Here at the Technocave compound, we like The Muppets quite a bit. So much, in fact, that we have a designated Muppet Room (so named by our own Needcoffee Artist in Residence, Rox). So when FAO Schwarz opened up a Design Your Own Whatnot Muppet workshop on their website, we had to play along. Whatnots, in case you are unfamiliar with the term (because we didn’t know what the hell it meant either), are the hardworking extras of the Muppet world. Basically, anytime you see a Muppet crowd scene, the Whatnots are there. Using the workshop, you can (or could–more on that shortly) make your own custom Whatnot Muppet from the selections of bits and pieces available.
Our Muppet was days in the making. They had an online design studio of sorts, where you could pick a body type and color, eyes, noses, hair, and a costume for your very own Whatnot. Needless to say, the myriad of choices made it hard to come to a decision, but finally we narrowed the favorite bits down and clicked on the “order” button.
And here he is! (Click above to embiggen.) We are very pleased with the way he came out. He resembled the design on the screen pretty well, although I don’t know that I would refer to his hairstyle as a “pompadour” in its current state. All of the features are glued on rather firmly, and his bowling shirt is nicely made as well–it even has a neat logo on the back that was a nice surprise. His hands are bendable, and he also comes with a rod that can be transferred to either of his hands. His neck is a sort of sleeve for your arm to fit into, not attached to the neckhole of his torso, which lets you move his head around and turn it easily. I didn’t have a problem with the neck part, but gentlemen with large hands may have a bit of a squeeze to get past the neck “collar” part of the torso and up into the head. There’s a stuffed part of the head to keep its shape with room for your hand to operate the mouth. I’m a rubbish Muppeteer, but it’s not his fault–he seems well-built and relatively easy to operate.
[ad#longpost]A small word of warning– FAO Schwarz has slightly changed the way their Whatnot Workshop works since ours was ordered. Now you order a kit, receive vinyl templates for all of the pieces and parts that you get to choose from, and your custom Whatnot is made for you at the store in New York. Or if you’re lucky enough to visit the store, they can help you out there. According to their website, they will be putting the online design feature back up in February 2009. This is probably because they got bowled over with traffic for this thing–pieces and parts starting getting sold out shortly after it went live. And they’re probably afraid that they won’t have enough pieces-parts for the stores. Regardless, this would be an amazing holiday gift for a Muppet-lover on your list.
I’m intrigued to see what other options they might have at the store regarding costumes and such–because as cool as the bowling shirt is, it would be nice to get some other clothes for the poor guy. And perhaps if we can buy a second rod so both his arms can be manipulated at one time.
Finally, we need help with a small (and yet very important) matter concerning out Whatnot. He does not have a name yet. We’ve tried out different names, but nothing has quite fit yet, and so we would welcome suggestions in the comments. He seems like a very suave (but maybe a little dorky–he does really like bowling!) guy who likes the ladies, goes out for beer with his buddies, and gets nagged lovingly by his mom from time to time. His success in scoring any ladies remains to be seen.