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Muppet puppets (Ideal Toys)

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Hensonidealtoys

Jim Henson with Snerf, Rowlf and Kermit puppets by Ideal Toys, 1966.

Ideal Toys produced the first licensed hand puppets of Kermit and Rowlf in 1966. Both puppets are quite scarce.

The Rowlf puppet has a hole in his back for performing. Unlike the real Rowlf, the Ideal puppet has a felt tongue and a tail.

The Kermit puppet has feet instead of flippers -- Kermit was not yet a frog in the mid-1960's -- and wears a sleeveless red sweater. He has a hole in his back for performing, and a metal rod for moving his arms from the inside.

A Snerf puppet was featured in advertisements, but never actually sold.


Commercial

Ideal toys01:32

Ideal toys

IdealStoryboard

Original storyboard by Jim Henson.

Idealrowlf
Idealkermit

Jim Henson created a 90-second television ad for the Ideal Toys puppets, and brought the same anarchic comedy that he had been using to advertise other people's products to his own. [1]

The ad opens with Rowlf the Dog speaking directly to the viewer: "Hey, you guys. Got a second? My name is Rowlf, and I'm a Muppet, see? You know the Muppets; they're that nutty bunch of puppets that keep turning up on TV these days? Anyhow, Ideal is making a plush toy of me. And it looks like this." The scene cuts to a Snerf, who pops up and down. "Oh," Rowlf says. "Oh, that was Snerf. He's another Muppet, and Ideal makes a Snerf Muppet too. But the little Rowlf Muppet looks like this."

Instead of Rowlf, one of the Kermit puppets appears. He recites: "I am a Kermit, I'm made by Ideal. I think you'll agree I have real appeal." Rowlf is starting to get frustrated: "Yeah. Well, that was Ideal's Kermit Muppet. But I'm trying to show you the Rowlf." Another Snerf pops in and out of view.

"Now, cut that out!" Rowlf snaps. "Now, here's the Rowlf Muppet." He pulls a puppet Rowlf onscreen. "Go ahead, kid," he says, patting the puppet on the head. "Explain yourself."

"I am the little Rowlf," the puppet explains. "You can work me like a puppet, or play with me like a doll." "Thank you, Junior," Rowlf says, pushing his junior version offstage. "You can go now."

Two Snerfs interrupt again, and then the commercial cuts to two naughty Kermit puppets, who chant: "Oh buy us, oh buy us, oh buy us we beg, for if you don't buy us, we'll bite you in the leg."

"Now, hold on!" says Rowlf. "What kind of an attitude is that?"

After another Snerf moment, the puppets are back. Three Rowlfs take turns saying, "So buy us at once, we're a bundle of charms." The pair of Kermits finishes: "And if you don't buy us, we'll break both your arms."

"Okay, that's enough!" Rowlf calls. "Friends, buy the Ideal Muppets. The kids'll be screaming for 'em!" The crowd of puppets bursts in on Rowlf, ending the commercial with a raucous squeal.

Sources

  1. Inches, Alison. Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001. p. 51. The book includes an excerpt from Henson's storyboard for the commercial.

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