He’s blue, he’s furry, he stands a few feet tall, preschoolers have wanted to squeeze him for four decades straight, and now – finally – he’s a viral star on the web.
Grover, in case you haven’t heard, stars in one of the latest videos to catch flame online. It’s a Sesame Street video that pokes fun of Old Spice’s “the man your man could smell like” commercial, which itself was a viral sensation only this winter.
Smell Like a Monster
In this case, Grover focuses on the word “on,” as in, “on a boat.” Or, “I’m on a horse,” as Grover says at the end … except that the animal below him says “Moo.” “Cow,” Grover quickly adds.
Hilarious. It works for adults, particularly those who like a little burst of satire, and it definitely works for children, too. By early this week, well over five million people had seen the video on YouTube, not including copies posted elsewhere.
I wasn’t surprised, then, to read a piece from New York magazine that revealed not only that the producers of Sesame Street aim to hit two generations with one video, but also deliberately try to get a viral thing happening when they make a video.
They’ve also done parodies of Mad Men – “I’m mad!” says one irate Muppet – and True Blood, a.k.a. True Mud. Yes, it’s a bit risky source material, but the idea is that the kids appreciate what they’re seeing for what it is, while the adults get a lift on a couple of levels.
The Grover parody was conceived, in part, as a way of getting people’s attention, and its internal budget was justified as a promotional event (you’ll notice a brief slide at the end suggesting you watch Sesame Street on PBS, or their website).
More with Muppets
Of course, Grover is a Muppet, but he sticks to Sesame Street. The Muppets, as a brand in their own right, have been reinventing themselves over the last couple of years, and have been making extraordinary clever use of the web to do it.
Consider the cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which reunited all of the Muppet Show gang for a rousing yet kid-friendly rendition. (Animal “sang” the word Mama over and over in the place of the lines about pulling a trigger and shooting a man dead.) The video was just posted, a few nudges were made, and boom – everyone got excited about the Muppets again.
For some, it was a bit of nostalgia; for others, like my son – who particularly likes watching videos of Beaker and Bunsen Honeydew’s ill-fated experiments – the videos are entirely fresh.
When you think about it, the Muppets had a built-in advantage for the web. Their sketches were short and often action-packed, built around one strong joke … and just the right length for bite-size videos that people overwhelmingly prefer online.
Many viral hits are shot with a simple camera, even a cellphone, which makes the Muppets different. The production values on the new ones are sumptuous, and quite a bit of thought and skill has gone into pulling them off.
The Muppet videos are laying the groundwork for a new movie, and no doubt a multimedia presence that will probably be hard to ignore, and possibly overwhelming. For now, though, millions of people can’t get enough of those morsels of Muppet humour.
Angry Birds: Halloween
Angry Birds has been a worldwide phenomenon since this summer: a game where a little geometry knowledge helps, and a whole lot of fun for anyone with a smartphone. The free version unveiled for Android phones this month drew 2 million downloads in half a week.
Rovio, the company behind the addictively compelling game, has issued a special Halloween edition, with new levels and challenges. Downloading it made me a hit in our house, where both my wife and son are far adept than I am in maneuvering those die-hard birds into slingshots.