Revisiting the Babies’ Rainbow Connection
Disney Junior delivers an awesome new CG-animated reboot of Muppet Babies, pop culture references and catchy tunes. By Ramin Zahed
packed with clever adventures,
11-minute stories that follow the gang on various adventures — from building a time machine to flying through outer space. The project emphasizes the importance of imagination and friendship, without being pedantic.
One episode finds an impatient Miss Piggy wanting her birthday to arrive faster. So the gang uses a time machine, but ends up going too far into the past and the future. In another, the Babies learn a lesson about diversity when Gonzo befriends a potato, of all things!
Warburton says he found his new job to be both a massive honor and a terrifying challenge at once. “Here you are being given this huge honor, and it’s dropped into your lap,” he notes. “Your first reaction is, you’d better not mess this up. We had about one-third of the development time that you usually get, so we didn’t waffle over stuff. We had to fix things quickly. We ended nded up doing a lot in a short amount of time e — in fact, we had less than a year to do this.” his.” It’s Time to Get Things Started night Moon or Where the Wild Things Are that makes kids immediately gravitate to them.” One of the big selling points of the new show is its eye-popping designs and appealing CG animation, which is produced by OddBot in Los Angeles, and Snowball Studios in Toronto and Tel Aviv. “We wanted to really feel the tennis ball texture on Kermit,” says Warburton. “They are using Maya in conjunction with new proprietary tools to really deliver the qualities we were looking for. This is a great chance to show these Muppets with feet as they walk around, and we can hear their flip-flap. I have to say the animation is so good, you want to hug Fozzie Bear, you really want to touch the Muppets.” Since the show is about imagination, each episode finds the Babies going to different places or even time periods. Depending on the theme of each adventure, the animation experiment experiments with different styles as well. “For one o show, they are doing collages of o their favorite places and Miss Mi Piggy says, ‘Let’s go to Paris.’ So we used an animation collage style for that episode. For another oth one, we use kids’ crayon-style cra animation. For Fo one episode, we have them the against a live-action beach bea background. We use a torn-paper style for a pirates’ treasure hunt episode.” Just like l the old series, the show also als pays homage to favorite TV shows sh or movies, which won’t mean anything to the preschool pres audience, but can be enjoyed by parents and older o fans of the show. Of course, course Warburton points out that it’s much harder to get clearance for the old movie clips these days. “I won’t give any titles away, because we like them to be more of a surprise, but there are some that are in the public domain,” he says. “We try to use anything that fits well into our storylines. We even have little clips of GoPro footage sometimes.”
The creators of the new series also thought it would be a good idea to introduce a new friend to the mix: Summer, the purple-andwhite penguin (voiced by Jessica DiCicco). “Since the show is about friendship, we thought it would be fun to bring in a new friend, who is from the deep south of Antarctica!” explains Warburton. “I think she is so cute. She’s like our art school girl, a creative powerhouse who looks at things in a different way. And we could really have fun with her relationship with Piggy!” It’s Time to Play the Music
As expected, music plays a huge part in the new world of Muppet Babies. Each episode features a catchy song by Andy Bean ( Wander Over Yonder, Danger & Eggs), who also scores the show. “He makes these insane earworms. They are funny and memorable, and he covers many different genres. We also brought back the classic ‘Rainbow Connection’ theme.”
Looking back, Warburton is pleased that he and his team were able to create a show that can reflect the enormous legacy of its characters. “My biggest fear was that [The Muppets Studio Vice President] Debbie McClellan would think that our show wasn’t Muppet-y enough, and I was so happy to find out that she’s thrilled with it,” he says. “One of the execs told us that you can really tell how much fun we are all having making the show. We’re making a show that is true to the spirit of the Muppets, who are fun, funny and adorable.” Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies premieres on March 23 at 10 a.m. on Disney Channel and the DisneyNOW app.