The Fraggles are turning 30! Wow, they don’t look a day over … wait, how old are the Fraggles supposed to be, anyway? At any rate, it’s been three decades since these colorful mop-headed creatures went on the air, and (as Ben Folds Five demonstrated last fall) we’re still singing along.
On May 14, The Jim Henson Company and Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment are releasing the Fraggle Rock 30th Anniversary Collection, which includes all four seasons of the show on DVD, behind-the-scenes interviews from the archives, and little plush Red keychain. The set will retail for $129.99. There’s also a new smaller collection, Fraggle Rock: Meet the Fraggles, which includes the pilot and five episodes highlighting each of the main characters: Gobo, Red, Boober, Wembly, and Mokey. We’ll be giving away 5 copies of Meet the Fraggles—keep reading for more details!
Michael Frith, former Executive Vice President and Creative Director for Jim Henson Productions and the conceptual designer for Fraggle Rock, took the time to answer a few questions about the show.
GeekDad: When you were first working on Fraggle Rock, what were your expectations—what sort of audience were you trying to reach, and how long did you expect it to last?
Frith: For decades, those involved with Fraggle Rock have chuckled self-indulgently about its purported mission, which was, supposedly, “to save the world.” But perhaps that’s not as ridiculous as it might at first blush sound: “Save but one life and you save the world entire,” goes the saying, a phrase which I had wrongly remembered as “Change but one life…”—probably a more realizable goal. That was Fraggle Rock‘s simple ambition, to open kids’ eyes to the interconnectedness of all things and the unassailable fact that their own actions would have consequences. The audience we were reaching for was one that we felt was, at least where television was concerned, massively underserved—the “mid-kid,” beyond Sesame Street but not yet, as we so succinctly put it back then, “reading Playboy“; still able to become lost in the magic of fantasy and music and story-telling… all in an impossible world brought to life by brilliant puppetry.
How long would it last? Who knew? We very consciously did not invent Fraggle Rock just “as a television show”; our intent was to create a many-layered and complex universe that would resonate in any medium. The hope was simply that wherever it emerged it would have some lasting impact.
GeekDad: Well, it certainly has had a lasting impact! When the show first aired, what types of viewers did you find became fans of the show—did you have mostly kids or were there a lot of adults then?
Frith: Frank Oz likes to say that everything we did was “all-family entertainment”—Sesame Street was “all-family/kid,” The Muppet Show was “all-family/adult.” Fraggle Rock was, of course, the former. I was privileged to work with people—Robert Harbin (the great magician), Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Jim Henson (you know)—who had utter respect for their audiences of whatever age: kids aren’t stupid, just not yet informed. So whatever one did was done to the very best of one’s ability, always challenging oneself, never “speaking down,” and as a consequence audiences of all ages responded accordingly—and appreciatively. I’ve been lucky.
And there’s always the not-so-hidden agenda that when you reach a kid with a message, everyone else in the room hears it, too.
GeekDad: Thirty years ago, people still tended to watch shows together: we didn’t have DVRs and iPads, ways for everyone to be watching their own thing. Do you think your approach to the show then would work now? How would you approach something like this now?
Frith: I cheerfully admit to being a dinosaur. When people starting out write asking for advice on how they can get into the world I was in, do what I did, my answer is, “Why would you want to do that?” Find something new! Invent something! That’s what we were doing. That’s where the fun is! A half-hour, weekly, comedy-adventure show with music? Never been done before? Ha!
I still believe in the power of storytelling, the resonance that comes from sharing adventures, dreams, perils, triumphs, moments of love and loss with characters you come to know and identify with. I do think the messages in Fraggle Rock, and the Fraggles, Doozers and Gorgs themselves, are timeless. It would be huge fun to have today’s technology to work with—believe it or not it was cutting edge at the time. But otherwise for me right now, the MOST fun would be to think of the ways the current technology could be used to EXPAND, to explore the Rock even further, to SHOW the interactions between the Fraggle and Doozer worlds and how one impacts the other, peeling away, changing scenarios depending upon the actions of those involved, introducing NEW layers and characters… its potential is infinite! And infinitely fun.
And the songs are fantastic.
GeekDad: Do you have a favorite Fraggle? Are any (or all) of them based on yourself or people you know?
Frith: My standard answer to that question is that there are two things that I’ve invented of which I will be forever proud: the Doozers and the Big Bird eggbeater (it exists. It is SO weird). But that’s just for ease of answering. I love those little Doozers, as anonymous as termites when they’re working, eccentric individuals when they’re at home in their little Miami Moderne apartments. But then I start thinking about the rest of the cast—I mean, Pa Gorg with that dumber than dumb squint? The ever-frustrated Sprocket the Dog? And the Fraggle Five…
Everything comes from somewhere; everything we give back, we have already been given. Wembley came from a line in a movie; Boober came from an overheard snatch of conversation; Mokey was based on my sister. She was played by my wife. What’s not to love?
And now for the giveaway!
The Jim Henson Company is providing five copies of Meet the Fraggles to GeekDad readers. Just fill out the form below by Sunday, May 12, 11:59pm PST. We’ll pick five winners at random to receive the DVD! (Note: if you have trouble with the form below, click here for an alternate method.)