Appreciating Animal

ANIMAL

Michael Wermuth Jnr – Animal is one of the most popular Muppets. He’s the drummer for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, the only member of the band who appeared regularly on Muppet Babies, was a popular character for guest stars to request screen time with, and has been one of the most marketable characters. But for a long time, he’s kind of been overrated.

Animal eat drumsAs a kid, I think I liked him as much as the average Muppet character I liked. I can’t remember if he was ever one of my bigger favorites, like Kermit, Gonzo, Bunsen, Beaker, Lips, or Thog. I do know that, when I was really young, there were a few scenes with Animal that kind of scared me (I can’t remember if I was ever scared of giant Animal in The Muppet Movie, but I did get scared with him yelling “WOMAN! WOMAN!” at the beginning of that movie, and was scared when he called for Kermit when the gang looked for him in The Muppets Take Manhattan), but I got over all of those by the time I was 10. And I really liked his “Go bye-bye” lines at the end of Muppet Babies.

But as I was getting older, a number of things were making me like the rest of the Electric Mayhem better. Of course the 1990s was a time when the rest of the band wasn’t seen often, while Animal was appearing a lot. When Muppets from Space was coming out, I heard that The Electric Mayhem would be in it, as would the Electric Mayhem bus, and I heard online gossip that some of Jim Henson and Richard Hunt’s characters would be recast (which ended up only resulting in a handful of dialogue, but even with that disappointment, it was seen as a big deal back then). Then I saw the movie and was disappointed over the fact that Animal was the only member to be part of the main cast, with the rest of the band only being there a few times (and with only Dr. Teeth and Floyd getting dialogue). Considering they brought back the bus, shouldn’t more of The Electric Mayhem have been involved? Couldn’t they have at least had Floyd tag along? If they weren’t ready to give Dr. Teeth and Janice too much dialogue, couldn’t they have had the band tag along, with Dr. Teeth driving, and just had them stay at the bus while the other main characters went in to save Gonzo (there would have been enough characters there that it wouldn’t seem too unnatural for Janice and Dr. Teeth to just be silent)?

DR. TEETH AND THE ELECTRIC MAYHEM

Over the next few years, Dr. Teeth and Janice would slowly get recast, and Floyd would get recast in a relatively short time after Jerry Nelson retired, but for most of the decade, Animal was still overused without the rest. He was the only member to appear in the “Go Fishing” music video with Weezer, the only one to appear in The Muppets on the Muppets, the only one featured when Disney rebooted muppets.com, the only one to appear in such Muppet commercials as Mastercard and Pizza Hut, and while each of the five original members did introduce mini-games in Muppets Party Cruise (even Zoot, who doesn’t talk much), Animal was the only playable character, and the only one to be seen in more than just a mini-game introductory image. 0c5f8-animalrowlfscootervmcStill, he did get less dialogue than Janice in It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, was more-or-less featured equally with the rest in The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and Letters to Santa: A Muppets Christmas, and was featured less than Dr. Teeth and Floyd in A Red and Green Christmas. There’s also the fact that Animal is one of only two playable characters in the Muppets game for Game Boy Color, while the rest of The Electric Mayhem also appears in save screens. Only six characters went back in time and had to be rescued, so surely more Muppets could have been playable – and wouldn’t it have been great if when you rescued a character you could play as that character?

I was also pleased that Palisades Toys put out a Dr. Teeth action figure a series before we got an Animal figure (and a Floyd came out at the same time), though Animal did get the most Palisades figures of the band, including being the only one to be made in the Mega Muppets figure series (as a side note, when I saw that Animal wasn’t included in series 1 of Diamond Select Toys Muppet action figures or Mini Mates, I wondered if maybe there were plans for the whole band to be included in one series, though I now know that’s not the case). In fact Animal has had the most merchandise of The Electric Mayhem. During the Palisades era I wondered why there was even so much more Animal merchandise compared to the rest of the band during The Muppet Show era, though there were finger puppets and cups of Dr. Teeth and Zoot. The whole band was major then, but Animal was the only one who got made as a Fisher Price stick figure or hand puppet??? In fact, during the late-2000s, it seems like the majority of individual character Muppet merchandise featured Animal (with Kermit close by). I had a number of shirts that featured just Animal.

f365a-animalzenWhen The Muppets came out, I was a little disappointed that the initial poster just had Animal from the band, and that Animal was given his own plotline. While the plotline of Animal taking anger management and giving up drums isn’t bad (and gives the film a little more conflict), it’s also not that great a subplot. I was especially disappointed that when grouping up the Muppets they went to pick up Animal at anger management before getting the rest of the band involved. I would have liked it better if they went to get the Electric Mayhem back and they informed the Muppets of where Animal was.

But then I warmed up to his popularity a bit more in 2014. I really enjoyed the Lipton Tea commercial with several Animals (that is, several copies of Animal), and I really liked Animal in Muppets Most Wanted. Even if he once again had the biggest part out of all the Electric Mayhem, away from the Electric Mayhem, he was good. I liked him sensing that Constantine wasn’t Kermit, and his protectiveness and loyalty to Kermit. And I like that we’ve gotten as much (if not more) of The Electric Mayhem on the 2015 series, while Animal has had such great moments as his “nudity if tasteful” line in the presentation pilot, the band thinking he’s a robot in “Too Hot for Handler”, his Funions thing in “The Ex-Factor”, and his drum battle with David Growl.

fbd3b-animaltriangle

In fact, when thinking of Animal moments from the past, Animal does have a lot of really great classic moments, whether it’s going wild over Rita Moreno’s rendition of “Fever”, being interviewed by Kermit, trying to find a hobby, meeting Lou Rawls, “tweeting” along to Janice’s rendition of “Rockin’ Robin”, his performance of “Wild Thing”, or him singing along with Beaker and The Swedish Chef. Animal’s really not a bad character, so maybe I had a hype backlash against Animal for a long time, or maybe I like minor characters so much that I was bothered by him being used so much when the rest of the band was used so less. And I know, I’ve been appreciating Animal more as the rest of the band has started to become more prominent in recent years.

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