Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: The La Choy Dragon

WMW La Choy

Written by Ryan Dosier.

THE LA CHOY DRAGON

LaChoyDragonPerformed by…
Jim Henson (voice)
Frank Oz (body)

First appearance…
La Choy Chow Mein commercial (1965)

Most recent appearance…
La Choy Chow Mein commercial (1967) (onscreen)
The Muppet Show Comic Book: Family Reunion (2010) (in print)

Best known role…
Enormous dragon spokesman for La Choy Chow Mein

Real name…
Delbert

WHO IS THE LA CHOY DRAGON?
LachoylivehandThe La Choy Dragon was one of Jim Henson’s first big commercial stars. As his name implies, the La Choy Dragon appeared in numerous commercials advertising La Choy Chow Mein throughout 1965 to 1967. The original La Choy Dragon was a hand puppet, used in traditional Muppet-style commercial settings. In 1966 the Dragon was rebuilt as a full size puppet and used in commercials interacting with real families to sell chow mein.

La-Choy-slide-04croppedThe La Choy Dragon puppet was also the first puppet capable of breathing real fire in the commercials, giving La Choy Chow Mein its “dragon-fire” cooked flavor. La Choy Dragon was one of the first full body Muppets built by Jim Henson. He was originally conceived as a large bird, but Jim would save that design for Big Bird a few years later.

LACHOYSSingedMuppetIn some of the La Choy commercials, the Dragon is accompanied by a timid, business suit wearing Muppet named Mert who would act as a spokesman in the commercials. The Dragon is never named in any of the commercials, but is referred to as Delbert throughout many internal materials on the character. He would go on to be officially known as Delbert in almost everything the character is referred in.

La_ChoyThough the La Choy Dragon never appeared onscreen after the chow mein commercials in 1967, a rebuilt version of the puppet appeared in a few exhibits over the years, including “Jim Henson: Puppeteer.” The most recent new sighting of the La Choy Dragon was in the final issue of The Muppet Show Comic Book: Family Reunion series. In the comic, the La Choy Dragon was seen destroying a city behind Skeeter as she embarked on a new adventure.

WHY DOES TELEVISION NEED THE LA CHOY DRAGON?
Though the La Choy Dragon is not a hugely popular Muppet or well known today, he was very important to Muppet history. The La Choy Chow Mein commercials contributed to Jim Henson’s growing popularity. Frank Oz performed inside the La Choy Dragon, a physical feat which he notably despised. Frank’s disdain for performing inside a full body character was a deciding factor for his not being cast as Big Bird on Sesame Street. In a round about way, this eventually led to the casting of Caroll Spinney as Big Bird.

Lachoydragon (1)

 

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

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