Muppetology 101: Intro to Weirdo Evolution


Ryan Dosier – Greetings, class! Welcome to the beginning of a new semester here at Muppetology 101. After last semester’s depressing lack of course content (depressing for my wallet due to the number of drop-outs), I’m really hoping this year will have a lot more classes that aren’t canceled due to suspiciously exploding penguins. Anyway! Today we take a look at Gonzo the Great. Since 1970, Gonzo’s look and design has changed more than almost any other Muppet, so we’re going to examine these different iterations of the weirdo wonder. Let’s get started, shall we?

  • 1996 – 2001
    • Gonzo’s wardrobe took a spin to the wild side starting with Muppets Tonight. Gonzo began wearing brightly colored suits with wacky designs. The most-used outfit from this period was a yellow shirt with red chili peppers on it. Though Gonzo himself was not drastically redesigned during this period, his wardrobe very much was, making for a notable change to the character.
  • 1992 – 1996
    • Once he landed a lead role in The Muppet Christmas Carol, it was time to redesign Gonzo again. Gonzo’s head becomes bigger and his eyelids overlap for the first time. His nose becomes a mix of blue, purple, and tan and also gets a bit longer. As the star of literary adaptations this Gonzo was most seen in period-costumes from Dickensian and pirate times. Outside these films Gonzo wore either a sweater vest or loud jackets.
  • 1978 – 1979
    • Gonzo, like the other Muppets, was rebuilt for filming of The Muppet Movie in 1978. His nose was rounded even further and colored a more purple/blue tinge. His eyelids were also turned a darker yellow. Gonzo’s head shape was much more defined and the feathers were smoothed down on the sides. This Gonzo was seen wearing his denim plumber’s outfit in The Muppet Movie and wore a shinier purple tuxedo starting in season three of The Muppet Show.
  •  1977 – 1978
    • After the first season of The Muppet Show, performer and puppet builder Dave Goelz redesigned Gonzo almost completely. Dave gave Gonzo moving yellow-green eyelids to better reflect his wild, unhinged personality. He also made the mouth easier to move and reshaped Gonzo’s trademark nose. Gonzo’s head was remade with neater, darker blue feathers.
  • 1979 – 1992
    • For season four of The Muppet Show, Gonzo’s body was built bigger than it previously was. This brought him to the size he is today. Again, Gonzo’s eyelids turn a darker yellow shade and his nose becomes more blue and purple than it was previously. The feathers on his head and body are softer and smoother. This Gonzo would last the longest of any version, lasting through the end of The Muppet Show, as well as The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, A Muppet Family Christmas, and The Jim Henson Hour.
  • 1970 – 1976
    • This version of Gonzo first appeared in 1970’s The Great Santa Claus Switch and lasted throughout the entire first season of The Muppet Show. His drooping green eyelids and unfocused eyeballs gave Gonzo a constant expression of sadness. His nose was also a single shade of blue and pointed at the end. This version of Gonzo looked much more scrappy than future models. This Gonzo would be seen only a few times more during the run of The Muppet Show as a stunt-double for the updated Gonzo.
  • 2002 – 2008
    • In It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie Gonzo ditches his brightly colored attire for more muted wear. In the 2002 Christmas special he wears a gray suit, although the chili pepper shirts continue to pop up in promotional appearances in the early 2000s. For 2008’s A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, Gonzo wears a variety of brown and tan winter clothes. He also gains a new eye trick, allowing him to lift only one eyelid at once.
  • 2009 – present
    • Gonzo is completely redesigned once again. His head is more round, his nose is much thicker and almost totally blue, and his mouth is wider. Gonzo’s eyelids are a brighter yellow, like earlier versions, and his pupils are smaller. This Gonzo is also noticeably larger. This Gonzo was first seen at the D23 Expo in 2009 and is continually used today. For The Muppets, Gonzo wore his traditional gray and black sweater vest but was seen in his classic purple tuxedo for a few appearances as well.

Well… that’s that! Your homework is to shoot yourself out of a cannon into a vat of lemon pudding mix while yodeling “Baby Got Back.” Grades given based on severity of injuries! Class dismissed.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier,

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