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August 8, 2014

Ballpark Muppets

Filed under: Feature,Reports — Tags: — Ryan Roe @ 2:04 pm

Note: All photos and video in this article were taken by Tough Pigs’ own Matt Soberman.  Thanks for snappin’ the pics, Matt!

Cyclones scoreboardAs Muppet fans, we’ll take any opportunity we can to see Muppets in real life.  Back in 2005 or so, I was living in San Antonio when I heard that Kermit the Frog had been spotted in the tiny town of Hondo, Texas, along with the cast and crew of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  They were shooting an episode with a family there, and Kermit was the special guest star.  There was no guarantee that I would catch a glimpse of the frog, but there was the possibility, so I drove about two hours to Hondo to take my chances.  When you’re a true Muppet fan, the possibility is enough.

I live in New York City now, so when I heard that the Muppets were going to be appearing at a Brooklyn Cyclones game this past Monday, of course I made plans to take the subway ride to the Cyclones’ ballpark in Coney Island.  I’m not a sports guy at all, so I was glad the Muppet appearance was at a baseball game.  Baseball is an easy sport to follow, primarily because nothing ever happens.  And hey, I’d also get to root-root-root for the home team.

What exactly would the Muppets be doing?  As late as Sunday night, there were almost no details on the Cyclones’ website.  It was clear that they were promoting Muppets Most Wanted on DVD and Blu-ray, and there was a list of characters who would be involved, but other than that, info was as scarce as fans of Mr. Poodlepants.  But the promise of live Muppets could not be denied!

rp_Muppets-Cyclones-300x166.jpgUnfortunately, my subway ride to Coney Island took a really long time — even longer than my two-hour drive from San Antonio to Hondo, if you can believe that (and if you live in NYC, you can) — and apparently all the good stuff happened while I was sitting there on the Q train, surrounded by boring commuters instead of Muppets.

So what did happen?  Here’s what I’ve learned.  Way before the game started, 25 families were chosen, apparently at random, for a “meet & greet” with the Muppets.  Fozzie, Piggy, Kermit and Gonzo posed for photos and mingled with parents and their kids.  Muppet fan @NKCoverGrrl tweeted a picture of her family with the gang, and noted that the Muppet people weren’t allowing any photos to be taken with the performers.  Boo.

So any Muppet fan bringing their small children to the game who got to meet and greet the characters might as well have left after that.  Who needs baseball when you’ve just met Fozzie?  But there was a bit more Muppetiness to come.

For one thing, Sweetums threw the first pitch!  This is cool, because how often does Sweetums make public appearances?  But it’s also cool because I suggested in this post back in March that Sweetums should throw the first pitch at a professional baseball game as part of any ongoing efforts to maintain the Muppets’ high profile.  So unless I hear otherwise, I’m going to assume that they got this whole baseball game idea from me.  Go ahead, tell me otherwise.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much it for the “live Muppets!” portion of the game.  Throughout the evening, they showed video clips of the Muppets at the game on the big screen, including but not necessarily limited to:

  • Statler and Waldorf commenting on the game and the “Beach Bums” dancers
  • Fozzie telling jokes at the concession stand: “Why did the hot dog wear a sweater?  Because it was a chili dog!”
  • Gonzo interviewing one of the Cyclones players, and expressing disappointment upon discovering that the guy had never ridden an actual cyclone
  • The whole gang chanting, “Let’s go, Cyclones!  Let’s go, Cyclones!  Let’s go, Cyclones!  Let’s go to dinner!”
  • Kermit and Piggy on the kiss cam: Kermit is oblivious to the fact that the camera is on them, but as soon as Piggy sees it, she jumps on Kermit.

Oddly, we could hear the director saying “Roll it!” and “Cut it!” at the beginning and end of that last one.  That made me suspect the clips were shot in a hurry, on location, in the evening before the game.  This theory was later verified by the aforementioned @NKCoverGrrl.

Cyclones GonzoI really wish they had done some of these live.  Would it have been completely unfeasible for technical reasons?  Maybe.  But how exciting would it have been for everyone to see Statler and Waldorf on the big screen, then look up and see them in the bleachers?  Or maybe it was because they didn’t want to worry about hiding puppeteers.  I can understand that, but it still seems like they could have at least wheeled Kermit onto the field on a box to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.

Throughout the game, they also gave away Blu-ray/DVD packs of Muppets Most Wanted to kids for doing various things on the field between innings.  I was hoping they would complement the traditional t-shirt cannon with a “Muppets Most Wanted Blu-ray Cannon,” but no such luck.

And that was it.  They didn’t even have Sweetums return to run the bases with the fans after the Cyclones won the game.  As Muppet events go, it was not exactly a grand slam.  And yet, it was a chance for some new Muppet material to be presented to a crowd who might never have thought about the new Blu-ray otherwise.  And people cheered and laughed when the Muppets showed up onscreen, and the old couple behind me talked about “Fuzzy Bear,” so that’s neat.

Cyclones Statler Waldorf screenStill, the question remains: Why did the marketing team target a minor-league team like the Cyclones?  Why not a major league team, like say the Cyclones-affiliated New York Mets?  Other than the fact that the Cyclones have a tradition of fun, family-friendly themes like “Star Wars night” and “dinosaurs night,” I heard an interesting theory from Tough Pigs’ own Matt Soberman, who was also in attendance.  Every Mets game is broadcast on TV, which would probably mean all kinds of contracts for advertising and licensing, and the issue of whether they could show the video clips on TV instead of beer commercials, and like that.  It was probably a lot easier for the Muppets to show up at a minor league game.

Does this mean Disney is giving up on the Muppets?  Are the Muppets DOOMED?  No, I don’t think so.  In fact, I’ve since learned (from alert Tough Pigs reader Jason Bornstein) that the Muppets were at the Mets’ Citi Field earlier on Monday to shoot an upcoming episode of MLB.com’s Express Written Consent.  They even did the same kiss cam schtick.

So Disney is still interested in promoting the Muppets in different ways to different audiences.  They’re doing several promotional things to push the new Blu-ray, and I’m sure there will be more over the next week or so.  In this particular case of “Muppets go to a professional sporting event,” it looks like they just decided to bunt, and that’s probably okay.

That’s a good metaphor, right?  Bunt?  That’s a baseball thing?  I don’t know much about sports.

Cyclones Kiss Cam

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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com

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