Friday, September 16, 2011


Early Animal, as designed by Henson

If the rest of the Electric Mayhem seem to lack energy, that is because their drummer more than compensates in that department.  Unlike the other four who were inspired by specific musicians, Animal is just the basic concept of the wild drummer.  He is the unbridled id who only exists to make noise.  His puppeteer Frank Oz described Animal as consisting of five basic ideas: "Sex, sleep, food, drums, and pain."  And more often than not, food and drums are combined.

Down! Back! Sit!

His spastic nature has made him the most popular member of the Electric Mayhem.  And they certainly need him on their team.  He makes sure they never stop rocking.

Even when forced to perform classical music, Animal refuses to be tamed.

Animal's not gonna make it, man...

Like his name suggests, Animal only functions on basic primal urges.  He is not very complex, which may contribute to his popularity.  Everyone can recognize what Animal is all about.  He does not hide his true nature and, in some ways, is like the Muppet Theater's resident pet.  He is kept chained up in the basement, only allowed out to perform his art.  And despite his unhinged persona, he is quite the talented drummer.  Like Zoot, Animal had his own personal musician who supplied the music, and the puppeteers had to be careful to match his flailing drumsticks to the actual beat.

Ronnie Verrell, the man behind the Animal

Animal will appear many more times throughout the Muppet canon, sometimes playing crucial roles, but more often trotted out to provide comic relief.  It is simple humor to have this monstrous puppet devour and destroy, and that was the humor Henson liked best.  However, Animal's talent allowed him to break away from the repetitive nature of other famous Muppet monsters.  In the final clip, Animal's skills are pushed to the test as he must focus his energy and beat legendary drummer Buddy Rich in a drum battle.

In classic Celtic mythology, there exists the stock character of "the wild man," a shaggy individual who lives outside of society, both physically and mentally.  He behaves like a creature of the forest and attacks humans, unable to control his urges.  He is not welcomed in civilization and is treated as being below humanity.  His language is basic, often resorting to primal yells and grunts.  His skin is tanned and his teeth are sharp.  He is identified by his bright red hair.  Sound like anyone we know?

Don't worry, he's just upset about missing the Renoir exhibit at the National Gallery.

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