The two shows and film from my childhood that brings back happy memories are: Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and The Muppet Movie. All three were the brainchild of puppeteer Jim Henson.
Henson had worked on Sesame Street but wanted to expanded towards a variety show for children and adults. American television was not interested in his new vision but they were in Britain. The Muppet Show became a huge international success and Henson wanted to take the Muppets to the big screen. This became the Muppet Movie (1979). For the film, Henson wanted to take the Muppets out of the studio and into real filming locations. And one of those locations was a mere 50 minute drive from my cabin in Santa Cruz.
That’s where my Muppet sketching quest begins!
And so it was that I headed south and then east towards the city of Salinas in Monterey County. South of Downtown Salinas, between Highway 68 and South Davis Road is the rural farming road, Foster Road.
This is the setting of one of the more memorable scenes in the film and it occurs during the song “Movin’ Right Along” where Kermit and his new friend Fozzie Bear are driving to Hollywood to become famous in Fozzie’s Studebaker.
Kermit and Fozzie are performed and voiced by long time collaborators Henson (Kermit) and Frank Oz (Fozzie). They are probably best known in Sesame Street as Bert and Ernie. Frank Oz was also the performer and voice of Yoda.
Kermit and Fozzie drive down a road, framed by farm fields and they come upon a large yellow bird walking the other direction with a suitcase. Fozzie asks, “Hey there, want a lift?” And Big Bird replies, “Oh no thanks. I’m on my way to New York City to try and break into Public Television.” Fozzie say, “Ahhh. . .good luck!”
Big Bird was performed by Caroll Spinney and it was great to see all three puppeteers in one scene: Henson, Oz, and Spinney.
At the intersection of Foster Road and South Davis Road, is the location of the scene when the Studebaker drives in circles, filmed from a helicopter above, as Fozzie sings, “California here we come/ the pie-in-the-sky-land”. Of course the irony is that they are already in California, Salinas, California. Which is 300 miles north of Hollywood.