Of all the publications available to kids in the 80s I’m not sure I can find one that is so absolutely perfect as Muppet Magazine. I’ve written about the publication before, but I think it’s worth reiterating that I never had the opportunity to flip through one back in the day. In fact, I didn’t even learn that there even WAS a Muppet Magazine until I started this website and found some other folks online sharing pictures of their old copies they had lying around. Over the past 14 years I’ve managed to put together an almost complete run of the magazine (still hunting for three of the twenty five issues as of this writing), and I’ve been meaning to dig into more of my collection and share the wonderful content that I really feel is a true hidden gem online.
Every time I crack the cover on one of these issues I’m reminded just how perfect this magazine was for kids. Not only are there a ton of fun interviews with the child stars of the 80s (from Ricky Schroder to Soleil Moon Frye or Jennifer Connelly to the cast of the Facts of Life), but there are a metric ton of radical toy, cartoon and products ads from all kinds of huge franchises of the decade. Star Wars, Thundercats, Masters of the Universe, the Go Bots, She-Ra, Fraggle Rock, Robo Force, Hot Wheels, Care Bears, you name it, Muppet Magazine had it. The magazine ran from the beginning of 1983 through to the middle of 1989, so it contains a gigantic swath of 80s era fun. Each issue featured movie, music and book reviews, celebrity interviews and photo layouts, comics, pull-out posters, activities, and more Muppet-centric jokes than you can shake a waggling Kermit arm at.
Today I thought it would be fun to take a gander at the Fall 1985 issue of the magazine (Volume 3, Number 4 for those keeping track at home). This one features a cover with the irascible Soleil Moon Frye ofs Punky Brewster fame, and is yet another issue of a 1985 magazine that had her on the cover. This issue also features a couple of other interviews, one with a young Explorer’s era Ethan Hawke, and another that I am super excited to share that features Alasdair Gillis from the amazing Nickelodeon series You Can’t Do That on Television.
So, one of the really cool aspects of the magazine was that they assigned a bunch of columns to the Muppets themselves, even if the assignments didn’t always make perfect sense. I love the idea, for example, of Floyd from the Electric Mayhem running down all of the latest music news. I mean, reading through these pages I can totally hear it in his voice (and yeah, I fully realize they they’re actually written by the listed “as told by” contributors.) Oh and though I’ve decided to group all of the advertisements below, there is this one for Choose Your Own Adventure books that was sandwiched in between the two Music review pages…
Like I said, not all of the columns make as much sense though. Weirdly they have Janice and Rowlf looking at movies & TV and books respectively. While I love the idea of Janice at the Movies or Rowlf curling up with a good book, I feel like they’re both more musically inclined. Why not Statler and Waldorf at the movies? Or Sam the Eagle on books?
But getting back on track in terms of connecting Muppet characters to content in the magazine, there is a great series in 1985 where Dr. Teeth (aka Marianne Meyer) was showcasing current MTV superstars and their Muppet spoof counterparts. In this issue he takes a look at Madonna during her Material Girl era and shares a two-page, pull-out poster of Ms. Piggy as Moidonna!
There was also a great take on fan letters to the magazine. There were actually three sections of the magazine devoted to fan mail, one with direct questions about the Muppets or the articles that Fozzie answers, an advice column that Ms Piggy handles and the rad “Ask Dr. Honeydew” section where Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (aka Frederick Newman) answers all kinds of in depth scientific questions from kids. Like in this issue where he discusses the controversial question, “Where do fish sticks come from?”
As for the main articles, let’s start by taking a look at this piece where Ms. Piggy (aka Katy Dobbs & Louise Gikow) has a conversation with Soleil Moon Frye about Halloween! I wonder if there are any pictures of Frye dressed up as Elvira/Cleopatra floating around on the internet? I love in the end of this piece they decide to go to Kermit’s Halloween party dressed up as each other, so you get Piggy Brewster and Piggy Moon Frye…
The next interview I want to share is this piece where Gonzo (aka Cathi Rosenberg-Turow) sits down with Ethan Hawke and grills him about his trip to outer space in the Explorers.
Honestly, and I have zero proof of this, but I have a very strong feeling that a lot of the actor’s responses to the interview questions are fabricated for the magazine. My guess is that the authors took some liberties with those. But really, aren’t we all here for the photo-shoots anyway? I love that they went out of their way to make Gonzo’s version of the Thunder Road from the Explorers.
By far, my favorite interview in this issue features Alasdair Gillis from You Can’t Do That on Television. I was so shocked to see this when I first flipped through this issue as ephemera featuring the cast and crew from this series is so rare (even though the show was a huge hit and Nickelodeon was a giant, popular success at the time.) Also, besides Moose, Alasdair is my total favorite from that series. Bits I love from this Kermit (aka Martha Benezet) led interview (that actually seem like they have real answers by Gillis) is that he confirms anecdotes I’ve heard that the cast weren’t really recognized for their work in their home country the same way they we reacted to them here in the US. Even though the series was a Canadian production, it wasn’t played on TV there as much as it ran here in the States and I think that went a long way to grounding those kid actors in a good sense of reality. It seems like most of the kids from the show grew up to have completely normal lives which is awesome considering how many kid actors go down the drain here in the US. I also love that the photo shoot involved Ms. Piggy getting slimed! Now I wish there was a crossover where the Muppets guested on YCDTOTV, well, actually guesting and not just popping up in the “<insert movie or TV show here> has been preempted to bring you this episode of YCDTOTV” that opened each episode. I’m pretty sure Ms. Piggy and Kermit pop up on a ton of those…
Again, as I mentioned above, each issue of the magazine featured a short 4 to 6 page comic story in the vein of MAD Magazine where the Muppets typically spoofed some big movie or television series. This issue features our felt pals taking on the Go Bots…
I didn’t have time to scan every single page from this issue, so I skipped over some of the other columns like the Advice from Piggy, Facts About (called Mondo Muppet and this issue was all about hair), and the activities. So last, but certainly not least, let’s take a look at some of the rad advertisements from this issue.
First up we have yet another fruit snacks ad (see my long-winded round up of Sunkist and Fruit Corners ads I did last month for a ton more), this time featuring Sunkist Fruit Rolls and their Floppy Flat Flyers promotion. And speaking of the Go Bots, the back cover of this issue features one of the coolest Go Bots ads which was a promotion for Nestle Quick where you could win a complete set of Go Bots toys. Man, I wonder what lucky kid won that prize! I adore the fact that the ad prominently features the Psycho toy which is my favorite Go Bot of all time.
Next up we have this two-page spread for Tonka’s Star Fairies toy line. This was a new one to me as I had no idea that Tonka make toys aimed specifically at young girls. I guess these and their weird Spiral Zone toys were their shot at branching out past toy cars and tucks. This magazine actually featured a miniature, but full-length Star Fairies illustrated story book bound into the center.
Soeaking of girl’s advertisements, check that Eva Gitano ad above. Holy finger-less gloves Batman! It’s like the middle school version of the cast from Heathers!
This issue also features a couple of very rad Filmation advertisements featuring the debuts of the second series of Masters of the Universe and the premiere of She-Ra. I’m 90% sure that the He-Man ad was painted by Earl Norem, but I can’t quite nail it down for sure. I love that it features a miss-coloration of Webstor. I guess he was painted green so that he wouldn’t blend in with the cosmic background.
Next up with have a couple of fun ads. The first features the Magic Window line of cartoons on VHS that were packaged with toys and other odd branded merchandise. I love that the Masters of the Universe video came with an electric toothbrush. On the other hand we have this Fraggle Rock ad that features a bunch of fun PVC figurines and school supplies. I wonder what a set of those figurines cost on eBay these days?
And finally we have this amazing two-page advertisement for LJN’s line of ThunderCats toys. The toys in this ad are definitely hand-painted prototypes because the colors on the final figures would be different for sure. In particular, Lion-O’s final toy featured a more baby blue shirt and his sword and glove where way more orange.
So there you go, the Fall 1985 issue of Muppet Magazine. Where there any other publications for kids that you loved more? Let me know in the comments!