Tough Pigs Anthology

Aug/Sept 2002

 

The Road to Hollywood

Chapter 2: A Frog is Born

 

   The movie opens with the Muppets arriving at World Film Industries for the preview screening. 

 

   Statler and Waldorf arrive and joke with the security guard. They drive off, and Miss Piggy arrives in a chauffeured pink Rolls Royce -- "a vision in mauve satin." The guard waves her in, and then Kermit arrives on a bicycle, his nephew Robin sitting in the basket

 

Kermit

 

Hi, Charlie. Sorry I'm late.

 

Guard

 

Hi, Kermit. Who's your friend?

 

Robin

 

I'm Robin. Kermit's nephew.

 

Guard

 

(to Robin) Well, good to meet you, Mr Frog.

 

[ Kermit pedals off. ]

 

Robin

 

(his voice fading) Mister!! He called me Mr Frog. Boy, this rich and famous business is terrific.

 

 

   The Muppets assemble in the screening room. Kermit yells, "Roll film!" and away we go.

 

   Up on the screen, we see an image of The Universe -- "the endless reaches of outer space. Very gradually, in what appears to be one continuous shot, we move in to one particular galaxy..." The shot closes in on the Earth, then the Western Hemisphere, the United States, and finally "a swamp in the deep south." 

 

   Kermit sits on a log, playing his banjo and singing "a lovely little tune about how content he is with his lot in life." As the song ends, he's approached by a Fisherman, "the first of our cameo guest stars." 

 

Fisherman

 

Hey, didn't you hear me just now?

 

Kermit

 

Of course I heard you.

 

Fisherman

 

Well, what did you think?

 

Kermit

 

I thought you were off key.

 

Fisherman

 

Off key? That wasn't singing... it was screaming.

 

Kermit

 

Who can tell these days?

 

 

They chat, and the Fisherman mentions that he's an agent from Hollywood.

 

Kermit

 

Hollywood?

 

Fisherman

 

That's right.

 

Kermit

 

Did you say Hollywood?

 

Fisherman

 

Read my lips. Hollywood.

 

Kermit

 

Never heard of it. Is it another swamp?

 

Fisherman

 

Actually, it's more like a jungle. See, I'm an agent. As a matter of fact, I used to represent a frog like you. He could have been a superstar.

 

Kermit

 

What happened to him?

 

Fisherman

 

He croaked.  [ He breaks up at his own joke. ]

 

Kermit

 

(to camera) Am I going to have to put up with this stuff through the whole movie?

 

[ The Fisherman reaches into his pocket and pulls out a copy of Daily Variety. ]

 

Fisherman

 

There's an ad in here you should be interested in.

 

[ He shuffles through the paper and shows it to Kermit.

 

Kermit

 

(reading) "World Film Industries announces open auditions for frogs wishing to become rich and famous." (a beat) Well, thanks anyway, but I'm happy where I am.

 

Fisherman

 

I'd think about that audition, kid. You got talent. And remember -- rich and famous.

 

Kermit

 

(impressed) Rich and famous...

 

Fisherman

 

If you do come west, look me up. You'll need an agent.

 

Kermit

 

How much do you charge?

 

Fisherman

 

Only eighty percent.

 

Kermit

 

What?

 

Fisherman

 

Hey, I'm a big agent. I take a big bite.

 

Kermit

 

So does Arnie the Alligator.

 

 

 

[ Kermit points. Arnie the Alligator (a real alligator) closing in fast. Fisherman screams and jumps overboard, wildly trying to scramble to shore and away from Arnie. ]

 

Kermit

 

Don't worry. Arnie only eats kosher.

 

Fisherman

 

(singing) "When Irish Eyes are Smiling..."

 

 

   Kermit goes to the Bait Shop. "The shop looks a lot like a news kiosk one sees on the streets of New York, except that it is made with weathered old barn boards. The sign over the window is roughly painted and has been worn by years of rain. It says 'GEORGE AND KERMIT -- BAIT". On the counter sit half a dozen plastic buckets, and inside are various scrawled notices about fishing.

 

   "Kermit is talking to George, who sits on a stool outside the kiosk (cameo guest star). He is wearing bib overalls. He is smoking his cigar." [ It's not said outright in the script, but this was obviously supposed to be a George Burns cameo. ]

 

Kermit

 

You see, George, the auditions in Hollywood are a whole ten days away. Plenty of time to get there.

 

George

 

Ummm. How do you plan to go?

 

Kermit

 

I've got enough saved for bus fare. All I have to do is ride my bike into Haverville.

 

George

 

Kermit, how long have you known me?

 

Kermit

 

Since... since always, George.

 

George

 

Have I ever led you wrong?

 

Kermit

 

Well...

 

George

 

(quickly) Except for that time.

 

Kermit

 

Those times.

 

George

 

Okay, so we're all human. But I'm telling you, Kermit, don't leave the swamp. The people out there are animals.

 

Kermit

 

So what's a frog -- mashed potatoes?

 

George

 

I'm serious, Kermit. This is your home. You have friends. A frog belongs here.

 

Kermit

 

But I've got a chance to be rich and famous. I mean, it's hard to just toss that off. Maybe it's a long shot, but I could be loved by millions someday.

 

George

 

I love you now.

 

Kermit

 

Aww, George, I love you too -- and I love the swamp... but I just have to try. Just once.

 

George

 

(gently) Yeah, I know. There's only one "once."

 

Kermit

 

I'll miss you, George.

 

George

 

We'll all miss you. (a beat) When you get rich and famous, send me some good cigars.

 

 

 

[ Kermit turns sadly and walks away. ]

 

 

That night, Kermit takes a moonlight walk by the water. 

 

[ He passes a hollow. In the darkness, two yellow eyes glow. The vague shape of a largish, shaggy thing, quite threatening, looms there. ]

 

Thing

 

Hi, Kermit...

 

Kermit

 

(very relaxed) Oh... Hi Fred.

 

[ The shadowy figure grunts and vanishes. Kermit takes a few steps, then stops. ]

 

Kermit

 

Oh wait, Fred... I'm leaving tomorrow and...

 

[ But Fred is gone. ]

 

Kermit

 

I never said goodbye.

 

[ Kermit turns and looks at the moon on the water. Camera pans to Kermit and his reflection, mirrored in the water. ]

 

Kermit

 

Rich and famous, huh?

 

Reflection

 

Rich and famous...

 

 

 

So What's the Difference?

 

   The main structure and breakdown of the story remains the same from this script to the finished film, but they changed lots of details and rewrote most of the dialogue. 

 

   In the film, we only see Statler and Waldorf pull up to the studio gate before cutting to the screening room. Most of the dialogue for the opening was re-written -- Statler and Waldorf do the "detergents leave a better film than this" gag, which was moved to later in the movie, and the screening room chatter is pretty bland. Another little detail that was changed is the name of the movie studio -- World Film Industries in the script, World Wide Studios in the movie.

 

   Kermit's brief exchange with Robin -- "Is this the real story of how the Muppets got together?" -- doesn't appear in the script.

 

   The script opens the film-within-a-film with a sweeping shot from the farthest reaches of the universe down to Kermit's swamp, while the movie starts with clouds and a rainbow. 

 

   The dialogue with the Fisherman was largely rewritten and tightened up. One major difference is that in the script, Kermit doesn't recognize the name Hollywood -- which makes it a little less plausible that being in the movies would suddenly become his "dream." In the film, after the "read my lips: Hollywood" gag, the Fisherman asks if Kermit ever goes to the movies. Kermit replies, "Oh, sure. There's a double feature in town every Saturday." 

 

   More details that were changed in the Fisherman scene: In the movie, he introduces himself as Bernie, the Agent, which leads to the Arnie the Alligator joke. Arnie is played in the movie by an animatronic alligator. Bernie doesn't jump out of the boat and swim; he tries to paddle away. The "Arnie only eats kosher" gag is cut, possibly because it's got kind of a sinister edge to it -- but it's a shame, since it's a funny gag. 

 

   The other major change -- and this one is crucial to the spirit of the movie -- is Kermit's motivation to hit the road. In the script, Kermit is struck by the phrase "rich and famous," and that's what drives him to leave home. In the movie, that phrase is "making millions of people happy" -- a goal that makes Kermit more focused on other people, and less self-absorbed. 

 

   I think they knew how weak the "rich and famous" motive was, which is why there's two extra scenes of Kermit agonizing over whether to leave the swamp. With the motivation changed to "making people happy," there's no need for explanation, and Kermit's decision-making process is cut down to one line and a banjo strum.

 

   This goal drives the whole emotional arc of the movie. It's a tiny change, and one obviously made late in the process -- but I think it's the key to making the movie beautiful and inspiring. Also, they got to cut the corny "I love you, Kermit" stuff.

 

 

Next in the Anthology: 

   Kermit hits the road, and meets some interesting people 

-- but no steamrollers -- 

in Chapter 3: Oh, Henry!

The Road to Hollywood Contents

 

 

Danny@ToughPigs.com

 

 

Tough Pigs Anthology Contents

July 2002 -- The Decline and Fall of Gorch, part two: The Fall

June 2002 -- The Decline and Fall of Gorch, part one: The Decline

May 2002 -- Giant Frogs!

April 2002 -- April Frog's Day

March 2002 -- The Muppets Take Madison Avenue

February 2002 -- Kermit and Piggy : That Magnificent Hankering

January 2002 -- Off the Street

December 2001 -- It Feels Like Christmas

November 2001 -- Muppets: 1, Host: 0