Miss Piggy Lee

On world-making and Muppet origins.

Wikipedia

Bonnie Erickson designed and built the inimitable Miss Piggy in 1974 for an early “Muppets” television special, produced by Jim Henson.  Puppets, props and storyboards from Henson’s prolific career are featured in the traveling exhibit ”Jim Henson’s Fantastic World.”  Anika Gupta spoke with Erickson.

You’ve been designing muppets and mascots for years. What attracts you to them?
The creation of worlds—the whole process of designing characters, putting together a back story, giving the characters an environment in which they can thrive and casting performers who can bring them to life.

Why do puppets appeal to adults as well as children?
They’ve been a tradition across the world for thousands of years as a form of storytelling. But, until recently, they have’t been appreciated in the United States. Now, however, puppetry is finding a niche in the arts—dance, theater and even opera. I think people appreciate the performers’ skill as well as the artistry of the puppets themselves. We owe a lot of that to [Muppets creator] Jim Henson’s vision.

Who inspired the character of Miss Piggy?
My mother used to live in North Dakota where Peggy Lee sang on the local radio station before she became a famous jazz singer. When I first created Miss Piggy I called her Miss Piggy Lee—as both a joke and an homage. Peggy Lee was a very independent woman, and Piggy certainly is the same. But as Piggy’s fame began to grow, nobody wanted to upset Peggy Lee, especially because we admired her work. So, the Muppet’s name was shortened to Miss Piggy.


from “The Woman Behind Miss Piggy,” by Anika Gupta, Smithsonian Magazine, October 2008, photos from Wikipedia :: via Boing Boing

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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