Saturday morning, we’ll remind you of the time when it was still cool
to wake up early on weekends. So whenever the hell you wake up these
days, there will be a nostalgic treat waiting for you, reminding you of
those old jammies you used to wear and that old television set. They
make even less sense now, but that’s half the fun. We hope you enjoy.

The Cartoon: Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies
Animation Studio: The Jim Henson Company and Marvel Productions
Original Run:
September 15, 1984 (1984-09-15) – November 2, 1991
Episodes: 107
Seasons: 8
Aired On: CBS

The Characters:

  • Baby Kermit
  • Baby Piggy
  • Baby Fozzie
  • Baby Gonzo
  • Baby Animal
  • Baby Scooter
  • Baby Skeeter
  • Baby Rowlf

and sometimes…

  • Baby Bunsen
  • Baby Beaker
  • Camilla, the chicken

The Setting:

Technically the characters never leave the confines of their spacious nursery, but through the power of their over-active imaginations, the Babies continually transform their world into a variety of adventuresome settings and far-flung locales.

The Gist:

The beloved primary Muppet characters – along with Scooter’s tomboy twin sister, Skeeter, who never appeared outside of this series (and presumably became a lesbian in adulthood) – are all here in toddler form. Every episode follows a similar formula: spurred on either by curiosity for a particular topic, fear of an upcoming event or situation, or just due to plain ol’ boredom, the Babies escape the nursery into imaginary worlds and have an amazing adventure which often learns their lil’ asses something important by the end. Quite often their journeys would prove perilous, and the Babies would be rescued from doom by the deus ex machina of Nanny (their striped socks loving human caregiver) entering the room and snapping everything back from fantasy to reality.

Like the adult Muppets’ material, the show had a fondness for pop culture, and the Babies’ fantasy worlds would often take on the form of parody, lampooning anything and everything from film noir, westerns, to specific films, like Star Wars. The show also liked to throw in some live action stock-footage for quick gags, such as a character opening a closet door to discover a black and white train heading directly for them. These clips were not always stock footage though, sometimes they were from recent major motion pictures (it is presumably because of rights issues with these clips that the series has not found its way to DVD).

Any kid who ever climbed on their couch and pretended the carpet was lava could immediately connect with Muppet Babies; I’m hard pressed to think of a show that did a better job of capturing the spirit of childhood imagination. Their world was skewed towards being a very small child – the furniture was often portrayed as mountainously over-sized, and adults were always seen from the neck down. (I always wanted to know what Nanny looked like.)

The Short History:

The genesis of the Muppet Babies began in The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), which featured a dream sequence in which Miss Piggy imagines what life would have been like with Kermit as a child. The charm of the segment encouraged Henson and company to expand the idea into its own series. Upon hitting the air, the show was an immediate success, and the following season it was paired with a new Henson program, Little Muppet Monsters (about three basement-dwelling monsters who create their own TV station of programming), forming the hour-long block, Muppets, Babies & Monsters, too!. Henson personally pulled LMM after only three episodes, feeling that the concept had not been fully thought out enough to ever work appropriately. Now Muppet Babies filled an entire hour of programming.

Voice acting legend, Frank Welker, lent pipes to Baby Kermit; Germ-a-phobe, Howie Mandel provided various voices during the first season, and was later replaced by Dave Coulier; and June Cleaver herself, Barbara Billingsley, provided the voice of the headless Nanny.

In 1987, a minor controversy erupted when CBS canceled the much hyped Garbage Pail Kids animated series (after ordering a full season of episodes) before it even aired. The decision was based largely on protests regarding GPK‘s offensive nature. The defunct show’s time slot was filled by Muppet Babies, which now ran for a full 90 minutes.

The first four seasons of Muppet Babies won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. The success of the series also inspired several de-aging imitators, like A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones Kids, and Tiny Toons.

The Merchandise:

Stuffed animals, plastic McDonald’s happy meal figurines (seen below), lunch boxes, comic books, coloring books, magnets, pajamas. You name it.

You Might Have Seen This Commercial:

As Baby Animal often said at the end of episodes – “Go bye bye.”

Tune in next Saturday morning for another installment.

Previously on Saturday Mornings:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Shirt Tails
Duck Tales
Thundarr The Barbarian
Wacky Races
Garfield and Friends
Aaahh!! Real Monsters