'Shari And Lamb Chop' Documentary Will Explore The Story Of The Beloved Children's Show

Emmy and Grammy Award-winning production company White Horse Pictures and MoJo Global Arts are set to produce an upcoming documentary entitled Shari & Lamb Chop. The film will focus on legendary ventriloquist and puppeteer Shari Lewis and her iconic sockpuppet named Lamb Chop.

Nicholas Ferrall, President of White Horse Pictures, and Mojo Global Arts' Douglas Warner announced the project spotlighting Lewis and her memorable childhood television show. Shari & Lamb Chop will be directed by Emmy-nominated Lisa D'Apolito who is well-known for her film Love, Gilda on the career of comedic pioneer Gilda Radner.

The upcoming documentary will be produced by Cassidy Hartmann (The Apollo) and Nicholas Ferrall (The Beatles: Eight Days A Week), Douglas Warner (Paul Rodriguez: The Here & Wow), and D'Apolito. Nigel Sinclair (The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart) and Jeanne Elfant Festa (Pavarotti) will executive produce alongside co-founder of MoJo Global Arts, Morris Ruskin.

Unfortunately, Shari passed away in 1998 at the age of 65 after a long battle with cancer and a detrimental case of viral pneumonia. Her daughter, Mallory Lewis, manages her estate and has been in full cooperation with the film's production. Mallory is also serving as a consultant on the film as she has performed with Lamb Chop for the last twenty years.

Pioneer Puppeteer

In 1952, Lewis won first prize for her puppetry on the CBS television series Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. From there, her career blossomed. She performed on several children's shows throughout the '50s and introduced her iconic puppets Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse on a show called Hi Mom while Lamb Chop had her television debut on a 1956 episode of Captain Kangaroo. 

NBC gave Shari her first network program in 1961 entitled The Shari Lewis Show. She continued to not only host but also guest on various shows up until her passing in 1998. By the end of the 20th century, Lamb Chop had become a cultural icon on par with Snoopy, Mickey Mouse, or Elmo. The team behind Shari & Lamb Chop said that the documentary will:

explore Shari's unlikely journey through the lens of her fascinating decades-long "relationship" with Lamb Chop, delving into the unique psychology that exists between performer and puppet, and the peculiar world of ventriloquism and magic.

Director Lisa D'Apolito expanded on the documentary and the impact of Shari's work by saying:

"As a young woman Shari Lewis was a pioneer in television, and in her later years she was still singing and kicking up her heels with Lamb Chop — educating a whole new generation of children. Shari's story is one of resilience and perseverance. I feel very fortunate to be working with this amazing team and to enter into the magical world of Shari and Lamb Chop, which takes you to a place that can open your heart and make you smile."

The Song That Doesn't End

As a kid from the late '80s and early '90s, I remember Shari Lewis mostly from her 1992 show Lamb Chop's Play-Along. Did I enjoy watching it? Yes, yes I did.

One of the defining aspects of this show is that it was meant to get kids up and active. Lewis had this very sweet and playful nature about her and was fully committed to her role as a puppeteer. Each of her sock puppets had a distinct personality and she completely brought those animals to life.

When people think of puppeteers they mostly think of Jim Henson, who dominated both big and small screens in the '80s and '90s. Even today, not many people can name a female puppeteer. Did y'all know that Jim Henson's wife, Jane, was also a puppeteer? Probably not. Have you ever heard of Eren Ozker? She was one of the first puppeteers on The Muppet Show in 1976 and the only full-time female "Muppeteer".

Despite the increase of CGI in children's programming, shows like Sesame Street still hold the attention of young audiences in an educational and entertaining manner. The art of puppetry is far from dead and it is long overdue that Shari Lewis gets recognition for her contributions to not only puppetry and ventriloquism, but children's programming in general.