Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Waldo C. Graphic

WMW Waldo

Written by Ryan Dosier.


Performed by…
Steve Whitmire

First appearance…
The Jim Henson Hour Episode 101 “Science Fiction” (1989) 

Most recent appearance…
Muppet*Vision 3-D (1991) 

Best known role…
The spirit of 3-D, shape-shifter, general nuisance, Mickey Mouse impersonator

Waldo C. Graphic was first developed by Jim Henson for The Jim Henson Hour in order to demonstrate the new technology of the Waldo, a machine for puppetry which allowed puppeteers to remotely control Muppet characters without physically moving a puppet. The technology had been used in the past to operate such characters as the Doozers and Gorgs from Fraggle Rock. However, Waldo marked the first time that a character was developed utilizing the technology to create an entirely digital character–the first of its kind to be operated in real-time.

Waldo’s main appeal as a character was his ability to shape-shift into almost anything imaginable to suit the mood or make a good visual pun. In The Jim Henson Hour his shapes morphed from a doctor, a hat, a power saw, a dinosaur, a teenage girl, a book, a clown, and a cowboy.

Although he debuted on The Jim Henson Hour, Waldo’s biggest and most well-known role was in Muppet*Vision 3-D in Walt Disney World. In the film, he is created by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew in Muppet Labs to demonstrate Muppet-Vision technology by creating the first living 3-D element. Waldo proceeds to bounce on people’s heads and generally wreak havoc. Throughout the film he became a knapsack, a firework, a taxi cab, a duck, a regular car, and, perhaps his most famous role, Mickey Mouse (“They’ll never recognize me now!”).

Waldo has not appeared since Muppet*Vision 3-D, but he continues to entertain tons of people everyday as the film shows in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The first merchandise representation of Waldo C. Graphic will be included in The Muppets Vinylmation Series 2, where Waldo will be available as the chaser figure of the line.

It’s hard to come up with a reason that the Muppets might need Waldo in today’s entertainment business. In The Jim Henson Hour he was a character used to showcase new technology and in in Muppet*Vision 3-D he was merely a tool for fun 3-D tricks. However, in today’s world there are countless films made every year with 3-D creatures interacting with real people so the technological newness is gone from Waldo’s appeal… and 3-D tricks aren’t really needed in a lot of Muppet projects nowadays.

Unfortunately, because of the short run of The Jim Henson Hour, Waldo was never really given the chance to develop much as a character. However, due to his nature as a shape-shifter there is a lot of room for growth with the character (identity crisis, anyone?). I guess the Muppets don’t really need Waldo… but it would be neat to see him return as a character sometime and fleshed out a bit more.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

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