‘Fraggle Rock’ Was A Fever Dream Of A Children’s Puppet Show

If you grew up in the '80s, there is a good chance you can remember the catchy Fraggle Rock theme song. The catchy opening jingle wasn't the only interesting aspect of the show. Fraggle Rock was arguably one of the best Jim Henson productions ever. It was even better than the muppets. Even if you're a Kermit fan who can't co-sign that statement, you have to agree that Fraggle Rock is fantastic and completely weird. 

Fraggle Rock was a Canadian puppet show for kids that chronicled the lives of fun-loving creatures called "fraggles." The show initially aired in the USA on HBO. The main cast consisted of the intrepid Gobo, spirited Red, dreamy Mokey, depressed Boober, and anxious Wembley. Together, they experienced some seriously strange situations that required the wisdom of a sentient heap of trash for help. They also learned lessons about everything from sharing with friends to straight-up socialism.

It was inarguably strange, but it was also one of the best children's shows of its era. Let's take a journey back into the weird and wonderful world of Fraggle Rock. 

  • A Psychic Heap Of Trash Was A Major Character

    A Psychic Heap Of Trash Was A Major Character
    Video: YouTube

    When you need life advice, where do you find it? Chances are, it's not a psychic pile of trash named Marjorie who sings instead of speaking. But that's who the fraggles go to when they need help. Marjorie sometimes has excellent advice based on years of experience and incredible powers. However, she also has less than stellar advice – for example, she tells Boober he should always wear a hat if he wants to be courageous, even though he wears it all the time anyway. 

    No matter what her advice, the singing accompanies great blues music.

  • 'Fraggle Rock' Isn't Afraid To Deal With Mortality

    Most kid shows either ignore mortality completely or make obscure references to it. Fraggle Rock took on the issue directly on multiple occasions. In one of the earlier episodes, "Marooned," Boober and Red were trapped in a cave that collapsed in a rock slide. Both characters reflect and admit their fears about what happens after life. They ultimately get out, but the melancholy, serious tone that characterizes the scene is a far cry from common dangers in children's media. 

    In another episode, Wembley witnesses a life-ending event. After a solo night hike ends in a rock slide that knocks him unconscious, Mudwell the Mudbunny rescues him. The two get along great until morning, when Mudwell abruptly kicks Wembley out, confusing him and hurting his feelings. After his friends encourage him to talk to Mudwell about what happened, he discovers that Mudwell's natural life cycle is coming to an end. Wembley watches it happen, and his emotional response is a genuine expression of grief.  

  • There Is Messaging About Socialism

    Part of fraggle lore centers on the royal designation bestowed upon the gorgs by an unknown supreme being. They take this role seriously until one day, Junior shrinks down to the size of a fraggle and is forced to learn their society. Wembley guides him through the fraggle lifestyle, which leads him to decide he doesn't want to be an authoritarian leader.

    Junior doesn't want to have undeserved power over anyone. Rather than continue his kinghood, he creates a socialist society. The political messaging went under the radar for the audience, but the intention is pretty clear. 

  • The Second Episode Focused On Recognizing Oppression

    The morality of Fraggle Rock was nuanced. While characters did offer simple lessons about sharing, kindness, friendship, and hard work, the show also dealt with more complex ideas. One of the strongest examples was the second episode, "Wembley and the Gorgs." The gorgs capture Wembley and force him to work for them - but not through threats.  

    Instead, the gorgs pretend to sincerely appreciate Wembley's help, which makes him want to stay and continue to earn their favor. He even turns away his friends when they attempt to rescue him. When the gorgs attack his friends, Wembley snaps back to reality and escapes with them. Reflecting on his experience, he says, “It didn’t seem like I was [an enslaved person]... I didn’t notice what they were doing to me, until… well, until they tried to do it to you.” That's a powerful message for a child to absorb. 

  • The Show Connects Four Different Communities

    Fraggle Rock boasts four different communities, all of which are interconnected. Outer Space is the human realm primarily represented by an older man named Doc and his dog, Sprocket; Fraggle Rock, home to both the fraggles and the doozers; and the Royal Gorg Kingdom, home of gothic-looking giants. The fraggles pilfer radishes grown with water from the human realm and guarded by gorgs. Meanwhile, the doozers use the radishes to create towers, which provide food for the fraggles. 

    This connection is especially apparent in an episode called "The River of Life," where Doc makes a profitable deal that pollutes his water supply and makes everyone else sick. However, when he realizes there are living beings depending on the water supply, he changes his mind.

  • The Staff Used Cutting Edge Technology

    The staff of Fraggle Rock got creative with technology. One of the most impressive examples of this was the gorgs. To bring the gorgs to life, performers wore full-body costumes, while somebody off-stage controlled their facial expressions using animatronic controls.

    The team used animatronics regularly, as well as green screens, both of which were relatively new technology at the time. While Fraggle Rock might not seem cutting-edge to modern viewers, the show used some of the most advanced technology available in the '80s.