There’s two very distinct cinema memories I have as a kid. One of them was seeing Star Wars when I was 4, and the other was The Muppet Movie when I was 5. After those two it’s a mish mash of good, bad, and in-between. But those two first movies left an indelible mark on my head and heart. The Muppet Movie was one of those first really shared movie moments we had as a family. The Muppet Show was something we all sat and watched together. It had something for my brother and I, as well as making my parents laugh on a different level. The special guests were great and did their part to bring the muppets to life in my eyes. Some of my favorite guests? Mark Hamill, John Cleese, Elton John, Buddy Rich, Dudley Moore, Vincent Price, Steve Martin, and Peter Sellers to name a few. The Mark Hamill one was extra special as Princess Leia and Chewbacca also guested in a skit.
Disney was never really my thing. Sure, my mom took me to a few movies when I was little, but I never really connected to Disney. Sesame Street and the Children’s Television Workshop was where it was at for me. Jim Henson was my Walt Disney. It was original. It didn’t feel aged and dusty like Disney always did to me. Watching Kermit and Grover interact with little kids on camera while watching Sesame Street gave me the feeling that those Muppets were real. What Jim Henson and Frank Oz did was nothing short of brilliant, opening this little kid’s heart to fabric, string, and felt. I know there’s others my age that feel the same way.
Hearing on my way into work that The Muppet Movie came out 40 years ago got me thinking about that movie and it’s opening song. Of course they played a snippet of it and I instantly felt this knot in my throat form. I started singing along to Kermit and my eyes welled up just a little(don’t judge me.) That song hits me the same at 45-years old that it did at 5-years old. It’s a beautiful song that talks about not listening to the naysayers and believing in your dreams. “Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection/the lovers, the dreamers, and me”…. It’s a beautiful melody with one of those chord changes in the chorus that just grabs you and you hold onto it.
When my oldest was 2 years old she had a collection of songs on CD that we’d play her. It was famous musicians covering children’s songs. It was one of those rare kids albums that the adults could stomach hearing ad nauseum in the car. I remember driving hours on end on the weekends with her in the back and my wife in the passenger’s seat, about ready to burst with our second baby. We’d drive just to get out of the house when soon-to-be big sis would get a little restless and we could feel insanity creeping just around the corner. We’d hit the road and pop that CD in the player. The first song on that collection was Sarah McLachlan covering “The Rainbow Connection”. As soon as the opening piano chords started playing it was like pressure being let out of the car. We all sunk into our seats a little deeper and enjoyed the ride. Pretty soon you could hear that two-year old voice trying to sing along. It was sweet and endearing and one of those memories I’ve locked away in my brain and hopefully will never lose.
The Muppet Movie came out 40 years ago this week. We may occasionally lose that rainbow connection, but we’ll always be able to find it again. Thanks Jim Henson.