As Muppet fans, we naturally want to know who performs our favorite character, or even every bit character. This generally means identifying the voice (usually but not always that of the puppeteer). However, doing so just by ear, with no other source, can be hazardous. Some voices, like Jim Henson and Frank Oz, are instantly recognizable, but others aren't (or have a broader range).
Here are some guidelines and resources. And remember, there's nothing wrong with creating a character page (especially for one who has only one line or just makes sounds) and not identifying a performer.
- If you're guessing, then you're wrong: If you catch yourself thinking, "Hmmm, I wonder if that's so and so," then you're guessing, and that means you're probably wrong. YouTube and forum guesses and assumptions are also discounted. If you're not certain, use the talk page to ask, "Can anyone recognize/source who the voice is?" This works best with major, recurring or otherwise notable characters. We can't identify every Whatnot or Anything Muppet who shows up for one line.
- Use direct sources: The ear can be very fallible, and in many instances, the same character will sound different to everybody and prompt half a dozen guesses. (See Talk:Nelson, Talk:Astoria, and others). Instead, use screen credits, album credits, resumes, and especially interviews with the actual performers or voice actors. When an error or contradiction is found, bring it up on the talk page or share evidence for it being another performer; sources can be weighed and compared, but personal "It sounded kind of like" reactions can't.
- Unknown is okay: If no consensus is reached or direct evidence found, the Template:Performer-unknown is used. It does *not* have to be used on every character without a performer (only cases where the identity is in dispute or is actively being researched, as with the international Sesame Street characters where the names are still being translated or credits sought).
In addition to actual production credits or a Muppeteer saying "Yes, I played so and so" in an article or interview, there are many resources which *can* (and often should) be used. However, one or two are fallible and would need to be brought up on the talk page first.
- Good source: Resumes and official sites. Official websites, bios, or resumes for puppeteers and voice actors. The performers sometimes misremember things, but generally, if a puppeteer or their agent says it's so, we accept their statement.
- Bad source: Fan sites. Note that this does not apply to fan sites. The difference usually lies in the title of the page, appearing either as text on the page itself or in your browser tab: "THE OFFICIAL JULIANNE BUESCHER WEBSITE" is just that, maintained by the actual performer (often with technical help from others). Halfway Down the Stairs- The Jerry Nelson Fan Site tells you up front that it's a fan site. It has some information which qualifies as a direct source (an interview the webmaster conducted with Jerry Nelson), but others are lists which are not clearly sourced and could come from anywhere or a mix of sources (other websites, guesses, credits). Other websites will have a title related to puppetry but, through the "About" pages or e-mail, can be clearly identified as portfolio or personal sites of specific puppeteers. A compiled list of such sites will be added to this page.
- Bad sources: IMDb and Wikipedia. The Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia are both popular sources for film and TV credits and information. However, it is often forgotten that both rely on user contributions, which do not require the user to prove their own sources or accuracy. Use in talk page discussions if you like but not as direct article sources (again, unless their information merely copies what was on screen in a more readily accessible form; confirm that first). For more on this, see our policy on Muppet_Wiki:Policies_and_Guidelines#Sources sources
- Good source: InBaseline. InBaseline is another movie and TV credits database. The difference is that it doesn't use unsourced user contributions. Instead, it relies on actually watching and verifying screen credits, or submissions by producers, studios, actors, and other industry personnel. They have a set of verification standards. They also often have access to the actual internal cast or credit lists used on a show, thus identifying character names or roles which do not appear on screen (but for episodic actors, they seldom specify the episode). With Muppet/Creature Shop productions, they can also sometimes be confused as to whether a performer was a character's voice or puppeteer only. In general, however, it qualifies as a reliable source (and please link to the specific page, or just mention it in your edit summary).
- Good source: Presskits. These are often the best sources, with fun "About the Cast" sections which identify the performers' role in the specific project but also past credits. Many of these are online only as long as a movie is in theaters, while others are archived. Still others are only accessible through registration based on one's press credentials. Older print versions often surface on eBay and other sources. However you find them, if you do have access to a presskit, that counts as a source (and again, it can be either cited or mentioned in a summary, usually depending on how obscure or difficult to confirm the info is). Often they simply save one the time and effort involved in personally transcribing the screen cast list. Official websites may also have shorter but near equivalent bio sections. Sesamestreet.org maintains a cast list, which is useful, but some of that information (mostly regarding former human cast members, not the Muppet performers) was actually sourced from other websites or even Muppet Wiki. More accurate is their actual presskit for specific seasons, which are open to all users for as long as they're online. For example, the site currently hosts Season 40 bios for the principal speaking puppeteers.