Kieran Moore – I couldn’t resist!
Although there are plenty of Muppet creatures that haven’t had their own list yet, there was no way I wouldn’t be featuring an Animal-based chart as one of my “Animal”-based charts. After all, if someone can name me a more famous Muppet “Animal” I’ll give them a donut. There aren’t many constants in life, but Animal is one of them. Eternally up for it and raring to go (unless he’s “in control”) he is one of the Muppet gang’s main stars. If you look up at the banner on this very site you’ll see he’s there front and (not quite) center. How many other Electric Mayhem members can claim the same? Exactly.
Animal has been popular with viewers since his first appearance and is still as loved today. The songs on this chart span some 40 years, have won major awards and feature an actual chart hit. That’s pretty good going by any Muppet’s standards.
10 – Carol of the Bells – Muppet Viral Video
Animal is part of the Holy Trinity of slightly unintelligible singers that makes up the “Leprechaun Bros.” (A.K.A. “The ABCs”) and this is his one of his biggest parts in any of their songs. I guess that makes sense since it’s so heavily percussion based. As I sit here on a hot July evening I kind of wish I could be somewhere snowy like the gang are in this clip – it looks so cool and frosty! I always get a strange sort of pleasure from featuring a Christmas song out of season (don’t judge me). I’ve written about “The Leprechaun Bros.” before and as much as I appreciate the joke I do feel there’s only so far they can take this kind of humor before it gets overdone. Thankfully we’re not there yet though so there’s still time for them to release an album! Come on guys…
9 – Drum Battle with Andrew Hurley of Fall Out Boy – Radio Disney Music Awards
Animal is famous for his drum battles so it’ll come as no surprise that this chart is littered with them. While I enjoy this a lot, the reason it falls below the others is mostly because of the host who keeps stepping in to ruin the flow. If I’m honest, I don’t know who the presenter is here. I wish I did as even though he’s the reason I’m less keen on this battle, it would be nice to credit him with that fact. Wikipedia lists a load of hosts so sadly I’m no further into my investigations. If there’s a 12-year-old girl reading this who’d like to let me know, that would be awesome. Wikipedia did tell me though that this was filmed on April 30th this year, back when the Muppets had a primetime network show. Remember those glorious days? (Only another 20 to go before it happens again if history is to be believed.) “The Muppets (2016)” might have been less than two weeks from cancellation, but it was cool that Animal was out flying the flag nonetheless.
8 – Wipe Out – Muppet Beach Party
Not everything about “Muppet Beach Party” was a success, but this track was one of its better moments. Wipe Out was an inspired choice for Animal with its awesome drum solos and provided the gang with a great closing number for the album. Here in the UK this was released as a single under the artist name of “Animal” (it’s a shame it wasn’t credited as “The Electric Mayhem” as that would have given them a legitimate chart entry). The usually reliable MuppetWiki lists this as having reached 39 in the UK singles chart, but a well-respected online database of the UK charts says 38 so I’m not sure which is correct… I remember when this was released, but for some reason I also remember not buying it. I’m not sure why. I guess its position at number eight on this chart might give a clue, but I’m sure if I’d had the cash at the time I’d have supported the release.
7 – Drum Battle with Questlove of The Roots – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Although this is listed as a drum battle, it’s really just a piece of percussive music. It is very good though. For those of you who have somehow wondered onto a Muppet fansite without knowing who Animal is I guess now is the perfect time to state a few obvious facts. As the drummer of “The Electric Mayhem”, Animal has been part of the main Muppet gang since 1975 and has appeared in pretty much everything they’ve done since. He was definitely one of the break-out characters of “The Muppet Show” thanks to his anarchic character and slightly crazed manner. After Kermit, and perhaps Miss Piggy, Animal is one of the most merchandised Muppet characters ever. His Muppet Tsum Tsum is currently on its way… I have a theory that Animal appears on so much merchandise because his is one of the few “unisex” characters out there. By that I mean that because of his pinkish coloring he can be used on girls’ products as well as those aimed at boys.
6 – Drum Battle with Harry Belafonte – The Muppet Show
It feels slightly sacrilegious to have anything Harry Belafonte related in the lower half of a chart, but it’s just a sign of how good what’s to come is. This has such simple staging, but is a pleasure to watch and listen to. It’s unique amongst Animal’s other battles thanks to its use of an African drum. It really gives this a different feel that somehow seems a little more “Muppety”. By that I mean that it feels more fun and playful than some of Animal’s other battles – it’s taking itself less seriously. There are two things I especially like about this; one is how Animal’s drums instantly sound jazzy – even when only playing a few beats, and the other is the round of applause that kicks in part way through letting us know that it’s okay to start enjoying ourselves!
5 – Drum Battle with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters – The Muppets (2015)
It could be argued that Dave Grohl is the most famous drummer in the business today so this caused a bit of a splash on social media last year. As Dave says at the start – he’s been waiting years for this moment and it felt like the world had been too. It’s a worthy battle, but I think we can all agree that because of the restrictions of a network show it’s not as epic as it should have been. I love “Going, Going, Gonzo” and would list it as my favorite episode of the show I think, but it’s a shame they couldn’t squeeze in a little time during the episode proper to give this more space. In fact, as there were no Animal-centric episodes of the show it’s a shame they didn’t expand this into its own storyline. That would have been epic. A draw feels like a bit of a cop out, but also exactly right. I’m hoping for a rematch sometime though.
4 – Wild Thing – The Muppet Show
Animal didn’t get many solo numbers in The Muppet Show so this is extra-special. I love the change of lyrics to “Wild Thing, I think I love ME”. That speaks volumes. Animal’s performer during the first half of his life was Frank Oz and the character really allows him to use his phenomenal comedy powers to wicked effect. He also lets Frank rock out and have fun. It’s hard to imagine this is the same guy that performed Bert from Sesame Street… Animal is enormous fun to watch in this clip with his gangly arms and tapping foot. It’s a sublime piece of puppetry. This is actually my second favorite version of this song that Animal appears on as I also love his performance with Kermit and Floyd on “Kermit Unpigged”. I couldn’t resist featuring his solo performance though.
3 – Can You Picture That? (Drum Battle with Travis Barker of Blink-182) – Jimmy Kimmel Live
One day Can You Picture That will be number one… I have to focus on Animal and Travis’ battle really, but I also must praise the whole of The Electric Mayhem and their performers (some of whom were still growing into their roles) for the epic-ness of this performance. It’s really, really good and makes me sad that I can’t see them live in concert later this year. This isn’t Animal’s most epic drum battle (there’s one very famous example still to come), but it’s only a shade behind. It lasts for a full-on 90 seconds and barely lets up for a moment. I’m not sure who would have been performing Animal’s drum parts here, but I wish I did so I could credit them properly.
If you’re a 12-year-old girl and would like to write in and tell me that would be awesome. I do know Eric Jacobson is performing as Animal himself and doing an amazing job. He’s one of my favorite Muppet performers ever, and dare I say it, I might prefer him to Frank Oz!!!
2 – Drum Battle with Buddy Rich – The Muppet Show
Who’d have thought Kermit would love a drum battle? I guess that’s why Animal has had so many! This really is astounding. Buddy Rich is an incredible talent. Described as “The greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath” Buddy gives a tour de force performance that Animal, try as he might, simply can’t beat. Of course as the gracious host there is an element of not wanting to show up your guest, but either way Animal gets the last laugh thanks to some Olympic-quality drum flinging. I do know who is performing Animal’s drum parts here – the incredibly talented Ronnie Verrel of Jack Parnell’s Orchestra. Buddy was very complimentary about Ronnie calling him one of his all-time favorite drummers and said of appearing on the show, “That one week will go down as one of the most positive weeks in my career.” This is Animal at his best, but there is still one more iconic performance to come…
1 – Fever – The Muppet Show
Rita Moreno won an Emmy for her performance on The Muppet Show (becoming only the third person ever to achieve EGOT status into the bargain) and I genuinely think it was because of this song. This is officially an Emmy-winning Muppet Show moment. There aren’t many characters I’ve written about that can say their number one song gained such acclaim, but Animal can. This is an absolute master class in how the Muppets should be – brilliantly musical, respectful of the guest (yet not afraid to have fun with them) and oh so very funny. Very, very funny. Very, very, very funny. Frank is perfect as Animal and embodies the Muppet ethos of one-upmanship with aplomb. And Rita is right there with him. Her facial expressions and Spanish threats are a joy to behold. Rita described this as “one of the funniest things [she’s] ever done” and it’s not hard to see why.
I said at the start of this chart that Animal was a constant presence in the Muppet canon and as such I guess he could blend into the background a bit, but I don’t think that’s ever happened, even in The Electric Mayhem’s quiet years. Despite his character traits, in some ways he’s actually quite reassuring. If Animal’s around we know that things for the Muppets are on an even keel. Acting as a kind of weather-vane, we only need to worry about the gang when even Animal doesn’t make appearances online or on TV. So I have to say a huge thank you to Animal for his tireless work keeping the Muppets in the consciousness of the general public. His contribution on that score cannot be overestimated. Thank you Animal for doing what you do. You might be loud and a little crazed (don’t worry the Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery will return), but you are a vital part of the team. Thank You.