Friday, July 18, 2008

Muppet Covers Week, Day 5: The Batman Connection

OK, when I planned to make it Muppets Cover Week this week, it didn't completely escape me that the biggest, most anticipated movie of the summer was coming out today. I saw The Dark Knight at a midnight screening last night and it was absolutely stunning. It's been out for less than 24 hours and it's already broken two box office records, biggest take for midnight screenings and opening in most number of theatres. Mind you, that figure doesn't include the 3am and 6am screenings so all signs point to a blockbuster weekend and it deserves it. It's uncommon for me to actually want a movie to take in obscene oodles of money, but here I'm cheering it on. I'm thinking a 140-something million opening weekend, but I not-so secretly would like it to beat Spider-Man 3's $151M. It's opening to great reviews too: a 4-star review from Ebert, an A from Keith Phipps at the AV Club, and an 82 rating on Metacritic.

So how does this all tie in to the Muppets you ask? The connection is not as far-fetched as one might imagine and I learned some interesting factoids when looking this stuff up. Directly related to Christopher Nolan's reboot of the Batman series, the Jim Henson's Creature Shop worked on some of the visual effects for Batman Begins, most notably the shots of the "memory cloth" that Lucius Fox shows Bruce Wayne, which would later be fashioned into Batman's cape. And check out this bizarrely amusing trailer remix of The Dark Knight... with the Muppets!

And did you know Batman and Superman teamed up to promote the very first season of Sesame Street??

During the early seasons of Sesame Street, Batman and sometimes Robin would pop up in animated shorts to teach kids lessons such as traffic safety, for example. Apparently one Batman and one Superman segment appear on the compilation DVD Sesame Street: Old School, Volume 1. Another cool connection is that Paul Williams, who of course co-wrote all the great music from The Muppet Movie, voiced The Penguin on Batman: The Animated Series!

Muppet Wiki has an entire entry on Batman that points out several Batman references and connections to Jim Henson productions.

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight, I've re-activated all the links to a post I did a couple years ago: Batman vs. Taxman. There you'll find an overly elaborate face-off between the various Batman themes and the Beatles' Taxman, off course all told in cover song form. If you skim the whole post and only download one Batman cover, make it this one:

Skavoovie & The Epitones - Batman [originally by Danny Elfman]
A great ska cover of the Danny Elfman score from Tim Burton's 1989 version of Batman. I still get a big kick out of the fact that Skavoovie & The Epitones are the former band of Boy Howdy's brother!

Here are some more cover songs from films either produced by The Jim Henson Company or worked on by The Jim Henson Creature Shop.

Cars Can Be Blue - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
HORSE the Band - TMNT
For the 1990 live action version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the costumes for the four turtles and Splinter were provided by the Jim Henson Creature Shop. Brian Henson, Jim's son, was chief puppeteer on the film as well as second unit director. The Creature Shop also worked on the second Ninja Turtles film as well, though not the third. Of course, these covers are of the theme to the animated series, not the film. But I just couldn't resist. :)

BC-52's - (Meet) The Flintstones
From the 1994 critically panned live action remake of The Flintstones, the B-52's (uh, cleverly redubbed the BC-52's) covered the main theme in their distinct style. The animatronic puppets in this film were provided by the Creature Shop.

Josefine Cronholm - Close to You [originally by Burt Bacharach and Hal David]
This wonderfully off-kilter cover of the hit song for The Carpenters is from the soundtrack to MirrorMask, a Jim Henson Company production from 2005 directed by Dave McKean and written by Neil Gaiman. Connie Stevens and Fozzie Bear once covered this too on The Muppet Show!

Kelley Polar - Magic Dance [originally by David Bowie]
The Hill Valley Preservation Society - Magic Dance [originally by David Bowie]
One tagline to this 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth was: "Jim Henson, George Lucas and David Bowie take you into a dazzling world of fantasy and adventure". Throw in a young Jennifer Connelly and a screenplay by Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones and you have the makings of an instant cult classic, though the film bombed quite spectacularly at the box office with a TOTAL gross of just under $13 million and a piddly opening weekend of $3.5M. I checked and that's awful even by 1986 standards. Ranking 66th of all the releases that year, Labyrinth was out-grossed by the likes of Friday the 13th Part IV, Police Academy 3: Back in Training, Iron Eagle, House(??), and Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling. While David Bowie wore the tight pants of nightmares, the image that stuck with me most from my childhood was the baby crawling on the ceiling, which creeped me out further when I later saw Trainspotting. Uh, yeah, babies on ceilings freak me out-- thanks Labyrinth! From the recent Life Beyond Mars album of Bowie covers, Croatian-born artist Kelley Polar does an awesome version of Magic Dance, originally sung by David Bowie and his goblin cohorts. Thanks to reader Remi who alerted me to another cover by The Hill Valley Preservation Society, a defunct Atlanta band that covered theme songs of the eighties.

The Coconutz - Everybody Hurts [originally by REM]
Aloha Sex Juice - More Than Words [originally by Extreme]
These two covers performed in Hawaiian are from the soundtrack to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which featured puppets created by the Creature Shop. Don't forget too that writer/star Jason Segel and director Nicholas Stoller are in charge of the forthcoming revival of the Muppet movie franchise. Everybody Hurts is one of three covers translated into Hawaiian by musician Daniel Ho working under the pseudonym The Coconutz. Also covered on the soundtrack by The Coconutz: These Boots Are Made For Walkin' and Nothing Compares 2 U.


Jeremy said...

[Wow, zero comments thus far] I did some searches for "Batman" after watching The Dark Knight last night and found your blog. Been a fan of Mr. Wayne since the Nicolson/Keaton film. Amongst my 1000's of song files and hundreds of CD's I hadn't heard most of your songs. Thanks a bunch, keep it up.

Fongolia said...

Hey thanks! Sometimes the reader-to-comment ratio is discouraging, but a short comment goes a long way. Glad you enjoyed it.

bobbydylansbeard said...

I thought I was the only one completely creeped out by babies on ceilings. I was thinking of Trainspotting before I read the next sentence. So creepy...