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17 Fun Facts About Fraggle Rock

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Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

In 1983, Jim Henson unleashed a new kind of family entertainment on the world with Fraggle Rock. The series, which lasted for five seasons, told of a trio of species—the fun-loving Fraggles, the work-loving Doozers, and the oafish Gorgs—who dwelled in a series of interconnected, subterranean caves. The show, and the new world it created, were a global hit with silly creatures (that’s Fraggle-speak for “humans”). Here are 17 things you might not know about the beloved series and its cast of characters.

1. IT WAS HBO’S FIRST ORIGINAL SERIES.

Carrie Bradshaw, Tony Soprano, Nate Fisher, Jimmy McNulty, Selina Meyer, and Rust Cohle all owe a debt of gratitude to Red, Gobo, Wembley, Boober, Marjory the Trash Heap, and the rest of the Fraggle Rock cast. The show was HBO’s first foray into original programming, and as such was “critical to the network’s development,” according to the network’s executive vice president of corporate communications, Quentin Schaffer, who also worked on the original Fraggle Rock press team.

2. THE SHOW WAS DEVELOPED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET.

Though it was most definitely a Jim Henson production, from the get-go Fraggle Rock was intended to be viewed by a global audience. The series was one of television’s first international co-productions; it was developed by teams in New York and London, taped in Toronto, and broadcast in 90 countries and 13 languages.

3. IT WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN TV SHOW TO BE BROADCAST IN THE SOVIET UNION.

After spending time in Moscow in 1984 to shoot Jim Henson Presents with Russian puppeteer Sergey Obraztsov, Henson became very interested in bringing his programming to the Soviet Union. Following successful screenings of both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth at the Moscow Film Festival, Henson was able to sell Fraggle Rock to Russian television, making it the first American series to be broadcast there. The fact that the Berlin Wall fell just 10 months later was not lost on Henson and company. “We always joke that Fraggle Rock led to the end of the Cold War,” shared Henson Company archivist Karen Falk. “By the end of the year, as the show’s lessons of tolerance and understanding wafted through the airwaves, the Berlin Wall came down.”

4. NOT EVERY COUNTRY SAW THE SAME HUMANS.

Whereas the bulk of Fraggle Rock viewers are familiar with Doc the inventor and his dog Sprocket, that wasn’t the case with every audience member. In order to connect with its specific audience, the “human” segments of Fraggle Rock changed with the show’s location. While viewers in America, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scandinavia, Spain, and Eastern Europe know Doc and Sprocket, British audiences got to know The Captain (a retired sailor played by Fulton Mackay) and Sprocket, who live in a lighthouse. In France, Doc is a chef with a dog named Croquette and the action takes place in a bakery.

5. MOST OF THE BRITISH EPISODES ARE MISSING.

Though the total number of missing episodes varies from source to source, the original recordings of many of the British segments with Fulton Mackay went missing years ago. Various media outlets and fans of the show have set about staging appeals to the public to share their VHS tapes of the original series so that the U.K. version of the show is not lost forever.

6. HENSON’S GOALS FOR THE SHOW WERE LOFTY.

“It was a kind of ecology,” Fraggle Rock writer Jocelyn Stevenson shared of the show’s environment. “These groups of characters were actually dependent on each other but didn’t know it.” Henson’s mandate for the show, according to Stevenson, was “to create a show that will stop war.” Still, “We weren’t in any way political. We were advocates for joy and people getting on.” 

“For decades, those involved with Fraggle Rock have chuckled self-indulgently about its purported mission, which was, supposedly, ‘to save the world,’” adds producer Michael Frith. “But perhaps that’s not as ridiculous as it might at first blush sound … Fraggle Rock‘s simple ambition [was] to open kids’ eyes to the interconnectedness of all things and the unassailable fact that their own actions would have consequences.”

7. THE TARGET AUDIENCE WAS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SESAME STREET AND PLAYBOY.

According to Frith: “The audience we were reaching for was one that we felt was, at least where television was concerned, massively underserved—the ‘mid-kid,’ beyond Sesame Street but not yet, as we so succinctly put it back then, ‘reading Playboy’; still able to become lost in the magic of fantasy and music and storytelling … all in an impossible world brought to life by brilliant puppetry.”

8. THE SHOW REALLY SPOKE TO CREATIVE TYPES.

Though the series spoke to “mid-kids” (and big kids) around the world, it really connected with creative types. “[It is special] because the show has this completely original world, and everything is interconnected in that world—and it has its own logic, but is alternative,” says Lisa Henson, Jim’s daughter and current CEO of The Jim Henson Company. “When people learn about Fraggle Rock, they leap in with both feet and immerse themselves in the lore. We feel that because the Fraggles have this special philosophy, and because they love music and resolve differences differently from humans, it in some ways appeals to artists and musicians; maybe more than even the other Henson characters. We have had musicians from every kind of band, from hip-hop to alternative and bluegrass, [say] the Fraggles were the characters that spoke to them.”

9. THE FRAGGLES WEREN’T ALWAYS FRAGGLES.

In early versions of the script, the Fraggles were referred to as Woozles. That name was abandoned when Henson and his team realized that Winnie the Pooh already had creatures known as Woozles. At one point the series was being developed under the title Fraggle Hill, but that was abandoned, too (for sounding “too British”).

10. TRAVELING MATT’S NAME IS A PUN.

Traveling Matt’s name is a play on “traveling matte,” the effects technique that was used to create his segments, wherein two or more images are combined into one. Gobo is another piece of film industry jargon; they’re devices used to control the shape of light emitted from a source.

11. THE THEME SONG WAS A HIT.

Sure, it’s catchy. But the Fraggle Rock theme song ended up becoming a bona fide hit—at least in England, where it reached number 33 on the British music charts. (Clap, clap.)

12. THE THEME SONG HAD SEVERAL DIFFERENT ENDINGS.

Though Boober’s ending line of “down at Fraggle Rock” is the best-known version of the theme song, five different endings were recorded—one with each of the main Fraggles delivering the final line, with the intention that the openings would rotate between episodes.

13. THE SHOW’S CREATORS WERE LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE.

Though the Internet wasn’t yet a feature in everyone’s home at the time of Fraggle Rock's premiere, the show's creators wanted to ensure that whatever media entered the entertainment realm in the near or far future, Fraggle Rock could be a part of it. “We very consciously did not invent Fraggle Rock just ‘as a television show,’” producer Michael Frith says. “Our intent was to create a many-layered and complex universe that would resonate in any medium. The hope was simply that wherever it emerged it would have some lasting impact.”

14. IT BEGAT AN ANIMATED SERIES.

Like so many other series before (and after) it, Fraggle Rock’s popularity eventually led to an animated version of the series—albeit a short-lived one. In 1987, NBC premiered a cartoon version of Fraggle Rock in its Saturday morning lineup. It lasted just one season

15. THE FRAGGLES ARE ROCK STARS.

In 2012, Ben Folds Five debuted their video for “Do It Anyway,” which featured Red, Gobo, Wembley, Boober, Mokey, and Traveling Matt in starring roles.

16. FRAGGLE ROCK LIVES ON FOR A NEW GENERATION.

In addition to the original series being available via DVD and streaming, on April 25, 2014, Hulu launched its first series for Hulu Kids: Doozers introduces a new cast of Doozers to the Fraggle Rock universe.

17. A FRAGGLE ROCK FEATURE HAS BEEN A DECADE IN THE MAKING.

In September 2005, The Jim Henson Company announced its plans to adapt Fraggle Rock into a feature film, with plans to release it in 2009. In the decade since, the project has gone through a series of ups and downs. But on the heels of the wildly successful new Muppet movies, it finally appears as if the Fraggles are headed for the big screen. In March, Variety announced that the Fraggle Rock movie is indeed happening, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt set to produce and star in it.

“The first screen personas I ever loved were Henson creations, first on Sesame Street and then on Fraggle Rock,” Gordon-Levitt said. “Jim Henson’s characters make you laugh and sing, but they’re also layered, surprising, and wise. From Oscar the Grouch, to Yoda, to the Fraggles. I’ve never stopped loving his work, even as a young frisky man, and on into adulthood. Collaborating with Lisa Henson makes me confident we can do something that Jim would have loved."

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15 Things You Might Not Know About One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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Warner Bros.

Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which premiered on this day in 1975, won critical acclaim, box office success, and a shelf full of Oscars. But even if you love the complex exploration of life inside a 1960s psychiatric hospital, there are a few things you may not know about its behind-the-scenes story. 

1. CUSTOMS NEARLY DOOMED THE PROJECT. 

Despite the middling success of the 1963 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel starring Kirk Douglas, Hollywood legend Douglas was dead set on adapting the story for the screen. Douglas contacted Czech director Miloš Forman about the project, promising to send Forman a copy of the book for his perusal. 

Douglas mailed Forman the novel, but the package was confiscated by Czechoslovakian customs and never reached the director. Unaware of the parcel’s fate, the filmmaker resented Douglas’ broken promise, and Douglas thought Forman rude for never bothering to confirm receipt of the novel. It took a decade to sort the mess out, and things only cleared up when Kirk’s son Michael Douglas took another crack at production and contacted Forman once more. 

2. ONE STUDIO WANTED TO CHANGE THE ENDING.

When producers were shopping the picture to studios, 20th Century Fox was interested, but with a catch. Fox would distribute the film, but only if the filmmakers would agree to rewrite the ending; the studio wanted McMurphy to live. Producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas wisely considered this a deal breaker, and United Artists eventually distributed the film.

3. JACK NICHOLSON AND LOUISE FLETCHER WERE NOT THE FIRST CHOICES FOR THEIR CHARACTERS. 


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When Kirk Douglas spearheaded the first attempt to bring One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to life on the big screen in the 1960s, he had intended to play the Randle Patrick McMurphy role himself, just as he had on stage. When production began in earnest 10 years later, Douglas was too old for the part, leaving director Forman to consider and contact the likes of Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and (his personal favorite) Burt Reynolds before finally settling on Jack Nicholson.

A number of different actresses were considered for the role of Nurse Ratched, the film’s central antagonist, as well: Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, and Angela Lansbury were all in the running, before Louise Fletcher ultimately got the part. 

4. LOUISE FLETCHER CHANGED FORMAN’S VIEW ON THE CHARACTER. 

Forman’s original view of Nurse Ratched was as “the personification of evil,” a characterization that made Louise Fletcher a bad fit for the part in the filmmaker’s mind. As Fletcher pressed for the role, Forman’s perspective of Ratched evolved: “I slowly started to realize that it would be much more powerful if it’s not this visible evil,” he said. “That she’s only an instrument of evil. She doesn’t know that she’s evil. She, as a matter of fact, believes that she’s helping people.” This new take on the character paved the way for the official casting of Fletcher. 

5. SEVERAL OF THE FILM’S STARS WERE NOT ACTORS. 

Following the production team’s decision to use Oregon State Hospital as its shooting location, the producers hit on the idea of casting facility superintendent Dr. Dean Brooks as Dr. John Spivey, the doctor charged with assessing R. P. McMurphy’s psychological health. Brooks agreed to play what turned out to be a sizable role, though it would be the only acting job he would ever take. He also helped secure employment for many of his hospital’s patients as extras and crew members during production. 

Mel Lambert, another non-actor, was wrangled to play the harbormaster who protested McMurphy’s ad hoc fishing trip. What’s more, Lambert—a respected area businessman who had a strong relationship with the local Native American community—introduced the production team to Will Sampson, the 6-foot-5-inch-tall Muscogee painter who would make his acting debut as the major character Chief Bromden. 

6. THE STARS LIVED ON THE WARD DURING PRODUCTION. 


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All of the actors who played patients actually lived on the Oregon State Hospital psychiatric ward throughout production. The men personalized their sleeping quarters, spent their days on campus “get[ting] a sense of what it was to be hospitalized” (as actor Vincent Schiavelli put it), and interacting with real psychiatric patients. 

7. MANY SCENES WERE SHOT WITHOUT THE ACTORS’ KNOWLEDGE. 

To complete this realistic immersion, Forman led his performers in unscripted group therapy sessions in which he directed the actors to develop their characters’ psychological maladies organically. He would often capture footage of the actors, both in and out of character, without explicitly mentioning that the cameras were rolling. The film’s final cut includes a shot of a visibly irritated Fletcher reacting to a piece of direction fed to her by Forman. 

8. FORMAN AND NICHOLSON HAD A TREMENDOUS SPAT OVER THE FILM’S PLOT. 

While the intensity of the turmoil varies from rumor to rumor, reports from the set were consistent on one fact: The star refused to speak with Forman for a large chunk of the production process. Nicholson took issue with Forman’s suggestion that the hospital inmates would be an unruly bunch upon the initial arrival of McMurphy. Instead, the actor insisted that such disavowal of the medical staff’s authority should only begin after the introduction of McMurphy into their lives and routines. 

Although the version of the story that we see in the film today is more closely associated with Nicholson’s alleged reading, suggesting that Forman ultimately took his advice, Nicholson refused to interact with his director from that point forward. When the star and Forman needed to communicate with one another, they used cinematographer Bill Butler as a middleman. 

9. DANNY DEVITO CREATED AN IMAGINARY FRIEND DURING PRODUCTION. 


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Emotionally strained by a demanding shooting schedule that kept him 3000 miles from his future wife, Rhea Perlman, DeVito developed the coping mechanism of an imaginary friend with whom he would have nightly chats. Concerned that his own sanity might be slipping away, DeVito sought the advice of Dr. Brooks, who assured him that there was no reason to worry as long as DeVito could still identify the character as fictional. 

10. THE CREW WAS WORRIED ABOUT THE SANITY OF ONE CAST MEMBER.

While Dr. Brooks had no concerns about DeVito, he echoed the rest of the cast and crew’s apprehensions about the psychological state of Sydney Lassick, who played Charlie Cheswick. Lassick exhibited increasingly unpredictable and emotionally erratic behavior during his time in character, a pattern that culminated in a tearful outburst during his observation of the final scene between Nicholson and Sampson. Lassick became so overwhelmed during the scene that he had to be removed from set. 

11. FLETCHER TOOK OFF HER CLOTHES IN ORDER TO GET FRIENDLIER WITH HER CO-STARS.

Envious of the camaraderie her male costars had forged, and hoping to dispel any associations with her tyrannical character, Fletcher surprised the cast one evening by ripping off her dress on the crowded ward. Years later, the actress laughed about the display, saying, “‘I’ll show them I’m a real woman under here, you know.’ I think that must have been what I was thinking.” 

12. THE FISHING TRIP SCENE BARELY MADE IT INTO THE FILM. 

Initially, Forman was vocally opposed to including a scene that took place beyond the grounds of the hospital out of concerns that a temporary liberation would undercut the dramatic force of the film’s ending. In the end, Zaentz convinced Forman to shoot the fishing trip sequence. It was the final scene filmed and the only piece shot out of chronological order. 

One thing to look for in the fishing scene: A very subtle Anjelica Huston cameo. Huston, who was dating Nicholson during production, has a nonspeaking role as one of the spectators on the dock as McMurphy and his fellow patients steer the stolen boat back to shore. 


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13. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST WAS THE FIRST FILM TO WIN ALL “BIG FIVE” ACADEMY AWARDS IN 41 YEARS.

Not since 1934's It Happened One Night swept the Oscars had a film walked away with awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took home the lot, with Nicholson and Fletcher winning the top acting awards. The feat would not be matched again for another 16 years, with Silence of the Lambs becoming the next (and last to date) movie to earn the distinction. 

14. THE FILM ENJOYED ONE OF THE LONGEST THEATRICAL RUNS IN MOVIE HISTORY. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was revered worldwide, but Swedish viewers developed an especially soft spot for the film. Cuckoo’s Nest remained a regular option for Swedish moviegoers through 1987—11 years after its initial release. 

15. KESEY REFUSED TO SEE THE FILM (BUT MAY HAVE BY ACCIDENT). 

The poster child for the “the book was better” movement, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Kesey disapproved of a big screen adaptation of his novel as soon as he found out that the filmmakers had abandoned the use of Chief Bromden as the story’s narrator. Kesey never intended to see the movie, but one story says he inadvertently caught a few moments during a bout of channel surfing one evening. Once Kesey realized what he was watching, he promptly changed stations.

According to fellow novelist Chuck Palahniuk (who has famously praised director David Fincher’s adaptation of his novel Fight Club, plot changes and all), Kesey once stated privately that he did not care for the material.

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Samsung’s Star Wars Vacuums Offer Everything You Want in a Droid
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Hate housecleaning but love Star Wars? Samsung’s got the solution. In anticipation of December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the newest film in the Star Wars saga, Samsung has transformed a limited number of its VR7000 POWERbot robot vacuum cleaners into two familiar faces from George Lucas’s legendary space opera: a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader (which comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and a remote control).

In order to create a unique device that would truly thrill Star Wars aficionados, Samsung consulted with fans of the film throughout each stage of the process. The result is a pair of custom-crafted robo-vacuums that fill your home with the sounds of a galaxy far, far away as they clean (when you turn Darth Vader on, for example, you'll hear his iconic breathing).

“We are very pleased to be part of the excitement leading up to the release of The Last Jedi and to be launching our limited edition POWERbot in partnership with Star Wars fans,” B.S. Suh, Samsung’s executive vice president, said in a press statement. “From its industry-leading suction power, slim design, and smart features, to the wonderful character-themed voice feedback and sound effects, we are confident the Star Wars limited edition of the VR7000 will be a big hit.”

Be warned that this kind of power suction doesn’t come cheap: while the Stormtrooper POWERbot will set you back $696, the Darth Vader vacuum retails for $798. Who knew the Dark Side was so sparkling clean?


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