I couldn't believe it. There before me was none other than Kermit the Frog - in the amphibian flesh (or maybe the felt but let's not get too specific).
All my life I'd dreamt of meeting this super celebrity - and now it was finally happening. Next to him, sat another big star, Ernie, for me only second to Big Bird as the most wonderful member of the Sesame Street cast in my mind. Forget one half of the fourth most popular parody folk duo (or, for those who are clueless and/or tired, Flight of the Conchords). These two were the real stars.
In all seriousness, going to a press conference and being so close to the stars of the Muppets was so super cool I couldn't make it up! After a brief interview by, Nic, Director of the Square Eyes Film Foundation, we started out with an interview with Bret McKenzie, Wellington boy and Oscar winner (also, he doesn't know, but he stood on the same deck as me at San Fran last year when I saw the Black Seeds play and I ALMOST went over to say hello, but I got shy) and Kermit and Ernie (from the Muppets and Sesame Street fame respectively). Bret asked Bernie and Kermit some questions about what they thought of Wellington, how they found the show and also what they were going to miss about leaving New Zealand after the Jim Henson Retrospectacle. as
Then the floor was open to the audience to ask some questions to Kermit and Ernie from the floor. I was a bit star struck, so kept quiet, but us punters in the stalls apparently generally wanted to know where Miss Piggy was to Kermit, and where Bert was to Ernie. Ernie came back very wittily and asked Bret where Jermaine was. The audience responded with a long "Oooooh." It was dear readers, the fiercest of burns.
Finally, the interview was over between man and Muppet, and we moved to the people behind the Retrospectacle concert in Wellington, taking place this weekend at The Michael Fowler Centre, who patiently answered the questions of the audience and press. Speaking were Carmen Osbahr, Sesame Street performer (Rosita), Karen Prell, Fraggle Rock performer (Red), Bret, songwriter, performer, and director of the Jim Henson Retrospectacle Live In Concert, Nic Marshall, Bonnie Erickson, former Executive Director of The Jim Henson Legacy
Craig Shemin, President of The Jim Henson Legacy, Arthur Novell, Executive Director Emeritus of The Jim Henson Legacy. After a slightly abrupt start, questions were fired away. Like nerdy a child in the class, I stuck my hand up, wanting to be picked to ask a question. This was likely my only chance!
I the team behind the Retrospectacle whether they thought something was lost in the fact most children's films are made in 3D animation these days. The answer came from one of the members of the cast, Karen Prell, a performer in the Jim Henson Retrospectacle who had worked on Fraggle Rock and The Labyrinth actually as an animator at Pixar on ToyStory 2. "Computer animation came about when it started replacing puppetry. I was a big fan of Disney as a kid and I learn animation when I was hired by Pixar. They were I see it, it is like asking to chose between different musical instruments. You can't choose whether the piano or the guitar is better. They're really just different. However, it is difficult to get computer animated characters interacting with people. With puppets, there is an extra thing that happens to the character and the person. There's a magic."
"If you think it's fun watching the Muppet movie," said Bonnie Erickson, former Executive Director of the Jim Henson Legacy, "Try working on the set of it. What you can't capture with computer animation is when people go off script, improvise with their characters, and when people play off each other and translate it to a new generation of puppeteers."
I can't describe how amazing it was to go to the Jim Henson Retrospectacle Press Conference, especially because I missed out on tickets to the actual concerts. But I do know that the best way to describe it came when I was telling colleagues at work. All you can really say to communicate the gravity of the awesomeness of getting a chance to be in the presence of such iconic puppeteers, entertainment industry gurus, Kiwi legends and the puppets themselves is that THIS is something I will be telling my grandchildren one day when they too watch The Muppets. I blog not to become rich, or famous, or succesful - heavens: I could SO many different careers which could achieve these goals with much less sweat and blood. I do it to create and for moments like this. These magic moments I can pass down to another generation as a story, long after blogs have fallen out of use. And, of course, they'll ask "Grandma, what's blogging?"