Woozle World was Jim Henson's original concept and pitch for Fraggle Rock. Jim and the development team used the term Woozle to describe the characters and world because Jim needed call them something, the name was not meant to be permanent. Many of the names changed - Woozles became Fraggles; Giant Wozles became Gorgs; Wizzles became Doozers; George became Sprocket; the old codger became Doc; and the Squeegles dissapeared. However, the concept and principles remained basically the same.
Jim Henson's Original Notes
- The Woozle Show
- Woozle World
- The World of the Woozles
- Where the Woozles Were
The name Woozle will very likely be changed, as well as the names of the others, but it helps to put something here.
This is a delightful, half-hour weekly show aimed at children somewhere around six to ten years of age. It features a large cast of Muppets – all new – created just for this show. There are none of our present characters in the show. The show, but we would anticipated coming up with new personalities which would have much of the same kind of appeal as Kermit, Fozzie, or Gonzo. We will not create anybody with Miss Piggy's kind of appeal – nobody should try.
These characters live in a unique world of our own design. There is a lot of music in the show – probably all original. The show has a kind of rollicking sense of nonsense that the Muppets operate in as a matter of course. There is a live person who acts as a bridge character for the audience, but the real stars of the show are the Muppets.
The aim of the program is to be wonderfully entertaining and a welcome addition to children's television. At the same time, there is substance to this show and we feel it could make a positive contribution to children everywhere.
The show would be produced by Henson Associates working in conjunction with several co-producers around the world.. We would design and create the show in which about 75% to 85% of the program material would be the same in all language versions – the remaining 15% to 25% would be produced in each country and edited into the master show.
Here is a description of the show, in its present germinating idea stage, followed by an outline of how it can be achieved.
There in a place we call Home Base which is a part of the show that will be different in different parts of the world. In the English/American version it is a tiny cluttered room that belongs to a funny old codger. This part will be played by a real man or woman. The room is crowded with all kinds of junk that this person has accumulated over the years. There are things from around the world, tools, musical instruments, old bits of machinery, a microscope, a music box, an aquarium, etc. It is an interesting and fun place.
The old codger (male or female) patters around and talks to himself and his dog. The Dog, whose name is George, is of course a Muppet. The dog is a pantomime character conversing with the old guy with whimpers, barks, and ridiculously elaborate pantomime gestures. The dog is bright warm and loveable. The old codger is warm and lovable, but you probably wouldn’t call him bright. That is, he may be intelligent, but he’s generally preoccupied with other things. That’s why he never sees the Woozles!
Woozles are the only other characters of the show that ever come into this Home Base set. In the set there is a little Woozle hole with a little door on it – about a foot tall – and this Woozle hole is down under a cabinet and I don’t know why the old guy had never seen it, but he hasn’t. The dog, on the other hand, watches this door like a hawk, because the Woozles drive him crazy.
The Woozles are cute fuzzy inquisitive little creatures who stand about 14 inches tall and are, of course, Muppets. We only ever see a few if these in the home base set, but we – the audience can go down the Woozle hole with them into the World of the Woozles!
Once we go down the Woozle hole, we are into that part of the show that stays the same in all international versions.
When you first go down the hold you’re under the floorboards, in an underground world of pipes, and foundation block, and tunnels, and Woogles everywhere. They live in cozy little burrows – usually one family to a burrow. They have cute little kitchens where Ma Woozle cooks the food.
We concentrate on one particular family consisting of Ma and Pa Woozle, a couple of kid Woozles, one of which is probably our main character. Then there’s Grandma Woozle and a few baby Woozles that are ever so cute and adorable.
Woozles are, by nature, goofy, enthusiastic, fun loving, musical, not too bright, but quite loving to each other. There are a lot of them – dozens? hundreds?, and they occasionally get together to listen to the Head Woozle deliver his regular harangue. This always results in all the Woozles getting really worked up to a feverish pitch at which point they all go rushing out to do something really stupid.
Woozles are pretty wacky, have a lot of energy and, when all else fails, somebody shouts “let’s sing about it!” and they do. The sing rousing foot stomping, hand clapping type songs that make you want to join right in.
The Woozle World also has an outdoors which is in another world. You see, when we went down the Woozle hole, it was like going through the back of the wardrobe in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, or down the rabbit hole in Alice and Wonderland.
So anyway, we have this lovely outdoor world in which we encounter the 'Giant Wozles. There are really only three Giant Wozles – a daddy, a mommy, and a little boy Giant Wozle. These are people inside a big puppet costumer rather like Sweetums or Thog on the Muppet Show. In this set we change the scale of our basic Woozle, and make miniature Woozles – so that we have a sort of Tom Thumb relationship of Woozle to Giant Wozle.
Out Giant Wozle family lives in a summery fairy-tale-type cottage which has a back garden and the little Woozles happen to live in this back garden. The Giants are friendly and galumphy and really dumb. They make the Woozles look smart. Little Boy Giant Wozle does things like taking a cute Woozle home in a cardboard box to keep In his room. When the Woozle finally escapes, he has wild exaggerated stories to tell the other terrifies Woozles back home.
Other things live in the Woozle World. Most important of these are the Wizzles! The Wizzles live underneath thee Woozles and come out into their world through little Wizzle holes. The size relationship of Wizzle to Woozle is about the same as Woozle to man, and in order to achieve this effect, we build a portion of the Woogle interior up to human size and we have full body costume version of the Woozles to relate to the hand puppets of the Wizzles. Is that clear?
Any how, the Woozles despise the Wizzles, thinking of them as nasty rodents. Whenever a Woozle sees a Wizzle, he always screams and throws whatever he’s holding in his hand at the Wizzle hoping to kill it with a direct hit. This greatly amuses the Wizzle, as a Wizzle has never yet been hit.
Now we go down through the Wizzle hole into the Wizzle World which is just as elaborate and complete as the Woozle world. In many ways it is similar to the Woogle World, but quite different. I won’t bother to describe this at great length because we haven’t thought about it yet.
The general idea though, is that we have three levels or dimensions to play with, in addition to the “real” world of home base.
Speaking of home base, here is one of the ways we weave home base into our show; One of the Woozles comes out of the Woozle hole into home base – he encounters the Dog, is not seen by the old codger – and darts out the door into the REAL WORLD! On film maybe! In a segment that would be shot by a film unit in each country, our Woozle wanders wide-eyed into suburbia. For instance (in the U.S. version), he sees automobiles and tries to strike up a conversation with one. Upon his return he tries to tell the other Woozles abut this world, but of course no one believes him.
Often the thread of the show might revolve around a particular prop that the Woozle brings back to the Woozle World. A hammer, for instance, with which they try to use to dig holes.
Other creatures that live in the Woozle World include The Trash Heap. The Woozles often go to consult the Trash Heap as their oracle, or great keeper of wisdom and truth. The Trash Heap dispenses dime store philosophy and is paid for his services in old rusty tin cans.
There are the fearsome beasts that live in the woods and who make great gruff growley noises which scare everybody away. At which time the fearsome beasts come out and eat everything in sight in approximately five seconds.
Additional dimensions can also be added. In the Wizzle World, for example, they have strange little insects called Squeegles, which happen to be the same thing the old codger sees when he looks in his microscope.
There are undoubtedly other things and creatures who live in the Woozle World, and which will be added as needed. And in addition to them, we will be continually designing and building new creatures as needed. These are ingredients that we use to cook up into a show.
At the moment we believe that the format of the show can vary a great deal from week to week. One week we might do a show with a strong story line that goes straight through the half hour. Another week the show might be a series of sketches and songs tied together in only a central idea.
The show is basically a funny entertaining half hour. Our first job is to make this world a lot of fun to visit. It is a high energy raucous musical romp. It’s a lot of silliness. It’s wonderful.
However the second thing we’re doing with this show is saying something. The show has a direction and a point of view. This will be beneath the surface, and if anybody becomes very aware of it, we will have failed. What the show is really about people getting along with other people, and understanding the delicate balance of the natural world.
The relationship of the kid Woozle to his family – his family to all the other Woozles – the Woozles to the Wizzles - the Woozles to the Giant Wozles – all these relationship will mirror similar relationships in our world.
The world of the Woozle will have its' own natural balances, although these will be rather insane. But still we will make the point that everything effects everything else, and that there is a beauty and harmony of life to be appreciated
These are topics that can be dealt with in a symbolic way, which is what puppets basically do all the time. These are also two of the areas that children in the next generation or so will have to deal with in very real terms.
How do we go about doing this show?
We will produce the entire show in English in a location still to be determined. The, working with a co-producer in Germany, for instance, we will help him to create a German home base, it can be very different from ours – it could vea garage of a mechanic, a technical laboratory, an electronic workshop, in an Arab country it could be a tented booth in a market place. The only element that we would keep the same is the doorway to the Woozle hole.
In this home base, there would be a person or persons from that country. It could be a young person, or even a kid. But this is a real person. The dog would be a puppet that we would furnish (also there may be certain countries where we shouldn't use a dog). We would also furnish duplicates of two or three of the Woozles to be used in both the home base, and as part of the location film unit.
All of this would probably mean training three puppeteers from that country who could do all of the puppeteering. The amount of work that these puppeteers do can vary based on the judgments of the co-producer and the talent of the puppeteers. More of the weight of the show could, for instance, go to the live person, or the location film segments.
In some countries, a less elaborate co-production could be structured that will cost less to produce. In the United States, England and Australia, for example we could use the same home base, and English language track. However when the Woozle goes outside he is either peering around a lovely English landscape, or surrounded by kangaroos, or in our case, shopping centers and super highways.
So a country taking the show can either subtitle it or dub it; dub ut and produce a location segment to edit in; or go the full route and produce his own home base and film segments. The latter would certainly be best for a major market.
We anticipate developing this concept in the next few months into more complete designs and pilot scripts. We are entertaining the though of a pilot being videotaped early in 1982, the actual production unit to begin in the summer which could mean launching the show in the fall of 1982.