Believe it or not, there are still a few Muppet specials and shows that I have not seen! Like any good Muppet fan, I had heard of 1968’s Hey Cinderella! but I had not watched it until now. It is a must see for anyone who likes the Muppets. Although it has received mixed reviews, I thought it was delightful and consider it one of the most important bricks in the foundation of the Muppets. The history behind Hey CInderalla! is almost as interesting as the show itself and involves several characters that we will see throughout the years. Michael Davis did a great job recording the history behind the show in his book Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. It all started with another infamous children’s puppet production. Jon Stone (director, writer, and producer who worked on and helped create Sesame Street) and Tom Whedon (who would go on to work with The Electric Company and is the father of Joss Whedon) had been let go from Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. They moved on to pitch the idea of a children’s television show based on Snow White to Jim Henson. At this time, Henson had enjoyed success with Sam and Friends, multiple commercials, and appearances on The Jimmy Dean Show. The show had a pretty rocky start and was over before it began. It switched from CBS to ABC, jumped from Snow White to Cinderella, and was changed from an unaired pilot to an hour-long television special. Could it be that such challenges doomed the special to fall flat and bore audiences? It was actually produced in 1968, aired in Canada in 1969, and finally aired in the ol’ US of A in 1970. Personally, I think the special is hilarious! As a kid, I would have loved the jokes and quips. I truly enjoy the wit of the Muppets and this special is often overlooked, but contains some great jokes and examples of the early talents of Jon Stone, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Jerry Nelson. In this version of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, Prince Arthur Charming (he will later become King Arthur), is pressured by his father, King Goshposh, to marry. Prince Arthur (Robin Ward) goes out to the royal garden and confides in Kermit that all the girls he knows are snobs. Cue Cinderella (Belinda Montgomery) who strikes up a conversation with Arthur, who she believes to be the royal gardener. King Goshposh decides to throw a masked ball (in place of a masquerade ball…wokka-wokka!) in order to find a suitable wife for the prince. He agrees to invite everyone in the kingdom (besides frogs). He decrees that all guests will bring him a gift and he enlists his right hand man, Featherstone, to pass out a free geranium to each guest. Little did the king know that Arthur and Cinderella had each agreed to wear a geranium at the ball so they could recognize each other. With a little help from Kermit, a full bodied monster puppet named Splurge, and her Fairy Godmother, Cinderella has a suitable dress, coach, and carriage and makes it to the ball. She manages to dance with Arthur and hit it off with him, but does not realize the prince and gardener are the same person. The prince also thinks Cinderella stood him up since everyone is wearing a mask and a geranium. At his father’s insistence, Arthur spends months searching for the mysterious princess from the ball. He even takes out an ad in the paper, but Cinderella, forever loyal to Arthur the gardener, refuses to answer the ad. Luckily, he starts going door to door and things are cleared up. Between scenes, the story cuts away from the main plot and features the Fairy Godmother (Joyce Gordon) performing in a magic show…well…she is BOMBING the magic show. She keeps trying to turn a pumpkin into a magic carriage. Unfortunately, she manages to turn it into anything but a carriage, including a telephone booth! Her mishaps remind me of Fozzie Bear trying to tell his jokes on stage. Even though it is a funny bit, it just does not work for me. It seems to simply lengthen the special and distracts from the plot. There is no explanation why or where she is performing. When Cinderella asks for a carriage, the Fairy Godmother avoids the subject until she finally admits that is not her strongest spell. Overall, the Fairy Godmother does not miss a beat with her delivery. She has some of the best jokes of the special, but a more traditional role would have been best. Unlike other Muppet specials, this includes only two songs. Jon Stone brought on his friend Joe Raposo to compose the music. Even though the songs included in this special are not his best work, Raposo will have a long career with the Muppets and Sesame Street, providing some of the most memorable Muppet songs such as “Bein’ Green,” “C is for Cookie,” and “Doin’ the Pigeon” to name just a few! Among the other “firsts,” this special marks the first time that Kermit dons his infamous fringed collar and is depicted as a frog. In previous appearances, he was a lizard. The special was filmed in 1968, but would not air in the United States until 1970, which was after Sesame Street had debuted and featured Kermit as a Frog. Feel free to use that factoid at a party to impress all of your friends! This special also marked the first controversy that would surround the Muppets. King Goshposh is seen with an actually smoking cigar and the special was sponsored by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. It included many commercial lead-ins and segues by Kermit the Frog. It was reported that Kermit would no longer be featured on Sesame Street since he was helping to hock cigarettes, but he did return and made future appearances. This special serves as a nice double feature to the Tales from Muppetland: The Frog Prince. The overall look and tone of both specials are the same. Several costumes and sets are also shared between the two and Kermit plays a similar role. The characters and puppets of the king are the same and Featherstone makes an appearance in both shows. Featherstone is fairly sarcastic in this one. It is an interesting change from the stoic “yes man” I am used to. Keep an eye out for King Goshposh’s human legs at the beginning. It is one of the weirdest things I have ever seen in a Muppet production! The Muppet-isms that have carried over from this special are countless. The “At the Dance” skit, a mainstay of the first season of The Muppet Show, can be traced to the masked ball in this show. Basically, the main characters are shown quickly and in multiple aspects of the ball. The entire sequence stacks gag after gag. The musicians at the ball wear Muppet style masks and gloves. It is a very basic and simple version of the same technique that will later be used in The Muppet Musicians of Bremen. Although some of the jokes are groaners and Cinderella speaks with a very thick Canadian accent, I really enjoyed this special. I feel it was an important special and without it, IF Sesame Street managed to still be created, it would be vastly different than what countless fans grew up with. Hey Cinderella! gets 2.5 out of 5 rubber chickens! Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.