Why The Original ‘Muppet Babies’ Was Easily THE Most Adorable ’90s Cartoon
You may have enjoyed watching the Muppet Babies as a child in the '80s and '90s, but unless you have toddler-aged children in your life, you'll probably pass on the rebooted version, which premiered March 23. But that's OK, because fans of the original Muppet Babies don't need a reboot to remember the adorable Jim Henson greatness that was this animated series. The Muppets have always been pretty kid-friendly, but Muppet Babies was specifically made for little ones, allowing the children who watched it to go on magical, pop culture-themed adventures with their favorite Muppet characters.
Perhaps it goes without saying that Jim Henson's Muppet Babies had all the charm of the Muppets with the added adorableness of them being animated babies. Sure the Nickelodeon spinoff didn't have the puppetry that makes the original Muppets so enchanting, but it still had the ability to thoroughly engage a generation of kids for 30 minutes at a time for its original seven-year run. Plus, CNN reported that Muppet Babies earned four Emmys for Outstanding Animated Series, so it wasn't just the kids who were digging it.
The only negative aspect for some viewers of Muppet Babies might have been the fact that you were always left wondering what exactly Nanny looked like (and that's a mystery that will be retained in the reboot). So while the new version may not be for you, you can allow yourself to get nostalgic with this list of some of the major elements that made the original Muppet Babies beloved by every '90s kid.
1. The Theme Song
No offense to Renée Elise Goldsberry of Hamilton, who sings the new Muppet Babies theme song, but there's no touching the original. With its doo-wop sensibility and the baby Muppets singing the song, it's an earworm for the ages.
2. 'The Muppets Take Manhattan' Connection
Muppet Babies came to be after Miss Piggy had a dream of the Muppets as kids in the 1984 movie The Muppets Take Manhattan. Obviously, Baby Piggy, Baby Kermit, Baby Rowlf, Baby Fozzie, Baby Gonzo, and Baby Scooter were too precious to only have a single cameo in the movie. Thus, the TV series was born.
3. The Pop Culture-Filled Adventures
While the Muppets are their own pop culture force and have the list of celebrity cameos to prove it, Muppet Babies made entertainment dreams come true by incorporating footage from famous movies, like The Wizard Of Oz, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and Indiana Jones into the animation. "It was easy to do that because it was Jim Henson," head writer Jeffrey Scott told Slate in 2017. "He was best friends with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and many other Hollywood heavyweights."
Muppet Babies was chock full of archival footage, movie and TV clips, and celeb references. For example, in one episode, Baby Piggy goes to a restaurant where she encounters Princess Diana and Matthew Broderick (courtesy of footage from Ferris Bueller's Day Off). The Muppet Babies helped to nurture little pop culture fanatics, so it's no wonder many people who watched the show feel so protective of it. The only downside of this integration is that some fans think it's the reason why you can't stream Muppet Babies anywhere, but Scott said in the piece that that theory wasn't true. So maybe one day Muppet Babies will be available to watch again.
4. The Animation
If you grew up with hand-drawn animation, you may inevitably look down a bit on the CGI animation that makes up the new Muppet Babies. Because even though those characters weren't puppets in the original, they felt more real than the updated version. Though maybe that style is just what '90s kids are used to.
5. The Voice Talent
You may not have realized it as a kid, but there were some accomplished and known voice actors behind Muppet Babies — particularly in regards to the nostalgia factor. Dave Coulier of Full House and Howie Mandel of Bobby's World (which is how you would have known him back then) both provided voices. Coulier told The A.V. Club in a 2016 interview that he actually replaced Mandel and both actors were the voices of Animal and Bunsen, among others. And while Jenny Slate is an amazing choice for Nanny (or Miss Nanny, as she's called in the reboot), Barbara Billingsley — who was June Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver, aka the epitome of motherhood — was the original voice of the sole adult on the series.
6. The Introduction Of Skeeter
Muppet Babies didn't have many female characters, so to remedy that, the show created Skeeter — Scooter's twin sister. The gender was still quite outnumbered, but Skeeter supplied another female perspective that was quite different from Miss Piggy's.
"She was more extroverted than Piggy and brought all kinds of positive energy to the show," Muppet Babies producer Michael Firth told Mental Floss in 2016. Skeeter does not exist in puppet form — and both Scooter and Skeeter are blasphemously not regulars in the reboot (Entertainment Weekly reported that Summer the penguin has taken their spots) — but she'll always live on in fans' memories.
7. The Muppets As Babies
Yes, it's been covered here. But it's worth repeating how outrageously cute the Muppets as toddlers were — particularly Piggy and Rowlf, cause who doesn't like piglets and puppies? And Miss Piggy was a little less of a demanding diva as a little one, which made her even more endearing.
This new Muppet Babies belongs to a new generation, but the magic of the original lives on in every '90s kid.