|PERFORMER||Richard Hunt 1975-1991|
|John Henson 1991-2005|
|Matt Vogel 2009-present|
Sweetums is a large, hairy ogre who towers above his human and Muppet co-stars. His bulldog-like lower jaw, thick eyebrows, shabby brown shirt, and threatening expression belie his more or less genial nature.
The Frog Prince
Sweetums first appeared on the television special The Frog Prince in 1971 as Taminella's ogre. In this fairytale story, Sir Robin the Brave comes across Sweetums in the woods and enters into battle. Just as the handsome prince is about to defeat the monster, the witch Taminella appears and turns him into Robin the Frog. The ogre coos over the "cute froggy-frog," and Taminella tells her darling "Sweetums" that he can have the frog...for breakfast.
Robin escapes and makes his way to the King's castle, where he befriends Princess Melora. Taminella, who has insinuated herself into the King's confidence, captures the frog and brings him to the dungeon. She returns him to the care of Sweetums, who plans to eat the frog. Robin and Kermit trick the simple-minded ogre by singing him a lullaby, "Sleep, Sweetums," which easily puts him to sleep. While Sweetums is asleep, Kermit pretends to be Taminella and tells Sweetums to open the cage and let the frog go.
Once Robin is free, Sweetums wakes up and realizes that he's been tricked. "It's yummy-yummy time!" he bellows, as he tries to catch the terrified frogs. The ogre sings a war song, "Sweetums", as he swings his massive club around the dungeon. Robin and Kermit hop just out of his reach. Furious, Sweetums smashes at a stone pillar, which crumbles -- and knocks another pillar down on his head. The monster collapses, unconscious, and the frogs get away.
Sweetums reappears at the conclusion of the story, in the crowd of Peasants singing the praises of the new queen.
The Muppet Show
Sweetums was not featured often on the show but made some memorable appearances. He sang "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" with Ruth Buzzi in episode 104, and "They Can't Take That Away From Me" with Nancy Walker in episode 206. In episode 223, he performed a few bars of Wagnerian opera as the Muppets tried to force John Cleese to sing "The Impossible Dream." (Sweetums is cut off, but he grumbles, "You would've loved my cadenza.")
He appeared again with Robin in episode 223, singing "Two Lost Souls." The huge monster and the tiny frog make an amusing contrast and have occasionally appeared together in merchandise, including a PVC figure from Walt Disney World, the Muppet Show Colorforms, and the 1982 book Two for the Show.
The Muppet Movie
Sweetums had a featured part in The Muppet Movie; his quest to reach Hollywood parallels the Muppets' journey. When Kermit and his friends first meet Sweetums, he's working as a jack (the job, not the name) for Mad Man Mooney, a shady used car dealer who treats the ogre badly. Sweetums takes a shine to the Muppets and helps them swindle the swindler, swatting a fly over a price tag and changing the price from $1195 to $11.95.
Grateful, Kermit asks Sweetums if he wants to join them on the trip to Hollywood. Sweetums runs off, and Kermit thinks that he's not interested -- but, in fact, he's gone to get his carpet bag, and he's disappointed to find that the Muppets have driven off without him. He follows Kermit's trail for the rest of the movie, at one point tracking them through the Bogen County Fair and scaring away the Beauty Pageant contestants. He finally catches up with them at the end of the movie, bursting through the screen and joining his friends in Hollywood.
Following The Muppet Movie, Sweetums made a brief appearance in The Great Muppet Caper, popping out of a manhole in the opening "Hey a Movie!" production number. He also made brief cameos in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years and episode 107 of The Jim Henson Hour.
Sweetums' last major role was in the theme park attraction Muppet*Vision 3D, which opened in 1991 and is still running at Walt Disney World. In this show, Sweetums helps to look for the missing Bean Bunny, running off the screen and into the theater (with the help of a theme park employee dressed in a Sweetums costume). Sweetums is the only Muppet to appear "live" in the show; the other Muppets in the theater are animatronics. At the Disney parks, Sweetums has joined the walk-around Kermit and Miss Piggy in parades, including the 2001 Disney's Stars and Motor Cars Parade.
Outside the theme parks, Sweetums has been a recurring background character in many productions. He was one of Long John Silver's pirate crew in Muppet Treasure Island, and eagerly switches sides to join the "good guys" in the climactic battle. He has also appeared in the 1993 Royal Variety Performance, joined the Muppets on Family Feud and at MuppetFest in 2001, and made appearances in Muppets from Space and It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.
He also appeared in an episode of the webshow Statler & Waldorf: From the Balcony in late 2005.
In Muppet Robin Hood, Sweetums plays the role of Little John.
Sweetums later appeared in 2011's The Muppets. He first appears during the "Back in Black" montage, seen at the same car lot he worked at in The Muppet Movie (now renamed "Mad Man Mooney and Sons"). Like before, he comes out with a suitcase, chasing after the Muppets' car as they drive away. He's later seen as one of the receptionists during The Muppet Telethon, answering the first caller to send in money.
Sweetums also appears in Muppets Most Wanted. In one sequence, during the Muppets' World Tour performance in Germany, he appears (in drag) as Christoph Waltz's dancing partner waltzing to "The Blue Danube."
After that, Richard Hunt made the character his own. Hunt gave life to Sweetums throughout the run of The Muppet Show and in the first two theatrical Muppet films. Beginning around 1987, John Henson began to take on the puppeteering duties of Sweetums with the dialogue being looped by Hunt. After Hunt's death in 1992, Henson became the full-time performer of the character, appearing at tributes and other events throughout the 1990s. In 1996, Henson had his first full-fledged screen credit in the role for his work in Muppet Treasure Island.
Sweetums' performer uses his right arm to either operate the mouth or the right arm. When the right arm moves, the mouth can't move on its own, and vice versa. Usually, whenever Sweetums moves his mouth, his right arm is pinned to his body or stuffed and hung to just swing freely. The eyes and eyebrows move by remote control.
Muppet-Vision 3-D combines the work of more than 3 performers to bring Sweetums to life in the show. Richard Hunt voiced the character in the production, while John Henson performed the puppet in the on-screen footage. Additionally a trained Disney Park cast member is needed to perform the character (to Hunt's pre-recorded audio) in each show as Sweetums comes out into the theater. Jim Henson: The Works commented on the work involved in filming Sweetums' 3-D paddleball trick, explaining that:
“for the 3-D illusion to work, the paddleball had to hit precisely the right spot during shooting. John Henson had practiced hitting the ball correctly for days. But when he got into the Sweetums costume, which almost totally restricted his vision, he was completely unable to see the spot! Luckily, he hit it on the first take.”
The performer can only see out by looking through the puppet's mouth.
- Richard Hunt - from Cher (1975) to Muppet*Vision 3D (1991 - voice only)
- John Henson - Muppet*Vision 3D (1991 - puppetry only); from Royal Variety Performance (1993) to The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005)
- Matt Vogel - Give a Day. Get a Disney Day. (2009) to present
- Jerry Nelson - The Frog Prince (1971 - puppetry only), Muppet RaceMania (2000 - voice only)
- Carl Banas - The Frog Prince (1971 - voice only)
- Jim Henson - Cher (1975 - "Something" musical number), The Muppet Show Episode 114 (1976 - "A Nice Girl Like Me")
- Steve Whitmire - Jim Frawley's Camera Tests for The Muppet Movie (1978), album version of "Delivering Christmas" (2009)
- Rob Mills - The Jim Henson Hour (1989 - Episode 107: Fitness)
- David Rudman - The Cosby Show (1990 - "Cliff's Nightmare")
- Ed Christie - filling in for John Henson on a few occasions
- Victor Yerrid - Muppet*Vision 3D opening at Disneyland (2001), Family Feud (2001), Barnes & Noble promotion (2003), Statler & Waldorf: From the Balcony Episode 13 (2005), Muppets Ahoy! (2006)
- Noel MacNeal - A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (2008), The Muppets Take the Bowl (2017 - puppetry only)
- Nathan Danforth - assisting in The Muppets (2011 - puppetry only)
- The Frog Prince
- The Muppet Show
- "The Muppet Show Theme" (Seasons 2-5)
- Episode 104: Ruth Buzzi
- Episode 105: Rita Moreno
- Episode 107: Florence Henderson
- Episode 108: Paul Williams
- Episode 114: Sandy Duncan
- Episode 115: Candice Bergen
- Episode 116: Avery Schreiber
- Episode 119: Vincent Price
- Episode 204: Rich Little
- Episode 206: Nancy Walker
- Episode 212: Bernadette Peters ("Take a Little One Step")
- Episode 217: Julie Andrews
- Episode 222: Teresa Brewer
- Episode 223: John Cleese ("Two Lost Souls")
- Episode 224: Cloris Leachman
- Episode 307: Alice Cooper ("School's Out")
- Episode 308: Loretta Lynn
- Episode 314: Harry Belafonte
- Episode 318: Leslie Uggams
- Episode 323: Lynn Redgrave
- Episode 411: Lola Falana
- Episode 507: Glenda Jackson
- Episode 518: Marty Feldman
- Hello, Here Is Berlin
- The Muppets Go Hollywood
- The Muppet Movie
- The Great Muppet Caper
- The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years
- The Jim Henson Hour
- The Cosby Show
- "Cliff's Nightmare"
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Muppet Treasure Island
- Muppets Tonight
- Muppets from Space
- Family Feud
- The Muppet Show Live
- The Hollywood Walk of Fame
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie
- The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
- Statler & Waldorf: From the Balcony
- A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
- D23 Expo
- Give a Day, Get a Disney Day
- Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
- "The Muppet Show Theme" music video
- The Muppets
- Just for Laughs
- Muppets Most Wanted
- The Muppets 2015 Presentation Pilot
- The Muppets
- The Muppets Take the Bowl
- The Muppets Take the O2
Video game appearances
- The Muppet Show Book
- It's The Muppet Show!
- The Comic Muppet Book
- Robin Hood (1980)
- Fozzie's Big Book of Sidesplitting Jokes
- Two for the Show
- Bo Saves the Show (1982)
- Muppet Manners (1981)
- Muppets at Sea
- The Muppets Go Camping (1981)
- If You Were Kermit (1994)
- Muppet Time (1996)
- The Muppet Show Comic Book
- Muppet Robin Hood
- Muppet Peter Pan
- Muppet Snow White
- The Twelve Days of a Muppet Christmas (and a Chicken in a Pine Tree) (2012)
- The Muppets Character Encyclopedia (2014)
- Muppets Meet the Classics: The Phantom of the Opera (2017)
- Muppets Meet the Classics: Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (2018)
- Eastman, Ben Muppets from Space: The Making of Muppet Movie Magic page 22
- Vogel, Matt. Interview with Muppeteer Matt Vogel, Part 2. The Muppet Mindset. March 28, 2010
- Yerrid, Victor An Interview with Victor Yerrid. The Muppet Newsflash. August 2007.
- Personal communication with performer by Anthony T
- @SusanMacNeal on Twitter. September 9, 2017.