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So what does Disney have in the works for the Muppets in 2012?

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So what does Disney have in the works for the Muppets in 2012?

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Okay. There are obviously a lot of people out there talking about "The Muppets" this morning. In particular how ticket sales for this James Bobin film reportedly fell off by 62% during its second weekend in domestic release.

But - to be fair here - given that the No. 1 film in the country, Summit Entertainment's "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1" also experienced a pretty steep fall-off in ticket sales this past weekend (i.e. an estimated 60%), it wasn't as though "The Muppets" was the only film that suffered a post-Thanksgiving setback.


Copyright Summit Entertainment, LLC
All rights reserved

In fact, given the number of people from Walt Disney Studios who deliberately reached out to me on Friday & Saturday to then explain that the weekend after Thanksgiving is traditionally the second slowest one of the year when it comes to movie ticket sales ... Well, it was clear that what just happened with "The Muppets" wasn't entirely unexpected.

Interestingly enough, the message that I heard -- consistently and repeatedly -- was that, in spite of whatever was going to happen at the box office this past weekend as well as throughout the rest of the month of December, the Company would continue to stand behind "The Muppets." That no matter what this James Bobin movie ultimately wound up earning between now and January 2nd (revised internal box office projections suggest that "The Muppets" will eventually pull in something between $80 - $90 million during its initial domestic run), Mouse House managers still feel that this film did a decent job of relaunching - more importantly, re-energizing -- the Muppet franchise.

The big question now is ... What should Disney do next with these characters? Mind you, you shouldn't expect to see anything of size done with the Muppets between now and the end of February. Given that the international roll-out of this Walt Disney Pictures release is still underway, there is weeks worth of promotional work that have yet to be done. But after that ... Well, the Company's primary focus - at least when it comes to when it will next attempt to put the Muppets back in the spotlight - will be late February / early March.


Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segal in "The Muppets."
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Why then?," you ask. Well, March is the month when the Blu-ray and DVD version of "The Muppets" is expected to hit store shelves (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has yet to settle on an exact sales date). It's also when the Disney Fantasy is due to head out for its maiden voyage. Which is when the general public will get its very first chance to play "The Case of the Stolen Show," that new on-board "Enchanted Art" adventure game which stars the Muppet characters.

As for late February ... Given that the Mouse will be looking to raise awareness of the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray & DVD versions of "The Muppets" right about then, look for Kermit & Co. to have a fairly high profile at the 84th annual Academy Awards. Which (not so-co-incidentally) will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, February 26th.

Given that "Life's a Happy Song" (i.e. the original song that Bret McKenzie wrote for "The Muppets") is already getting Oscar buzz, Disney Studios is anticipating an Academy Award nomination for this particular musical number. And if that Oscar nod does in fact actually come through, expect the Mouse to stage a very elaborate, Muppet-heavy rendition of "Life" as part of this live broadcast.


(L to R) Kermit, Jim Henson, Cilia Van Dijk, Scooter and Richard Hunt at the 1986
Academy Awards. Copyright Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
All rights reserved

More to the point, look for Disney & ABC to lobby hard for Miss Piggy and Kermit to be allowed to present at least one award at the 2012 Oscars. Which - if the Company can actually pull this off - will be something of a coup. Given that the last time that Kermit appeared at the Academy Awards was back in 1986 (which was when he, Scooter and Jim Henson revealed the winner for that year's "Best Animated Short"category) while Miss Piggy hasn't been part of this awards show since March of 1996 (which is when this Muppet made a surprise cameo appearance, interrupting Whoopi Goldberg's video chat with the star of "Babe," insisting that she was still Hollywood's most famous hog).

And then - in support of the Blu-ray and DVD release of "The Muppets" - there will, of course, be the usual round of talk show and morning chat show promotional appearances. You know the drill.

But after that, things get kind of interesting for the Muppets. Given that the Company's future plans for this particular set of characters do kind of key off of how well "The Muppets" actually does at the box office ...  Well, that decision can't be made until Disney gets the final international box office tallies for this film.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But that said ... If I were a betting man (and based on what I heard from Studio insiders this past Friday and Saturday), I'd say that it's far more likely that we'll see another Muppet TV-based project (like - perhaps - that previously-announced and now-long-delayed Muppet Halloween special) before we see these characters in a brand-new feature-length film production.

But what do you folks think? Does that sounds like a viable plan to promote the upcoming Blu-ray & DVD release of "The Muppets"? If not, what would you do differently to put these characters back in the spotlight?

Your thoughts?

 

 

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  • I'm trying to figure out Sandy's comment about old media? The Smurfs were old media. The Chipmonks were really old media. I doubt either property was even as well known as the Muppets. Or does the comment refer to the art of puppetry? We've seen diminishing returns in the area of hand-drawn feature animation too, but is it really the fact that hand-drawn animation no longer works or have the hand-drawn projects just not been handled well? How much of this is related to Disney's creative ineptitude? Even their marketing chops are becoming increasingly questionable.

    Surveying Disney's fortunes for the last 10+ years does not make one sanguine about their creative genius. They're now a company that either buys other people's stuff--Pixar, Marvel--or they distribute and co-finance other people's stuff--Walden Entertainment-- they've spent hundreds of millions on dud projects like Prince of Persia to Christmas Carol to Mars Needs Moms. I can't believe Pooh's b.o. pleased anyone. Almost everything they've touched in-house with the exception of Pirates and Alice has grossly underperformed. Everyone's excited about Avatar coming to AK, but again, that's not their baby.

    Part of the problem with Muppets has apparently been expectation. From what I can tell, some of the expectations were just silly. This was not a 150 mil-200 mil. CGI or live-action project. This was a relatively cheap (probably should have been cheaper) family roll-out that opened with 3 other family films--Puss in Boots; Arthur Christmas and Hugo competing directly against it. Considering what the average CGI film now costs to make and market, 500-600 mil. b.o., what is considered boffo in the industry, is no longer a guarantee of good times at the studio. What would have been considered a very strong take for Muppets? And by what metric did those setting the expectations arrive at their numbers?

  • I took my young teen kids to the Muppets, and unfortunately, they were bored out of their minds.  It's just a sad fact that what constitutes heartwarming for us boomers is a yawn for our kids.  Ever thus, I guess.  I fear that the much crasser and more sucessful reboots of Smurfs and Chipmunks might tell us that what the audience wants isn't quality.

    If you were a betting man Jim, do you think Rich Ross will still be in his position by the time the next Pirate's movie is released?

  • Why is Jim Hill talkin like it was a flop? Isnt 50-60 mill pretty good for opening weekend?? Esepcially compared to other Muppet movies?? Were they really expecting Avatar type numbers for the Muppets? I mean, compare it to another franchise that recently tried to re-energize itself and gain cultural relevance again, Scream 4...That made like 15 mill opening weekend and 30 mill domestically all up. Now thats dissapointing numbers, but even there the Weinstein brothers said they would go ahead with another sequel.

    I mean for christ sake its the second week open, at least give it some time before you make wild predictions about the future of the Muppets..Who are your sources!?

  • I really wish people would stop harping on "The Muppets has made its budget back" line. WHICH budget are they talking about? The production budget or the promotional budget? They BOTH matter. And Disney spent a TON of cash promoting this film. I can't recall a more saturated ad campaign for any movie, Disney or otherwise. And again - I wish people would try to grasp this - any movie has to make up to 3 TIMES its OVERALL budget just to break even. That is FACT, it's been a fact for decades. This Muppet movie has zero chance to do that given its loss of momentum. And there is no way merchandise sales will make up for it. Despite all of the hype and exposure, Muppet merchandise is not and will never be on a par with Cars or Toy Story or Lion King or Mickey or Pooh, or even come close.

    Disney really pushed this film for all it's worth, but the results are lackluster. Disney's got to get out of this ridiculous business of buying up characters (like Muppets and Marvel) and start investing in its own artists and creative endeavors. Try to be the company that made other studios envious and enchanted generations. And they can't do that by buying up somebody's discards.

  • I agree with the comment that they needed to re-introduce the characters.  Other than Kermit, my 5 and 10 year old boys had no idea who any of the other Muppets were.  Even if they would have re-run the old TV show somewhere for a few months on cable it would have helped.

  • Despite the critical hype, this film was a big disappointment.  I can see why Frank Oz turned the script down.  The biggest problem with this movie was "too much talk, not enough show".  All this constant talk of nostalgia means nothing if we don't spend enough time with the Muppets as people are supposed to remember them.  But so much of The Muppets film was wrapped up in celebrity cameos, pointless drama, and non Muppet related gags/musical numbers.  You don't see much of the Muppets act out their characters until the telethon and even then it's underplayed.  What a pity considering I can't imagine any other studio having ownership of this franchise other than Disney.

  • I think the real issue is that the Muppets may be a niche property (Palisades Toys, Tonner Dolls and that FAO workshop) on top of that movies are becoming a niche product with event overtones. It may well be that you need a teen idol draw to get the crowds and repeat business theatrically- that the mainstream audience is not looking for story as much as an event- that they might want the Dark Crystal from Robot Chicken, as depressing as that is.

  • I don't think the new Muppet film is a failure.  I think the box office has just been down period lately and the Muppets got hit by that a bit.  I think ultimately it will make it's money back and some.  It is definitely a better performer then the last Muppet film, "Muppets from Space."  And while the film itself may not make zillions of dollars, the franchise as a whole is stronger then the nay sayers say it is.

    There is still interest in these characters.  I think having their next production be a tv special is an excellent idea, possibly followed by another tv show?  I definitely feel Disney needs to release more of the vintage titles, including the last two seasons of "The Muppet Show" and "Muppets Tonight" on DVD.  What the Muppets need is support from Disney, which I think they are going to finally start to get.

  • Toonaspie, I completely disagree.

    As for your remark on Frank Oz, he was NOT asked to be in the movie. He only read a very early draft of the script and based his opinions on that version alone. He never recieved the later revisions after it went through all the tweaks that it did prior to its release.

    Stop believing lies already, people!!!

  • Really? their firing the marketer? If they were going to fire anyone, they should fire the editor. the only reason the movie was "bad" was because they left so much information out. and its so obvious that they had filmed the missing information because of continuity errors littering the film. Who ever decided to make this movie shorter should get fired, it would have been a great movie if they hadn't. The marketing for this movie was amazing!!!

  • Frank Oz retired from the Muppets awhile ago. He didn't turn anything down.

    Really I'm surprised so many people here hated the movie. Everyone I knew who saw it and wasn't a teenager loved it.

  • Personally I loved the movie. But it did have some minor plot holes that stuck out, and the film seemed to drag during the middle. The Jokes were amazing, and i personally love forth wall humor. Also i'm a big muppets fan, and there was ALOT of little things for muppet fans to enjoy.

  • Come sign my petition to bring back the Muppet Show on a Monthly basis. Sign at disneyapprentice.com

  • I'd be all for a return of the Muppet Show on cable. I know it sounds kind of unrealistic if the box office returns are flat and right now the movie hasn't broken $100 million, but it has nearly doubled its box office budget. This is a good enough measuring stick but with Disney, who knows what they'll do. And Lisa Henson and company are really lazy when comes to funding anything from her father's legacy. Just look at the Dark Crystal movie sequel and how long its been in Development Hell for proof.

  • muppets will rule dvd blu ray

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