Michael Wermuth – The Frog Prince is one in a number of “Tales from Muppetland” specials. This one is notable for being the first appearance of Robin and Sweetums, as well as the last appearance of Taminella Grinderfall, the witch performed by Jerry Juhl.
Kermit serves as narrator and co-star in this special. While Robin is still basically the same character as he would be later on, there is a big difference here: rather than be Kermit’s nephew, he is the titular frog prince, with the full name of “Sir Robin the Brave”. As he tells the other frogs (who don’t believe his story, but they love fairytales), he was out in a forest, battling Sweetums, when Taminella showed up, apparently his owner or master, and turned Robin into a frog. Robin can only turn back into a prince if he befriends, lives with, and kisses a princess. Luckily, the frog pond is located right by a palace, and King Rupert the Second has a daughter. Unfortunately, Princess Melora has been put under a spell, which causes her to talk backwards (actually, she just replaces the first sound of each word she says with the first sound of other words she says). Robin manages to befriend her and be allowed into the palace, but unfortunately, it is at this moment that Robin finds out that they’ll also be living with Taminella, posing as Melora’s aunt (and unsurprisingly, she’s the one who put Melora under that spell). Making things worse, Taminella had talked the retiring King Rupert the Second into letting her be the king instead of Melora.
There’s some amazing stuff in this special. There are scenes with Kermit and Robin swimming in pond water. Sweetums has eyes that light up, a feature that was dropped after this special. There’s some marionette work done with the frogs. However, the Peasents are performed rather awkwardly. Many of them have mechanical-looking movements, and it’s clear they were propped up. Some of them move more naturally, but I’m guessing there were more puppets than pairs of performer hands for these scenes.
The Sweetums scenes are kind of scary. There’s a few that scared me a bit when I was a kid. For example, after I first saw this special, I couldn’t watch the first shot of him (suddenly coming out of a cave) without fast-forwarding until 2007. I was even scared at the end when he’s suddenly seen in the crowd singing, even though it seems he’s now good (I think it had to do with him suddenly being there, without any build-up or being acknowledged as being there). But as I watch now, there’s quite a bit with Sweetums that I’m surprised I wasn’t scared of as a kid.
The songs are great. I really like Melora’s “N’im Einteen”, especially the reprise when she and Robin sing it together (with Robin singing what she’s trying to say). “Anthem of Joy” is a joyful song, Kermit’s “Frogs” song is very fun, “Sir Robin the Brave” has a beautiful melody, as does “Sleep Sweetums”, and “Sweetums” is also a fun song. Jerry Juhl did a good job with the lyrics, and Joe Raposo did a good job with the music.
All in all, The Frog Prince is a wonderful special. Maybe not my favorite of the “Tales from Muppetland” specials (I prefer Hey Cinderella and, maybe, The Muppet Musicians of Bremen), but it’s still great.