Full of ideas and ready to play
Let's do something fun today!
Big Bag was a puppet show, with some animated inserts, produced jointly by Cartoon Network and the Children's Television Workshop. It ran on Cartoon Network from June 1996 to September 1998, and aired reruns until September 2000.
The show featured new Muppet characters built by Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop. The main characters were Chelli, a Muppet patchwork dog, and Molly, his human friend, all of whom live and work in a general store. They were assisted by Bag, an actual canvas bag. Also working in their store were two anthropomorphic socks, Lyle and Argyle. The second season introduced another new Muppet character, Sofie.
Animated segments showcased included "Troubles the Cat," "Koki," "William's Wish Wellingtons," "Slim Pig," "Tobias Totz and his Lion," "Samuel and Nina" (the latter four exclusive to the first season) and "Ace and Avery" (this one exclusive to the second season.)
This show provides examples of:
- Amateur Film-Making Plot: The second season episode "I Ought To Be In Pictures" involved Chelli, Bag and Sofie making their own fantasy movie with a camcorder.
- Ambiguous Gender: Bag's gender is rather inconsistent, often a case of Depending on the Writer. In some episodes, particularly earlier ones, Bag is referred to with female pronouns, but in other cases, Bag is referred to as being male.
- Animal Talk: The animals on "Samuel and Nina", including the title characters, keep themselves silent when around humans.
- Art Imitates Art: "The Birthday Bash" opens with Chelli painting portraits of Bag, including two that are based off The Mona Lisa (with Bag doing a Mona Lisa Smile) and "American Gothic" (with Bag and Chelli as the American Gothic Couple.)
- Babysitting Episode: There were two pet-sitting episodes, "Bringing Up Puppy" where Chelli and Bag have to look after one of Dr. Furball's puppies, and "Parrot Patrol" where Chelli, Sofie and Bag have to look after a parrot.
- Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Chelli.
- Birthday Episode:
- In "The Birthday Bash," it's Chelli's friend Kim's birthday. Chelli accidentally spills paint on Kim's new jeans when trying to prevent Kim from peeking at the picture he's painting for her birthday present, and Kim initially uninvites Chelli to her party, but then they apologize and make up by the end.
- In "The Birthday Blah", it's Sofie's birthday, and Chelli promises to give Sofie the biggest birthday party ever at 5:00. At first, he tries to handle setting up the party by himself, but soon finds out that he needs help from his friends.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: All of the human characters that appeared in the show's first season outside of Molly, including kids Kim and Joey, and adults Trudy, Josie, Martha, Waldo, Bernard and Doctor Furball, were dropped for the second season.
- Companion Cube: Bag is this to Chelli.
- Crossover: Elmo from Sesame Street once visited Chelli and Molly at their store, where it was revealed that he and Chelli were pen pals.
- A Dog Named "Dog": In this case, a bag named "Bag". Also applies to most of the characters featured in the Slim Pig episodes.
- Eat the Camera: Done at the end of the "One Little Lie" song in the episode of the same name; on Chelli's last "LIEEEEEEE!" his mouth suddenly engulfs the camera and turns the screen completely pitch black. In the 1998 half-hour Re-Cut version of this episode, Chelli's mouth zoom serves as a transition to the next animated segment.
- Fake Interactivity: A main feature of the show; the characters would encourage kids to play along, and watch the show with their own bag containing a pair of socks, a hat, a cardboard tube and two spoons and bring them out when cued to do so, often using his or her imagination to find a unique pretend use of the items. The "Troubles the Cat" and "Ace and Avery" animated segments would also do the same.
- Hard Truth Aesop: "Win, Lose or Draw" has Chelli and Kim notice that when the General Store is cleaned up, it becomes harder to find things compared to when it was messy. In real life, it's usually much harder to find things in a messy space than a clean one.
- Heat Wave: The "Slim Pig" episode "Horse Goes Swimming" has one hit the farm, and Horse is constantly complaining that he is very hot in the stable during a heatwave and can't go anywhere, droning "Hoooot... it's too hoooot..." etc. Fortunately for him, Slim Pig and the others work together to set up a tub full of water right outside the stable for Horse to get into, so they can all cool off together.
- Honesty Aesop: The episode "One Little Lie" is about Chelli accidentally breaking an antique music box he was told not to touch until Molly gets back. He lies that Kim took the music box for a school science project, which triggers a Snowball Lie that culminates in Chelli giving up and admitting he broke the music box, followed by Waldo repairing it.
- Inexplicably Tailless: Chelli.
- Injured Limb Episode: "Zoom To the Zoo" has Molly injure her leg, thus having to cancel a day trip to the zoo, and so Chelli, Sofie and Bag come up with their own makeshift zoo they can take Molly through.
- "Knock Knock" Joke: Lyle would often love to tell Argyle these kinds of jokes, replacing "knock-knock" with "sock-sock" due to them being socks.
- Line Boil: The "Troubles the Cat" cartoons were animated this way.
- Medium Blending: The series had some cartoons as well as live action puppetry.
- Muppet Cameo: Elmo appeared in the episode "Elmo's Visit", and is revealed to be Chelli's pen pal in that episode.
- No Fourth Wall: Done very frequently in the live-action segments and "Troubles the Cat" cartoons.
- Off Screen Crash: Like Sesame Street, this show was fond of doing it at times. One memorable instance was The Teaser to "Bringing Up Puppy," where Chelli and Bag pretend to play baseball, and Chelli tells the viewers that one good thing about pretend baseball is that you don't have to worry about breaking any windows. Cue the sound of glass breaking off-screen.
- Once an Episode / Strictly Formula: Common in the first season, where recurring elements would happen in each episode:
- Waldo the inventor would bring in a mundane device of some sort, and reveal he's created a new purpose for it (such as an umbrella being used as a carousel for stuffed toys, a metronome used to wipe eyeglasses clean, an eggbeater being used to keep ice cream cool, etc.)
- Doctor Furball the veterinarian would bring in some kind of animal to show everyone.
- Mail carrier Josie brings in a VHS videotape that plays a montage of real kids explaining the nice thing they did today.
- Exercise instructor Trudy leads the rest of the main characters (and the viewing audience) in an exercise routine.
- A song is sung relating to the theme and/or life-lesson of the episode, with a reprise of said song sung near the end.
- A segment is played before the "Troubles the Cat" and "Samuel and Nina" cartoons where Bernard the Crossing Guard checks to see if the kids have a "Troublescope" (cardboard tube) or a hat available, respectively.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: "Bag o' Tricks" involves Chelli and his friends dressing up in silly-but-fun homemade disguises and trying to fool others. Bag wants to join in, but everyone keeps recognizing it, even when disguised as a telephone and a small apple tree. But when Bag is dressed up as a chicken and Doctor Furball brings in some live baby chicks, Furball is not fooled, but the chicks thing the disguised Bag is an actual hen, thus satisfying Bag that its' disguise worked.
- Ratings Stunt: For the second season, the show introduced a new humanoid Muppet girl named Sofie. She got her name from a contest CTW held prior to production of the season. It didn't help the ratings much.
- Recycled In Space: An In-Universe example happens in "It's Showtime!" Chelli and Sofie want to put on a play of The Three Little Pigs, but Bag wants to play a robot in their show. So they compromise and perform a science-fiction twist on the story: The Three Evil Space Pigs, starring Bag as the heroic Robo-Wolf and Sofie, Lyle and Argyle as the titular evil pigs.
- Rubber Man: The aptly titled Slim Pig could fold himself into a variety of different shapes and tools.
- Snowball Lie: The basic premise of "One Little Lie." After Chelli accidentally breaks an antique music box he was told not to touch until Molly gets back, he lies that Kim took the music box to use as a school science project. But when Kim confronts it, he instead insists he said "gym" instead of Kim, saying that someone took the music box to the gym. Then he changes it again to say that Waldo took it for a "swim," but when Waldo comes in (stating he doesn't swim, but does snorkel), Chelli ends up telling the truth and learning his lesson, and Waldo repairs the music box.
- Speaking Simlish: All the characters in the "Koki" cartoons, each with their own gibberish language loosely based off the type of bird they are (chickens like Koki and her family speak with a lot of "k" sounds, ducks have more of a quacking sound to their speech, etc.) in a manner not unlike Pingu.
- Sticky Situation / Mucking in the Mud: In the later Slim Pig episode "Sticky Situation", Dog gets stuck in a mud puddle during a game of fetch. Ironically, he ends up breaking free to continue playing fetch, with Slim as the stick.
- The Teaser: The episodes generally began with a cold open featuring Chelli and Bag. Sometimes it wasn't related to the episode, and other times it usually was, usually involving Chelli and Bag talking to the viewers about what will be happening in the episode (not unlike the teaser sequences in Arthur).
- The Unintelligible: Bag, in many cases, whose voice and manner of talking sounds a lot like Beaker. He can speak some English, albeit with a noticeable Speech Impediment; this was the focus of the episode "Attention Shoppers", where Bag is upset that no one can understand him clearly over the general store's new P.A. system.