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Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Fraggles Of Fraggle Rock

When you see a hole in the wall, have you ever wondered what might be on the other side?  

This is a question that I'm sure many people have wondered.  Especially when they're children.

Let's face it.  Children are curious creatures.  They're always exploring new things, wanting to know everything about everything under the sun.  That's just the way they are.

I'll admit that I was one of those 'curious kids'.

Whenever we moved into a new home (which in my earliest childhood, we ended up doing quite a bit), I would always run up and down the staircases in between floors, exploring every nook, every cranny.  The one house where I spent most of my childhood was one cool place.  Sure, the roof leaked, and the wallpaper when we moved in looked like it was manufactured in the 1880s instead of the 1980s, but the place was huge.  Fourteen rooms, three was like the best house for hide and seek if ever I saw one.

Of course, not every discovery was one that was grand.  Some of them even caused me bodily harm.

For instance, I thought that it would be a fantastic idea to explore the basement area of our new house, not realizing that the stairs were fashioned out of wood, and weren't exactly the most stable.  The first step I took, I immediately rolled down that flight of stairs, cracking my head against the rock wall.  I think I hit the wall so hard that a piece of the wall actually was knocked out in the impact!  It's a wonder that I didn't end up with a concussion, to be perfectly honest.  I think the only injury that I did sustain was a huge goose egg on the back of my noggin.  As far as I know, I had no permanent after-effects from the fall, but needless to say that my dad's first project in that basement was reinforcing the staircase in the basement!

Then there was the time that I wanted to explore our third floor attic (which at the time we moved in doubled as my eldest sister's bedroom prior to her moving out), and what none of us knew was that the attic was home to a hornet's nest that was STILL ACTIVE.  I nearly got sister got stung twice...yeah, it wasn't a fun situation.  Within a couple of weeks, the nest was removed, but it took me a good two years before I headed upstairs to the attic again.

(Yeah, that home was big, but it was also a major fixer-upper.)

Of course, there were lots of positive finds too.  There were tons of treasures in the basement, and I would spend hours in there going through them (well, after the stairs were fixed).  And once I overcame my fear of the attic, I realized that the third floor window had a PERFECT view of the Canada Day fireworks.  Bonus!

So, as you can see, my curiosity netted some rewards in addition to pain...funny how life works.  It was all about calculated risk.  Mind you, when I was a kid, I had trouble calculating long division problems let alone risks.  But it's something we get better with as we age, I think.

I guess in one way, I kind of lived up to the name of a character in a television program that I used to enjoy watching right around the time we first moved into the house I talked about.

The little guy above is a guy who they call 'Uncle Traveling Matt'.  Okay, so maybe the traveling part doesn't quite fit.  I am an uncle, and my name is Matt, so that's two out of three!  But, I always liked him.  And, not just because he had the same name as me.

Well, okay, maybe that was a part of it.

Anyway, Traveling Matt (named after the camera technique 'traveling matte', which inserts a foreground object into a prerecorded background image) would often head out into the world of 'Outer Space', where he would send his nephew a series of postcards, detailing his experiences observing the race known as the 'Silly Creatures'.  His resourcefulness and bravery sometimes gets overshadowed by his klutziness, but other than that, he manages to captivate his nephew and his friends with tales of the outside world, and was responsible for bringing in the delicious treat of radishes for everyone in the colony to munch on.

And, Uncle Traveling Matt's adventures written in postcards to his beloved nephew Gobo were just one of the many features in this Jim Henson brainchild that entertained millions of children all over the world.

Down at Fraggle Rock, it was a never ending party.  Well, never-ending until the show stopped making new episodes.

Can you believe that it's been twenty-nine years since Fraggle Rock debuted on television?  With the first episode airing on January 10, 1983, and with new episodes being filmed well into 1987, Fraggle Rock aired on several channels all over the world.  If you were in the United States, you could watch the show on HBO. In Canada, CBC held the broadcasting rights.  If you grew up in New Zealand, you could watch the show on TV1, while ITV was where the British children could find the program.  The reason being that the show was a joint production between the United States, Canada, and Britain.

A spin-off animated series was commissioned after the original show ceased production, and aired on NBC during the 1987/88 season.

Anyone who has ever watched Fraggle Rock knows what the show is about.  It's about a group of creatures known as 'Fraggles' who live in a system of caves deep under the surface of the ground.  A home that they have dubbed 'Fraggle Rock'.

Fraggles in general are easy-going, carefree creatures.  While they do have a rather easy life, each one has a specific task that they are responsible for to keep the civilization going.  Some of their favourite activities in the depths of 'Fraggle Rock' are exploring their surroundings, sharing dreams by touching their heads together, eating radishes, snacking on the radish-flavoured building blocks that the Doozers build and rebuild, engaging in conversations with a trash heap, and avoiding the dreaded Gorgs as they scurry through their vegetable garden.

But I loved Fraggle Rock.  The show really was a great show for kids to watch, as it taught children a lot of life lessons about spirituality, social conflict, personal growth, and dealing with prejudice, just to name a few.

I for one was a huge fan of the show.  I never missed one episode.  I even had the collectable Fraggle Rock toys that came with the Happy Meals at McDonald's.  I remember even wanting one of the Fraggle puppets, as I had one clear favourite of the bunch.

But really, all five of the main Fraggles I could find something to identify with, and all five Fraggles have given me one personality trait that I can apply to my own identity.

So, let's meet the Fraggles, shall we?

First, there's Gobo, who happens to be the nephew of Uncle Traveling Matt, and who happens to be the gp-between in describing 'Outer Space' to the other Fraggles.  He was voiced by Jerry Nelson.  And the personality trait that I ended up inheriting from him is his reluctance to be controlled by friendships.  I mean, yes, Gobo's friends meant the world to him, but he also had the need to separate himself from what his friends were doing.  He wanted his own identity true to himself.  In a lot of ways, I am the same.  I don't mind hanging out with friends, and doing things with them, but I like to have my own personal space as well.  Maybe this explains why Gobo used to have a whole bunch of solo adventures where he would wander the many caves of 'Fraggle Rock'.

Next, we have Mokey, who was voiced by Kathryn Mullen.  Mokey was probably my second favourite Fraggle in the whole group.  For one, the fact that she was my favourite colour definitely helped...but she also had one of the warmest personalities out of all of the Fraggles.  She was almost like one of those new-age gurus with her robe and her love of creativity.  As someone who enjoys writing and creative stuff, this is something that I can definitely identify with, though not the most important.  No, what Mokey and I have in common is the fact that we both try to see the good in everyone.  Some may accuse me of giving people too many chances to redeem themselves when they goof up.  Heck, I openly admit to it in some cases.  But, I'm not the type of person who just dismisses people at first impression.  I really try to find something good in someone and try to latch on to that quality to make them open up.  Sometimes it backfires, and I end up making an enemy, but that's a rarity.  In a lot of cases, I do try to find at least one positive quality in everyone and everything, and I think Mokey does the same.

One might say that our next Fraggle, Boober, may be the anti-Mokey in a sense.  Voiced by Dave Goelz, the one word I could best describe Boober as is...well...grumpy.  He also talks in a way that he may suffer from some form of Fraggle depression.  Always possessing a negative attitude, and always worrying, Boober seems more happy in the companionship of the socks he washes than other people.  Yet, there's one thing that Boober and I share that might surprise you.  We've both had doubts in what we're capable of.  I know I have probably kicked myself down more times than I care to know, even though in the grand scheme of things, there are some skills that I am proficient in.  Same deal with Boober.  Even though he goes around with a Fraggle Downer attitude, he is the best chef in all of Fraggle Rock, has medical skills, does everyone's laundry, and can sing the blues like nobody else can.  Some may see it as menial labour, but Boober really did have a lot of skills, and he really had no reason to feel down on himself at all.  Unless of course, that's what he wanted to be like...who can say, really?

Next comes Red, voiced by Karen Prell.  I have to admit, while I enjoyed all five Fraggles, Red was easily the one that I would rank at the bottom of my list.  I liked her, don't get me wrong...but when it came to writing this article, I found it so hard to find something that I had in common with her.  She was athletic.  I am not.  She was cynical.  I was more gullible than anything.  She was the best swimmer in the show, and I almost drowned in a swimming pool when I was four.  Yeah, you get it.  Though, it dawned on me that the one trait that Red and I do share is the fact that we both like to be in control.  I know that when I feel that things are out of control, it makes me slightly uncomfortable, but I try my best to work through it.  Red would probably throw Gobo under the proverbial Fraggle bus if she had the chance.

Finally, we're saving the best for last.  Well, at least in my opinion, anyway.

Steve Whitmire provided the voice of my all-time favourite Fraggle.  That Fraggle's name was Wembley, and he was definitely the Fraggle I loved the most.  I mean, his name alone is awesome.  In fact, if I ever have a son, I'd love to have the name Wembley as a middle name for him...because, let's face it...having it as a first name wouldn't work.  That, plus, there's no way I'd ever convince future wife (should she come along) to go along with it.  But, why is Wembley my favourite?  Simple.  I'm practically a 'Silly Creature' version of Wembley.  Mind you, I don't have spiky greenish-yellow hair or wear Hawaiian shirts, but Wembley and I are very much alike in personality.  We both suffer from indecision.  Decision making has never been my strong suit, and whenever I do have a choice, I often flip-flop back and forth hundreds of times before settling on a choice.

I have failed many multiple choice quizzes as a result of this.

Wembley's much worse with the indecision though.  So much so that in the Fraggle dictionary, the word 'wemble' is a verb meaning 'to be indecisive'.  In Wembley's case though, his inability to make a proper choice is very understandable.  Well, at least to me.  He doesn't like making choices because if he says yes to someone, he's saying no to someone else, and he hates hurting people's feelings.  With me, I hate picking the wrong choice.  And, yes, my indecision has lead to several wrong choices in my life.  But, hey, it's a learning experience, right?

And, that's the flashback to Fraggle Rock for all of you.  I hope you enjoyed it, and with that, I leave you with one final question.

Which Fraggle best describes you?  For me, I'm mostly Wembley with a little Mokey and Gobo mixed in.  You?

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