Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Penguins

WMW Penguins

Written by Ryan Dosier.


Performed by…Penguins

First appearance…
The Muppet Show Episode 304 (1979)

Most recent appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role…
Nameless, interchangeable arctic water fowl known for flipping around in the air, playing in orchestras, and harmonizing. 

The Muppet penguins are those black and white birds who pop up in countless Muppet productions over the years. Usually traveling in packs and seen quacking about, the penguins are perhaps best known for flipping themselves into the air or being thrown in the air by others. The penguins have appeared in many places that penguins don’t normally appear… but the Muppets have had a pig at the Oscars, so it’s not too bizarre.

The first Muppet penguin appeared in the “Lullaby of Broadway” number in Episode 304 of The Muppet Show in 1979. The penguin in the song performed with a Muppet walrus and a chorus of Eskimo pigs. The first penguin had a smaller head than the modern day penguins and was designed and performed by Brain Henson for the show. Groups of penguins would appear sporadically throughout the show, including Pilgrim Penguins in the “Alabamy Bound” number and as members of the Endangered Species Chorus Line.

After The Muppet Show ended the penguins continued to make cameos in later Muppet projects, including an unforgettable moment in The Muppets Take Manhattan where a group of penguins ask for a job at Pete’s Luncheonette. (“Well excuse us for living!”) Penguins also appeared in The Muppets Go to the Movies, The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years, A Muppet Family Christmas, and The Jim Henson Hour.

In the 1990s, the penguins began performing in an all-penguin orchestra in productions such as Muppet Classic Theater and most notably at Muppet*Vision 3-D, where they perform live every day. The 90s were good to the penguins as they went ice skating in The Muppet Christmas Carol, appearing in Muppets Tonight, and diving into bathtubs and being scrubbed by Sweetums in Muppets From Space.

Then came the 2000s, and the penguins stuck around for most every Muppet production in the new millennium, including The Muppet Show Live in 2001, Kermit’s Swamp Years and It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie in 2002, The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and From the Balcony in 2005, Muppets.com and the VirMup YouTube videos, Studio DC: Almost Live, and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa in 2008.

Recently, the penguins popped up in The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora online and on The X Factor in Britain. In 2011, they promoted the upcoming Muppet movie in an introductory film for AMC Theaters and promotional videos for Bounty called “Kermit’s Party.” The most notable recent appearance of the penguins was in The Muppets. They appeared during the Muppet Telethon show and quacked a line during the finale of “Life’s a Happy Song.”

The penguins have been immortalized as action figures and toys by Palisades Toys. An exclusive two-pack of penguin figures was released through OMGCNFO.com in 2005 and a figure of the ice skating penguins from The Muppet Christmas Carol was released as part of the Mini Muppets line. Penguins also showed up in The Muppet Show Comic Book and the Muppet Classics series from BOOM! Studios.

Oh please, who doesn’t need some flipping, quacking, orchestrating, random penguins in their lives? I know I do.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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