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The Original "Mahna Mahna"

YouTube / rapr1
YouTube / rapr1

It's a fair bet that you've heard "Mahna Mahna" from The Muppet Show. If you're of a certain age, just mentioning "Mahna Mahna" starts the tune in your head, and you're off to the races! (Doo-doo-dee-doo-doo, doo-doo-dee-doo!!) But while most of us think of the song as the opening number on the original Muppet Show, its first Muppet rendition came on an early episode of Sesame Street, performed by a trio of then-nameless "anything Muppets" just messing around. Check this out, and note how the backing vocals go "bah-dee-pee-tee-pee" rather than "doo-doo-doo":

The song got more play on The Ed Sullivan Show later in 1969, now with the characteristic Snowth singers. By now, the male singer is a character named Bip Bippadotta and has flaming orange hair:

Versions then appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, This is Tom Jones, and Pure Goldie before its most famous turn on The Muppet Show in 1977 as the first sketch ever aired on the show. This is the version I know best, and it defines The Muppet Show for me:

But let's rewind once more -- the original song was written by Piero Umiliani for an Italian film about...wait for it...sex in Sweden! What?! The film Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso (translated: Sweden, Heaven and Hell) first used the song in 1968, making that its first appearance ever (albeit with no Muppets). In those days, it went by "Mah Nà Mah Nà" and served as the score to this scene involving a sauna (don't worry, everyone remains clothed):

And that, my friends, is the original, original "Mahna Mahna." In 2011, the Muppets released it as a single and it's been stuck in my head ever since.

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The Jim Henson Company
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entertainment
The Dark Crystal Is Coming Back to Theaters
The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

In 1982, Jim Henson and Frank Oz dared to venture into somewhat gloomier territory with the release of The Dark Crystal. Though the film, which centers on two Gelflings (a sort of creepy elf-like creature) attempting to save their species and restore peace to the world, wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, it has developed a large cult following in the more than 35 years since its release—even among those kids it scared the hell out of back in the day. Now, as Netflix preps its prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, for release later this year, Nerdist reports that the original film will make its way back into theaters next month.

As part of Fathom Events’s ongoing effort to breathe big-screen life back into classic films with limited releases across the country, The Dark Crystal will be playing in more than 500 theaters nationwide on February 25 and February 28. In addition to the original film, the screenings will also feature a brand-new introduction courtesy of Lisa Henson, Jim’s daughter and current president/CEO of The Jim Henson Company, who will talk about the making of the film and how it fit within her father's creative legacy.

To find out whether The Dark Crystal will be coming back to a theater near you, log onto Fathom’s web page for the movie and type in your ZIP code; tickets are on sale now.

[h/t: Nerdist]

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Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
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Pop Culture
See How Sesame Street Puppeteers Bring Their Characters to Life
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Elmo, Big Bird, and Mr. Snuffleupagus aren’t just puppets to fans of Sesame Street: They’re vibrant characters who are every bit as real as the beloved series' human actors. It may look effortless, but bringing foam, fur, and feathers to life is a skill that takes years to master. WIRED asked five Sesame Street puppeteers to share the secrets behind the craft in a new video.

Different puppets rely on different mechanics to function. Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus, for example, consist of puppeteers (two in Snuffy's case) wearing full-body suits, while smaller characters like Elmo and Abby Cadabby have single puppeteers with one hand inside the head moving the mouth and another controlling rods attached to the arms. Some puppets have eyelids that move up and down. For puppets without this feature, puppeteers have to come up with creative ways to express emotion. Elmo puppeteer Ryan Dillon pulls a wooden handle in Elmo’s head when he wants to give the character a puzzled look.

Translating hand movements into convincing facial expressions is tricky, but one of the biggest challenges the crew faces is space. Next time you see four or five Sesame Street puppets in the frame at once, try picturing that same number of full-grown adults rolling across the floor beneath them.

For the full interviews with the puppeteers, check out the video below.

[h/t WIRED]

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