People don’t see a video of an animator drawing their favorite cartoon character and hide it from their children in concern. Most people are delighted with all of these things.

So…what’s the difference with Muppets? Is it because people want to believe the Muppets are real? Maybe it’s because they’re tangible characters instead of pictures on a page or screen. People, including kids, react in person to seeing puppeteers with puppets clearly on their arm overwhelmingly positively; why is a video so different?

I think some people might argue that comments like these are deliberate hyperbole, a collective joke. But even if that were the case, I don’t really get it. I don’t see how it’s particularly funny, and by the number of comments, it’s certainly not original. But most of all I think it’s rude to the performers. Why should they have to be the butt of your joke every time they show themselves working? Why should they be getting primarily negative comments (joking or serious) when they’re creating things that make people happy?

I’m not a puppeteer, but I am an artist, and I can’t help but think of how they’re feeling, especially when they’re the ones putting their work out there. I think about how I would feel, having the rare chance to show myself and my coworkers doing work that I love to do, and getting bombarded by comments telling me to basically shut up and keep creating in silence. Being told repeatedly that nobody wants to see me and see me work, they just want the end product.

I guess for a lot of people, seeing the Sesame Street puppeteers working with their characters is no different than seeing a Mickey Mouse walkaround character at Disneyland take off the mouse head, or seeing a mall Santa take off his fake beard. It feels like something you’re not supposed to see, something that might confuse or even scare you as a child.

But if you saw a video of a guy who plays Santa every year, talking about his work and how happy it makes him to make kids happy, putting on his costume and beard and going out to greet excited kids, would you leave a bunch of negative comments telling him to be quiet and delete the video? Especially if it was posted somewhere that’s meant primarily for adults to see?

I really appreciate the work the Muppet performers do, and I love to see them work and see creative puppetry tricks and glimpses behind the scenes. Even though most people know and love what they create, very few viewers even know their names. Maybe someday more Internet commenters will see things the way us nerds do, but I guess until then we’ll just have to keep posting and sharing behind-the-scenes stuff, “ruining” one childhood at a time.

Click here to ruin everyone’s childhood on the Tough Pigs Discord!

by Meagan Barbeau

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