Amidst the magic of Fraggle Rock, there is an unseen force.An invisible power that looms over the entire show, its characters, and all that goes with it. Not much is known about this obscured, shadowy figure. Some might even say that he’s “outta sight.” Wow, not even the North American Society of Tinkerers will forgive me for that one.
The translucent gentleman I’m speaking of is Ned Shimmelfinney. Mr. Shimmelfinney has been a large part of more Fraggle Rock B-plots than the Trash Heap herself. He’s tormented Doc to the point of utter insanity and he is loathed (for the most part) by Doc’s faithful ward, Sprocket. But we have never seen Mr. Shimmelfinney, nor have we seen more than a glimpse of his remarkably spry cat, Fluffinella. Why must this incredibly important character be reduced to the likes of Vera Peterson, Charlie, and the lower half of Wilson’s face?
To learn who Ned Shimmelfinney is, we must delve deep into his past. We’ve got to see what makes this guy tick. Travel back in time with me to 1982, when men were men, Time Magazine awards a friggin’ computer as Man of the Year, and Canadian-American film actress Margot Kidder is at the youthful age of 34. In the rolling hills of Dale City, Virginia, 6-year old Kati was a dedicated Muppet Show viewer, as well as a member of the Muppet Show Fan Club. As the show’s run came to an end, so did the Fan Club newsletters. Shortly before the final issue was released, Kati’s parents got a phone call from someone from Henson Associates. They saw Kati’s name on the subscription list and wanted to know how to pronounce the surname and what its origins are. Kati’s last name? Schimelpfenig.
While the story is 100% true, there’s no way to know for sure if the reason for the call was to get an idea for a Fraggle Rock character’s name. Although when Kati and her parents first saw Sprocket’s Shimmelfinney impression, it was hard to think that the phone call was for any other reason.
So why do we love Ned Shimmelfinney like we do? Is it because he reminds us of our subconscious id? Or the neighbor to our subconscious id? Or maybe we all just really like a good pie-in-the-face gag. I like to think it’s because someone, maybe Jerry Juhl or even Jim Henson himself, reached out to the people most important to the Muppets, the fans, and paid homage to us through one little Virginia girl.
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