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It's an old cartoon gag when the lights go out, to show only the whites of a character's eyes in the dark. In Muppet productions, special techniques are used to achieve the effect. Speaking in the audio commentary for the Muppet Treasure Island DVD, Brian Henson explains that the eyes are painted with tiny balls of glass that reflect a small source of light placed under the lens of the camera. Other methods have been used, including the use of CGI (for a scene from a 2008 episode of Sesame Street).