Weekly Muppet Wednesday: The Anything Muppets

anythingmuppets

Written by Michael Wermuth Jnr.

THE ANYTHING MUPPETS

ALSO KNOWN AS
The Anything People; AMs.

BEST KNOWN ROLE
Face-less trunk puppets who can be used for almost anything.

PERFORMED BY
Pretty much every performer who has worked on Sesame Street.

FIRST APPEARANCE
Sesame Street episode 0001, 1969.

MOST RECENT APPEARANCE
Sesame Street season 45, 2015.

WHO ARE THE ANYTHING MUPPETS?
“Anything Muppet” is the term given to various blank-headed trunk puppets who, with the addition of hair, facial features, and clothing, can be almost any character needed for a scene, especially useful when one-shot characters are needed. There are many Anything Muppet patterns, many of which have actual names. Some of the known names for the patterns include Fat Blue (the blue one with the round head), Pumpkin (the tall orange one), and Orange Gold (the yellow one with a chin). Smaller Anything Muppets are known as Little Anything Muppets, and come in colors pink (called Hot Pink), orange, magenta, and green. Anything Muppets are usually used for characters who are supposed to be human, though animal characters have occasionally been made from Anything Muppets, and in the earliest seasons, Anything Muppets were often dressed with fur and other monster features to become monsters, but eventually Sesame Street started having Anything Monsters.

While they are often used for whatever character is needed, in the first season it was common for there to be segments where human cast members (usually Gordon) decorated the heads of the Anything Muppets, often before singing such musical numbers as “Consider Yourself”, “Spinning Wheel”, “Swinging on a Star”, and “Four Blind Mice”. The second season number “I Want to Hold Your Ear” featured an Anything Muppet named Maurice decorating a blank-headed AM girl and then removing each facial feature. The earliest performances of “The People in Your Neighborhood” follow a similar format. Although the AMs in these segments do have all of their intended facial features, the segments often had Bob assigning them jobs based on how they looked and giving them the appropriate hats.

The concept of showing the adults decorating Anything Muppets stopped early on, with the AMs being used a lot more as actual characters. In addition to being used for nearly every one-shot characters, the AMs have also been used for many recurring characters, even major characters (though I’m pretty sure that the regular characters eventually got made as their own puppets, with the AM pattern). With the main exception of Ernie and Bert, pretty much every Sesame Street Muppet who’s supposed to be a human has an AM pattern.

Most of the Anything Muppets are rod-hand puppets, though quite a few do have live-hand variants. The most major live-hand AM is the lavender one, which in contrast to other AM patterns looks a lot more different from the rod-hands version. The lavender one with the live hands has perhaps the most commonly-used design for recurring characters, having been used such characters as Count von Count (and all Countesses), The Amazing Mumford, Biff, Forgetful Jones, and Harvey Kneeslapper. The rod-hand lavender one has been used for Herbert Birdsfoot, Roxie Marie, Leslie Mostly, and Polly Darton. The pointy-headed green AM was used for Sherlock Hemlock, Lefty the Salesman, Little Jerry, and Farley. The Fat Blue pattern has brought us such characters as Mr. Johnson, Simon Soundman, Professor Hastings, Little Chrissy, and Hard Head Henry Harris. The Pumpkin Anything Muppet pattern has been used for such characters as Sully. Orange Gold has lent itself to the looks of Guy Smiley, Don Music, and Monty. When it comes to the Little Anything Muppets, the Hot Pink one has been used for Prairie Dawn, Betty Lou, The Three Little Pigs, and the Busby Twins, while the magenta one was used for Roosevelt Franklin. Some recurring characters have even been made from multiple AM patterns over the years, with Sonny Friendly being made from all lavender AMs, Bip Bipodotta coming from the little pink and orange AMs (and once being the regular-sized rod-handed AM), and The Grand High Triangle Lover has been both lavender and blue, in addition to having live hands and not.

Albums, especially from the early years, often credit The Anything Muppets (or Anything People) as the singers of many songs with no named characters. Among the songs sung by the AMs include “Five People in My Family”, “Everyone Likes Ice Cream”, “Going for a Ride”, and many more. There was also an Anything Muppet hand puppet released by Questor  in 1977.

WHY DOES SESAME STREET NEED THE ANYTHING MUPPETS?
The Anything Muppets are beneficial to Sesame Street for a number of reasons. For one, AMs help keep costs down. When one-shot characters are needed, it’s a lot cheaper to just put clothes and facial features onto puppets that are already built than spending more money on a full puppet. Additionally, since so many long-unseen characters were made from AM patterns, if there’s a desire to bring back an old character who hasn’t been used in years, especially if it’s just for a cameo or for use in the background, they can easily just decorate the appropriate AM if there’s no longer a usable puppet as opposed to completely rebuilding the character (as long as it is a character made from an AM). Anything Muppets are especially needed now, considering Sesame Workshop has been having financial issues for the past few years, as they are money-savers.

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