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Of all the brands that exist under the Disney banner, The Muppets tend to get overlooked in favor of names like Marvel and Star Wars. And yet, the puppets created by Jim Henson have some truly devoted fans One of those fans is Dan Lanigan, the host of the new Disney+ series Prop Culture who dedicated an episode of the newly launched series to The Muppets first foray onto the big screen, The Muppet Movie.
One of the movie items on display in the episode is a costume worn by Miss Piggy, including a string of pearls, something which she is never really without. Muppet Designer Amy Van Gilder reveals in the Prop Culture episode that the reason Piggy wears pearls isn't simply because she's a high class pig, but also because they were necessary for technical reasons, as they disguised Piggy's construction. According to Van Gilder...
The pearls were serving two purposes. One was her lady-like look and the other was to hide the seam of the neck going into the body.
Today, a little CGI trickery could be used to blend the head of as puppet with the body, but in the 1970s and '80s that wasn't exactly an option. It makes perfect sense when you hear it that the pearls, which are always perfectly tight around Miss Piggy's neck and never move, are really just there to enhance the illusion of life.
Miss Piggy's pearls are just one of the neat tricks you'll learn about when watching The Muppet Movie episode of Prop Culture. There's a lot that needed to be done to make those Muppets feel real when set against live actors, and seeing how that was all done is quite impressive.
When you look at the rest of the Muppets, you realize this neck seam problem was an issue with nearly every character design. This is why many of the Muppets are animals or monsters with fur, as the "hair" does the same job of hiding where the head and neck meet. It's also why Kermit has that collar. Miss Piggy, being a pig, and having the closest thing to skin as any Muppet, didn't have that option. Without something around her neck she was going to look more like a puppet than a pig.
Prop Culture's first season covers eight films that can be found on Disney+, and for the most part they're not the biggest titles on the service. Films like Tron and The Muppet Movie will certainly have their fans, but clearly part of the idea here was to use the series to introduce Disney+ subscribers to movies they might not know well. Perhaps after watching the episode, they'll jump into the movie itself.
All eight of the films explored in Prop Culture are worth watching, as are the eight episodes of the series itself, (You can check out the series buy signing up for a free Disney+ trial here). They're fantastic documentaries on the making of some iconic films.