Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Taminella Grinderfall

WMW Taminella

Today’s article was written by Michael Wermuth.


Performed by…Taminella
Jerry Juhl

First appearance…
Tales of Tinkerdee (1962)

Most recent appearance…
The Frog Prince (1971)

Best known role…
Evil Witch, master of disguises, ogre trainer.

Memorable quote…
“Have a popover, froggy!”

Taminella Grinderfall is a witch, seen in many Muppet productions during the 1960s. She first appeared as the main villain in Tales of the Tinkerdee, where she is upset over being the only one in the kingdom to not be invited to Princess Gwendolinda’s birthday party. Taminella and her ogre, Charlie, decide to crash the party and steal the presents. She goes to the party in a number of disguises, including Santa Claus, a french sculpture, the Prime Minister, and even Princess Gwendelinda herself. In the end, King Goshposh finds out and sends Taminella to the dungeon, where she is sentenced to stay until she eats all of the extra peanut butter sandwiches that were accidentally ordered–all six hundred and sixty seven thousand of them!

Taminella’s next big appearance was in an industrial film for Pat-Nix RX, in which she attempts to lure Shrinkel and Stretchel (parodies of Hansel and Gretel) into her oven. Unfortunately for Taminella, she is unable to cook them because they are wearing Pat-Nix clothing, which prevents their clothes from shrinking or stretching. After this, Taminella made a few appearances in The Muppets on Puppets, first by attempting to turn all of the viewers into frogs. Later in that special, she appears in a mixed-up fairy tale segment, playing Cinderella’s step mother.

But to most fans, Taminella is perhaps best known as the main villain in The Frog Prince. Here, she first appears in a flashback during a battle between Sir Robin the Brave and her ogre, Sweetums. She turns Robin into a frog and reveals that she doesn’t have the power to turn him back, but he can turn back into a prince if he kisses a princess. She suggests Sweetums should keep the frog, but Robin manages a daring escape.

Sometime later, she bumps into King Rupert the Second in the forest and, seeing how gullible he is, convinces him that she was his long-lost sister he never even knew he had. She moves into the palace, wears fancier clothes, and puts a spell on Princess Melora, making her talk backwards. But later, as King Rupert decides to retire as king and make Melora the new queen, Taminella convinces him that she should be queen instead. The day is saved when Robin, Kermit, and the other frogs show up to attack Taminella and break Melora’s spell. Taminella not only loses her powers, but also turns into a bird, and has never been seen again. Maybe she’s still a bird.

Taminella is the only somewhat prominent character performed by Jerry Juhl, who started out as a performer as well as a writer. By the end of the 1960s, Jerry phased out as a performer. In fact, by the time The Frog Prince was made, Jerry only provided the voice of Taminella while Richard Hunt did the puppetry work.

Well, the Muppets needed her back when they were doing specials with a fairy tale setting. A witch was needed, and Taminella fit the bill perfectly. Taminella usually managed to steal the show in these specials. If Tinkerdee was picked up as a series it would have needed its show-stealing character on a regular basis. But with The Muppet Show and movies taking place in the real world as opposed to fairy tale settings a witch might seem out-of-place.

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

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