Travel back in time with me to September 18, 2008. After a long drought of Muppet stuff, there wasn’t much to look forward to on the horizon. We were smack dab in between Studio DC episodes, with Letters to Santa coming soon after. Muppet fans needed a sign of hope, because the lack of merchandise on the shelves and frogs on our TV screens was just about to drive us all batty. Thankfully, that glimmer of hope came to us via an interesting article in The New York Times, which gave both Muppet fans and Muppet employees a signal that good things were coming our way.
According to the article, the Muppets were due to get the “Hannah Montana” treatment from Disney, which either meant that they would have double-lives as auto-tuned pop stars or that they would soon be seen on TV, movie screens, bookbags, album covers, awards shows, t-shirts, and tattoos of some very passionate (yet creepy) middle-aged men.
Even more promising was the fact that the article went into specifics, explaining exactly what we should expect over the next year: Miss Piggy on the Desperate Housewives DVD, Muppets in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, theme park attractions, t-shirts at Urban Outfitters, and more YouTube videos. Of course, not everything on their wishlist came to fruition, but it was nice to have the promise of things to come.
The most exciting part of the article was the hint that a new movie, helmed by Jason Segel and Nick Stoller (who has since had his “director” title stolen by James Bobin) was in the early stages of production. It was a lot further off than everything else on The New York Times’ list, but it was enough to fuel our hopes for the time being.
Earlier this week, The New York Times printed another article about the status of the Muppets (which you can read right here), and when I read the headline, I had high hopes for the content of the article. Would it have another list of the plans Disney has for the Muppet franchise? Would it give us an idea of the direction the Muppet brand will be heading? Would it give us the hope we all need while we wait another seven months for new Muppet content?
Nope, none of those things. The article essentially tells us that the Muppets used to be everywhere, and then they weren’t, and maybe they will be again. Very little of that is actual “news”. Of course, the article is a lot more informative to those weirdos who aren’t the type of Muppet fan to be checking out a website like ToughPigs, but to right-minded thinkers like you and me, this New York Times article is 12 inches of nothin’.
Let’s break down the article’s main points, and nitpick about how wrong and/or uninformative it is! Because that’s small talk around these parts.
Once international superstars, Jim Henson’s Muppets have not had a major box-office hit in 32 years. That was “The Muppet Movie,” which took in $65 million for the Associated Film Distribution company in 1979, or about $197 million in today’s currency. The next five Muppets pictures, which were increasingly uneven, together had less in total domestic ticket sales than “Toy Story 3″ collected in its first five days.
Is it really fair to compare the Muppet movies to the record-breaking powerhouse of “Toy Story 3″? That’s like saying “The Perfect Storm” was a failure because it didn’t live up to the success of the other b0at-related film, “Titanic.” Okay, so that’s probably a bad example…
The oddball gang hasn’t had a regular TV gig in two decades.
Y’know, except for that regular TV gig they had in 1996.
This time, there is no talk of new tie-in theme park rides, TV specials, elaborate lines of related merchandise or the other trappings of a companywide franchise.
Is it me, or does it sound like The New York Times is backtracking and debunking the reports they made back in 2008?
Flops like “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Muppet Treasure Island” put the critters into classic tales, losing the verve that came from the TV series and the first movie — in which Rowlf the piano-playing dog was just a piano-playing dog, and audiences loved it.
“Muppet Christmas Carol” grossed over $15 million, and “Muppet Treasure Island” grossed almost $30 million. I’m not sure what their definition of “flop” is, but it generally doesn’t mean “movie that made a whole buncha money”. Also, not to nitpick (who am I kidding, that’s exactly what I’m doing), but didn’t Rowlf play a piano-playing dog in his “Muppet Christmas Carol” cameo? Sorry, New York Times, I’ll try not to be such an obnoxious know-it-all.
“This is the first Muppet production of any size that is really being spearheaded by fans instead of hard-core Muppet professionals,” said Lisa Henson, Jim Henson’s daughter and chief executive of the Henson Company.
I just wanted to point out how sad it is that Tim Hill, the director who spearheaded “Muppets From Space”, wasn’t a fan of the Muppets. Then again, he wasn’t a “Muppet professional” either. Maybe Lisa Henson has just removed that entire movie from her memory. What the heck happened there? Seriously, Tim Hill, what the eff???
[The popularity of "Bohemian Rhapsody"] was a reason that Disney had confidence that the Muppets — half marionettes, half puppets — hadn’t lost relevance in an age of computer animation.
Oh come on now, hasn’t this rumor been debunked enough?? The New York Times is full of lies! LIES!!!
The stuff that irks me the most about this article are the things that don’t fit so neatly into quotes. Mainly, the non-information packaged as news. The Muppets are trying to stay relevant, they hope the new movie is a hit, they used to be super-successful, Jason Segel is a big ol’ Muppet geek, etc etc etc. Some of this stuff may be news to someone, but it’s old hat to us.
So to recap: The Muppets used to be everywhere, and then they weren’t, and maybe they will be again. Thanks, New York Times. I feel so well-informed.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com