CHARACTERS • MORE
|Premiere||January 10, 1983|
|Finale||March 30, 1987|
The vision of Fraggle Rock articulated by Jim Henson was to depict a colorful and fun world, but also a world with a relatively complex system of symbiotic relationships between different "races" of creatures, an allegory to the human world, where each group was somewhat unaware of how interconnected and important they were to one another. This allegorical world allowed the program to entertain and amuse while seriously exploring complex issues of prejudice, spirituality, personal identity, environment, and social conflict.
The show was also specifically designed for international co-production, constructed in such a way that it could easily be tailored to different countries and cultures.
Fraggle Rock generally refused to over-simplify any individual issue, instead simply illustrating the consequences and inherent difficulties of different actions and relationships. Though the Fraggles do learn important lessons, they rarely are aware that they are learning them. The ideals of friendship, being true to yourself, and learning to love those who are incredibly different, were the cornerstone of Jim Henson's work throughout his career, and he considered Fraggle Rock to be one of the purest and most successful expressions of that vision.
The inhabitants of Fraggle Rock
Fraggles are small anthropomorphic creatures, about 22 inches tall, that come in a wide variety of colors and have tails that bear a tuft of fur on the end. They live in a system of natural caves called Fraggle Rock that are filled with all manner of creatures and features, and which seem to connect to at least two different worlds and may therefore be interdimensional in nature. Fraggles live a very carefree life, spending most of their time playing, exploring, and generally enjoying themselves. They live on a diet of vegetables (mainly radishes) and Doozer sticks. The doozer sticks are made of ground up radishes and are the material that the doozers use to build their constructions. The radishes in the doozers sticks are what makes it edible to Fraggles. Fraggles have the unique ability to "share dreams". If they touch their heads together before falling asleep, one can enter the dream of the other Fraggle. More than one Fraggle at a time can enter a single Fraggle's dream, provided all the participants' heads are touching before they fall asleep.
The series focused on one group of Fraggles in particular; Gobo, Mokey, Red, Wembley, and Boober. They form a tight-knit group of friends, and each has a distinctive personality type. Gobo is the "leader", level-headed and practical, and considers himself chiefly an explorer. Mokey is highly spiritual and artistic, being quiet and contemplative. Red, on the other hand, is exuberant and athletic; she is one of the best swimmers among the Fraggles. Wembley is nervous and pathologically indecisive, though no coward when push comes to shove. Boober's cardinal trait is depression and worry, and his favorite activity is washing socks -- Fraggles, however, do not seem to use footwear most of the time.
Within Fraggle Rock lives a second species of small humanoid creatures, the pudgy green ant-like Doozers. Standing only 6 inches tall, Doozers are in a sense anti-Fraggles; their lives are dedicated to work and industry. Doozers spend much of their time busily constructing all manner of pointless scaffolding throughout Fraggle Rock, using miniature construction equipment and wearing hardhats and work boots. To ensure that they always have a steady stream of work to do, Doozers build their constructions out of an edible candy-like substance (manufactured from radishes) which is greatly enjoyed by Fraggles. This is essentially the only interaction between Doozers and Fraggles; Doozers spend most of their time building, and Fraggles spend much of their time eating tasty Doozer buildings. They thus form an odd sort of symbiosis.
The symbiosis was part of an episode where Mokey called the Fraggles not to eat the Doozers' constructions because they spend so much time making them. Fraggle Rock was quickly filled with constructions and the Doozers had no space left to build. After running out of space, the Doozers finally decided that it was time to move on to a new area because the Fraggles would not eat their constructions, and there was even a tragic scene with a mother explaining to her daughter about how things don't always work out but that they would find a new place to live where their constructions would get eaten. They finally convinced Mokey that they didn't mind that the constructions were eaten, because this enabled the Doozers to build ad infinitum.
The series had several episodes that featured a Doozer as a main character, the young female named Cotterpin Doozer, and reveal much of Doozer culture; it is surprisingly well developed. With time the Doozer and Fraggle cultures' connection gets stronger, thanks to the inter-species friendships created by Cotterpin and Wrench Doozer in particular.
At one point, there was a series of Fraggle Rock books, one entitled The Legend of the Doozer Who Didn't. This book details the story of a Doozer who went against Doozer tradition when he stopped working and going to school. According to this book, a Doozer who doesn't Do in fact becomes a Fraggle - although in the show itself (in the episode "All Work and All Play"), this is more or less dismissed as a story Doozer parents frighten their children with.
Outside another exit from Fraggle Rock lives a small family of Gorgs, giant furry humanoids standing 22 feet tall. The husband and wife of the family consider themselves the King and Queen of the Universe, with their son Junior Gorg as its prince and heir, but to all appearances they are really simple farmers with a rustic house and garden patch.
Fraggles are considered a pest by the Gorgs, as they steal radishes. In one episode it is revealed that the Gorgs use radishes to make "anti-vanishing cream" that prevents them from becoming invisible. Thus, the three main races of the Fraggle Rock universe - Fraggles, Doozers and Gorgs - are all dependent on the radishes for their own particular reason.
Also in the Gorgs' world is a sapient compost heap called Marjory, and her two rat-like sidekicks Philo and Gunge. The Fraggles consider Marjory the Trash Heap to be all-wise and go to her for advice regularly.
The Silly Creatures of Outer Space
In the North American version and in the German version of Fraggle Rock, the connection between Fraggle Rock and Outer Space is a small hole in the wall of the workshop of an eccentric inventor called Doc, and Gobo must go out into Doc's workshop to retrieve the postcards from the wastebasket where Doc throws them. Doc is unaware of the Fraggles' existence, but his dog Sprocket has seen them and goes to great efforts to attempt to prove them to his master. Humans are known to Fraggles by the name "Silly Creatures," bestowed by Matt after observing and interacting with them in his travels.
In the UK version of Fraggle Rock, the entrance to Outer Space leads to a lighthouse manned by a lighthouse keeper known as the Captain, who shares many of the same characteristics as Doc, only he's a little more harsh on Sprocket. After the actor's death, the Captain's nephew P.K. took over the lighthouse, until its new owner B.J. moved in for the fourth and final season.
In the French version of Fraggle Rock, the entrance to Outer Space leads to a former bakery, the new home of Doc, re-conceptualized as a chef, and his dog Croquette (not only a potato dish, but also Sprocket's French alter ego).
Unlike Sesame Street, which had been created for a single market and only later adapted for international markets, Fraggle Rock was intended from the start to be an international production, and the whole show was constructed with this in mind. The bulk of the show would consist entirely of puppets, which could easily be dubbed into another language. Human "wraparound" segments could then be shot separately for each nation, so that the child viewer could always relate to the world of the program; no matter where it was aired, it would look like a locally produced show.
The Muppets were in an ideal position to take on a project of this kind; thanks to the worldwide success of their last series, The Muppet Show, they already had the international recognition and appeal that would be needed to secure the necessary business deals.
The internationality of Fraggle Rock informed the whole tone of the show. The knowledge that it would reach children all over the world prompted Jim Henson to suggest that the show be about conflict resolution, with the ultimately ambitious goal of helping to stop war. This in turn led to the notion of different kinds of creatures who have to learn to live together.
The three full co-productions occurred in France, Germany, and the UK, producing local Doc and Sprocket segments and Traveling Matt postcards. Other international versions were simply dubbed into the appropriate language, with no localized footage. In Down at Fraggle Rock: Behind the Scenes, Jim Henson reported that the series had been seen in over 90 countries and dubbed into thirteen languages. In 1989, it became the first Western show to be seen in Russia.
Full international co-productions
- The first 12 episodes were filmed from March to August of 1982, then there was a break and the last 12 episodes of Season 1 were filmed from February to May of 1983. During that break, Gobo Fraggle and Ma Gorg were redesigned and rebuilt to their current versions.
- There was a short production break before Season Two began. The last episode of the first season, "New Trash Heap in Town," was recorded in May 1983; this episode was recorded in September. The only major production or cast change was that Cheryl Wagner replaced Myra Fried as the voice and face of Ma Gorg.
- Fraggle Rock was produced in four seasons of 24 episodes each, but HBO split up the episodes to stretch the show into five broadcast seasons. Season 3 was produced as 24 episodes, but broadcast as 22 episodes. The final two episodes of the season -- "Wembley's Wonderful Whoopie Water" and "Sidebottom Blues" -- were held over, and broadcast as the second and third episodes of season 4. Season 4 was also produced as 24 episodes, but broadcast as 13 episodes -- including the two leftover episodes from the previous season. The final 13 episodes were broadcast in the following year as season 5.
- For a complete list of episodes, see Fraggle Rock Episodes.
Season 1 introduces the characters and the world of the show. In "Beginnings," Doc and Sprocket move into the workshop and Travelling Matt leaves Fraggle Rock to explore Outer Space. Three episodes demonstrate the connections between the different species: the path of the water in "Let the Water Run," the Fraggle/Doozer symbiosis in "The Preachification of Convincing John," and the mutual dependence on radishes in "The Great Radish Famine." Season 1 also sees the debut of such notable secondary characters as Convincing John, the Storyteller, The World's Oldest Fraggle and his assistant Henchy, and Cantus and The Minstrels.
By Season 2, the universe of Fraggle Rock is well established, and different kinds of stories can begin to be told. The Trash Heap is moved to the other side of the Gorgs' Garden in "The Trash Heap Doesn't Live Here Anymore." "Boober's Dream" introduces Sidebottom, the other side of Boober's personality. In "All Work and All Play," Red befriends Cotterpin, the first fully developed Doozer character. Gobo befriends Sprocket in "A Friend in Need," and Red and Mokey move in together in "A Cave of One's Own."
The world of the show is deepened and enriched in Season 3. "The Bells of Fraggle Rock" explores Fraggle mythology, and "Home Is Where the Trash Is" reveals the dependence of the Trash Heap on Philo and Gunge. Travelling Matt's childhood is shown in "Born to Wander," and the history of the Doozers is explained in "The Cavern of Lost Dreams."
The threads draw together in Seasons 4 and 5 (produced as a single season, but broadcast as two). Sprocket visits Fraggle Rock in "Sprocket's Big Adventure," and Travelling Matt moves back home in "Uncle Matt's Discovery." In "The Trial of Cotterpin Doozer," Cotterpin proves that Fraggles are worthy of the Doozers' respect. When Junior Gorg becomes King of the Universe in "The Gorg Who Would Be King," the characters finally understand their interdependence. In "The Honk of Honks," Gobo meets Doc face to face.
Home Media Releases
HBO Home Video originally released episodes of the show on VHS in the United States. These releases had only one episode each. At the same time, in the United Kingdom, Virgin Video released some episodes as part of its Jim Henson Presents video label, with two episodes per volume.
In 1993, Jim Henson Video released five volumes, with two episodes each. The first four were released at the same time, and the fifth one, A Festive Fraggle Holiday, was released later in the year. The original closing was replaced with a more generic sequence, which had a plain blue background and a small edge of rock on the top right corner, with the closing theme audio playing. For all releases, the openings and closings were only shown once, instead of in both episodes.
Starting in 2004, HIT! Entertainment started releasing the show on VHS and DVD. The VHS releases only had two episodes, while the DVDs had three episodes as part of the main feature, and with the exception of the first release, all DVDs have had trivia games that unlocked bonus episodes. However, the first three releases only had the openings and closings shown once, instead of in every individual episode. Unlike the 1993 Jim Henson Video releases, the original closing was used with redone credits and a still shot with the Fraggle Rock logo was shown in between each episode to separate them. This changed starting with the release of the first season.
Following the sale of The Muppets to The Walt Disney Company in 2004, the title logo has occasionally been changed on DVD releases. Originally, the logo read Fraggle Rock with Jim Henson's Muppets, but the first few DVD releases from HIT! Entertainment changed the logo with a new design, reading Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock. When the first season was released on DVD, the original logo was used for every episode, which was also the same case for the subsequent single-disc releases that followed, beginning with Doin' Things That Doozers Do. However, Down in Fraggle Rock [oddly] still used the new logo and episode titles. Two of the three episodes included, retained this oddity on the second season DVD release, while the rest of the episodes had the original logo with no episode title visible. Despite this, the newer logo has been used in all Fraggle Rock merchandise since 2004.
When the third season was released on DVD, the selection of episodes included didn't quite match up to the third season as originally broadcast on HBO. The DVD included "Sprocket's Big Adventure", which was produced as part of the fourth season, instead of "Sidebottom Blues".
HIT Entertainment later released a complete series box set, with all 96 episodes, but did not release the fourth season in a separate release. That final season had originally been scheduled to be released on the same day as the complete series set but at the last minute it was scrapped and was never released. Fan response to this decision was very negative and several online petitions were launched in protest.
On August 10, 2009, Lionsgate Home Entertainment announced that they had reached a deal with The Jim Henson Company to acquire the rights to release Fraggle Rock on DVD. So, they subsequently released the final season on DVD for the very first time on November 3, 2009. They also re-released The Complete Series Collection with new packaging (due to numerous complaints about the previous release) on the same day.
On May 14, 2013, in conjunction with the show's 30th anniversary, Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment re-released the entire show together with the animated series, a plush Red Fraggle key chain and an exclusive graphic novel, in a 21-disc collector's edition DVD box set.
After the series ended its run on HBO, the show was rerun on TNT. In 1992, Disney Channel started airing reruns. When The Jim Henson Company had ownership of Odyssey Network in 1999, reruns aired on that channel. In 2010, reruns began airing on The Hub, but were discontinued in Spring 2012. On April 21, 2013, the channel aired "The Fraggle Rock-A-Thon" to coincide with the show's 30th anniversary.
Nickelodeon repeated the series in the UK from 1993, as did Cartoonito later. Starting in 2007, reruns of the show aired in several countries. On July 23, 2007, Boomerang started repeating episodes of the North American co-production in the UK. On October 24, 2007, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation begins repeating episodes on the digital-only ABC2 channel. On September 20, 2007, TVNZ 6 in New Zealand began airing episodes daily. The series has also aired on Teletoon Retro in Canada daily from 2008 to 2015. A single episode was aired in the UK as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations for Children's ITV on January 5, 2013, but due to the complicated rights issues surrounding the UK inserts, a US edit was used.
In October 2016, it was announced the series would return to HBO via its broadcast channels and its streaming services (HBO Go and HBO NOW) on December 14. The episodes are digitally remastered in high definition. These editions, while cropped into widescreen, are sourced from the original masters and contain their original unaltered "Henson Associates" closing credits, as well as the original color variants of the "...with Jim Henson's Muppets" opening subtitle during the intro sequence.
In May 2020, Apple TV+ acquired the exclusive streaming rights to the original series and specials as part of a deal with the Henson Company. Additionally, the service greenlit a formal revival of the series, following the success of the Fraggle Rock: Rock On! shorts.
- Writers: Jerry Juhl (head writer), Jocelyn Stevenson, Jim Henson, Susan Juhl, B.P. Nichol, David Young, Laura Phillips, Sugith Varughese, Carol Bolt, David Brandes, Bob Sandler
- Directors: George Bloomfield, Jim Henson, Perry Rosemond, Norman Campbell, Peter Harris, Martin Lavut, Richard Hunt, Terry Maskell, Wayne Moss, Les Rose, Eric Till
- Puppeteers: Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell, Richard Hunt, Terry Angus, Jim Henson, Cheryl Wagner, Rob Mills, Bob Stutt, Mike Petersen, John Pattison, Trish Leeper, Gord Robertson, Sandra Shamas, Myra Fried, Frank Meschkuleit
- Human Cast: Gerry Parkes
- Conceptual Designer: Michael K. Frith
- The Fraggle Rock DVD Petition Website
- Chris' Fraggle Rock Page
- The Unofficial Fraggle Rock Site
- Fraggle Rock at TV.com
- Unofficial Fraggle Fan Site
- Fraggle Rock (animated)
- Fraggle Rock: Rock On!
- Fraggle Rock (movie)
- Woozle World
- Fraggle Rock Theme
- Fraggle Rock Locations
- Fraggle Rock Culture
- Fraggle Rock Merchandise
- Jim Henson’s “Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series” on Blu-ray in September
- The Hub Network: April 2013 Highlights
- "Fraggle Rock to Return to HBO", TVLine.com, October 10, 2016.
- Vulture "Dance Your Cares Away, a Fraggle Rock Reboot Is Coming to Apple TV+" by Josef Adalian, May 26, 2020