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Lisa Simpson: Dad, what's a Muppet?
Homer Simpson: Well, it's not quite a mop, and it's not quite a puppet, but maaaan! (laughs) So to answer your question, I don't know.
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A character in a live-action series rendered by puppetry or animatronics. Usually used to create an alien or other non-human character.

Technically, "Muppet" is The Walt Disney Company's note  trademark name (a coined name, not a portmanteau of "marionette" and "puppet" as is commonly believed) for the unique brand of puppets created by Jim Henson. This usage generally occurs in such things as television shows and movies. Other production shops have adapted Henson's techniques, which have revolutionized puppetry. For many people now, Muppet and puppet are practically synonymous.

Henson created a merging of puppetry (using the hands for the mouth movements) and marionettes (in their use of wires and how animated their movements are). Before television, puppetry was a fairly static art. Henson made the Muppets almost hyper-kinetic, putting a lot of energy into the performance. Furthermore, the way the puppets were operated, for example making them look directly at something (typically with a puppeteer's hand directly manipulating the head), gives them a remarkably lifelike appearance. In addition, while puppeteers in previous productions hid behind a structure on screen in keeping with tradition, Henson realized he could just stage his show using the TV screen frame itself in order to hide the operators and focus all attention on the puppets.

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Animatronics was also improved by the Jim Henson shop. Animatronics employs a complex series of mechanics to create a creature with much more subtle movements and expressions than a standard puppet, such as blinking eyes or opening gills. A puppeteer may often wear a full body suit and an animatronic head. He didn't consider them to be "Muppets", though most people ignore that distinction.

Now common in children's shows, Muppets became widespread due to their popularity in Sesame Street, a Henson co-production.

A common sub-type is the Hand Puppet. For CGI characters, see Serkis Folk.

In British slang, the word can be an insult, indicating someone who is clueless and incompetent. If you're looking for the entry on the franchise, you can find it here.


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Examples:

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    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Muppets' feature films:
  • Featured in the very adult film Meet the Feebles.
  • In the movie The Dark Crystal, the entire world consisted of such aliens.
  • Nearly all characters in Labyrinth, such as Hoggle, Sir Didymus, Ludo, and those really strange creatures who dismember themselves at will (and think Sarah can, too). Inside the labyrinth, the only characters that aren't Muppets or actors in some sort of Muppet-enhanced suit are are Sarah, Jareth and Toby.
  • Yoda, of Star Wars fame.
    • Yoda is portrayed and voiced by veteran Muppeteer Frank Oz in the original trilogy and first film of the prequel trilogy, but due to the need for Yoda to be in elaborate fight sequences in Episodes 2 and 3, Yoda became CGI but was still voiced by Frank Oz.
    • The Rancor of Return of the Jedi was scary as hell and very realistic, but a muppet nonetheless. Also other aliens from the Star Wars universe, including the Wampa, Max Rebo and Salacious Crumb. Jabba the Hutt is also one, albeit an absolutely massive one who required a team of six puppeteers to operate, four of whom had to actually be inside the costume during filming. Hope none of the puppeteers were claustrophobic. R2-D2 may qualify if you really stretch the definition of "Muppet".
    • Similar to Jabba the Hutt, Lady Proxima from Solo was also an enormous muppet, controlled by nearly thirty puppeteers in wetsuits, submerged within her bathing pool.
  • Most of the creatures in Hellboy II: The Golden Army (bar the Elemental, the Stone Giant and titular Golden Army).
  • The first three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films and the television show Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.note 
  • Audrey II in the 1986 version of Little Shop of Horrors. Please note it was directed by the aforementioned Frank Oz. Also that it's an extreme example that required sixty operators, and the lips had to be filmed at 16fps (necessitating slower movements for actors in the shot).
  • The Vogons in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. All puppets in the film were designed and constructed by the Jim Henson Creature Shop.
  • The Jim Henson's Creature Shop will be bringing Freddy Fazbear and friends of the Five Nights At Freddys movie to life with animatronic Muppets - in an unnerving example of Defictionalization.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most of Jim Henson's live works include The Muppets.
  • Oobi is a puppet show, created for Noggin while Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon co-produced all of its programming. The characters are literal hand puppets, described as "furless" Muppets in promotional statements, with acrylic eyes and accessories. Whether or not they actually count as puppets or Muppets is debatable, but it's worth noting that this is one of the most recent TV shows to refer to its characters as Muppets without actually featuring the Muppets.
  • Not to mention such programs as The Jimmy Dean Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • And earliest of all, Sam and Friends, a locally-produced late '50s children's show on a Washington D.C. station, which featured Henson performing several Muppet characters, including an embryonic Kermit the Frog.
    • On the other end of the spectrum, the earliest episodes of Saturday Night Live had sketches with muppets (not The Muppets per se, but original characters). Sadly, the Animation Age Ghetto came into play and the Muppet sketches were withdrawn.
  • A third of the cast of Farscape. (Pilot, Rygel)
    • That's just the main cast. A good number of alien extras and guest characters are Muppets as well.
    • Note well that these muppets were provided by the Jim Henson Workshop.
  • Almost every actual alien species (not counting displaced human cultures) on Stargate SG-1, most notably the Goa'uld/Tok'Ra symbiotes and the Asgard. (The Re'tu and the Replicators are Serkis Folk.)
  • N'Grath, the mantis-like crime lord from the first season of Babylon 5.
  • The puppet for Babylon 5's N'Grath was recycled as the She-Mantis in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Teacher's Pet".
  • Joel Hodgson's Puppet Bots from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • During one Angel episode, the stars of the quality edutainment show Smile Time. And Angel himself.
    • Which adds double meaning to Spike's "You're a bloody puppet!" line.
  • Alf.
  • Most of the cast of LazyTown. Why, we may never know, because they're all Muppets of supposedly human characters (although it is a good way to make exceptionally silly characters without asking people to give up their dignity).
  • Marcus of Mega64. This is frequently lampshaded.
  • Spitting Image.
  • Pinch, Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld's New York Times Correspondent. A copy of the NYT with cardboard eyes and a string attached. A regular "panelist" along with Bill Schulz, who are the token liberal butt monkeys.
  • Mongrels, which tries to do "to puppetry what The Simpsons did to animation."
  • 31 Minutos
  • In the Community episode "Intro To Felt Surrogacy", the study group had all experienced some "embarrassing moment" of some kind, and were going through an awkward silence that had apparently been lasting for days, at which point the Dean shows up and gives out sock puppets to each member to help them relive what happened, as a way of "therapy." The story was told via flashback, where each study group member was represented as a muppet (not their sock puppets), complete with musical sequences a la "The Muppets." Everybody else who appeared in their flashback during the episode was shown as their regular human self, excluding Chang, who had a sock puppet of his own.
    • Apparently, Chang already had his sock puppet at that point in time, which you can actually see on his muppet in the brief moment it appears in the episode.
  • Fur TV it's a European parody of the Muppets with a lot of sex and Dark Humor.

    Theater 
  • Parodied, subverted, lampshaded and everything else in The Musical Avenue Q, which is not by Jim Henson.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Robinsons from The Amazing World of Gumball all resemble muppet characters and have Marionette Motion, though they're actually CGI. They even have stuffing inside of their bodies, implying they're literally muppets come to life.
  • The characters from MAD's "Flammable" and "SpongeWow" sketches.
  • Everyone in Mr. Meaty.
  • Used in Robot Chicken's "Born Again Virgin Christmas Special" in a sketch parodying Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas .
  • A couple of Jim Henson Company-produced kids series of the recent past, Sid The Science Kid and Dinosaur Train are fully CGI. However, not only do the character designs resemble traditional Muppets, but they're performed like them as well. For some of the more complicated puppets on Fraggle Rock and other 80s Henson projects, Jim Henson and crew created radio control puppetry systems where a puppeteer operates a remote control that is translated into movement of the puppet by small motors. In the late '80s, Jim Henson, who was an early fan of CGI, had the idea that the controller output could instead be sent to a computer which then translates it into a rough first pass version of an animated character that is then cleaned up in post. The first such character, Waldo C. Graphic, appears in the Muppet Vision 3 D attraction at Walt Disney World. The system was later refined by a team lead by Jim's son Brian, and has been used for projects like the aforementioned series.

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