We all have our favorite Muppet character. Whether it’s Kermit the Frog or The Great Gonzo or Animal, each one of us can name him or her and the reasons why we love them so much. However, some characters are a bit more quirky than others, and one such character who came to mind for me was Bean Bunny.
Bean Bunny first appeared as the star of the 1986 TV special The Tale of the Bunny Picnic. Bean was a big part of the special, and helped make peace with the farmer’s dog, ensuring the safety of the entire bunny village. Bean was and is performed by Steve Whitmire, who uses a voice very similar to Wembley from Fraggle Rock. The Bean Bunny puppet was designed by Diane Dawson-Hearn and built by Rollie Krewson. In a 2012 interview, Frank Oz discussed the creation of Bean Bunny: “Jim built a character named Bean Bunny, so people could think he’s cute, and take the onus off of the others. But it didn’t work – they still thought the others were cute.” Bean returned in 1989 to join the cast of The Jim Henson Hour, working in the control room and portions of the MuppeTelevision segments on the show.
In the early 1990s, there was a major push to integrate Bean Bunny into the major Muppet cast of characters. Bean was given lead roles in both the television special The Muppets at Walt Disney World and the 3D film Muppet*Vision 3D at the Disney MGM Studios (now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios). In the TV special, Bean is featured among the group joining Kermit on vacation to his hometown of Paradise Swamp, FL. The gang takes a detour when they discover Walt Disney World on the other side of the swamp. Bean appears in a segment with Scooter playing around the leaping fountains at EPCOT’s Journey into Imagination pavilion. In a fun bit of dialogue between the two, Scooter remarks that “cute” must be Bean’s middle name. Bean is quick to state it’s actually Norman. In Muppet*Vision 3D, Bean is blamed for ruining the film by both Miss Piggy and Sam Eagle and decides to run away alongside Waldo C. Graphic, the world’s first computer-generated Muppet. Of course, chaos ensues and the show includes an audio animatronic Bean Bunny sitting in the balcony of the theater, opposite Statler and Waldorf. Bean was also a walk-around character in both Muppet stage shows at the Disney MGM Studios, Here Come the Muppets and Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses. Because of Bean’s high profile appearances in the park, a stuffed plush of Bean Bunny was sold at the Studio One store right next to Muppet*Vision 3D. Bean joined the cast of the animated series Muppet Babies in its seventh season and was also featured as a pre-teen alongside the other main Muppet characters in the Muppet Kids book series. Bean very possibly could have become Steve Whitmire’s primary Muppet character, until Jim Henson passed away in 1990 and Steve assumed the role of Kermit.
Bean Bunny’s appearances began to decrease. His only prominent role in a Muppet feature film was in The Muppet Christmas Carol, as the young child who fetches a turkey twice his size for Scrooge to give to the Cratchit family on Christmas Day. Over the years, Bean became a background character, often acting as a target of Muppet violence. In the DVD audio commentary for The Muppet Christmas Carol, Brian Henson even said that, “Inside the Muppet Company, we love to hate Bean Bunny, which to some fans out there will sound terrible. The idea was, he was so cute and sweet and sappy that we never would do that in the Muppets. And he was so obnoxiously sweet that everybody didn’t like him.” Despite this, Bean Bunny in 2015 joined the collection of Muppets on display at the Center for Puppetry Arts’ “Worlds of Puppetry” exhibit.
Bean Bunny is a character you either love or hate. But the truth is, he was created for just that purpose: for you to “love to hate” him, or “hate to love” him. He’s sort of an anti-Muppet, reslishing his cuteness even as the other Muppets distance themselves from that quality. Bean Bunny is cuteness incarnate. In The Muppets at Walt Disney World, Scooter explains Bean’s role in the Muppets by saying, “That’s his job. You see, the rest of us got sick of being cute, so we hired him to do it.”
What do you, the Muppet fan community, think of Bean Bunny? Do you like hating him? Do you hate liking him? What about his current role within the Muppet family? Should he return for the new television show or for a YouTube video? I really want to hear your opinions!