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Should Disney have made "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" instead of "Muppets Most Wanted" ?

Should Disney have made "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" instead of "Muppets Most Wanted" ?

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As its box office totals continue to trickle in, you just know that there have to be people  back in Burbank who are disappointed with the way "Muppets Most Wanted" performed this past weekend. Racking up just an estimated $16.5 million in ticket sales. Which doesn't compare all that well with the $29 million that "The Muppets " earned over the 2011 Thanksgiving weekend.

So what exactly happened here? Was it just as Kermit & Fozzie musically foretold in "Muppets Most Wanted" 's opening number that " ... the sequel's never quite as good" ?


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

To be honest, no. If you talk with industry insiders, they'll flat-out tell you that "Muppets Most Wanted" box office take was seriously undercut by a surprising strong "Mr. Peabody & Sherman." Three weekends into its domestic release, this DreamWorks Animation production sold an estimated $11.7 million worth of tickets. Which meant that the family-friendly "Mr. Peabody" took an over-sized bite out of the audience that Disney had hoped would want to go see "Muppets Most Wanted" instead.

That said, there are also those at the studio who say that -- as soon as Jason Segel made it clear that he didn't really want to be part of a follow-up to "The Muppets" -- Disney should have had the smarts to go in another direction with this production. Given that Segel not only starred in the 2011 Walt Disney Pictures release, Jason also executive-produced "The Muppets" as well co-wrote that movie's screenplay with Nicholas Stoller ... Well, Segel's absence was obviously going to be felt. Especially since "Muppets Most Wanted" was being sold as a direct sequel to "The Muppets."


Jason Segel goes over "The Muppets" screenplay with Kermit the Frog and Miss
Piggy. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"So what should have the Mouse made instead of 'Muppets Most Wanted?," you ask. Well, Disney could have always circled back on a script that Jim Henson himself had always wanted to shoot with Kermit & Co. A screenplay that Frank Oz said " ... would be a lot of fun to do." In fact, as recently as late 2005 / early 2006, Dick Cook -- the then-Chairman of Walt Disney Studios -- was still trying to get this Muppet movie made.

"And what project was this?," you query. A film that was supposedly so funny that -- even in storyboard form -- it reportedly caused Jim Henson and screenwriter Jerry Juhl to giggle uncontrollably: "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And what exactly was the storyline of this proposed Muppet movie?  To give you the answer to that question, I'm going to have to turn to that national bestseller, Brian Jay Jones' "Jim Henson: The Biography " (Ballantine Books, September 2003). And to hear Jones tell this tale, the origins of "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" can actually be traced back to a Henson associates staff meeting in early 1987. Where Oz had been grousing ...

... to Jim and Juhl about the growing costs of (many of the future projects that they hoped to produce) at Henson Associates. If they were going to make another Muppet film, Oz said testily, they would have to "figure out a way to do a really low-budget kind of thing." That was all Juhl needed. Hunching over his Macintosh computer in his home office in California, he quickly pounded out a treatment for a film called "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made."


Jerry Juhl and Kermit the Frog. Copyright The Jim Henson
Company. All rights reserved

So what sort of scenario did Juhl cook up for "Cheapest" ? Borrowing a page from Jim's own life during this point in the history of Henson Associates, as this film is getting underway, Kermit is far too busy to take on any additional behind-the-scenes responsibilities on the next Muppet movie. Gonzo -- who has always dreamed of directing -- then offers to take over production of this motion picture. Kermit reluctantly agrees but does seem pleased that all he'll have to do on this Muppet movie is appear in it. Rather than produce and then have to coax emotionally overwrought lady pigs out of their trailers.

So Gonzo goes off and -- because his contract says that he has now creative control over this entire project -- completely rewrites the script for the next Muppet movie. The film that he now wants to shoot is called "Into the Jaws of the Demons of Death." Which -- to hear Jerry Juhl describe the proposed storyline of the motion picture masterpiece that Gonzo wants to make -- has ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... this cheesy, terrible plot that made absolutely no sense whatsoever about something being stolen that led to a chase around the world.

Let's Brian Jay Jones pick up "Cheapest" plotline from this point in the story. Gonzo now asks all of the friends to come to the Muppet Studios screening room to see all of the footage that he's shot so far:


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

In his enthusiasm, Gonzo spends his entire budget on an impressive opening credits sequence, then has no money left for the rest of the film, As the movie proceeds, the film quality gets worse and worse, eventually eroding into black-and-white Super 8 film, then a slide show, and finally just storyboards -- until Gonzo sells out to corporate sponsors and finishes the movie in a beautiful, high-definition, widescreen format.

Jim was delighted with the treatment, and put Juhl to work writing a full script, which he turned in as Jim was wrapping up "A Muppet Family Christmas" in Ontario. Jim, Juhl and Oz passed the script back and forth, and even Oz -- always prickly about the treatment of the characters -- thought it was a exciting project. "It's going to be the kind of movie the audience wants the Muppets to do," he told Jim. "Just a little crazy and a whole lot of fun."

As it was written, "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" actually wouldn't be cheap to make -- Juhl's script called for erupting volcanoes and exploding islands, and for Meryl Streep to play Miss Piggy's stand-in -- but the idea was funny and Jim thought he could manage things on a budget of $8 million.


(L to R) A very young Frank Oz, Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl wrestling with Big V,
the Muppet monster made famous in the "Glow Worm" skit which debuted on
"The Ed Sullivan Show" back in 1964. Copyright The Jim Henson
Company. All rights reserved

And Henson was seriously about trying to keep "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" 's production costs down. As Jones recounts, in late 1988, Jim ...

... visited with Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas's groundbreaking special effects company, to discuss special effects for 'The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made,' which he was determined to put into production in 1989.


Jim Henson and George Lucas. Copyright The Jim Henson Company.
All rights reserved

And even as late as Spring of 1990 -- when most of Jim's time, energy and attention were directed toward trying to wrap up The Walt Disney Company's protracted negotiations to acquire Henson Associates for an estimated $150 million -- he was still talking up "Cheapest." Again from Brian Jay Jones' best-selling book:

Jim made the short flight from Burbank up to Sacramento, then drove up the coastline to visit Jerry Juhl at his home a hundred miles north of San Francisco. The two walked and talked among the giant redwoods for a while, then returned to Juhl's home office to discuss "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made," which Jim was still determined to make once the Disney deal was complete. It was a project that the two of them loved to talk about -- and Jim would spread the storyboards out on the floor of Juhl's office where, in no time, the two of them would be giggling uncontrollably as they tossed around one idea after another.


Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl with the cast of "Fraggle Rock." Copyright The Jim
Henson Company.  All rights reserved

But then on May 16, 1990, Jim Henson died. And all of his grand plans for the Muppets and what he & his talented team were going to do at Disney slowly fell apart. In fact, by December of that same year, relations had gotten so strained between the Henson family & Mickey's attorneys that The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Henson Associates was abruptly called off.

And in its place ... Well, this weird sort of deal was then cobbled together. One that would allow the already completed "Jim Henson Presents Muppet Vision 3D" to begin being shown at Disney-MGM Studio theme park starting in May of 1991. Not to mention granting Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment distribution rights for much of the Jim Henson Company's film library.


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And speaking of films ... Then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner was determined that Walt Disney Pictures would start distributing new Muppet movies. And the sooner, the better. But the only problem was  -- when the script for "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Produced" landed on his desk -- Eisner saw this proposed film as too much of a inside joke. Something that people who actually lived & worked in Hollywood would get and enjoy. But as for the rest of the country ... Well, Michael felt that Jim & Jerry's good-natured ribbing of the entertainment industry would just confuse all of those folks out there in flyover country.

So setting aside the screenplay that he'd written for "Cheapest," Juhl then crafted two scripts that met with Eisner's approval: 1992's "The Muppet Christmas Carol " and 1996's "Muppet Treasure Island ." Which placed Miss Piggy & pals in the context of two well-known classic stories that most moviegoers already knew. Which would -- in theory, anyway -- then make it that much easier to sell these two new Muppet movies to audiences around the world.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, about this same time, Frank Oz began cutting back on his involvement in Muppet-related projects. Mostly this was because Oz's career as a film director really began taking off in the late 1980s / early 1990s. Which meant that he then had less & less time to " ... wiggle the dollies." (i.e., this was Jim & Frank's deliberately dismissive way of describing the work that they did with the Muppets. These two truly talented men felt that -- if they avoided being  precious about the puppets that they worked with -- that would then make it that much easier for Henson & Oz to just concentrate on doing good work).

Which then led to situations like what happened on "Muppet Treasure Island." Because Frank was so busy shooting "The Indian in the Cupboard " while the Muppet version of this Robert Louis Stevenson story was being filmed, Kevin Clash performed Oz's characters (i.e., Squire Trelawney [Fozzie Bear], Mr. Arrow [Sam Eagle] and Benjamina Gunn [Miss Piggy]) on set, and Oz then came in after-the-fact and looped those characters' dialogue during post-production.


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There have also been whispers that -- on the heels of the July 1999 release of "Muppets from Space " -- Frank wasn't entirely happy with the direction that the Jim Henson Company was taking with the characters. While Oz has never talked publicly about the matter, it is worth noting that Frank's last known performance as Miss Piggy was back on January 14, 2002. When he appeared alongside Steve Whitmire's Kermit the Frog as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of NBC's Today.

Now where this gets interesting is that -- in February of 2004 -- The Walt Disney Company signed a binding purchasing agreement with The Jim Henson Company which would then allow the Mouse to acquire the Muppets as well as the Bear in the Big Blue House characters. And as Disney's lawyers dug down in Henson's files during the discovery phase of this acquisition, what did they discover? Jerry Juhl's original screenplay for "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made."


(L to R) Bob Iger, Michael Eisner and Dick Cook at the November 2004 premiere
of Pixar's "The Incredibles." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

This script & its storyboards eventually wound up on Dick Cook's desk. And the then-Chairman of Walt Disney Studios just loved the idea of a movie where -- as its budget continues to shrink -- Gonzo and his "Into the Jaws of the Demons of Death" production team were eventually forced to use a shot of the exact same street corner for every city in the world.

That said, Cook knew that the Muppets had basically been out of the spotlight for five years at this point. Which meant that it would take something really special to reinvigorate this film franchise, get people excited about the idea of seeing a Muppet movie again. Which is why Dick reportedly gave Frank a call and asked him to come by Disney Studios so that they could then discuss the idea of Oz directing "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made."


Frank Oz behind the camera.

And Cook couldn't have picked a better project to try and lure Oz back into the Muppet fold. For as recently as February of 2000, Frank had still been talking with great enthusiasm about "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made." In a four part interview with Ken Plume for Film Force, Oz insisted that the reason ...

... I want to do the next Muppet movie (is) because I'm excited about a particular idea, and the idea is something that Jim and Jerry Juhl and I thought of 15 years ago.


(L to R) Alex Rockwell, Jim Henson and Frank Oz on the set of Muppet Vision 3D.
Copyright The Jim Henson Company. All rights reserved

Now just to be clear here: This meeting reportedly happened in the late Summer / early Fall of 2005 just as Michael Eisner was stepping down as the head of The Walt Disney Company. And given that Bob Iger -- the Company's incoming president and chief executive officer -- reportedly wasn't quite the Muppet enthusiast that Michael Eisner was ... Well, Cook knew that if he was going to convince Iger to greenlight production of a new Muppet movie, he'd need a hook. Which is why it was crucial to convince Oz to come direct "Cheapest."

And "Cheapest" had supposedly been on Frank's mind. What with Jerry Juhl's  passing on September 26, 2005, it seemed that more & more of his good friends -- the very people who had taken a chance on this 17 year-old kid back in the early 1960s and helped Oz get his start in the entertainment industry -- were slipping away. So if Frank could actually finally get "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" ... Well, that could then be his way of honoring the memory of Jim & Jerry.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The only problem was that -- as Dick & Frank began to talk about theis project -- it quickly became apparent that they just couldn't see eye-to-eye on this proposed film's budget. The story that I've always been told is that Cook really did want to make the cheapest Muppet movie ever made. And the amount of money that he supposedly offered Oz to produce & direct this motion picture was miniscule.

Whereas Oz ... Because he knew Juhl's script backwards & forwards, Frank understood that there were gags in this screenplay which hinged on really expensive things. Like volcanoes suddenly erupting on tranquil islands. And in an infamous exchange with Disney's studio chief, Oz reportedly turned to Cook and said "Do you know how much money you have to spend in order to make something look cheap?"


Frank Oz on set

With the hope that Frank might eventually find a way to drive the projected production costs of "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" down, Cook asked Oz to meet with the studio's special effects department and continue to develop Juhl's screenplay. But about this same time in 2006, Jason Segel came a-knocking with his own pitch for a brand-new Muppet movie. One that aimed to revive this franchise by reaching back to the style & tone of the first three Muppet movies as well as the old "Muppet Show" TV series.

In the end, given that what Segel was proposing was basically a reboot of the Muppets (which was really more in line with what The Walt Disney Company was looking for back then. Given that there was an entire generation of consumers out there who didn't know Kermit & Co. / weren't emotionally connected with these characters) and given that Oz & Cook couldn't come to terms over "Cheapest" 's budget, Dick eventually opted to go with Jason's proposal. And Frank ... After he departed Disney, Oz eventually went on to direct 2007's "Death at a Funeral ."


Frank Oz directs Peter Dinklage on the set of "Death at a Funeral." Copyright
2007 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All rights reserved

Now where this story gets kind of confusing is that -- even though Walt Disney Studios was now committed to shooting Segel's version of a Muppet revival movie -- Cook kept referring to this project as "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made." Dick even stood onstage at the inaugural D23 EXPO back in September of 2009 and used that very same title in front of the Disney faithful. Even though he knew that the film that Jason wanted to make had nothing to do with the screenplay that Jerry had written back in 1987.

Look, it's not like The Jim Henson Company & The Walt Disney Company doesn't have other unproduced Muppet screenplays lying around. Google "The Muppets Haunted Hotel," "Muppets Haunted Movie" & "Muppets Time Travel" (Or -- for that matter -- "Muppets in Space" rather than "Muppets from Space") and you'll see what I mean.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But even so, at a time when the Studio was unsure that the movie-going public would actually embrace a Jason Segel-free sequel to 2010's "The Muppets," one has to wonder if -- as Disney execs were reviewing their options back then -- someone there went riffling through the files. And given that studio execs are always trying to keep the production costs down on sequels because the old Hollywood rule-of-thumb is that follow-up films only gross 4/5th to 2/3rds of what the original motion picture made ... Well, a script entitled "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" would have been very, very tempting.

Anyway ... That's the story as it was told to me by several Disney & Muppet insiders. Plus the info I pulled out of Brian Jay Jones' award-winning "Jim Henson: The Biography ." So what do you think? Does "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" actually sound like something that you'd have paid to see?


The Muppets onstage at the D23 EXPO back in September of 2009.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

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  • Jim,

    After reading the biography a few weeks ago I could not help but think that the even if Jim Henson had not passed away the feeling that I took away was that the Muppets were not handled well by Katzenburg and Henson was already uneasy about the deal.

    I firmly believe that this deal between both parties was ultimately going to fail...and should not have.

    Disney was the perfect home for them. But I think eventually Jim Henson would have just been placed on a shelf to gather dust.

    From someone who adores the Muppets..I can not take away that possibly the Muppets had their "moment in time" during the '70s and '80s and sadly will never capture it again.

    So much of WHO the muppets are is the performers and once they stop..something is missed and cannot be recaptured.

    Perhaps re airing the old muppet shows on Disney can recapture an audience to be better acquainted with them.. I recently watched some episodes and they are timeless.

    I know you adore the muppets as well and I look forward to your thoughts.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't know, Butter. Every so often, a second flowering is actually possible. Have you seen these new Mickey Mouse cartoons that Paul Rudish & his team at Disney Television Animation have been churning out? They have the energy & the charm of the original Mickey Mouse shorts of the late 1920s / early 1930s. But at the same time, these cartoons are very much of today's world / have a comic edge that is really kind of exhilarating.

    So who knows? Maybe somewhere out there there's the Muppets equivalent of Paul Rudish. Someone who can help these much beloved characters shake the cobwebs off and once again become the kind of comic anarchists that they used to be. Let's remember that Jim Henson himself once said that a skit wasn't really a true Muppet skit until someone gotten eaten or something blew up. Which is why I'd afraid that I have to admit that I share Frank Oz's opinion of 2011's "The Muppets." That that film was " ... too sweet. Because the Muppets are not sweet. They shouldn't be cute."

    And would it surprise you to learn that -- being as big a Muppet fan as I am -- Nancy and I have yet to see "Muppets Most Wanted" ? Mind you, we haven't been out of the house much (except for that 8 day-long road trip a week or so back) because we've been both been battling bad colds since February. But the fact that there's a new Muppet movie out in theaters right now and a die-hard Muppet fan like myself didn't rush on out to see it kind of speaks volumes.

    And given "Muppets Most Wanted" 's underwhelming box office totals this past weekend, you gotta wonder how many longtime Muppet fans are doing just what I did. Telling themselves "Ah, I'll see that one ... eventually" ?

  • I'd love to see TCMMEM if they were to ever make it.

    I think Disney needs to increase their television focus for the Muppets.  Still have movies, but increase the specials and even consider a late night talk show/Muppet Show reboot.

    Last year's Lady Gaga special reminded me that they could do great things... if only they teamed up with a performer who was there for Muppet special, and not pimping themselves.  Someone like Kristen Chenoweth would be perfect.

    Further, someone should look at a weekly late-night format show for the Muppets.  Craft it like an episode of SNL meets the Tonight Show.  It could be great.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Kristen Chenoweth is an excellent suggestion for a guest on a revived "Muppet Show" television. She's a wonderful singer, has great comic skills. More to the point, given how short she is (4' 11''), she's already Muppet-sized. So she's fit in great with the cast.

    And not to raise your hopes up or anything, John ... But as she was covering the red carpet at the "Muppets Most Wanted" world premiere in Hollywood two weeks back, my daughter Alice overheard Dave Goelz tell one of the other reporters working this event that the next thing that the folks who handle the Muppets for Disney were going to try and do was to revive "The Muppet Show." Only this time around (according to Goelz, anyway), the show wouldn't be syndicated or air on ABC. But -- rather -- would be a new Disney Channel series.

    Which -- I know -- sounds kind of odd. But let's remember that the Disney Channel is about to become the home of that "Boy Meets World" revival, "Girl Meets World." So maybe -- as part of their beefing-up-their-sitcom-line-up initiative -- executives at the Disney Channel really are kicking the tires on a "Muppet Show" revival. Thinking about how a modern version of this 1970s favorite would actually fit in that cable channel's line-up.

    Mind you, Disney hasn't announced anything official about this yet (I'd imagine that they were concentrating on trying to make sure that "Muppets Most Wanted" does as well as possible at both the domestic & international box office). But if what Goelz was saying on the red carpet was true, it might be interesting to listen in on the Upfronts later this year as Disney Channel executives reveal that cable channel's line-up for 2015 and beyond.

  • I grew up loving the Muppets, but things haven't been right with the brand for about 20 years. There's just something missing, and it may be the lack of involvement of the original performers. Perhaps those guys did indeed provide the extra spark that made the magic.

    "The Muppet Wizard of Oz" movie was terrible. The 2002 Christmas TV movie was cynical and depressing. I didn't really like the premise of the reboot movie because it positioned the characters as "has-beens" having to reinvent themselves through a charity telethon. The older movies had famous guest stars, but the last one felt more like a Jason Segel vehicle by inserting himself so prominently throughout. The new Muppet Walter was bland, too. It left me more melancholy than happy for the characters to see it come to a "reboot" that way.

    And then last holiday's Lady Gaga special was a disaster that positioned the Muppets as supporting characters in her special without any of the style or charm of the late 1970s special with John Denver where the fabric just worked well with a star and the Muppets..Just revisit that 1987 Christmas special - the last big time the Muppets did something - and you'll see miles of heart and warmth. Now it's either crass - Pepe, for instance - or just bland.

    Maybe the Muppets derived their mojo from the 1970s/80s and we've seen it all, done it all to the point that it doesn't resonate? Could be all these factors, but I must say, just reading the premise of "The Cheapest Muppet Movie" sounds so fun that it instantly clicks like the types of scenarios where we should see these characters.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: But that said, you have to admit that there was / is some risk in "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made." This is a film that starts off with the assumption that the audience is intimately familiar with the Muppets, these characters' histories and how they characters interact. Which wasn't something that Dick Cook was willing to do. Given that -- in late 2005 / early 2006 -- wasn't something that the Chairman of Walt Disney Studios was willing to do. Especially on the heels of the less-than-stellar performance of "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz." Which -- when this TV movie aired on ABC on May 20, 2005 -- "MWOZ" was the 42nd most watched show on television that week. Which isn't exactly what you can a ratings bonanza.

  • Great points Jim.

    But please add your thoughts on how Jeffrey Katzenburg was treating Jim and his performers when the "sale" was in the early stages in 1989.

    And yes...Frank Oz is right...way too cute these days.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't know if it's fair to lay all of the blame on Katzenberg. After all, Eisner's set the tone for Disney's corporate culture back in those days. And Michael believed quite strongly that the idea that creativity rose from conflict. An analogy that Eisner often used was that he liked to put six wolverines in a small room and then close the door. So that only the strongest ideas survived.

    So while Michael was obviously a longtime fan of Jim & his work ... At the same time, he was the one allowing Disney's attorneys to run roughshod over Henson Associates' kinder, gentler corporate culture. All with the hope that -- in the end -- Disney would end up with the very best deal. Given that it was this very behavior that ultimately made the Henson family pull the plug on Disney's first attempt to acquire The Jim Henson Company back in 1989 / 1990, clearly this tactic backfired. But if you asked anyone who did business with Disney back then and even now, the Mouse is infamous for its tough negotiating style.

  • I will be interested to hear what you think of "Muppets Most Wanted" after you see it. I think it is much more in line with the true spirit of the Muppets than its predecessor, but that seems to be what the reviewers didn't like about it. I would love to see "Cheapest" get made some day, but I think it would've suffered the same fate. Most of the critics who are telling people to wait on MMW criticize the lack of warm and fuzzy and the lack of Segel-- neither of which would have been present if they made "Cheapest" instead. I think a return to the small screen on a consistent basis, working with guests who 'get' the Muppets and don't care if the Muppets upstage them, would be the best thing to keep the franchise alive. The guest spots in MMW were wonderful and really had the feel of The Muppet Show for me.

  • I was actually looking forward to seeing "Muppets Most Wanted" this past weekend, but due to circumstances, was not able to work it in; with any luck, I'll be able to catch it next weekend.  Actually hoping it'll be more enjoyable than the last film, "The Muppets", which I felt focused too much on Jason Segel & his brother "Walter" than the actual Muppets.

    It would be nice if Disney did look into airing the old Muppet Show episodes on one of their channels or at least get around to releasing the rest of its seasons on dvd, possibly even rerelease season 1 without the cuts, to help get the muppet characters back out in front of people again.

    As for Paul Rudish & these new Mickey Mouse cartoons you mention in your editorial reply, I can't stand the character design or animation in them, which in turn keeps me from trying to enjoy the story as they're just awful to look at.  On the flipside, I adored the recent "Get A Horse" and Goofy's "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater" from a few years back.  Those were amazing in terms of story, character design & animation.  Still floored that "Get A Horse" didn't take home the Oscar.  Honestly, would much rather Disney brought back "Mickey's Mouseworks" or "House of Mouse" than continue with these new shorts.

    And I guess to get back on topic, I give a huge "YES" to "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" as one I would definitely turn out to see.  I think the Muppets are fantastic characters and can still be relevant today if they are given the right vehicle for their brand of entertainment.

  • Bob Iger, Michael Eisner, and Bob Iger... shouldn't the person in the middle be Bob Iger, too?

    EDITOR'S NOTE: *sigh* ... This is what comes from doing proofreading after you've spent 12 hours seated at a desk pounding out text & selecting photos. You then become blind to even the most obvious & bone-headed of mistakes.

    Thank you, #, for pointing out that error. I really appreciate the humorous way that you made me & JHM readers aware of my mistake. Which -- FYI -- has now been fixed.

    Thanks again, #. By the way, I'm very good friends with your pal, *. Please tell him that I said "Hello," okay?

  • The poor muppets have really been mismanaged.  I used to love them, but they lost alot of their genuine heart and wit, the writing now seems more forced and really clumsily cobbled together, and when they started pushing political agendas, an awful lot of people got really turned off...

  • No problem!  It happens to the best of us!

    Yeah, * is a riot!

  • It would certainly be more interesting than muppets most wanted.

    I would also love to see an actual muppet tour.

  • I really enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted, and I would gladly pay to see it again. It was a very fun film and even had a fair amount of drama and action. The 2011 film was a good way to reintroduce the characters in an affectionate way (I enjoyed it) but "Most Wanted" is just a fun film that puts the Muppets in another madcap adventure.

    "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made" sounds fun, and it could very well still happen someday. I hope that it does.

    I do not believe that there is any reason for people to panic about The Muppets future right now.

    If only people would just understand that change is inevitable. The Muppet performers are not immortal (and some choose to pursue other interests) It is up to the newer generation of puppeteers to keep Jim's Muppet legacy alive, Any rational, true Muppet fan knows this.

    Still, there are several morons out there on the Internet who STILL have no idea that Frank Oz is retired from Muppet performing. (He has stated in interviews that he never even wanted to be a puppeteer in the first place) and there are STILL people out there who keep nagging about Steve Whitmire's performance of Kermit. These people don't even know who his name is, or the fact that he has been performing Kermit since 1990.

    One of the reasons why it has been difficult for the Muppets to move forward is because so many Internet folks keep nagging about petty things like "The voice sounds wrong!" or "I want them to be exactly like I remember them!"

  • ...My apologies, I meant to say; "These people don't even know what his name is"

    Also,

    "Mind you, we haven't been out of the house much (except for that 8 day-long road trip a week or so back) because we've been both been battling bad colds since February. But the fact that there's a new Muppet movie out in theaters right now and a die-hard Muppet fan like myself didn't rush on out to see it kind of speaks volumes."

    Well, not really. You had a reason Jim. People don't typically like to out when they are sick, even to the movies. (Except maybe Star Wars fans)

    Now, I myself am a huge Muppet fan, and saw "Muppets Most Wanted" on opening day, and I like I said before, I would pay to see it again (and most likely will)

    I know the Muppets have had their ups and downs, but I have always stuck with them, and have always given their films a chance and seen them on the big screen (where applicable).

  • The Russian references in the promos for Muppets is a killer especially with real world events like the Crimea invasion. Besides this, I didn't care much for Tina Fey and the politics surrounding this actress from the past and of course, her dressing in full Russian military gear (KGB?).

    The Muppets have a big problem in that they skew an older audience in the 8 to 13 range. They don't appeal to toddlers. Teenagers and adults are indifferent. I hate the celebrity cameos. The celebrities become the main characters when they should be peripheral. The Muppets fail to carry the movie on their own, which is the biggest weakness.

    I used to be a fan... a long long time ago. I don't care much for them. Some mentioned Lady Gaga's involvement in the television special. This is an act of desperation.

    I wish they will do worthy television shows that ONLY feature the Muppets. No adult actors except maybe as hosts. They could try using child actors to interact with the Muppet characters in occasion. I do think they must rid themselves of Miss Piggy. The tired Mae West act is not appropriate for young kids.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: Yeah, given how real world events kind of overtook this James Bobin event, it is unfortunate that a lot of the comedy for "Muppets Most Wanted" keys off of Kermit being thrown into a gulag and then interacting with a lot of goofy Russians.

    This kind of reminds of the stories that Disney animators used to tell about working on "Aladdin." To be specific, how that Ron Clements / John Musker movie was originally set in Baghdad. But when the Gulf War officially got underway in January of 1991, how there were supposedly all of these emergency meetings about how " ... we can't set our fantasy-adventure film in a city that the US Armed Forces is bombing." So they reportedly scrambled the letters in Baghdad and eventually came up with the name Agrabah instead.

    Given the number of Disney insiders that I've heard that story from over the past 20 years, I'm assuming it's true. But when it comes to the Mouse ... Well, as Bruce Gordon once told me " ... You should never let the truth stand in the way of a good story." So maybe this is just one of those behind-the-scenes tales that got "improved" over time.

  • I wasn't intending to leave a comment here, but I felt inspired.

    Lifelong Muppets fan, saw the original Muppet Show in its original run as a kid.

    When I watched the Segel reboot, I thought it was all right, but when they briefly recreated the oppening theme to the Muppet Show, I told my wife, "I would have been happy if they'd just done this - just do a new Muppet Show!"  That was the one moment of the movie that was magical to me.  Although I admit I'm a sucker for nostalgia!

    I agree with previous poster's that much of the magic may have been wrapped up in the performers themselves (Henson, Oz and company), and I've been struggling for years to accept Whitmire's kinder, gentler Kermit.  But... the reality is that he's been doing the character for almost 25 years, and Henson himself, if he were alive today, may very well have retired and given him the character by now anyway.

    Having said that, I'm dying for Disney to release the last two seasons of the Muppet Show already, for crying out loud, and would love to see a reboot of it.  It being on the Disney Channel makes me a bit nervous, but hopefully they will get people who know what the heck they're doing to write it.

    And TCMMEM would be an awesome project to see - just not sure if it's feasible now with so many of its creators gone or retired from Muppeting.

    Great article!

  • They could have shot this in Florida or Canada if they wanted to keep costs down; "Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird" was shot in Toronto. Eisner never should have closed the Florida studio, since it was responsible for "Mulan" and "Lilo and Stitch". They used it for some live action stuff, too, mainly the 1990s Mickey Mouse Club and a few features whose names escape me, and they could easily have used it for more Muppet projects. Why didn't they use it more than they did?

    I did see Muppets Most Wanted last weekend and quite enjoyed it, especially the doo-wop song in the Gulag and the song with Gonzo and Ricky Gervais (there's some pretty good puppetry in that one). I honestly didn't miss Jason Segel that much; his character just didn't fit into the new story.

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