The following article was written by Zach Kenny, who also illustrated the accompanying animatic. The animatic is based on an original audio track composed, produced, and edited by Muppet performer Rick Lyon. Read on for more info!

Picture yourself in August 2012, when the Muppet world was grieving the death of Jerry Nelson. Among all the many fan tributes, there was one interesting piece that saw the light of day (to the public). An original audio track starring the Muppet performers for Jerry’s 65th birthday in 1999: one of the last times all Henson properties crossed over before the Big Disney Buyout of ’04.

This track was written and produced by Rick Lyon, who coordinated with all the Muppet performers at the time to record this remarkable tribute. It also features an original song composed by Lyon.

After listening to the track a good number of times, I started wondering what it might look like visually. This was hardly the first time this has happened, since there were several Sesame Street songs I grew up listening to on soundtracks, thinking a completely different scenario before YouTube came along & proved me so terribly wrong (I assumed “Mahna Mahna” was mainly sung by Oscar; what was I thinking?). However, since that track was exclusively audio only, there were no limits to how it could’ve looked. So I thought of making a self-animated short of the song!

Between then and now, several different ambitious projects of mine came & went (both Muppet-related and not), but the idea for this song was never forgotten. And as is common of projects like this, lots of little things changed. It went from being fully-animated to a much simpler animatic/storyboard in the end (my ambitions finally caught up to my common sense). I know the actual amount of characters in the song is “limited” (37), but I couldn’t just have it filled with only named characters. I know it’s cliché to say “it needed more frogs & dogs & pigs & bears & chickens &… whatevers”, but having a bunch of those no-name randos & background fillers can make a universe feel more lived in.

So without further ado, here is Jerry Nelson’s 65th birthday: The Animatic!

For more from Zach Kenny, be sure to visit him on DeviantArt, Facebook, and Instagram!

Click here to blow out the candles on the ToughPigs.com!

by Zach Kenny

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