July 12, 2013

Animal, Beaker, and the Swedish Chef sing Oh Danny Boy on the Muppets

Far and above, the best rendition of Danny Boy I've ever heard:



While the Swedish Chef and Beaker are two of several non-lingual yet vocal muppet characters created by early "social media" and puppetry genius Jim Henson, Animal was always by far my favorite growing up, maybe because he reminded me of this kid in our neighborhood we nicknamed Ding who had a permanent smoker's voice and never talked under a megaphone decibel range. Animal, of course, is best known as the wild drummer on The Muppet Show, and his performance here as a singer is a rare muppet cameo, He normally performed with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem as a crazed percussionist given to three styles of music--loud, louder, and deafening. What I most loved about Animal was his gravelly shout-outs of non sequiturs like "WO-MAN!" while being interviewed by his mild-mannered antithesis Kermit the Frog.

Animal first appeared in the 1975 pilot,chained up in a basement cell when he wasn't onstage performing with the Electric Mayhem. Frank Oz, the voice of Animal, says that he had the character down in five words: sex, sleep, food, drums and pain. (Oz was also the voice for the Cookie Monster, Bert, Grover on Sesame Street, and Yoda in the Star Wars movie series.)

The Voice of "Animal," Frank Oz
Animal's family life was generally non-existent outside of the band and a revolving door of muppety women. A significant exception is depicted in the children's storybook The Case of the Missing Mother in which the Muppet cast aare preparing a Mother's Day show. Animal is sad to discover his mother LaVerne has moved away, and he's lost her new address. The other muppets help Animal locate his mom. LaVerne is also a drummer, and the two perform a duet.

It is a popular legend that Animal was inspired by Keith Moon, the wild drummer of the Who. The actual drumming for Animal was performed by Ronnie Verrell, a veteran percussionist and member of Jack Parnell's house band for The Muppet Show.

One of Animal's most memorable performances with a guest star was in episode 105, in which he wildly plays the drums in Rita Moreno's number "Fever." Other guest stars who had scenes with Animal included Buddy Rich, Lou Rawls, Leo Sayer, James Coburn, and Harry Belafonte.

Animal also had roles in all the Muppet movies. In The Muppet Movie, he ate Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's Insta-Grow Pills, causing him to grow ten times his size and scare away Doc Hopper. In The Muppets, Animal is found in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management sponsored by Jack Black. Animal has learned to stay calm (occasionally mumbling "IN CONTROL"), but goes wild when he hears the word "drums."

A little known fact is that Animal was the mascot of the U.S. snowboarding team for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

(Source: Wikia, http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Animal)