Everybody remembers the original Fraggle Rock:
Fraggle Rock (also known as Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock or Fraggle Rock with Jim Henson’s Muppets) is a British/American/Canadian children’s live action puppet television series about interconnected societies of Muppet creatures, created by Jim Henson.
Fraggle Rock was co-produced by British television company Television South (TVS), the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, U.S. pay television service Home Box Office and Henson Associates. Unlike Sesame Street, which had been created for a single market and later adapted for international markets, Fraggle Rock was intended from the start to be an international production and the whole show was constructed with this in mind.
It ran for a number of years and was one of the first HBO original series and still holds up with a lot of people even today.
But not a lot of people remember the animated series NBC did shortly after the original series came to an end in 1987:
I mean, that intro alone is very similar to the one from the original series.
Produced by the same team behind Muppet Babies, the animated series followed the same formula as the HBO original live-action series, including the same theme song but arranged by Margaret Loesch. Many episodes consisted of two 15-minute stories; however, a few presented a single full 30-minute plot. The animated version carried on the tradition of original songs, with at least one tune per episode (including a few recycled from the puppet version, such as “Let Me Be Your Song”).
In its original run, the animated episodes were book-ended by footage of the original puppet version of Uncle Traveling Matt, introducing the show from Doc’s workshop. The animated version of Fraggle Rock was cancelled after only one season (13 episodes).
The most noticeable difference is that unlike the live-action version, the animated version of Doc is shown from the neck down, much like Nanny on Muppet Babies.
So, okay, it seems like you have everything that made the original show worked but just in animated form and you could actually see the lower halves of all the characters instead of just the tops. So, how come this didn’t last long?
Well, for one thing, the original series aired on HBO and back in the mid 80s, HBO was not as easy to get as it is today. The original series didn’t start airing nationally until TNT picked it up in reruns shortly after it ended and then later on Disney Channel in 1992 so the original series wasn’t as widely available to most people so, kids may not have had full knowledge of these characters before watching the animated show…but then again, the show was never that complicated to understand, a bunch of creatures live under the house of an inventor and his dog and they have misadventures, you really don’t need that much more to understand.
But then again, that’s another reason why the show didn’t succeed, there wasn’t that much to distinguish it from the original series, a few little tweaks to the show could’ve been done to differentiate from the original show and I think that’s part of the reason why it never took off because there was nothing new or exciting about it to change it up.
Well, okay, there was one thing that changed, the voice cast for the Fraggles. In the original series, you had many of the Jim Henson puppeteers Jerry Nelson, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goetz, Richard Hunt, Jim Henson, providing the voices for the characters but in the animated series, we’ve got a whole recast with Bob Bergen, Townsend Coleman, Pat Pinney, Mona Marshall, Barbara Goodson, sometimes a radical change in voice casting can really hurt a show and this is one of those times because hearing a lot of these actors in this and the original series, there is definitely a vast difference in voices.
I will say the animation does look pretty good, looking very much in tone with Muppet Babies but overall, the animated Fraggle Rock series just came off as a missed opportunity, I think that they could’ve used this series to do more than what the original TV series was capable of doing but in this show, they didn’t really do all that much for the animated series and now it’s a forgotten piece of 80s animation history.
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