|This article is part of UnNews||UnFair and UnBalanced|
12 April 2007
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STUDIO CITY -- Jim Henson, beloved puppeteer and innovator of children's television, died in 1990. In the years following his death, Jim's mild-mannered errand boy of a son Brian would unwittingly take control of the Henson empire, attempting desperately to fill the immensely large shoes formerly occupied by his father. Now, nearly two decades after Jim's passing, the frightening reality of life under Brian's control has become all-too-apparent to one group of performers.
Tatooey, a soft-spoken Henson Rat known best for his role as "Tatooey" in The Muppets Take Manhattan, sits in Central Park quietly smoking a cigarette. He has just received word: the death of fellow rodent actors Fast Eddie and Shakes now qualifies his species as "endangered." Tatooey isn't particularly surprised.
"What, is this s'posta be some kinda shock?" he delicately mouths. "Brian took over, the work went sour...what the hell else should happen?" Tatooey is a little more worked up when he proclaims "Brian sold us out to the biggest rat of all, this is what happens!"
The "biggest rat of all": Mickey Mouse, corporate symbol and mascot of the Walt Disney Company. The sell out: a complete takeover, facilitated by Brian Henson and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. A takeover that would leave a number of Muppets out of work, and on the streets. "Disney's got hundreds of household names already," Tatooey continues. "Who do you think the kids are gunna want? The Lion King or Tatooey the Dancing Vermin?"
Tatooey's later statement is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the egregious errors perpetrated with Brian at the Henson Company's helm. A number of poor internal decisions from the de facto leader prior to the Disney sell-all paired with a misguided commitment to television film releases (rather than theatrical features) sent company stocks plummeting. After firing nearly one thousand employees, and closing the company's London workshop, it was merely a matter of time before the Muppets themselves began experiencing the repercussions. Now, says Tatooey "...we're just tryin' ta pick up the pieces."
The Henson Rats aren't the only troupe looking for new work; a number of the orchestra penguins, several nameless chickens, and Statler (but not Waldorf) all fell victim to the downsizing. Some are rebounding and rebuilding. Others, like Tatooey, have not been so fortunate. "This cigarette is the last thing to my name" he says with a tear in his beady eye.
When asked how the public can help the Muppet plight, Tatooey's answer was simple: "[S]top buying the garbage productions Disney is spoon feedin' ya! Jim is gone, Brian aint Jim, and Mickey aint good for anybody!" A simple message from a simple rat, now facing the toughest predicament of his life.