Some of your favorite Muppets characters have surprisingly emotional backstories.

The Muppets have been a cultural institution for more than 40 years. But their creators had never sat down to talk about their work.

Since "The Muppet Show" debuted in the 1970s, there have been eight feature films, reboots of the show, and a number of specials. Their legacy is undeniable, with each generation finding inspiration and meaning from the puppet characters first created by Jim Henson.

But in the new documentary "Muppet Guys Talking," Frank Oz (creator of Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, Animal, and Sam Eagle) reveals that in all those years he and his fellow Muppet performers had never discussed where it all came from.


"You have fellow employees, how often do you get together and talk about work?" Oz says.

Oz's wife Victoria Labalme overheard her husband sharing stories about his past and came up with the idea for the film, saying it would be a rare chance to give fans of the Muppets a look behind the curtain — but also an opportunity to get these creative genius minds together in one room.

"There was no agenda," Oz says. "We just showed up and started talking."

Instead of going through major distributors or movie theaters, they decided to release the documentary independently through a website they created themselves. "It gave us an opportunity to build a community," Labalme says.

What ensued was an intimate and touching chat between five close friends who were often as surprised as the film's viewers when they learned in real time where so much of the Muppet magic originated.

The Muppet characters' origin stories are surprisingly complex.

The opening of the documentary reveals that, at the height of the show's popularity in 1978, an estimated 235 million people were tuning in each week in 102 counties to experience the adventures of Kermit, Miss Piggy, and their merry band. More than half of those viewers were adults.

Part of why the show resonated so much with adults, as well as kids, was because of the creators' approach. They were focused on telling great stories first. And great stories need great characters that mirror humanity back at the audience.

Oz recognizes that humanity in the characters he's created. He's said that Miss Piggy may be the most "three-dimensional" of his Muppet characters, while Fozzie the Bear is surprisingly the most tragic.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

Miss Piggy is a complicated character, full of seeming contradictions, impulses, and conflicts. Oz initially imagined her as "a truck driver who wanted to be a woman," before developing a more complex biography of a girl whose father died and whose mother neglected her. Piggy was forced to enter beauty pageants from a young age and is continually seeking stardom and fame to compensate for her insecurities, which are often funneled into her relationship with Kermit.

Meanwhile, Fozzie is the aspiring comedian who left home to pursue his dream but never lands a joke. "All of the characters have a key to the playhouse, except for Fozzie," he says. These characters' histories are as complex as Oz himself. "I was a very shy person. I was internal. To a great degree I still am introverted," he says. "The puppets protected me from being rejected."

Photo by Antony Jones/Getty Images.

Audiences responded to the humanity and vulnerability in these characters — and loved it.

It wasn't just Piggy and Fozzie either. In the film, the other performers (Fran Brill, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, and Bill Barretta) revealed the inspirations of their famous characters, where are deeply personal for all of them. Their characters were based on family members or transforming personal "flaws" into something more "lovable" for a broader audience.

The humanity of these characters resonated with audiences in a meaningful way and it was moving for the creators. All the Muppet performers agreed that there was something special about seeing people almost instantly forget about the person involved and start talking directly to a puppet as if it were a living, breathing, independent being.

They always sought to entertain and tell the best stories they could, but they quickly realized that disappearing into these characters gave millions of viewers the chance to connect with something special that was intrinsically a piece of themselves. "You don't have the limitation of your own body you can become any character," Oz says. "You can become any character you can put on."

That magical connection between creator, puppet, and audience is as special and unique as each of the Muppet characters — and the people behind them. And it's what sustained the legacy for all these years.

Photo by Jeff Christiansen/Flickr

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

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The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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