Apr 2, 2014
Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Chickens
The Muppet Musicians of Bremen (1972)
Most recent appearance...
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Best known role...
Interchangeable chickens; Gonzo's obsessions
"Bawk bawk bawk."
WHO ARE THE CHICKENS?
The Chickens are musical, talented and singing feathered birds of The Muppet Show and the Muppet movies. They usually communicate with squawks, although they have been known to speak at times. They debuted with the Muppets in 1972 when the first group of chickens was seen in the Tales From Muppetland special The Muppet Musicians of Bremen. These chickens were precursors to the chickens from The Muppet Show, with slightly different eyes. T.R. Rooster is one of the main characters of the special and would later appear on The Muppet Show as well.
The Chickens would go on to become one of the most often seen species on The Muppet Show. In the episode guest starring Rich Little, a group of real, live chickens were featured auditioning for Gonzo's dancing chicken act. This was the episode that first showed Gonzo's strange attraction to the birds. During the third season of the show, the chickens were rebuilt with more defined eyes. One of the most prominent chickens (and one of the few with a name), was Camilla, distinguished by her blue eyelids. Although Camilla was previously seen and Gonzo mentioned her name when attempting to audition her and another chicken named Nellie for Liberace's concert in episode 309, Camilla and Gonzo had their first date in episode 318.
Various chickens were added to the eclectic cast over the years, including a black rooster, a small yellow chick, and the full-bodied Giant Chicken who made a few appearances on The Muppet Show and Muppet specials. The chickens also showed off their impressive musical prowess on more than a few occasions, including performances of "Baby Face" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Out of My Hair." Chickens have also been known to play the piano and chimes and perform back up clucking for the likes of Gonzo, Rowlf, and Kermit.
The Chickens were very prominent in episode 321, where the Muppet Theater was struck with an outbreak of Cluckitis, a disease that turned the whole cast into chickens. Throughout the episode the chickens/Muppets continued with the show with chicken versions of Veterinarian's Hospital and Bear on Patrol. Thankfully guest star Roger Miller was able to roll with it and not lay an egg. Cluckitis seemed to strike the Muppets again when Fozzie, Gonzo, and Pepe turned into chickens while presenting at the D23 Expo in 2009.
Chickens have appeared in every Muppet movie to date. In The Muppet Movie, Camilla had a featured role alongside Gonzo. In The Great Muppet Caper, chickens inhabit the Happiness Hotel (along with every other creature imaginable). In The Muppets Take Manhattan, the chickens cluck the "William Tell Overture" for Gonzo's performance at the Aquacade in Michigan. Chickens were seen in various places (and eaten by Rizzo) in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets From Space. The big break for Camilla and the chickens came in The Muppets when they performed "Forget You" during the Muppet Telethon. Most recently, they can be seen doing makeup and showing up in Muppets Most Wanted.
The chickens have appeared in nearly every Muppet production since 1972 and are a crucial part to the Muppet brand of humor. Chickens have also appeared prominently on Sesame Street for many, many years. Their appearances could be due to other factors, however, as Kermit once said "You have to treat the chickens pretty well because they've got a very tough union." Whatever the case, the chickens continue to appear with the Muppets in their movies and videos like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Blue Danube Waltz" as well as on TV appearances and merchandise. And that's no yolk!
WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED THE CHICKENS?
Chickens fill out a crucial niche in the Muppet world: random animals. Chickens waddle proudly alongside rats, penguins, pigs, bears, and other various things as a staple of Muppet productions. You would be hard pressed to find something Muppet-related without chickens in it--or at least chicken jokes and references. Jim Henson clearly thought that chickens were funny (because they are) and the fowl feather friends haven't stopped showing up since 1972. Also, what would Gonzo pine over without chickens all over the place? Cows? Come on.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org