Award-winning cartoonist Guy Gilchrist reflecting on the new Muppet TV show, Jim Henson and how the muppets have maintained their enduring popularity.
At the age of 24, Gilchrist was chosen, alongside his brother Brad, by Muppet creator Jim Henson to draw a Muppet comic strip. Gilchrist went on to publish from 1981 to 1986 in over 660 newspapers worldwide. Since 1995, he has written and drawn the syndicated classic, Nancy, which is published in 400 newspapers worldwide and read by over 67 million people.
Although Gilchrist has written more than 40 children’s books, become a traveling motivational speaker, worked in various tv shows and opened his own international publishing company and cartoonist academy, his work on the muppets is still what most fans know him for.
“As I travel the country and do all of my motivational speaking, the muppets are still a huge part of my life,” Gilchrist said.
“They were what got me started and they never really left. I can’t go anywhere and no matter what project I am working on today, and for the last 20 years I’ve been doing Nancy, there are still people who tell me, ‘Hey will you draw me Kermit, will you draw me Miss Piggy.’ People have grown up on it.”
Gilchrist believes that if it was not for the mentoring given to him by Henson and the comic, his career would not have had the success it has today. Gilchrist remembers Henson as his “creative father” who not only taught him about art, but also about the business. He taught him that keeping the characters popular was based on being discreet with their presentation.
“Jim wanted to make sure that he never got sick of the characters, that we only put so much out there of the characters, per year, so that you would enjoy the characters.The characters were a part of your life and they would never go away,” said Gilchrist.
“That pretty much guaranteed the longevity of the characters. Millions of people can’t wait to see this show. Had the muppets been in everything, in every licensed product and had been in your face for the last 30 years, the excitement wouldn’t be there, but they haven’t been.”
Gilchrist recalls Henson taking personal interest on the comic. They spent a lot of time talking about the script, how to write it and how to parody other comics. It was this personal involvement by Henson that made the muppet comic strip what it is today
“Jim loved the comic and he made sure that he was a big part of it with me, and it was something really, really special. We are still talking about it all these years later, it became something special to the world,” Gilchrist said.
“Jim was really careful on projects he worked on. He wouldn’t take on too much and everything had to be quality that excited him.”
The new Muppet TV show is expected to air on Tuesday, Sept. 22, in ABC. The show will be a Modern Family, Park and Recs type “mockumentary” centering around the backstage of the fictional late night show, “Up Late with Miss Piggy,” starring Miss Piggy. The show will delve into the personal lives of muppets characters as never before seen. Gilchrist believes that the people involved are well-prepared to make this a successful show.
“They are all new people that have been trained by people who were close to Jim. The writing is just tremendous “Gilchrist said.
Gilchrist points out that, because of how the Muppets function, even in changing times, they will continue to remain relevant. It is due to their ability to mock society that the muppets have no problem in keeping up with modern times.
“The muppets have always parodied whatever is going on in society. All the muppets have their own twitter accounts and instagrams by the way. This show is going to parody that right now, the reality shows, the documentaries and mockumentaries,” Gilchrist said.
“Whenever the muppets do anything, it’s a special event. Every movie Jim has worked on has been special event. It’s a dysfunctional family and they all love each other.
As for future, Gilchrist does not plan on slowing down. He plans to continue traveling and drawing. He attributes his success to God and believes his life has truly been a blessing.
“I’ve worked on the Muppets, to the Ninja Turtles, Looney Tunes, Tiny Tunes and of course Nancy for all this years. I started up with nothing. I had no formal education in art. Everything that has happened to me, has been incredible and a blessing. So I like to go around and talk about the gifts that God gives us and how we can best use them to brighten the lives of other people and you don’t have to be famous to do it,” Gilchrist said.
Gilchrist hopes to come to Erie one day and share his story as a speaker to the Mercyhurst community.
For contact and to know more about Gilchrist, visit nancyandsluggo.com.