OK, so it’s been more than a week since my beloved Muppets returned to the silver screen with Disney’s The Muppets. I was right there on opening day with my kids in tow, just as I knew I would be from the moment this film was announced. Our schools happened to be closed on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the film’s first day in theaters, so it was no surprise that our local theater was packed for The Muppets. New movie. Kids are off. It was a perfect day for a trip to the theater. We caught the first showing of the day and there was actually a line out into the lobby waiting to get in. I point that out because there was no line waiting to get into Happy Feet 2 or Arthur Christmas. Not taking anything away from those two films, but it was painfully obvious that there was much anticipation for the first Muppet movie in theaters since 1999.
As I wrote two weeks back here on MousePlanet, nobody was waiting for this film more than I was. The Muppets represent a huge piece of my childhood. I was right there at the perfect age for the height of The Muppets superstardom. As I grew older, they stayed with me until there I was on the set surrounded by most of the very characters that I grew up watching and working with the creators and puppeteers that I grew to admire and respect. As a lifelong Disney fan and Muppet fanatic I kept waiting for their merger to pay off. I wanted something significant to come from this pairing of my two favorite creative giants. I wanted the Muppets back in the limelight again.
So, was this film the event that I have been waiting for? Did Disney and Jason Segel succeed last week in reintroducing The Muppets to today’s audience? Only time will tell for sure but in the meantime here are the Top 5 Things I Thought Were Great About Disney’s The Muppets.
With all apologies to Steve Whitmire, master puppeteer, the “new” voice of Kermit the Frog, and as I remember quite a nice guy—but unfortunately also the puppeteer behind this insufferably cute little rabbit pictured above. Bean made the movie poster, but thankfully was nowhere to be found in this film. Sorry Bean, but I never really cared for you all that much.
I’m sure people of every age go through this. You get very attached to the shows, characters, music, movies, books and other things from your childhood that meant something to you. When you have children of your own, you secretly hope that they too will love the same things that brought you such joy as a child. Sometimes things are still completely relevant and they pass on from generation to generation, like a certain cartoon mouse from the ’20s that’s still quite popular or the timeless books and characters of Dr. Seuss. Trust me, my kids have been raised to know lots of things from my past from The Flintstones to Yogi Bear and from Bugs Bunny to The Beatles. Some they bought into and some they passed on. That said, I really wanted them to love The Muppets. They know Kermit and the gang from MuppetVision 3D at Disney and they know The Muppets from all of that stuff that their dad has and the DVD’s and tapes that I have played for them. But I really wanted something that they could have from their own time and it seems like this movie may have done that for them…and therefore, for me as well.
Was it nostalgia that brought a tear to my eye when Kermit began singing this song during The Muppet Telethon in this film? I don’t think so. It’s a wonderful song and it had to be included in this movie and I’m glad it was. To me it’s the ultimate Muppet song and captures every endearing quality that Jim Henson wanted his creations to convey. The mom a few seats away from me was wiping her eyes as well, so I guess I wasn’t alone.
I’ve read a lot online over the last week or so about this film. It’s garnering great reviews and getting great publicity, but there are plenty of people out there in cyberspace complaining about it. I’ve heard complaints about the script, about the so-called lack of celebrity cameos and the “controversy” over Fozzie’s fart shoes. I can solidly answer each of those criticisms. I found no problem with the script. It’s not The Godfather, nor is it supposed to be. It’s a simple premise and it tells a simple story.
As for the cameos, I’m sorry but if Mickey Rooney, James Carville, Judd Hirsch, Selena Gomez and Dave Grohl aren’t a diverse enough cast of cameos for you then you really can’t be pleased.
And as far as the poor taste fart shoes go, have any of you complainers ever watched The Muppets? Most people probably don’t remember this but I do because I was standing there on the set of The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson when Whoopie Cushions, the tap dancing whoopee cushion came farting out onto the set with Gonzo. Lest we forget that the tribute to Jim Henson’s life by The Muppets themselves featured a tap dancing farting whoopee cushion puppet in true Muppet irreverent form. These aren’t The Care Bears, they’re The Muppets.
So, I’ll take all of these criticisms in stride because the bottom line for me is…there they are. They’re up on the big screen. Kermit is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. I waited on a line with my kids and half the kids in the neighborhood to see a new Muppet movie. My boys asked for Muppet toys for Christmas. I don’t know if it’s a true Muppet renaissance or not yet, but it’s extremely promising.
The Muppets haven’t left me all of these years. I never grew out of them. Neither did many of their fans out there, but like it or not, the movie tells it like it is. They did sort of disappear. They weren’t that relevant to the past generation of kids. There are kids out there that don’t know them and that’s sad. This movie alone may have the power to reverse that trend and for that reason alone, I was happy that it was there in front of me. It seems to be a bona fide hit and I truly hope that Disney can work The Muppets back into this generation of kid’s hearts.
Jim Henson was a creative genius and he was convinced that The Walt Disney Company was the place that could take care of his creations so that future generations would be able to love and experience them. Jim and The Muppets did change the world. They brought us all a little bit closer together by tapping into a series of common emotions. They should be on the big screen. They should be on the cover of magazines. Children the world over should continue to know them just as my generation did. That was Jim’s dream and it should be honored and respected.
The Muppets should endure and I hope that this movie is the beginning of much more to come.
That's My Disney Top 5 for today. What's yours? Click on the "Discuss this article on MousePad" link below and share your list!
(Send an email to Chris Barry)
Chris Barry lives on Long Island in New York with his wife and three kids. He has had a lifelong love of cartoons, comics and animation. Those who know him well say he has truly, "earned his Disney PhD." Chris has been involved with Television Production for 20 years and began his career working with The Muppets at Jim Henson Productions in NYC. Currently teaching TV Production to high school students, Chris has been writing about many different facets of The Walt Disney Company for several years now.