Q

From Miss Piggy to Yoda, Frank Oz reveals the secrets behind his famous creations

Oz talked to q's Tom Power about his new documentary, Muppet Guys Talking, and gives some insight into a few of the many characters he's played throughout his decades long career.

The actor and puppeteer talked to q's Tom Power about his new documentary, Muppet Guys Talking

Frank Oz in the documentary Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched. (Muppet Guys Talking)

Originally published on March 15, 2018

Frank Oz is the man behind Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the Cookie Monster and many more beloved characters from the Jim Henson universe. While Oz completely retired from the Muppets in 2000, he says he deeply misses playing the characters he helped create. 

"It's hurtful that I'm not doing my characters, and I really want to do them again, but it's of my own doing," he told q's Tom Power. "I relinquished [my characters] and I'm in conflict. On the one hand, it hurts me because I love my characters. On the other hand, I'm grateful because they're being used and I wouldn't have the time to do them all anyway."

Oz gathered together his collaborators from The Muppet Show and Sesame Street for a new documentary called Muppet Guys Talking, which is a true behind-the-scenes story, warts and all, of being a part of Henson's team.

The puppeteer talked to Power about his new documentary and gave some insight into a few of the many characters he's played throughout his decades long career. 

Miss Piggy from The Muppet Show

Miss Piggy is framed for the theft of a jewel and languishes in jail in Jim Henson's The Great Muppet Caper. (Getty Images)

She's kind of a truck driver underneath, but she's trying to be what people perceive as a lady. … But on the other hand, you push her too far and she's going to break your knees. So there's that duality.

She knows she's a pig in this society, she knows that she's not that attractive. … She knows the one magnificent obsession, which is Kermit, rejects her. She knows all that and [it] causes [her] pain. But in order to keep moving forward she pushes all that pain down and just, with great bravado, continues life. And that's where the funny is, when she covers the pain.

Frank Oz tells us what happened when Miss Piggy gave Kermit the Frog a karate chop. 1:38

Animal from The Muppet Show

Animal is the wild drummer on The Muppet Show. (David Corio)

Animal is crazed. He's not controllable. [Playing him] is a wonderful opportunity for me to have no boundaries. I can do whatever the hell I want and be totally crazed — now who is allowed to do that in our world?

Frank Oz describes how it feels when he's in full character as Animal. 0:27

Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie (Ernie was played by Henson)

Daniel Seagren, Jim Henson, and Frank Oz rehearse an episode of Sesame Street in 1970 in New York City. (David Attie/Getty Images)

Bert and Ernie were created when I was still trying to have a formed personality. ... I was still questioning life. So I was bit neurotic at that time, and a bit rigid, and Jim was the reverse. … Jim always flowed down the river, just went with it, and me — I always fought up the river. And that's kind of how Bert and Ernie are. Bert is rigid and uptight, he just wants to be left alone, and Ernie just has so much fun in life and accepts it.

Frank Oz talks about the relationship between Bert and Ernie. 1:02

Yoda speak that way, why does, hmm?  

He didn't talk that way all the time. He spoke that way in the script sometimes, and I asked [George Lucas] if could I run with it — could I have him [speak that way] all the time? And he said, yeah. So I was doing it for a long time until I realized why. And it strikes so true to me — this is how Jedi spoke 900 years ago. There was an elegance to the language. There was a rhythm to the language. And now these surfer dudes come in and they bastardize the language. … Not unlike a Native American who's trying to stay true to his language, because it represents something deeply important, Yoda is trying to be the last one of those old Jedi to stay true to [his] language because he feels a responsibility.

Frank Oz reflects on playing Yoda. 0:59

Produced by Chris Trowbridge

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