Earlier this month, The Jim Henson Company made a big announcement. John Tartaglia is joining the company in an official capacity as Creative Supervisor on Fraggle Rock. And, if you’re like me, you may have dismissed the news at first because we all just assumed he was doing that job already.
Jokes aside, there’s something special about this announcement. It’s a confirmation that the Henson Company isn’t just testing the waters with Fraggle Rock anymore. They’re ready to commit to a new generation of Fraggle fans, building an entire strategy around the franchise with the one person at the helm who truly understands the history, legacy, and potential of all things Fraggle. And that person is John Tartaglia.
To fans, John Tartaglia has been playing this role for years already. Having taken the reins as the main performer for Gobo Fraggle for over a decade, he also served as Executive Producer and writer on both recent Fraggle series: Rock On and Back to the Rock. Beyond that, he’s been a vocal cheerleader for the series, even agreeing to be a fixture on every episode of our Back to the Rock companion podcast. You’d think that John had already been elected President of the Fraggle Fan Club years ago.
Previous to Back to the Rock‘s success, we’d seen a lot of Fraggle projects come and go, many of which didn’t even get off the ground. Several announced movies (including one with Joseph Gordon-Levitt), anniversary rebrandings that attempt to make a splash every five years, and trickles of new merchandise. They all seemed to be in the unfortunate position of trying to celebrate the history of Fraggle Rock while also introducing the brand to fans who’d never heard of it. And for each project or product that came out, we’d play the waiting game to see if it would snowball or peter out. Until now, they’ve all dissipated like Ditzies in the wind.
But now! We have momentum! Back to the Rock is enough of a hit to justify a second season, coming soon to Apple TV+, and although we’re still wondering what’s to come next, we don’t have to worry if anything is coming next. John’s new position tells us that he’ll be working on the strategy for consumer products, social media, live shows, podcasts, and more.
As exciting as it is to see a potential future for the Fraggle brand, the idea of this type of strategy is likely nothing new. Every brand dreams of expanding, and I’m sure the Henson Company has spent its fair share of time attempting to get merch and live shows and podcasts off the ground. What makes this feel different is the face at the head of the table. John has a proven record of creating respectful and entertaining content for Fraggle Rock and the Henson Company as a whole, and he knows how to create an experience that can pay homage to the work Jim Henson created while also fostering in new fans.
In addition to simply doing his job well, John Tartaglia is also One Of Us. By which I mean, he was a Fraggle fan first, and becoming a Fraggle insider came later. I’m not saying that fans necessarily make the best content (we certainly can get hung up on nostalgia over accessibility), but his lifetime love of Fraggle Rock gives him an edge. He knows the content, he knows the people who should be involved, and he knows how personally folks like us take it all.
On top of that, John is a longtime Muppet performer. One talking point that comes up a lot in reference to the Disney-owned Muppets is that the performers need to be listened to more. They know the characters better than anyone, and they have the experience to understand how to match these franchises to their projects. An obvious example of how Muppet performers’ involvement leads to great productions is in The Muppets Mayhem, which was helmed in part by Bill Barretta. Just like John Tartaglia and Back to the Rock, we ended up with a perfect blend of old and new, allowing the familiar to feel fresh again.
Fraggle fan. Fraggle performer. Fraggle writer. Fraggle producer. Much like Gobo, John wears a lot of hats. I’m so excited to find out what his new role within The Jim Henson Company will lead to. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll be perfectly Fraggly and it will help to continue growing our own Fraggle fandom community. It’s just nice to see a familiar face on the other side of the Fraggle hole.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com