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Tube Tuesday: Xmas marks the spot for the Muppets in 2009

Tube Tuesday: Xmas marks the spot for the Muppets in 2009

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Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when we reconnect with friends & family. And this year, The Walt Disney Company must be feeling especially thankful for the way the public passionately re-embraced the Muppets last week.

I mean, who would have thought that a viral video (which was shot on the fly, by the way. 50 camera set-ups in just a day and a half back in July) covering an old Queen song would set the Web on fire. But that’s exactly what “Bohemian Rhapsody” did, racking up over 8.2 million views over the past week.

The Muppets perform the Bohemian Rhapsody
Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

To give you some idea of how truly huge this is for Muppet Studios, let’s take a look at their previous web sensation, Beaker’s “Ode To Joy.” Originally posted on YouTube in July of 2008, it took this Webby-winning viral video more than 16 months to rack up 7.4 million views. “Bohemian Rhapsody” blew right by that number in less than seven days.

Of course, what helped here was that virtually every site of size on the Web linked to the Muppets’ latest online tune. TMZ, Perez Hilton, Gawker, the Huffington Post and AintItCoolNews all made their readers aware of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Which is how the Muppet Studios’ new YouTube Channel (which just launched on November 19th and already has over 38,000 subscribers) wound up being the Most Viewed Channel on YouTube this past week.

Miss Piggy visits the cast of Dancing With the Stars
(L to R) Cloris Leachman, Jerry Springer, Steve Wozniak, Miss Piggy and Joanna
Krupa on the season finale of “Dancing with the Stars.” Photo by Adam Larkey.
Copyright 2009 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved

And what with all of this additional media attention coming during a week when Miss Piggy made an appearance on the “Dancing with the Stars” finale on ABC

 Tiffany Thornton & Kermit the Frog rode the Bountiful Harvest Cornucopia float in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Tiffany Thornton and Kermit the Frog ride the Bountiful Harvest Cornucopia
float in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Copyright 2009 Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

... and Kermit the Frog sang “I Believe” with Tiffany Thornton during NBC’s live broadcast of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade … Well, is it any wonder People Magazine – in its “Best of 2009” issue – just named the Muppets as the Comeback of the Year?

People Magazine named the Muppets Come Back of the Year
Copyright 2009 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, this wasn’t a fluke. Or just some lucky break. Ever since The Walt Disney Company acquired this beloved set of characters from The Jim Henson Company back in February of 2004, a lot of very talented people have worked long & hard behind-the-scenes to ease the Muppets back into the spotlight. But who knew that it would be a Queen song that would finally put them over the top?

Anyway … If you’ve grown tired of rewatching “Bohemian Rhapsody” on YouTube,  there’s lots of Muppety goodness to be found on TV this week. Take – for example – tomorrow night’s “Christmas at Rockefeller Center” telecast (which airs on NBC from 8 to 9 p.m. ET/PT). When Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Pepe and the Electric Mayhem will join Michael Buble, Barry Manilow and the Radio City Rockettes for the lighting of the world’s most famous Christmas tree.

Tiffany Thornton and Kermit the Frog
Tiffany Thornton from the Disney Channel’s “Sonny With A Chance” and Kermit
the Frog. Copyright 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

On Friday, the Disney Channel premieres the music video version of “I Believe.” (By the way, if you like Kermit & Tiffany’s new holiday tune, the single version of “I Believe” – which is already getting tons of airplay over on Radio Disney-- will be available for purchase from various online retailers starting on December 8th).

That same day NBC will be rebroadcasting “A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa” from 8 to 9 p.m. ET / PT (FYI: An extended version of this highly rated 2008 holiday special is now available for purchase from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment).

Andrea Bocelli sings with Kermit and the gang on the Jay Leno show
Copyright 2009 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All Rights Reserved

And then – on Monday, December 7th – the Muppets will be performing with Andrea Bocelli on “The Jay Leno Show” (which airs on NBC from 10 to 11 p.m. ET/PT).

Speaking of which … This Italian tenor’s new holiday special -- “Andrea Bocelli & David Foster: My Christmas” -- will be airing all month long on PBS. And one of the real highlights of this show is when Bocelli sings “Jingle Bells” with Miss Piggy & pals.

Which – I know – sounds somewhat unlikely. Especially since some of the other stars who appear on this holiday special (i.e. Reba McEntire, Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Katherine Jenkins and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ) are among the most popular entertainers working today. All I can tell you is that – back when “My Christmas” was initially being shot at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre this past September -- the Muppets were the only act who received a standing O from the audience attending that taping.

Andrea Bocelli sings with the Muppets on the "My Christmas" PBS show
Copyright 2009 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All Rights Reserved

And if you like what you see & hear on this new PBS holiday special, then perhaps you should spring for the "My Christmas" CD & DVD. Which also features the Muppets singing “Jingle Bells” with Mr. Bocelli.

By the way …If you like listening to Kermit & Co. perform Christmas carols, just be aware that “Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t the only viral video that Muppet Studios will be releasing this holiday season. They have a version of “Carol of the Bells” which will be popping up on the Web sometime in the next two weeks that will definitely make “ … your days seem merry and bright.”

And if that’s not enough Muppety Christmas cheer for you … Just this morning, Postmaster General John E. Potter -- with the help of Kermit the Frog & Fozzie Bear -- ..

Kermiut the Frog, Fozzie Bear and the US Post Master General introduce the new cancellation stamp for Christmas
(L to R) John E. Potter, the Postmaster General of the United States Postal System,
Kermit the Frog & Fozzie Bear at this morning's "Letters to Santa" announcement
in NYC. Copyright 2009 Muppets Studios, LLC. All Rights Reserved

... announced that this year’s holiday cancellation will feature Kermit the Frog holding a “Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa” sign.

Kermit peaks out from behind a Letter's to Santa banner on the US Postal Service's Christmas cancellation stamp
Copyright 2009 Muppet Studios, LLC. All Rights Reserved

And on into December, Kermit & Co. continue with “A Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa” being rebroadcast by NBC on December 19th from 8-9 p.m. ET/PT. And look for the Muppets “Give a Day / Get a Disney Daycommercials to be prominently featured as part of the December 25th broadcast of the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade. Which will air on ABC from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

And if all goes according to plan, the Muppets’ current hot streak will continue well past New Year’s Eve. In January, their new online series – “The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora” – debuts. Plus these characters will be prominently featured in the “Give a Day / Get a Disney Day” parade (which will periodically recognize the volunteers who take part in next year’s promotion for Disney Parks & Resorts). And let’s not forget about the first in-park Muppet Whatnot shop (which is rumored to be opening at WDW early next year).

All this plus a Muppet Halloween special AND a brand-new feature film, “The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made.” And did I mention that – in addition to “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Carol of the Bells” – that Muppet Studios has three more viral videos that it plans on releasing in 2010? All of which (Disney hopes) will cause the same sort of online sensation that last week’s video did.

Rizzo the Rat puppet replica from eFX
Copyright Disney / eFx, Inc. All Rights Reserved

There’s a few more Muppet-related surprises to found under this year’s Christmas tree (You might want to start TiVoing Jimmy Fallon. Hint, hint). Speaking of which … If you’re looking for an appropriate present for the Muppet fanatic in your family, you might want to check eFx Inc.’s line of photo puppet replicas and/or Tonner’s great new Miss Piggy dolls.

Of course, if you’d like to deliver something truly sensational this holiday season, you might want to get in on the bidding that’s currently going on with FAO Schwarz’s Experience of a Lifetime auctions. You see, the Fifth Avenue store is currently offering an experiential package -- "THE WORKS" -- that any serious Muppet fan would kill to have.

“And what exactly does ‘THE WORKS’ entail?,” you ask. Well, let’s start with a 2-night / 3-day excursion to NYC. Where – as you enter FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue – you’ll be greeted by Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear.

Kermit peaks out from behind the stage cutain at a free standing Fozzie Bear
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.  All Rights Reserved

No, not some teenagers in Kermit & Fozzie costumes. The REAL Kermit the Frog & Fozzie Bear will be on hand as you arrive at Muppet Whatnot headquarters. Where you’ll then design your own custom Muppet Whatnot puppet.

Once your Whatnot is complete, you’ll receive private puppeteering lessons from a Muppet pro. This will be followed by the shooting of a three-minute-long keepsake video where your Muppet Whatnot will perform alongside Kermit & Fozzie. Once this footage is edited, it will then be posted on Muppets.com.

Doesn’t “THE WORKS” sound great? Well, the downside is that this FAO Schwarz Experience of a Lifetime auction is being done for charity. And if you’d like to get some quality time with the REAL Kermit & Fozzie, it’s going to cost you. The high bid of this Ultimate Muppet Whatnot Workshop Experience currently stands at $5000.

You can win a chance to make and perform with your own puppet at the Muppet What Not Auction
Copyright 2009 Disney / FAO Schwarz. All Rights Reserved

But the upside is that you have ‘til December 10th at 5 p.m. ET to cash in the kids’ college funds and/or look under the couch cushions for loose change. That’s when bidding officially closes on this particular FAO Schwarz Experience of a Lifetime auction.

Okay. That’s enough talk about Christmas & holiday gifts. For now, why don’t we enjoy some Thanksgiving leftovers and take one more look at “Bohemian Rhapsody” ?

Of course, if you’re still of a mind to do some holiday shopping today … If you’re looking to do any bargain hunting on Amazon.com, could you first please click on the banner above? If you do that … Well, JHM gets a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend. Which would be a great way to say “Thank You” for all the great stories that you’ve read on Jim Hill Media over the past year.

Happy Holidays!

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  • As a Disney stockholder, I'd be more impressed if all this hype resulted in actual money being earned. All this fuss amounts to is Disney throwing more money at a property that's been unprofitable and out of fashion since the '80's.

    As for the Rhapsody thing, Jim, you'd be surprised at the things that get an enormous amount of attention on Youtube. Admittedly, it's a cheap venue (which is certainly a plus in this case), but it's nostalgia that's fueling all the attention, not popularity. Will the kids that shell out bucks for Hannah Montana do the same for the Muppets? I sincerely doubt it.

  • I'm just glad to see that when the Muppets are making these comebacks, they are coming back as... the Muppets. That may not make alot of sense, but I was concerned when Disney acquired the characters that they would somehow clam them down, make them more politically correct, in order to make them more appealing to a wider audience. But, thank goodness, they didn't do that. According to this new video, the Muppets are still the good ol Muppets, with their demented sense of humor and randomness. Fish are still being flung, Monsters are still eating, things are getting blown up, Sam still scowls at all the mayhem going on around him.. They are still the same ragtag bunch. And for that, I am grateful. All I could think as I was watching this new video and laughing myself off my chair is that I wish I could work someplace so "UnPC" where it is ok to laugh, and be demented.

    Glad to see the Muppets back, hope to see lots more of them, and hope Disney continues to let them be.. the Muppets!

  • <i>As a Disney stockholder, I'd be more impressed if all this hype resulted in actual money being earned. All this fuss amounts to is Disney throwing more money at a property that's been unprofitable and out of fashion since the '80's.</i>

    You've heard the adage you have to spend money to make money, right?  The Muppets have been dormant for a long time, and if Disney is serious about reviving them - and it seems that they are - then they need to do all of the guest star appearances and YouTube videos they can to build up to something bigger and better.

    <i>As for the Rhapsody thing, Jim, you'd be surprised at the things that get an enormous amount of attention on Youtube. Admittedly, it's a cheap venue (which is certainly a plus in this case), but it's nostalgia that's fueling all the attention, not popularity. Will the kids that shell out bucks for Hannah Montana do the same for the Muppets? I sincerely doubt it. </i>

    Nostalgia can become popularity in a hurry.  Perfect example: Scooby-Doo.

    The kids shelling out money for Hannah Montana might not pay for the Muppets, but their parents will, and so will their younger brothers and sisters.

    There's still a lot of affection for the Muppets, as shown by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the YouTube videos.  They've also got a movie coming up from Jason Segal.  Judging from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he's a talented writer, a fan of the Muppets, and hilarious to boot.  If the movie lives up to its potential, then all of this will pay off.

  • "Their younger brothers and sisters" have little interest in the Muppets, Spider, once they're past Sesame Street age. There is too much competition out there for their eyes and ears, and a lot of it is better than the Muppets. As for Scooby Doo, it had one hit film - a hit powered by nostalgia - then it quickly died as a movie franchise. The Chipmunks might be a better example - but they were brought back by a shiny new technology - computer-generated-imagery - so that they seem new again. Bottom line, I can understand people being amused by the mix of Queen and puppets, it was okay for what the Muppets are now, but until I see money being made, and I mean BIG money, since Disney overpaid for them, I still think the purchase of the Muppets was a big error on Eisner's part. But then I think Disney shouldn't be buying up characters anyway. Say what you will about Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place, at least they were created in-house, and weren't dead creations which had worn out their welcome. It's not like Disney can't create their own successful characters anymore; the Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb is a hit and for what it is, is quite good. I don't think it's in the spirit of Walt Disney to buy instead of create, unless it's a property Disney plans to embellish and "plus" and make its own. And it's Disney and its legacy I care about, not the Muppets; otherwise I wouldn't be a stockholder.

  • gigglestock has been a "muppet hater" since he first appeared on this site.  Engaging him in discussion is an exercise in futility.

  • Hating the Muppets would be like hating Barney. Now that's an exercise in futility.

    For my part, I wonder at all the "Disney haters" who blame Disney whenever the Muppets screw up ("Muppets Wizard of Oz").

  • Unfortunately, gigglesock, Disney going out and purchasing properties to exploit is something that we're all going to have to get used to as stockholders, if the industry press is to believed.  Disney's not really committed to developing properties in-house like it used to be - why else would they pay the money they have to buy Marvel and make deals with Robert Zemeckis, DreamWorks, and so on?

    Bringing up Rich Ross to run the Studios seems to me to reinforce the idea that Disney's committed to finding and buying new franchises instead of creating them.  

  • As far as I've heard the amount paid for the Muppets is undisclosed, so unless gigglesock secretly works for either company I'd love to know how he thinks Disney overpaid.  Actually strike that, if he's comparing the Muppets to Barney then I don't need to hear what he thinks about anything, ever.

    And whether anyone likes it or not, Disney IS making money off the Muppets.  It may not be Hannah Montana numbers but they're pulling in a fair share in merchandise and DVD sales.  

    Sure Disney still needs to develop it's own characters, but it does that.  Last I checked there are TWO animated features this year and the last several and on into the future.  With over 30,000 characters still around.  So chill out and stop with the hate.

  • Yeah, I guess I shouldn't compare the Muppets to Barney - because the Muppets can't compare to Barney. That freaking dinosaur is a gold mine. Surprised Disney hasn't bought HIM yet.

    Sorry, tuck, Disney has yet to make a damn dime off those puppets compared to the considerable price it paid for them (I heard around 80 million).

    And yes, you are right, pschnebs, buying instead of creating seems to be the Disney plan of the present and possibly future. Which is why the Disney name seems to mean less and less to audiences as time goes by, as the Walt Disney legacy gets diluted and original characters get upstaged so that has-beens like the Muppets can get pushed. Iger is worse than Eisner in some respects.

  • Gigglesock is just a hater. (and annoying)

    The only reason he is saying any of this is becuase he obviously hates the Muppets. With or without Disney.

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