Rizzo the Rat
The Muppets character
Rizzo the Rat.jpg
Rizzo in A Tail of Two Piggies episode of The Muppets
First appearanceThe Muppet Show (episode 418; 1980)[1]
Created bySteve Whitmire
Jim Henson
Voiced bySteve Whitmire (1980–2016)
Other:
Performed bySteve Whitmire (1980–2016)
In-universe information
SpeciesMuppet rat
GenderMale
NationalityAmerican

Rizzo the Rat is a Muppet character, created and originally performed by Steve Whitmire.[2] He is a fictional rat who appeared on The Muppet Show and numerous films, with a starring role in the 1992 film The Muppet Christmas Carol.

The character is particularly associated with Gonzo the Great, with the two sharing a double act since 1992. Whitmire based the character on Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy and performed him until 2016.

Character

Rizzo is a streetwise and sarcastic rat with a New Jersey accent.[3] He is a self-proclaimed acrophobe.[4] His humor can be risqué, as in the TV series The Muppets he was given the line, "Is ABC going to be OK with 'Mother Teresa on a stick'?" To avoid potential difficulty with real-life censors, alternative lines were filmed.[5]

Rizzo's family has been mentioned in Muppet media. He has 1,274 brothers and sisters, as told to Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol. In 2016, Disney announced Rizzo came from a family that traditionally cooked pizzas.[6] This addition to his story was in light of a new pizzeria at Disney's Hollywood Studios dedicated to Rizzo, called PizzeRizzo.[7]

History

Steve Whitmire was Rizzo's creator and original performer.
Steve Whitmire was Rizzo's creator and original performer.

Rizzo's name is derived from Dustin Hoffman's Ratso Rizzo character in Midnight Cowboy.[8] Steve Whitmire created the character,[9] based on rats he had previously made out of bottles.[8]

Rizzo first appeared in episode 418 of The Muppet Show, as one of many rats following Christopher Reeve backstage.[8] He can be seen mugging and reacting to practically every line of dialogue. He remained a scene-stealing background figure through the final season, occasionally performing with Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.[8] By the time of The Muppet Christmas Carol, Whitmire had been performing Rizzo for around 12 years.[9]

After the series, he appeared in The Great Muppet Caper as a bellboy in a fleabag London hotel. He has appeared in most later Muppet projects, including The Muppets Take Manhattan[10] and Muppets Tonight. In The Muppet Christmas Carol, he developed a double act with Gonzo,[11] with director Brian Henson and the crew envisioning Rizzo as "pain-in-the-neck sidekick."[9] The characters narrate, break the fourth wall, and Rizzo challenges Gonzo's claims to be Charles Dickens.[12] The Gonzo and Rizzo partnership was continued in Muppet Treasure Island, with Rizzo again offering a humorous critique of the handling of the story,[13] and in Muppets from Space. Along with Kermit and Gonzo, Rizzo gave an audio commentary for the Muppets from Space DVD.[14]

Rizzo appears as a background character in the 2011 film The Muppets, without a spoken dialogue, although he is seen singing along during the finale, as well as the scene in which Kermit the Frog addresses a large crowd of Muppets. In Muppets Most Wanted (2014), and the short feature Rizzo's Biggest Fan on the Blu-ray release, the character calls for more screentime.[15] Rizzo returned to prominence in the TV series The Muppets, where he was on a writing crew with Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn.[16]

In 2017, it was announced Whitmire departed from the Muppets franchise, including the part of Rizzo,[17] after being dismissed from the part of Kermit the Frog in October 2016.[18] Disney has not since announced a new performer for Rizzo, though Matt Vogel was cast as Kermit.[19]

Appearances

References

  1. ^ Shemin, Craig (2014). Disney's The Muppets Character Encyclopedia. New York: DK Publishing. p. 151. ISBN 9781465417480.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Voice Of Rizzo the Rat". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2014-04-10.
  3. ^ Swank, Nathan (November 19, 2011). "Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and our Top Ten favorite Muppet characters". Flix 66. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  4. ^ Brian Henson (Director); Jerry Juhl (December 11, 1992). The Muppet Christmas Carol (Motion picture). There are only two things... I hate: heights, and jumping from them
  5. ^ Jurgensen, John (September 10, 2015). "The Muppets Grow Up and Go Back to Prime Time". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  6. ^ Niles, Robert (October 2016). "Walt Disney World's PizzeRizzo to open on November 18". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  7. ^ Busdeker, Jon (July 18, 2016). "PizzeRizzo pizzeria to open at Disney's Hollywood Studios". WESH. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Conradt, Stacy (February 10, 2009). "Surprising stories behind 20 Muppet characters". CNN. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (December 21, 2015). "How we made: The Muppet Christmas Carol". The Guardian. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  10. ^ "'The Muppets Take Manhattan' production designer Stephen Hendrickson to visit Dietrich Theater for free film showing". Dallas Post. July 11, 2017. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  11. ^ Dale, Timothy; Foy, Joseph, eds. (July 15, 2015). Jim Henson and Philosophy: Imagination and the Magic of Mayhem. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 233. ISBN 978-1442246652.
  12. ^ Glavin, John, ed. (2017). Dickens Adapted. Routledge. ISBN 978-1351944564. Retrieved July 14, 2017 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Addison, Heather (2000). "Children's Films in the 1990s". Film Genre 2000: New Critical Essays. SUNY Press. p. 182. ISBN 0791492958.
  14. ^ "Muppets from Space". Billboard. 2 October 1999. p. 32.
  15. ^ Dellamorte, Andre (August 27, 2014). "MUPPETS MOST WANTED Blu-ray Review". Collider. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  16. ^ Zhu, Danielle (September 14, 2015). "The Muppets season 1 study guide: Everything to know about the revival". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  17. ^ Kurp, Josh (July 10, 2017). "The Long-Time Voice Of Kermit The Frog Has Left The Muppets Family". Uproxx. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
  18. ^ Bruner, Raisa (July 12, 2017). "Former Kermit the Frog Puppeteer Speaks: 'I Am Devastated'". Time. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  19. ^ Parker, Ryan (July 10, 2017). "Longtime Kermit the Frog Voice Actor Replaced After 27 Years". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved July 10, 2017.

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