Monday, December 31, 2012

Another year down, 2013 to go!

We've made it!  Can you believe it?  All the stuff that has happened and was expected to happen in 2012, and we made it through!  Give yourselves a round of applause and a pat on the back (if you can reach it).

Now, we've got a LOT of things to look forward to.  Lots of great things happening for Jetta over at her website this year, plus birthdays (Muley's is January 1, so Happy Birthday, Muley!), and events and art and puppets and more!  Including a month and a half of continuing to write "2012" and then scratching it out to write "2013." 

Anyway, we survived 2012.  Yay, us!

Click image to enlarge to readable measures.

Breakfast after having inked the comic strip above, and a preview
of a comic strip to come...
 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Wishes 2012

We wish a very Merry Christmas to you and your family and friends, and everyone each of you knows, and may the best Christmas wishes come true for you now, in 2013, and forever.  Don't forget to have a safe and happy New Year's celebration!

 
And now, just for fun:  A-wretha Franklin...

 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Muley Visits RMH for "Breakfast with Santa"

You can see more pictures of Muley's 12/8/2012 visit to the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis by visiting the album at his Facebook page!  Click the image below to see the album.

"Muley and Friends Transferral Mural" circa 2000 at RMH!
 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hidden Mule!

Submitted by DaMarco Randle, Roy Duck's human pal, after he went out of a restaurant where he saw, in the sidewalk, this mule-shaped stain in the concrete.



You can submit your OWN mule and donkey shaped items at Muley's Facebook Page!  Just click "like" on the page and share your images.
 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Live Life to Its Fullest"

We've all heard the phrase from someone that they are, or that you should, 'live life to its fullest.'  It's such an old phrase that it's more worn out than it should be, leaving me to wonder why someone didn't live life to its fullest and come up with something better than that to say?

And, why?  Well, a few reasons, especially when I see it listed as a statement rather than a description of what someone is doing.  For example, of someone posts, "Living life to its fullest" then we get that they are indeed living life to its fullest themselves.  In that case, way to go and be doing your thing!  But, someone may post "live life to its fullest" that someone else should take their advice and do it--it's no longer a statement but a command. 

And it is a good command.

Walt Disney once said, "I can't believe there are any heights that can't be reached by man who knows the secret of making dreams come true."  Similarly, from his camp, Jiminy Cricket sang, "When you wish upon a star," while Kermit the Frog (nowadays a part of the Disney family) said that "someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me."  All because someone chose to live life to its fullest--they made a plan, set a goal, and chased that dream to make it a reality.

So, what does this mean to us?  Well, in anything we do we should maintain a goal that we have set and work at it to make it happen.  Sometimes, that plan stands for whatever work or classes you're doing -- do the best you can, strive to do the greatest possible work you can do, make others around you feel inspired and positive so they will do it as well, and set your goal to create an atmosphere with your work that is enjoyable, inspiring, and successful (because, it will be successful the more positive that atmosphere is).

When it comes to your work, make your work fantastic!  Keep an attitude about yourself that lets folks know you're proud of what you do and where you are--if you're waiting cars at the fast food joint or stocking rolls at the grocery store or president of the largest company in the world: your attitude is what makes you a success!  If you're happy, the staff is happy; if the staff is happy, you're successful.  And who doesn't like being successful? 

And as far as your dreams, the atmosphere you create for yourself in your work can be brought home to your dreams.  If you have a negative, defeated attitude others will pick up on that and not follow you (the world is negative enough without folks feeling that you are negative about what you are doing).  Don't let things stand in your way!  Do what you need to do to make it happen, be proud of what you're doing and do it the greatest way you possibly can.  Jim Henson once said something to the effect of "there is nothing holding you back but you."  Don't let a defeatest attitude hold you back!  Chin up, chest out, you have done the best work you can do and now push it forward for the world to see.

To me, living life to its fullest comes with the terrain of doing the very best you can in your work, in your hobbies, in your life with friends and family.  You can lay down without a plan or a goal to let things fall into place and achieve nothing; or, you can set those goals for yourself and acheive greatness.

For you, and from my heart, I'm willing to bet on greatness for you.  You're a fantastic person and you deserve the best.  And the best will be yours because you will live life to its fullest!

 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

MAW Productions Announces The Comic Studio


 

OFFICIAL COMIC STUDIO PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact Persons for The Comic Studio:
Martheus A. Wade
martheus@toshigawa.com
www.toshigawa.com

INDEPENDENT COMIC CREATOR PUTS A COMIC BOOK SPIN ON ART CLASSES
September 5, 2012

Indy comic book creator, Martheus Wade, creator of the hit graphic novel series Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa and Turra: Gun Angel and art director for MAW Productions Studios, is proud to announce the formation of The Comic Studio, a series of classes that specialize in the art of comic book and graphic novel creation.

The Comic Studio will be art classes with a comic book twist. The classes take an innovative approach to creative design that combines fine art, writing and graphic design skills and team them with goal setting techniques that will empower students to see projects through to completion. Courses will cover everything from photoshop techniques, to illustration techniques, to writing all from the perspective of comic book and graphic novel creation. "I've always wanted to give back to the Memphis area," Martheus said. "The idea for the Comic Studio began when I taught comic illustration in the penitentiary system. There were some extremely talented individuals there that could have contributed so much to the art world if someone would have reached them early and helped develop their talent. I want to find that child before it's too late." Thanks to fellow artist and prolific painter, Adam Shaw, classes will start at his studio in November at 2547 Broad Ave, Memphis TN. "The revitalization of Broad Avenue as an arts district fits The Comic Studio perfectly," said Martheus. "It's the perfect place to open minds to the arts and the power of the graphic medium."

Classes start in November and will meet Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. More information on times will be available in the coming weeks. Anyone interested in enrollment should contact Martheus Wade at martheus@toshigawa.com or join our facebook page, keyword: The Comic Studio. Free art tutorials are also available online at www.mawpro.com.

Martheus Antone Wade

Optioned for motion picture, Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa was created in 1985 by Martheus Antone Wade, a graduate of the University of Memphis. Martheus’ love for martial arts, along with his talent as a graphic artist, was a natural fit for creating exciting characters and imaginative storylines. He then began his carrier as an intern at Signature Advertising. After completing his internship, Martheus worked as graphic designer. After two years, Martheus struck out on his own as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator working with companies such as the Radison Hotel, Trust Marketing, Senior Services, The YWCA, The Girl Scouts Council of the Mid-South, and Special Olympics.

He has illustrated for Maximum CNG, Bloodstream for Image Comics, Shooting Star Comics, Chaos Campus for Approbation Comics and Andrew Dabb’s Slices just to name a few. Recently, he has worked on such titles as Action Man and Nanovor for IDW, Bad Girls Club for the Oxygen Network, and illustrated, wrote, and produced a comic book crossover with his title character, Jetta, and William Tucci’s, Shi. His work has been used for the movie Role Models from Universal Pictures as well as the instructional DVD and book, Hi-Fi Digital Color for Comics available from IMPACT Publishing.

Visit www.mawpro.com to see more of his work and artistic process, as well as tutorials for cartooning!


You can also learn more about Kunoichi Hime, the new title chronicling the life of Shianndrea Toshigawa before she became "Jetta."

Friday, November 16, 2012

Into the Sunset...

Sadly, we lament the news that Hostess snack foods are closing.  Not sure how this effects the Wonder Bread company; but, 300 people in our hometown are losing their jobs after going on strike and the company folded.  No more Twinkies, Suzy-Q's, Fruit Pies, Cupcakes, King Dons, Snowballs...

We're very saddened by this because now all we have are delicious Little Debbies.  Sweet, sweet Little Debbies.

Nom...

 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Memphis Comics and Fantasy Convention 2012 Photos

You can click the image below to see more images from the convention.


Tom Kenny (Spongebob), SuperMule and Kevin.
 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Memphis Comics & Fantasy Convention - Nov. 2012

 
Guess who's flying in to the Memphis Comics and Fantasy Convention to save us all? 
Yep, we're in trouble...

Click here to see the full schedule of events.
It's crunch time, folks!  You don't want to miss this great event!  Entry is extremely reasonable.
CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!
Pre-sales are barely extended, but get your tickets now!

Saturday evening at 6pm, catch Muley the Mule and Friends as they reprise their roles in "SuperMule and the Cookie Caper" at this year's Memphis Comics and Fantasy Convention which is fast approaching on November 9 - 11, 2012, at the Memphis Hilton hotel.  See all the guests by clicking here.

Also in attendance will be Martheus and Janet Wade of MAW Productions' "Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa" graphic novel series, also helping-hands in the "SuperMule" show, along with fine artist and fashion designer DaMarco Randle.

Martheus Wade will also be participating with the 'Geek 101' classes teaching a great cartooning class.  What will it be?  Get involved to find out!  (Don't forget the MAW Productions' course "The Comic Studio" coming soon!)  Wish you could go to Geek 101 and learn about creating from Martheus Wade?  Well, he's making the information avaialble at the MAW Productions' booth!  Come by and visit, learn, and see the new great swag.  Here's what he said:
November 9 - 11, MAW Productions will attending the Memphis Comics and Fantasy Convention at the Hilton! Stop by our both in artist alley and see me explain my process for creation. The same process that I will be sharing with the students of the Comic Studio! We will also have TONS of new art for sale as well as our first print promoting our new web series Kunoichi Hime!!

As an added bonus, I will be taking place in the GEEK 101 classes! Teachers, don't miss your opportunity to sign your class up for the coolest field trip in the Mid South. "GEEK 101"! I will be holding special courses on Friday showing you how to create your very own comic book character while demonstrating the collaborative effort needed for the comic book industry!

Hope to see you guys there!!


Don't forget to arrive early for a Friday night, 8pm, viewing of "The Red Mullet" documentary, produced by Andrew Chandler, chronicling the life of an unsung superhero.  After the viewing you can meet The Red Mullet at a panel discussion featuring SuperMule (who has a cameo in the movie), and maybe a few other surprises!

You can also meet our friends in the Artists' Alley, find great pickings in the Dealer Room, and meet one of our favorite voice actors: Tom Kenny! That's right, the voice behind Spongebob Squarepants will be in attendance!

This is the third year for the convention, and each year it only gets better and better, so this promises to be a great weekend of fun and hilarity.

Haven't made your reservations yet?  Well, now you can!  Click here.
Get your tickets by clicking here.

Other Muley news that's kicking up:
Muley and Kevin attended the Southeastern Chapter of the National Cartoonists' Society's fall meeting.  It was a TON of fun!  You can see photos of the event by clicking here.

Muley's NEXT kids' message at First Congo will be November 25th!  Come out and see what all the hooplah is about. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

10 21 2012 - Muley's Kids Message at Church

As you know, Muley gets to address the kids (as well as the whole congregation) once in a while at church and share his thoughts on things.  Biblical things, of course.  It's usually pretty fun, and funny, while getting a point across.

The most recent newsletter shows last Sunday's sermon being taught by the Mule, so check out the newsletter here for more information, but certainly here to see the photo.


Keep your eye on the site here and at Muley's Facebook page for upcoming appearances at church:
www.firstcongo.com

Hmm...now that the thought comes up:  Did you know that the first appearance of SuperMule was at this church before we ever attended it?  Let us know if we should share that story.  Comment below or visit facebook.

###  Transcript of the Kids' Message ###

(First, a reading from the bible that leads to the kids' message)

Matthew 10.7 – 14

(Jesus said), “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 

Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.  Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”

(Then, Muley says...)

So, ever hear that old saying that nothing is free?  I have. You know who says it all the time?  Old folks.  But, it’s true!  I mean, when you’re our age grown-ups take good care of us and give us food, shelter, clothes…but, they have to pay for it!  When you’re our age, you get stuff free, but they don’t.  That’s why they always say ‘nothing is free.’
But, there are SOME things that ARE free, and that’s what the reading was today.  Yeah, it was Jesus talking to his disciples early on in their career as…disciples.  But, Jesus gave them his blessings and his power… for FREE! …  It SORT of came with a price, though.
Let’s think about this a second.  Okay, let’s say your mom and dad put you in clothes and give you a book of knowledge.  They send you out into the world and tell you, “You can only ever have these clothes and this book of knowledge and you can share the information in this book, but you can never accept money or clothes for the knowledge you share.  All you may have are these clothes and this knowledge. You will share it for free because I give you these things now for free.”
Well, I don’t know that I’d much like hearing that. I like my toys and my clothes … when I wear them… and other stuff I have; but, I do like sharing and always share with my friends.  Jesus told his disciples you can only wear the stuff you have and share the blessings I give you to share for free, and take no money because you got it for free. 
You know what? Have you ever stopped to think?  Let’s do this now, stop and think for a second.  Okay, that’s enough.  This little mule has to stop and think about things once in a while, and I just thunk a thought.  Did you guys realize that we DO get something for free?  Every DAY we get something for free, yeah!  What do you think it is?  Anybody in the peanut gallery want to make a guess?
Every day, we receive blessings in what food we have or what clothes we have or what shelter we have, and in the way of beautiful weather, sunshine, trees and grass, friends and family!  Also, every day, we get an even greater freebie in the love that Jesus has for us.  That’s something we can count on, and something we can share with others…for free!
So, when you are out in the world at school or play, remember to share Jesus’ love.  Oh, and remember, Muley loves ya!  See you real soon!  Bye now.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thumbs Up for Lane - A Legacy Continues...

You may remember our story a few weeks about about "Thumbs Up fo Lane" Goodwin who was suffering from cancer, but a neat bandwagon started with everyone posting 'thumbs up' images to honor his own thumbs up.  After all, you have to love a kid whose quoted as saying, "NO low does chemo, I'm not going down without a fight!  Tell them to bring out the Big Guns because we are not going to shoot it, we are gonna NUKE it!" 

Sadly, news broke recently of his passing.  It's been a long fight for him since 2010, which doesn't seem that long a time but can be forever when you're dealing with cancer.  However, he faced it like a trooper and, along the way, inspired us all.

But, his story isn't ending as a foundation has recently begun being set up by his family to continue the fight against childhood cancer.  Click below to read more (on facebook).  The page shows how you can begin donating to the Lane Goodwin Foundation.

And, of course, this lends us to our own pet charity with The Ronald McDonald House of Memphis where 51 kids and their families stay (for free, I might add) while being treated at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Those Cold Days...

You'll recall that we like doing the quick "Muley-Mini" strips, just a fast doodle of the day in the life of Muley and pals.  Today, we consider the weather and how to make it wonderful...

 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 Leland, MS, Frog Fest was a SUCCESS!!

There is one undeniable fact:  We all love the Frog.  Kermit the Frog that is.  We made the trek down the Blues Highway to Leland, MS, and enjoyed our time on Deer Creek celebrating Jim Henson and his famous frog on the banks of where he once played as a boy has been just fantastic fun.  Yessir, it was the Leland Frog Festival!

We performed "SuperMule and the Cookie Caper" and helped draw names for the door prizes in the art show and the Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Museum.

Here are a few images, but you can find more on the Muley the Mule Facebook page.

 
Here, we pose in front of the historical marker on The Rainbow Connection Bridge.

 
Here, we are with DaMarco Randle, Kevin L. Williams, Martheus Wade and Janet Wade.

 
Again on the bridge.

 
Entrance to the indoor activities including story tellers and our puppet performances.

 
That part of Deer Creek where Jim Henson actually played as a boy.

 
On the banks of the Rainbow Connection Bridge.

On the way home, we stopped off for dinner at a great Italian restaurant called Vince's.  The service (thanks Debra) was great, and the food incomparable!  Thanks for a great dinner.  Want to know where to go?  207 N Main Street, Leland, MS  662-686-2112.  Thursday - Sunday 5:30 - 10 pm.

Thanks to Ashley Zepponi and all our Leland friends for letting us come down and visit and play.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Muley at 2012 Leland, MS, Frog Festival!



So, what are you doing the last weekend in September? 



YOU'RE MISSING OUT if you don't attend the Leland, MS, Frog Fest celebrating the boyhood home of Muppets creator Jim Henson, and the Birthplace of the Frog!


At the helm of the event is the Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Museum

This event will take place all day on September 29, 2012, at the Rainbow Connection Bridge (the dedication of said bridge which we visited last year).  Also in attendance last year was Sesame Street's own Muppeteer, Fran Brill.

Photo by Lin Workman
You can stay tuned here for more information as we get closer, or just follow the Frog Fest on Facebook!

Muley and hsi pals will be performing TWO shows at the event this year (you can see them below).  The supporting members of the show will be Martheus Wade and Janet Wade of MAW Productions and artist DaMarco Randle.

The events list, so far, is here:


Special performances by Muley the Mule and Friends

MULEY'S TALENT(LESS) REVUE
Muley the Mule and his pals have found some of the most odd ball acts from around the world and
collected them for one talent show; but, when Missy Muley challenges Muley and his friends to a
girls vs. boys showdown WHO WILL WIN??


 









SUPERMULE AND THE COOKIE CAPER
When the city's cookie supply comes up missing, there's only one mule who can save the day...or, can he?

-Mississippi Professional storyteller, Doris Jones will be spinning Frog Tales at the Methodist CDC building

· Hands on Arts activities for all ages at the Big Tent

· Festival food and fun music at The Rainbow Connection Bridge

· Arts vendors on Deer Creek

· Shuttle rides to the museums and downtown stores

· Inflatables for the children

· Highway 61 Blues Festival beginning at 11 am – Buster Morlino Community Center

· Store sales and really great restaurant fare

Kermit the Frog - (c) Muppets Studio 2012 - All rights reserved




 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thumbs Up for our buddy LANE!!

We're helping honor a cool kid, Lane Goodwin!  We're posting this to urge other artists, puppeteers, actors and actresses on small screens, big screens, theater, and anybody else out there to post your image with two thumbs up!



Lane has Rhabdomyosarcoma. Last Week, Lane just got out of the hospital from his scans. So, they took Lane to eat crab legs and in the middle of Dinner he had a seizure! He was rushed back to the ER, still seizing and unresponsive! Later, he was put on a Vent to help him breathe, in which he was not breathing on his own. The seizures didn't stop, so they were going to put him in a medical coma. When, the meds arrived he stopped seizing. So, he was on 5 seizure meds at once, they took Lane for a MRI! The scan came back and the reason for the seizures was the Rhabdomyosarcoma has invaded his brain. Please pray for his comfort and peace, he doesn't have long left! So, as you may have seen most of his photos in which he is always smiling and has a thumb up. So in honor of Lane, this event is to get everyone on Facebook to take a photo of yourselves holding a thumbs up for Lane. For cancer families, I want to see your warriors with their thumbs up! Please attend, share and pray for awesome Lane! Forever Team Lane ♥

Lane Goodwin's story can be found on Facebook by clicking here.
 
 

Monday, September 10, 2012

We Remember, Do You?

I was driving in to work that September morning and tuned the radio in to Rock 103's Wake-Up Crew.  Usually, there was a lot of hilarity and hijinks ensuing as you listened to those three zany people, but this morning was somber as I listened to Tim Spencer's first words from my radio that morning:

"...and apparently a passenger plane has flown off course and crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York..."

And, there was a feeling of unease coursing through my system.  I felt nervous and scared and no knowledge of why I felt that way; but, I knew something was wrong.  I listened intently as the conversation continued and my fears were realized.  "It wasn't a passenger plane, but a passenger jet!"

I was flying in to work by that time, whipped in my parking space, and ran inside to the TV in the break room where I found my co-worker already watching television wide-eyed and open-mouthed.  "Have you heard..?"   Yes, I confirmed.  The radio show already was filling me in.

The last time I felt so horrible watching something unfold on television was back when our class got together in the library to watch the first woman into outer space and the shuttle exploded.  Similarly, but more deadly, these horribly violent and heartless terrorists were taking thousands of lives as they crashed into these towers.  I can't remember now from the shock of it all, but I saw the tower fall on TV, and saw the second plane crash.

Horror.  Sickness.  Fear.  Anger.

All those emotions that those terrorists wanted us to feel, and I succumed to it.  I gave in to every emotion I had.

Sadness struck and tears flowed from this grown man's eyes.

You know, those terrorists are heartless scum.  They destroy lives and don't even think about what they're doing because, really, if you serve a god whose lesson is destruction and murder then you're an idiot for doing it.  I wish those who've died in the course of carrying out their schemes would be able to speak back from the fiery pits of hell where they are and could inform the others that doing what they do is bad--it's arrogant, ignorant, and isn't helping any cause.  It is evil.  Pure bred evil bent on the destruction of innocents who could be there to help others through sickness, financial distress, a cure for cancer could have died that day.  Whatever curse there could possibly be for those involved couldn't be bad enough, but whatever it is I wish it on them.  I wish it on them and their families.

And what good does that do?  Nothing.  It doesn't even make me feel better to say it.  But, I wish it and I won't take it back even though it makes me a hypocrite of my own religion.

And to contradict myself and those bad wishes against bad people:
My intentions in my life is to do what I can to make life better--not just for me, but for those around me.  To bring happiness, joy, influence through positive measures.  I do this because my belief is in a God who loves and cares, who wants there to be peace and happiness, acceptance, cooperation, love, and appreciation in the world. 

Imagine this: what if all the money, effort, and planning that those idiot terrorists put forth was used in greater ways?  Suppose they used that money to fund cancer research and could help find a cure?  Suppose they used all that man-power to help raise homes for the homeless, food for the hungry, and what possibilities for humanity could be effected IF ONLY they weren't so bent on evil?

It's a shame in the course of humanity that such evil exists; but, could we appreciate the good in humanity otherwise?  Could we appreciate our own lives without the many whose lives are lost (not just from that horrible day, but in battle since)?  Could we appreciate what we have in life without days like that happening? 

I wish we could, but we don't.  I've been working with headstone design for a good while now, and in discussions about the designs I have heard regrets, sadness, resentment, and more from folks who've lost loved ones to murder, disease, accidents--the reality of the simple, very thin thread by which all our lives hang in the balance has slapped me in the face more times than I care to count but it reminds me daily to appreciate my friends who I love dearly, my family who has my heart, people I haven't even met yet.  It reminds me to appreciate things like watching the grass wiggle around in the breeze, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the beautiful stars at night; to appreciate the lightning and thunder and rain, the green of the trees, the scent of a flower, the chirping of birds, the feel of a hug or handshake, and the fuzziness of a smile, the sound of laughter...

So many things to get us down, but so many more things to bring us cheer!!

I have a hope for humanity.  I hope that the good that I expect every person to have in them will shine in big ways, happy ways, positive ways...in ways that will inspire other people to behave and continue that influence, bringing everyone closer together, just as everyone was on 9/12 of that year. 

We worked together that day in honoring those who had fallen and those who were alive and working, we donated to charities, we as a country stood together and said, "You will not do this to us, we will not be held asunder!"  And we didn't.

In honor of that day after, when we all were one people and came together, let's try harder for that.  Let's try to stand proud of our country, make a new friend, be inspirational and pass along a positive influence to others.  I think maybe if we do that then the lives lost will not have been in vain, and neither will what this great country stands for.

Your challenge?  Make this world a better place.  Be the positive influence you are meant to be, and make others happy, inspire them to be better for themselves and the world.  Love your fellow human, love the planet, love the animals--we all need each other.  Be the best YOU that you can be, and always keep your head high, smile in the face of trouble, and know that you are loved.
 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jerry Nelson: In Remembrance


I'm not really sure how I knew it; but, when my dear friend and fellow Muppets fan, Zach, texted me tonight I began to fear the worst.  My room mate was across the room from me and I had already began to choke up and felt the tears ready to roll as I told my roomie, "I think I've just been sent some bad news."

All I could see in the text preview was, "I just heard Jerr" and I could feel something was wrong.  I got to my room, in the dark, opened the text as I laid down and read something that upset me terribly.  The world has lost another great human, and a great soul:  Jerry Nelson.

You know, it's probably just a little silly to be weepy over someone you only ever met for a few seconds; but, when that person you met for those few seconds had a lifetime affect on you those are a few seconds that are cherished forever!

When I had the opportunity to meet Jerry Nelson, it was at MuppetFest (the first and only convention for Muppets fans and of all things Jim Henson).  It was a thrill to watch him during the panel discussions because he was so funny.  It was awesome to see a master at work.

In case you don't know, he was the performer for Count von Count, Kermit's nephew Robin, Floyd Pepper, Gobo Fraggle...and, really, the list goes on forever.  He made cameo appearances in many of the shows and movies the Muppets made. 

He's also probably one of my favorite vocalists.  His smooth voice, whether his own or that of Floyd Pepper, Robin, or the Count, somehow always has a hint of comfort behind it.  A few years ago, he released Truro Daydreams, a downloadable "record" of original songs he'd worked on for years, and music I listen to once a week or so.  If you haven't bought it yet, please do--you won't be dissatisfied!


Here is a behind the scenes video of "Noah's Ark" from Truro Daydreams.

I can't really suggest that I'm one of the most connected people in the world to share a memorial on his website; but, I do feel a need to share a little bit because of how much the Muppets inspired me as a kid (and still today!).  Not just the characters, either; but, also their performers:  Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, and of course Jerry.  Without these folks, certainly Jim, and Charles Schulz, I would never have been so bent on creating fun and entertaining things to bring joy to other folks.  And Jerry is one of those to be thanked for that!

I don't usually share personal items from my collection of things, especially when they mean a lot to me; but, back in 1999 I took a chance to write Jerry a letter of appreciation and asked for an autographed photo of himself.  Really, it wasn't a fan letter to his characters, but to him.  I explained that I loved his work when he sang, performed puppetry, and that his characters are among my favorites (of course, they're Muppets so probably all of them are my favorites!).  He was kind enough to send the following letter (on the back of which is a little list of things to do, such as clean the fish tank) and an autographed photo of himself that I think he took just for me?


The end of his letter is that he hoped it was "what I wished for."  Well, it is.  He provided a photo, certainly; but, the enjoyment of the characters he performed, the songs he sang, the happiness he brought me...

Who could have wished for anything more?

Thank you, Jerry Nelson, for bringing such a joy to the world.

LINKS:

Sesame Street remembers Jerry Nelson.

NBC News

Jerry Nelson's Cameo on Sesame Street surrounded by Count, Sherlock Hemlock, Herry Monster, Fat Blue (aka Mr. Johnson)...his famous characters from that most wonderful street.


Chicago Tribune tribute.

Television Blend shared videos.

The LA Times posted a report on his passing.

 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Reflection on 40

Effective at 11:09 am on August 20, 2012, I am officially 40.  You know, 40 years ago I never thought I'd make it this far.

Of course, 40 years ago I don't think I thought that much anyway. 

Yet, here I am. Somehow.  By the grace of God.  I'm thankful to be here, though a bit confused as I consider all the crazy things I've done in my childhood that should have ended my story: jumping into ponds not knowing what snakes were in it, swinging on vines over deep ditches, playing by spillways near lakes, walking into strangers' houses just because the doors were unlocked...it is surprising that I'm now 40.

I've always been thankful of the little things in life: birds chirping, cool breezes, sunny skies with puffy white clouds, green grass and trees.  I never falter to be thankful for my home, clothes, food, transportation, and work.  I'm most thankful for my greatest birthday gifts of all: friends, family, talents, and an ability to both smile and make folks smile.  I'm always appreciative of those who inspire me to do the things I do, including those who have left this world.

I consider the years that have gone by which have taken those I love from my friends and family and remember them all frequently.  I hope somehow they can get a moment to recall me in their new lives.

40 brings a lot with it, I think.  I feel that I've learned to be more patient--except with folks who drive too slow, drive too badly, drive too fast, or speed up to get in my way and then slow down; or those who get in line in front of me at the store when checking out and yet have more shopping to do so I have the opportunity to put my life on hold while they go spend 10 minutes to get what they want...

But, I digress.

I'm grateful for the e-mails and the posts to my wall on Facebook.  There is no way I could ever possibly respond to everything, so I hope this will suffice as my THANK YOU to my family and friends.

And thought I may not always keep in touch by phone, e-mail, regular mail, or smoke signals, I do hope everyone knows that they are on my mind and in my heart daily. 

So, what has 40 taught me?  There's a bright side to everything if you look for it.  My own quote has always been, "I'd be dangerous if I could afford my genius," but also, "Above every storm cloud, the sun still shines."  I've learned that some gifts in life cannot be wrapped, and that is the gift of your friends, family, talents...it is the emotions of happiness, sadness which makes you appreciate being happy, and laughter!  What a great gift laughter is, right?  There are so many things to be thankful of!

And, as I mentioned to my nephew Daniel, there is one other thing about turning 40 that you will realize:  Being 40 means you feel like your 27 but with stiffer joints and more gas!

So, as I close out my 40th birthday and approach midnight, I again thank everyone for their birthday wishes and hope your birthdays and every days are as happy and special as you make me feel.  Thank you for being my friends--my gifts!  This means YOU!

It certainly is a happy birthday!

"Look, I know the chocolate on my face SEEMS incriminating, but,
I didn't take it.  It just fell in my mouth--I tried to push it away but it
kept forcing itself on me.  I'm innocent!  You don't believe me?!
...  OK then, I plead the 5th!"
Photo by DaMarco Randle.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Post "Rock n Romp" Update

We want to thank everyone that came to the Rock and Romp to see Muley the Mule and Friends in "Muley's Talent(less) Revue" and hope you enjoyed the part you got to see. We also want to apologize that our sound got cut in the middle of our show by the event in order that they could run their 'headliner band' after the event 'ran long' with a delay in getting sound set for the first act of the day.

Hopefully you can make it to the Leland Frog Fest in Leland, MS, on Sept. 29th to see both the "Talent(less) Revue" and "SuperMule and the Cookie Caper" shows. 

Again, your support is very appreciated, and we're thankful for our friends and fans!  Without you, there would be no reason for us to do what we love which is continue to bring you fun entertainment, laughs, and love.

You can see a really nice photo of Frankie Steinatra in the Rock and Romp's post Rock and Romp recap by clicking here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Muley at Rock n Romp and Church!

Don't forget that this Sunday is the Rock and Romp here in Memphis!!

Muley the Mule and Friends will appear at the Memphis Rock n Romp
to perform "Muley's Talent(less) Revue" show between bands 2 and 3!

Muley was also featured in this week's church newsletter, click the image to see more!

This photo was taken after the kids' message about James' discussion in the Bible about "how to be a good Christian."  A LOT of people could learn from that book!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Interview with Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker: "I AM BIG BIRD"

UPDATE!  As of May 6, 2015, the documentary is available for download by clicking here.

UPDATE! 3/16/2015 - You can now view the official trailer by clicking here.

UPDATE! As of August 16, 2012, the "KickStarter" event mentioned below has ended with 1,976 fans donating $124,115 toward their minimum $100,000 goal!  Way to go fans!  This documentary will be as fantastic as the man it is about, Caroll Spinney!  Here's to the soon and future success of "I Am Big Bird!"



"Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away..."
As I enter my 40th year of childhood, I recall my earlier years in which a popular tune from Children's Television Workshop (nowadays Sesame Workshop) kept me feeling happy, knowing that all things -- no matter how bad -- would be okay because each day at 3pm I could rush home to the happiest street in the world and visit with my old friends (even when I was little I felt as I had known Gordon, Susan, Maria, Bob, David, and "Mr. Looper" my whole life).  There were also my more plush-skinned friends Bert and Ernie, Prairie Dawn, Count von Count, and the furry pals such as Grover, Cookie Monster, and those who would prefer to be left alone like Oscar the Grouch.


But, there has always been one particular character and friend of mine from that great place known as Sesame Street that upon seeing the very image of him and hearing his voice a great joy comes to my face as a smile and stronger happiness wells up in my chest.  I even dedicated a painting to him that I took a long, long time on and titled "Big Bird Makes Me Happy."

This isn't the aforementioned painting, but a 5x7" titled
"Little Mr. Big Bird"  Acrylic on Canvas Board, 2011

Because he does.  Big Bird cheers me up whether telling me why I'm special 'cause there's "Just One Me," or that the alphabet can be one big word in "AB-C-DEF-GHI," or influencing me on my favorite number because Big Bird says "I Just Adore Four."  It really is a number sublime!  For years, my cassette player/radio clock was set to wake me up to "Good Morning Mr. Sun" and who could ever forget that it's okay to bumble because "Everyone Makes Mistakes."  Yes, and I even cried with him during the loss of Mr. Hooper, during "I'm A Blue Bird", and cheered with the day was saved in Follow That Bird and Don't Eat The Pictures.  Phew!  And that's all I can fit in one small paragraph while I can certainly go on and on and on...

And while I have always had this great fondness for this great fellow that Oscar the Grouch calls a big yellow turkey, I don't know if the sweetness of my own creations would exist without my life-long close studies of the great Caroll Spinney who, for these past 42 years, has performed the roles of the soft-spoken, eager to learn Big Bird, and the muck-of-the-street Oscar the Grouch--two characters with two totally different personalities at either end of the spectrum.  What other puppeteer can walk around with a television strapped to his neck to see his performance--let alone roller skate?  None that I know of.  Whether taking Big Bird on a walk down Sesame Street or the times Oscar got a walk around the block by his trash can toting pal Bruno, Caroll made it okay for us to come along and enjoy the scenery.



But, what do we know about Caroll other than this part of his life?  We've read a few books and a few biographies that he's been a part of.  We've seen him in a few interviews, sure; but, we haven't been able to get really indepth and get a good look at who this man--this friend of our's through our childhood and into our adulthood--really is!

When I first heard about the Copper Pot Pictures documentary "I Am Big Bird," I was thrilled.  Finally, a moment of due attention has come to a man who really shaped what Sesame Street was!  I would finally be able to jump on board and be a small part of something by donating to a cause and helping get this man's story to the screen by visiting their website on Kickstarter.  Then, one day, an offer came to do an interview and I said, "Heck yeah!"

I was able to ask a few questions of the folks involved in the film, and am sharing these with you now.

And before I get into all this, I hope you take a moment to go donate to their cause in the next few days because a documentary of the scope they are making takes a lot of work and a lot of money, and the main thing to recall in all this isn't that you're helping a group make a film, but you're helping make a tribute to a great man who taught you your ABC's, how to count, and to just be happy.



####

For our readers who are not yet aware, please share who you are, what you do, how long you’ve been doing it, and what directed you toward this career?
DAVE LaMATTINA: Chad Walker and I are directing/producing I AM BIG BIRD for COPPER POT PICTURES. Along with our partner Clay Frost, we formed Copper Pot five years ago to create films that we'd want to see. While we all came to the entertainment industry with different backgrounds, we were brought together by our first film, BROWNSTONES TO RED DIRT, which is about a pen pal program that connected sixth graders living in housing projects in Brooklyn, NY with war orphans living in Freetown, Sierra Leone. What interests me personally about docs is that they're always evolving. You can start down one path and end up somewhere completely different. It's maddening, but really fun. Making docs allows the three of us to pick a topic that we love, then spend 2-3 years of our life becoming an expert in that field.


Chad Walker, Dave LaMattina, Oscar the Grouch, Clay Frost
What IS “I Am Big Bird?”

CHAD WALKER: I AM BIG BIRD is a documentary about Caroll Spinney, who has been Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969. Caroll is 78 years old and he's sill doing it--and he has no intention of ever stopping.

What project or idea lead to doing a documentary on Caroll Spinney?
CHAD WALKER: It's in our company mission statement that we look to create films that inspire and Caroll's story certainly fits that description.

DAVE LaMATTINA: I always just wanted to be a part of what Sesame Street and the Muppets do. I just love them. One of my first jobs in this business was as an intern at Sesame Workshop because I had a dream of writing for the show. The passion was always there. The event that led to the film was me telling a friend about the internship. His fiance was there and offered that she was family friends with the Spinneys. She started telling me all these amazing stories, which I relayed to Chad while we were filming BROWNSTONES

(Editor's note: Brownstones to Red Dirt is available on the Copper Pot Pictures website.)

CHAD WALKER: Unlike Dave, I didn't know that Caroll Spinney had been Big Bird and Oscar for so long. I had no idea one person had done it for the entire history of the show. And so that fascinated me. Then, to realize that he was 78 and he's doing this incredibly intense puppet--to picture my grandfather doing that just blew my mind. The Bird's head weighs 5 lbs. Can you imagine holding that up, take after take, day after day, for 43 years? It's amazing. We had to make a film about it. 
Why is it important to represent the story of Caroll Spinney to the world?
CHAD WALKER: Caroll has impacted so many people, but so few people know who he is. When they start to see what a remarkable person he is and how he really does infuse himself into Big Bird and Oscar, they'll want to know how he became who he is. We just cut a scene about bullying in which Caroll talks about how badly he was picked on in his youth. In the scene, we cut to the most recent season of Sesame Street in which Big Bird is bullied. When you see those two stories intertwined, it's clear that Big Bird is who he is because Caroll is who he is. People need to know who the man is.

What was the conversation and the moment that the decision came up to make “I Am Big Bird?” And, what was then your next step to get in touch with Caroll Spinney?
DAVE LaMATTINA: It was actually really easy. Chad and I went back and forth and figured this would be a great movie and it was right up our alley--this was back in 2009. I emailed a few people from my internship days thinking that we'd never hear back, but we did within a week. Sesame Workshop has just been phenomenal. They've loved the idea from the start. They set up a meeting and a few weeks later, we were chatting with Caroll and his lovely wife Deb.

Describe how you felt when you discovered that Caroll said it was a go:
CHAD WALKER: We were pumped. Just absolutely pumped.

DAVE LaMATTINA: And a little intimidated. This is a great story and we feel a tremendous amount of responsibility to not mess it up. We're honored they've trusted us with their story.


What all preparation did you do before you contacted Caroll, and then what changed in that prep work before you met him?
CHAD WALKER: We obviously read Caroll's book, The Wisdom of Big Bird, and watched a lot of old Sesame Street episodes. We were pretty familiar with his story.

DAVE LaMATTINA: We try to not over-rehearse our pitches. We want them to come from the heart and I think that served us well with Caroll and Deb. I think they saw our passion and I think that's what sold them that we would do justice to putting their life on film.

What was the experience like meeting Caroll for the first time, and then meeting Big Bird and Oscar or walking onto the Street?
CHAD WALKER: That's a great question because the pitch meeting was so crazy. Basically, we're sitting around a table with Caroll, Deb and a few folks from Sesame Workshop. At one point, Dave was talking to Caroll and while he was, Caroll leaned down sort of nonchalantly and reaches into a duffel bag. While he's responding to Dave, Caroll pulls out Oscar, who had been kicking it in the bag. As soon as Oscar was on Caroll's hand, he came to life. He was blinking, looking around the room and reacting to things. Then he started staring me down, all while Dave and Caroll are talking. Suddenly, Oscar yells out, "BORING!" It was crazy.

DAVE LaMATTINA: And being on the set was equally crazy. It's strange that being there doesn't ruin the magic, it just enhances it. We were in Caroll's dressing room with him as he got ready, we walked out to the set with him, but then he gets in the feathers and it really is like Big Bird is a living, breathing being. It's impossible to explain. Big Bird is real.

So, the project starts and you begin collecting information, interviews, and personal memorabilia from Caroll: Was the amount of material about what you expected, or you were allowed into much more than you thought?

CHAD WALKER: In that same pitch meeting, Deb told us that she and Caroll are somewhat obsessed with documenting everything they do--a hobby of Caroll's that goes back to the 50s when he was in the US Air Force. Basically, she said they had photo or video material of his entire life. She asked if we thought we might use that. We freaked out. It's a total treasure for a doc filmmaker to be given that sort of access. It's been so much more than we could've ever hoped for or imagined.

Of the materials (so far) what has been your favorite piece of memorabilia?
DAVE LaMATTINA: For me, it's probably the behind-the-scenes stuff that Deb shot during the filming of China. Look--everything they've given us is simply incredible. Just amazing. But I have a really fond memory of watching BIG BIRD IN CHINA with my family, so to see them making that film was mind-blowing. You see the sets, the characters, the locations and it just brings you back. It made me connect with the film on a whole new level.

CHAD WALKER: I'd say the behind-the-scenes stuff Deb shot on A MUPPET FAMILY CHRISTMAS because that special brought together everyone from SESAME STREET, FRAGGLE ROCK and THEMUPPET SHOW, so the behind-the-scenes stuff is like a super fun reunion. You're seeing people like Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson work their magic and then goof around when they're not shooting. It's amazing.
Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Jim Henson,
Frank Oz, Caroll Spinney, Fran Brill
Speaking of memorabilia, I own the sets from the old 70’s Fisher Price Little People Sesame Street playsets. What did you have as a kid, or own still today?
DAVE LaMATTINA: No one has asked us that, but I'm glad you did! My current Twitter profile picture is of me using Big Bird slippers to put on a puppet show (my brother, the neighbors and I wrote a little diddy called "The Sesame Gang Rap"). Also, my mom is a bit of a baker and had all these cake pans and made stuff like a giant Cookie Monster cake. One year we also made Bert and Ernie jack-o-lanterns. My mom still talks about that.
CHAD WALKER: I'm big into music, so though I had a ton of Sesame toys and pajamas and things, the thing I remember loving the most was the Sesame Street Fever album... on vinyl! I love that. I was psyched when Caroll gave us photos of when he worked with Robin Gibb.

This image is by my pal Quinn Rollins who is the expert of all
things Fisher Price Little People (and I'm too lazy to set up my
own collection).  Click the image to find his cool site.

Before Sesame Street and the Muppets, what have you learned about Caroll's career that you can share now?

DAVE LaMATTINA: Caroll's career pre-Sesame Street could be a film in its own. He was a draftsmen in the Air Force, he was offered a job as an animator at Disney, he worked for a media company where he shot a campaign ad for John F. Kennedy, he co-starred (as Goggle the puppet) in The Judy and Goggle Show and he did about a billion characters on the Bozo show. The Disney thing is wild, though. Caroll actually was only using puppet shows to pay for gas money and art school because he wanted to be an illustrator. Then he got to Disney, interviewed, was in the room with Walt himself and was offered a job. The pay was so bad and the work was so tedious that he just walked away. Crazy.

CHAD WALKER: He does still do Picklepuss, which is a creation of his. He's brought Pickplepuss out for us and he still does a Picklepuss show every year at his family reunion. I think he also still does the "Punch and Judy Show," though that is an old British puppet show, not one that he wrote.
What is one thing you learned about Caroll that surprised you most? Inspired you the most? Did you learn anything new about Big Bird or Oscar that you hadn’t known before?

CHAD WALKER: I think his talent as an illustrator has struck me. He is such a talented artist and he really could have had a very successful career as an artist. As a matter of fact, he talks about how if/when he retires from Sesame, he'd like to get back into that, which is remarkable, because here's a 78-year-old man discussing his second career after retirement.
DAVE LaMATTINA: I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Caroll has told us some stories about Big Bird where he's had a very emotional reaction to something that has happened to Big Bird. That surprised me about both Caroll and Big Bird--how deeply the two are connected. I was shocked to learn that the Oscar the Grouch puppet used today (the same one we saw in the pitch) is the Oscar that has been used on the show since 1969. That was trippy, to realize that we were hanging out with the same puppet we grew up with.



What would you say has been the funniest thing you have had happen along the way of this documentary?

CHAD WALKER: When we had to shoot a Kickstarter appeal video, we were fortunate enough to include a cameo from Oscar. Working with Oscar was hilarious. Yes, what made it to the screen is good, but Caroll truly shines with improv, so to be between takes with Oscar was hilarious. He had lots of laughs at our expense, not in a mean way, just in a typically grouchy fashion.
What has been the most fun part of making “I Am Big Bird?” Have there been any challenges?

DAVE LaMATTINA: Hanging out with the Spinneys has been amazing. My favorite part of this project has been when we go up to their house to interview Caroll. We always take a long lunch and sort of get to know one another and share stories. It's been a special experience for us.
CHAD WALKER: I think one of the most fun things has been one of the most challenging. The Spinneys continue to give us hundreds of hours of archival footage, which is amazing to go through and just so fascinating to see, but it's extremely time consuming. It's a good problem to have, but it's certainly been a challenge to find the time to get through it all.

Through Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Caroll has inspired us all. For me, he’s one of those who inspired me to create fun, funny, inspirational, family-oriented puppets and comic strips. What have the influences of Caroll, Big Bird and Oscar been on your life?

DAVE LaMATTINA: I think I can speak for all of us when I say that Caroll's impact on all of us has somewhat morphed since we began this project. At first, we approached this film from a perspective that we were blown away that one guy has done these two iconic characters for over 43 years. But then, as we got to know the man, not just the Muppets, we learned what an inspiration he is. He has gotten to the highest heights without ever compromising his values or who he is. He's really done what we aspire to do professionally and personally and so he's become something of a role model for us. He's proof that you can do it the right way.

Matt Vogel with Caroll Spinney.

What is left to do to complete the documentary? How can people help?
CHAD WALKER: We still have the bulk of our actual shooting to do and between that and licensing some of Caroll's appearances, we are in need of financing, so we turned to Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowd-sourcing website that helps artists raise money from individuals in exchange for products or experiences and has not only helped raise $45 million for film projects, but also financed three documentaries on the Academy Award shortlist this year. It has truly become a great way for documentaries to get made. We have loads of cool incentives to offer, among them are a copy of the film (essentially a pre-order), an original illustration by Caroll and an opportunity for a group video chat with Caroll.

The campaign is now live and ends on August 16th (2012). You can view all the rewards and PLEDGE here:
http://kck.st/NGQAQl
DAVE LaMATTINA: Just to follow up on what Chad said about Kickstarter: one reason we've decided to go that way is because the Muppet fanbase is so strong. We're fans ourselves and we're making this for the fans. Kickstarter is a great way for this passionate group of people to make their voices heard and be part of something really special--but they have to do it before August 16th. Happy pledging!
And for fun, here is an unofficial comic strip I did a while back:
Here is some other art I did for fun:

And finally, my own little Big Bird story:

When I was a toddler, I had the Fisher Price Sesame Street puppets and dolls and toys and...everything.  My mom and dad were taking me on a trip to the mountains (probably against their will because there was no one dumb enough to keep me!).  I remember on the trip up seeing the teepee across the highway at a rest station and who should walk out but Big Bird.  When my mom and dad turned the car around and got us there, I noticed (even at that young age) that it wasn't the proper Big Bird because...well, look at those legs!  I was finally convinced by this imposter that he was Big Bird's cousin.
But, inside the place, there were big tables with a Cookie Monster wandering around.  I enjoyed chasing after Cookie Monster with his smaller version of himself that was on my hand.  I laughed so hard my sides hurt.  Wish I could find pictures of that as well.