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The Rainbow Connection

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Kermitbanjorainbow
Written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher
Date 1979
Publisher Welbeck Music Corporation and Muppet Music Inc. (renewed); Fuzzy Muppet Songs

"The Rainbow Connection" is a song written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher for The Muppet Movie and originally performed by Kermit the Frog. The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song in 1979. It is sung by Kermit as the movie's opening number and reprised by the whole cast of Muppets at the end of the movie; it since has been featured and reprised in other Muppet productions, including 2011's The Muppets.

The single of this song reached #25 on Billboard's "Hot 100 Singles" chart in 1979 and the American Film Institute named Rainbow Connection the 74th greatest movie song of all time in AFI's 100 Years…100 Songs.[1]

Behind the scenes

Kennyascher

Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams

When Williams and Ascher started work on the songs for The Muppet Movie, they had a discussion about a film they both loved, Walt Disney's adaptation of Pinocchio. At the beginning of Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket sings "When You Wish Upon a Star," which the pair felt set the mood for the whole picture. This was the inspiration to write something very special for Kermit as well.[2]

Although they had nearly completed the song, they had difficulty coming up with a title until a friend of Williams asked them "What's the problem? You having difficulty finding that rainbow connection between people and their dreams?" They knew at once that they had their title.[2]

In the Music, Mayhem and More! CD booklet, Williams briefly shared the creative process that surrounds "The Rainbow Connection" and the movie's finale, as follows:

"It's one of two favorite songs I've written in my life, and oddly, they're both from The Muppet Movie. (The other is 'I'm Going to Go Back There Someday.') When we started working on the film, Kenny and I and Jim and Jerry Juhl all agreed that we had to establish Kermit's soul from the very beginning. And to do that, he has to ponder some big questions. Kenny and I began to write this song -- the song addresses that inner voice that tells Kermit he can try to do these big things. Then Jerry Juhl did this great thing in the script at the end, when the stage explodes and the end of the rainbow appears — the actual 'rainbow connection.' That's the proof of the whole Muppet philosophy."

Williams later recalled "The amazing thing about the song is that it's a song about questions instead of answers... We start out with Kermit sitting in the swamp... We looked at it and said, well what has he got? He's got water, he's got air, he's got light. You have refraction, you have rainbows. So the first line came immediately."[3]

The Muppet Movie opening

TMMKathyJim
Wwjh5

A somewhat erroneous illustration from Who Was Jim Henson?.

The opening of The Muppet Movie features Kermit the Frog singing the song while sitting on a log in his swamp, completely surrounded by water. It was one of those "how'd they do that?" moments that Jim Henson loved to create.[4] Rather than use a radio-control rig, like had been used to make Emmet and his ma sing while rowing a boat down the river in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, Henson wanted a more precise way to operate the character for the poignant, subtle and emotional performance required and opted to perform Kermit by hand from under the water.

A large swamp set was created in a watertank on the studio backlot—complete with real trees that were shipped in from the Georgia bayous.[4] A diving bell equipped with a rubber sleeve was submerged into the tank so that Henson could perform Kermit from inside. Even though oxygen was being pumped in to Henson, and he was in continual contact with the surface via his headset, biographer Brian Jay Jones said it was "like being buried alive".[4] Henson later referred to the set-up as "no place for someone with claustrophobia."[5] There were rescue divers nearby in case of trouble.[6] At one point during the five days it took to film the sequence, Henson spent nearly three straight hours sealed underwater in the cramped diving bell.[4]

Steve Whitmire and Kathy Mullen used a remote-control device to operate Kermit's hand while he played the banjo in the long shots and manipulated his arms via arm-rods in close-ups.[7]

According to Paul Williams, originally Kermit was going to be seen in the swamp sitting on a lily pad, however it turned into a log because it was easier to position Kermit and hide Henson.[3]

A 1979 Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter answered the question of "How does Kermit sit on a log in the middle of a swamp?":

"Jim Henson squeezed into a specially designed metal container complete with an air hose (to breathe), a rubber sleeve which came out of the top (to work Kermit) and a monitor (to see what Kermit was doing), and positioned himself under the water, under the log, under the frog. Jim spent about five days in this bathysphere. It's not easy..."[8]

The Muppet Movie finale

The closing reprise of "Rainbow Connection" in The Muppet Movie featured a crowd of more than 250 Muppet characters—virtually every Muppet that had been created up to that point in time. According to Henson Archivist Karen Falk: "137 puppeteers were enlisted from the Puppeteers of America (along with the regular Muppet performers) to perform every Muppet extant. Prior to the day-long filming of the shot, Jim Henson gave the enthusiastic participants a lesson in the art of cinematic puppetry. Amazingly, it did take just one day."[9]

The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter answered the question of "How did they do it?":

"There are 250 puppets in the last shot of the film, and they're all moving. How? 150 puppeteers in a 6' deep, 17' wide pit, that's how. They were recruited through the Los Angeles Guild of The Puppeteers of America, and almost every puppeteer west of the Rockies reported for pit duty."[8]
Rainbow connection finale

Muppet performances

Picture Description
Rainbow connection 1
Kermit in The Muppet Movie (1979).
RainbowConnectionFinale
Kermit and the Muppets in the finale of The Muppet Movie (1979).
Kermitoscars
Kermit at the 52nd Academy Awards (1980).
Debbie harry rainbow connection
Kermit and Debbie Harry duet in episode 509 of The Muppet Show (1981).
Ontourlogo
Kermit during the second act of The Muppet Show On Tour (1984).
DieGroßeMuppet-Party-33
A ballroom full of Muppets in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1985).
Rainbow-Raven
Kermit and Raven-Symoné in The Muppets at Walt Disney World (1990).
Rainbow-Donna
Kermit on The Odyssey Channel series Donna's Day (2000).
Paulkermlive
Kermit, Paul Williams, and the Muppets in The Muppet Show Live at MuppetFest (2001).
Rainbow Connection Extreme Makeover
Kermit on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with Paul DiMeo on guitar (2006).
Wilco
Kermit, Pepe the King Prawn and Wilco on the red carpet of the 50th annual Grammy Awards, as seen in a video released on Disney Xtreme Digital.
Noimage
Kermit at Bernie Brillstein's Memorial Service (2008).[10]
2007kermitballoon
An instrumental version in various Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades when the Kermit the Frog balloon appears.
Kermit-riverboat
The Muppets on a replica of the Mark Twain riverboat at D23 Expo (2009).
Infanity17
Jason Mraz and Elmo on inFANity (2009).
D23-RainbowConnection-Kermit-Rowlf-(2011-08-19)
Kermit and Rowlf at the D23 Expo during the ceremony honoring Jim Henson as a Disney Legend (2011).
TheMuppets-TheMoopets-TheRainbowConnection-(2012)
Fozzie Bear and The Moopets perform a rendition of the song with altered lyrics about the Pechoolo Casino in The Muppets (2011).
Muppets2011Trailer01-1920 45
Kermit, Miss Piggy and the Muppets in The Muppets.
The-Muppets-Soundtrack
Kermit on The Muppets soundtrack; iTunes exclusive (2011).
Noimage
Kermit at the Puppeteers of America's 75th annual National Puppetry Festival (2011).
DieMuppets-Promotion-ChristophKrachten-TheRainbowConnection-(2012)
Kermit on promotional tour for Die Muppets with Christoph Krachten on YouTube (2012).[11]
AcademyAwards-PreShow-DarrenCriss-TheRainbowConnection-(2012-02-26)
Kermit and Darren Criss at the 2012 Academy Awards preshow on E!
GMA-IMG-2178-JPG 153455-(2012-03-13)
Kermit, Miss Piggy and Walter on a 2012 Good Morning America appearance.
Rc-jhmw

JHMW-CarnegieStage
At Jim Henson's Musical World by Paul Williams, Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Scooter, Gonzo, Dr. Teeth, Rowlf the Dog, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Bob, Gordon, Susan, Leela, Gina, Alan, Maria, Rachel Dratch, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and John Tartaglia.
TBRainbow
Kermit and Miss Piggy on The Bachelorette (2012).
JustforLaughs03
Kermit, Miss Piggy, Floyd, Pepe, Gonzo, Scooter, Walter, Fozzie, Animal and two chickens in The Muppets All-Star Comedy Gala at the Just for Laughs festival (2012).
MMWtrailerNov20-0036

In Muppets Most Wanted, Constantine watches The Muppet Movie on VHS and nails his Kermit impression by singing the song to "the lovers, the dreamers and cheese". (2014)

140321 muppets johnlegend ql
Kermit, Miss Piggy, Queen Latifah and John Legend perform the song on The Queen Latifah Show. (2014)
ElCapitan-Rainbow
Kermit and Miss Piggy at the Muppets Most Wanted pre-show at the El Capitan Theatre.
RC-Capitol
Kermit and some kids on A Capitol Fourth (2014).

Non-Muppet performances

Muppet Movie poster- Richard Amsel

"The Rainbow Connection" is a main focus in this poster by Richard Amsel for The Muppet Movie.

  • Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams performed the song in The Muppets Go Hollywood (1979)
  • The Carpenters recorded the song in 1980, but it wasn't released until 2004
  • Bob McGrath with Erich Kunzel & Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for the album Young at Heart (1992); McGrath has performed the song for various Canadian Children's telethons since then.
  • Kenny Loggins on his Return to Pooh Corner album (1994)
  • Paul Williams, as Bernard Weeden, at Ginny's funeral in the third season Picket Fences episode "Cold Spell."
  • Vera Lynn on her Thank You For The Music album (1997)
  • Livingston Taylor, as heard over the end credits for an episode of National Arts (1997)
  • Lea Salonga on her Small Voice album (recorded when she was 9 years old, but only released in 1988) and her I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing album (1997)
  • Less Than Jake on Muppets (1997)
  • Vonda Shepard, in the second season Ally McBeal episode "Angels and Blimps" (1999)
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes on their album Are a Drag (1999). The recording was featured in the end credits and over a reel of outtakes from Kermit's Swamp Years.
  • Willie Nelson on his Rainbow Connection album (2001)
  • Sarah McLachlan on the For the Kids album (2002).
  • Various employers in a commercial for Yahoo HotJobs (2003).
  • Justin Timberlake and "Kermit" (Will Forte) on Saturday Night Live (2003)
  • The Dixie Chicks on the album Mary Had a Little Amp (2004)
  • Jason Mraz performs the song on For the Kids Too (2004)
  • Willie Nelson and Paul Williams on the dual-disc DVD I'm Going Back There Someday (2005)
  • John Michael Higgins & His Symphony of Guys, a cappella version arranged by John Michael Higgins as heard during the ending credits for The Break-Up (2006)
  • Jason Mraz performed the song as a launch.com exclusive, now Yahoo! Music, introducing it as "one of [his] favorite songs" (2006) (YouTube)
  • Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) in the third season The Office episode "The Convict" (2006)
  • Jason Mraz and Paul Williams on Mraz's Influences album (2007)
  • Willie Nelsons 2001 version of the song, was used at the end of Las Vegas season 4 episode "The Chicken Is Making My Back Hurt" (2007), when Ed Deline was smashing up a car with a golf club.
  • Paul Williams on the Nickelodeon series, "Yo Gabba Gabba!" (2008)
  • Jane Monheit recorded the song for her album The Lovers, The Dreamers and Me (2009)
  • The Whiffenpoofs, Yale's all-male glee club, have performed the song on multiple occasions, including April 18, 2010 in Kansas City. They also performed the song on Glee's season four finale in 2013, as the fictional glee club The Waffletoots. (YouTube)
  • Paul Williams and the Roots performed it on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (June 15, 2011)
  • Weezer performed it with Hayley Williams of Paramore in The Green Album (2011)
  • Meredith Braun performed the song on her debut album Someone Else's Story (2012)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Seth Rogen and Samuel L. Jackson sang part of the song for Jimmy Kimmel Live's YouTube-referencing "David After Dentist Double Rainbow Oh My God! in 3D" (2014) (YouTube)

Audio releases

Video releases

Other uses

Special
Other media


Publications

Rainbow connection

The Rainbow Connection illustration by Norman Green from The Muppet Show: On Tour!

Merchandise

References

"The Rainbow Connection" has been referenced many times, both by Muppets and others:

Muppet references:

Outside references:

  • Family Guy - In the episode "Fifteen Minutes of Shame," Peter tries to get attention on the Griffins' reality show with a puppet. When the camera starts to pan away from Peter to something more interesting, Peter tries to regain his attention saying, "She's gonna sing Rainbow Connection!"
  • Wonderfalls - In the episode "Muffin Buffalo," lead character Jaye is playing Pictionary with her family and her friend Pat. While Jaye's sister draws frantically, Pat shouts out guesses as to what she's drawing: "It's a frog! He's singing! 'Rainbow Connection!'"
  • Nightwing comic book, #135 - Vigilante references "The Rainbow Connection."
  • Saturday Night Live - In a sketch called "Rowlf and the Swedish Chef", Rowlf, as played by Seth Rogen, offers to play "Rainbow Connection."
  • InFANity - Jason Mraz mentions that The Muppet Movie was the first movie he saw. He and Elmo sing the beginning of "The Rainbow Connection."
  • The Neighbors - Several clips of the song are featured in the episode "Cold War."

Trivia

RainbowConnectionBridge

The Rainbow Connection Bridge in Leland, MS

  • On March 20, 1996, The Rainbow Connection was the basis of a bizarre crime in Wanganui, New Zealand. A twenty-one-year-old overly enthusiastic Muppet fan took a radio station manager hostage claiming to have a bomb and demanded to hear the song played nonstop on the air for the next twelve hours. Several buildings were evacuated due to the threat. When it was learned that the man had no bomb, police stormed the station and arrested him.[12]
  • I Love the 70s lists the song as Kermit's favorite.
  • In Jim Henson's childhood hometown of Leland, Mississippi, a local bridge was named "The Rainbow Connection," in his honor on September 24, 2011 (Henson's 75th birthday).

Sources

  1. AFI - The Top Movie Songs of All Time (2004)
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Muppets Go Hollywood
  3. 3.0 3.1 Toughpigs.com A Thankful Heart: The Paul Williams Interview (2013)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (page 235)
  5. Webbe. "Muppet Mania"
  6. Holub, Joan. Who Was Jim Henson?. 2000.
  7. ToughPigs.com. Mokey Fraggle Speaks: The Kathy Mullen Interview (2013)
  8. 8.0 8.1 The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter (vol. 2, no. 1)
  9. Ask Henson.com question #50 (1998)
  10. Hollywood Honcho Bernie Brillstein Remembered
  11. YouTube - Clixoom: Kermit singt mit Christoph: Rainbow Connection (2012-02-13)
  12. CNN report

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