A Plumm Summer had a limited release in 2007 but is now widely available for the first time with this week’s DVD. It is based on the real-life story of a “kidnapped” puppet from a local children’s program in Montana that became a national news story and a case for the FBI.
I was lucky to get a chance to interview one of the stars of the film, Brenda Strong.
What made you want to be a part of this movie?
What appealed to me was family-friendly, heart-warming movie with no CGI, just a good, old-fashioned story. I had a 10 year old son and I was tired of telling him I was in a movie he could not see. I wanted to make a movie where he could be part of the filming process and be on the set and tell his friends to go see when it was done. I wanted to do something for my family. And then I saw who was involved. Henry Winkler and I had done another kid-friendly film and really got along — that cemented it.
I have heard that he is a wonderful guy.
He’s just a walking heart. He exudes love wherever he goes. Years ago when he was still in “Happy Days” my husband walked up to him and he was so warm. He is still the same. If someone recognizes him he gets up and shakes their hand, always treats everyone with such respect and honor. A lot of people can learn from that. It is so nice to see someone hold space in that way.
This is a true story?
It is based on a true story, a triumphant tale of these two brothers who meet a new friend and then like the Hardy Boys become involved in a mystery when a marionette much in the same vein as Howdy Doody is kidnapped from a popular local television show. There really was a Froggy-Doo character on television in Montana, and the host was Happy Herb. And Froggy-Doo really was puppet-napped by some people who thought they would get some money out of Herb. It became a national case and J. Edgar Hoover sent out some feds to investigate! We actually had the original Happy Herb and Froggy-Doo on the set with us, it was really magical. Whenever you go to a more rural environment, there’s an essence of innocence that resonates. That was part of what made it a magical shoot before during and after. The thing that I’m really looking forward to in the DVD is the deleted scenes and gag reel. Even if they have seen the movie they should definitely get the DVD because of all the extras.
Why is it so hard to get Hollywood to make movies for this age group?
They underestimate the intelligence of kids. We get animation for little kids and CGI for middle schoolers. What we’re missing right now are stories that engage the imagination from a character point of view, stories that can help them start to build their value system. When the character of Elliot has to jump off the bridge, it is a huge character choice, because he was scared but he knew how important it was to his brother. And he has to stand up to his father, too. These choices are threaded throughout the story, things kids need to see and feel. Animation is one thing but kids relate on a much more visceral level to the real thing.