Blasphroggy
July 14, 2011 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Weekend At Kermie's: The Muppets' Strange Life After Death. Elizabeth Stevens asks:
What if, in 1990, instead of recasting Kermit—something that had been done to Mickey and Bugs Bunny before him—the Muppets had continued on Kermit-less, as "The Simpsons" did after Phil Hartman died. Recall Susan’s words on "Seasame Street" about Mr. Hooper in 1982: “Big Bird, when people die, they don’t come back.” Let’s say Robin showed up saying his uncle Kermit had passed away? Or, if that was too dark for Disney, what if Kermit had left show business to go off to start a family with Piggy? Someone else could lead the gang of weirdoes.

It would’ve made more artistic sense than what happened
.
posted by zarq (67 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The article has a plethora of links to videos and other Muppetry, including quite a few things we've seen before on MeFi.

But one's missing: the bike scene mentioned can be seen on YouTube.
posted by zarq at 7:31 AM on July 14, 2011


Disney buys good things and then messes them up. That's one of their things.
posted by box at 7:39 AM on July 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


OMG, this is the epitome of a TL;DR article.
posted by oddman at 7:46 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


It wasn't just Kermit who died. It was Kermit, Ernie, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Swedish Chef, and Waldorf. And so many others. What are you going to do, have an in-universe plane crash?
posted by dirtdirt at 7:47 AM on July 14, 2011 [55 favorites]


.
posted by mikelieman at 7:48 AM on July 14, 2011


What are you going to do, have an in-universe plane crash?

I, for one, would love to see a Muppet remake of Alive.
posted by bondcliff at 7:48 AM on July 14, 2011 [30 favorites]


I, who have railed against the "TL;DR" culture for so long and so hard, must bow my head and say that yes, this article is too long and I couldn't finish reading it.

It goes fact-free after a few paragraphs and stays opinion-filled for the rest.
posted by jscott at 7:49 AM on July 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I love the Muppets dearly, but the current Muppets just aren't the same without the original muppeteers. It reminds of the rock bands playing the casino/fair circuit that bill themselves as the original band but are really the replacements of the replacements. I have zero faith in Disney to handle the Muppets with respect.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:52 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Disney owns the Muppets? No wonder they've kind of sucked for a while now.
posted by DU at 7:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bert, loping around on his new suburban front step in his bathrobe, getting the paper, complaining that now he's just another schmuck. Quick flashback cut to Ernie, who fires a gun directly at the camera. Credits roll over the Sid Vicious cover of "My Way".
posted by gimonca at 7:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hmmm. A great many words used to say, essentially, that, since the Muppets of today aren't as awesome as the ones I grew up with, they shouldn't exist at all. I can empathize with this point of view, but it's also selfish and short-sighted. Granted, the post-Henson Muppets seem to older folks like a pale shadow of what Jim Henson created, but they're an earnest recreation, and certainly not some kind of perversion of the original. Even if kids today aren't getting the original article, nostalgic possessiveness is no reason to deny them great characters like Kermit the Frog.

Also, just because the Muppets aren't hitting the pinnacles of art right now doesn't mean a Henson-level genius couldn't come along and reinvigorate the franchise. I don't think nu-Kermit et al are doing any particularly heinous violence to Henson's legacy (see the atrocities that are the post-Herbert Dune books), so why not keep it around? I don't see the great harm that is occurring here, except to the sensibilities of over-30 nostalgic types.
posted by Pants McCracky at 7:58 AM on July 14, 2011 [17 favorites]


Kermit didn't die. Steve Whitmire has done a fantastic job and has grown tremendously in the role and, while Steve's not Jim Henson, Kermit is still Kermit.

I find the whole idea that replacing Jim with other Muppeteers is cynical is itself cynical. I believe the spirit of the Muppets continues and there have been some real highlights after Jim's death: A Muppet Christmas Carol, for example.

Sure there have been missteps along the way. But when the Muppets are allowed to be the Muppets (like the viral videos, the recent spoof trailers), good things happen. I look forward to this fall's movie that Jason Segal wrote. I hope it acts as the springboard for new Muppet fun.
posted by inturnaround at 8:00 AM on July 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


What if, in 1990, instead of recasting Kermit—something that had been done to Mickey and Bugs Bunny before him—the Muppets had continued on Kermit-less, as "The Simpsons" did after Phil Hartman died.

I know that Lionel Hutz was great and everything, but his character wasn't central enough to "The Simpsons" for his absence to make much of a jarring difference one way or another in the direction of the show. The better analogy might be "All in the Family" continuing as "Archie Bunker's Place" after Edith got killed off by Carroll O'Connor. But "AitF" doesn't have the same resonance to people now that the Muppets do.

Buried in this 5000-word piece somewhere is a point, but I'm not entirely sure what it is. I guess it's that the Muppets have become as commodified as Mickey Mouse. But haven't they been commodified for a while? Is anything that Jason Segel has done going to alter that fact, either for good or for ill?
posted by blucevalo at 8:02 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that a better metaphor than Weekend at Bernie's would be The Matrix, with Disney getting all Agent Smith as it ingests and assimilates its purchased properties and franchises.
posted by XMLicious at 8:03 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I, for one, would love to see a Muppet remake of Alive.

Mmm. Pork chops and frog legs.
posted by The Bellman at 8:03 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, Forgetting Sarah Marshall was forgettable.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:07 AM on July 14, 2011


Why does everything these days have to be a franchise? Why not just let it be? Or let the current Muppeteers create their own characters? Kids would still be able to enjoy all the old Muppet shows and movies.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:08 AM on July 14, 2011


dirtdirt: "What are you going to do, have an in-universe plane crash?"

Particularly when a show-runner is lost, it seems better for a group of talented creative people to mourn that person and then go on to create new and different things people will love than continue to prop up a franchise without that person. That goes for NewsRadio (one of my favorite things ever, and a better example of what got lost with Phil Hartman), that goes for the West Wing, and that goes for the Muppets.
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:08 AM on July 14, 2011 [10 favorites]


Edith got killed off by Carroll O'Connor

I'd love to see this meta-episode.
posted by DU at 8:08 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think it's weird that "we" (by that I mean I guess a combination of culture, popular opinion and Hollywood finance guys) sort of arbitrarily pick and choose whether or not a character can ever be replaced by another actor: it would be, for example, impossible for anyone other than Peter Falk to play Lt. Columbo, and yet we've had like eight James Bonds and Doctor Who exists as a 40-year-old TV show because the creators handwaved the idea into play that being played by eleven different people was actually part of the character itself.

I guess that's why I found it so weird when Heath Ledger died and everyone was discussing "what will Nolan do for the next Batman film?" and I didn't get it- my thought was and remains "umm, get someone else to play The Joker. It's not like eight different people haven't played him already." This all took place, by the way, in the context of a Batman movie that featured a character played by a completely different actress from the one in the previous film.

In the case of Kermit though, I think the entire premise of the article would be frowned upon by, of all people, Jim Henson. The entire idea of the Muppets is that they are beyond people controlling them. They're supposed to be eternal, independent entities. To suggest that Kermit is a character that exists only within the mind and imagination of one puppeteer seems contrary to everything Henson stood for.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:12 AM on July 14, 2011 [23 favorites]


we've had like eight James Bonds

No, we've had one. Plus several imposters.
posted by DU at 8:19 AM on July 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


box: "Disney buys good things and then messes them up. That's one of their things."

That's a fairly recent phenomenon, and they've only screwed up on Pixar film to date.

Henson was also actively trying to sell the franchise to Disney when he died. Disney's been horribly mismanaged for the past decade and a half, but I have a hunch that Jim was right -- I wouldn't trust any other corporate entity owning the Muppets.

So far, they don't seem to have screwed it up; they only finalized the purchase in 2004, and there have been bad Muppet movies/shows made under the guidance of others. The film being released this year looks like it's going to be the closest thing to capturing the magic of the first three movies. I think Disney may finally on the cusp of turning around.
posted by schmod at 8:27 AM on July 14, 2011


Don't blame Disney, blame Streptococcus pyogenes. The heart and soul of the Muppets died with Jim Henson; there was so much of his own personality and vision wrapped up in every aspect of them (design, writing, production, and performance) that everything since has been a pale and sad imitation. Scores of other tremendously talented and creative people deserve credit for bringing the Muppets to life, of course, but Henson was the spark.
posted by usonian at 8:37 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


...and yet we've had like eight James Bonds and Doctor Who exists as a 40-year-old TV show because the creators handwaved the idea into play that being played by eleven different people was actually part of the character itself.

I have to shamefacedly admit that for quite a long time I didn't realize that the different actors playing James Bond were supposed to be the exact same character. I thought that different guys who became MI6 agents each got assigned the 007 designation and that the "James Bond" identity was passed down as each one retired, because each would abandon his real identity upon entering the service.

Throughout my childhood I hoped in vain for a James Bond story along the lines of "The Five Doctors" where you'd get Sean Connery AND Roger Moore AND Timothy Dalton bustin' heads and schmoozing the ladies together...
posted by XMLicious at 8:39 AM on July 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yeah, for all the Muppet geekery that the author drops into the article, they overlook (or maybe downplay, I skimmed a bunch) the fact that it's not just a matter or finding a new muppet to fill in for Kermit, it's that Kermit pretty much embodies leadership for the rest of the Muppet show muppets. They all kind of bicker, or don't get along, or act crazy, but he's somehow able to focus them and pull them all together. Without a Kermit, the Muppet Show is chaos. Replacing Kermit would change the whole dynamic of the show.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:40 AM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think it's weird that "we"... sort of arbitrarily pick and choose whether or not a character can ever be replaced by another actor

I know what you mean, but I disagree that it's arbitrary. Furthermore, the only way this is truly decided is in hindsight.
posted by chaz at 8:45 AM on July 14, 2011


WHOA WHOA WHOA!!! WTF? Muppets died? What the....what??? What are you people talking about?
posted by spicynuts at 8:46 AM on July 14, 2011


spicynuts: "What are you people talking about?"

Jim Henson passed away in 1990.
posted by zarq at 8:48 AM on July 14, 2011


Oh I see...so some people think that Jim Henson IS Kermit The Frog. Got it. Christ.
posted by spicynuts at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2011 [6 favorites]



No, we've had one. Plus several imposters.

Yeah, he was called John Drake
posted by edgeways at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


+1 to the sentiment that the article is selfish and doesn't recognize the point of the muppets. There's a clip from the documentary recently posted on MeFi where Henson and Kermit are in the shot and Henson relates the interesting phenomenon where it didn't matter if you could see the muppeteer, people still looked at the muppet when it talked and acted with them.

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending."
posted by linux at 9:03 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


we've had like eight James Bonds

No, we've had one. Plus several imposters.


Another George Lazenby fan, I see.
posted by TedW at 9:11 AM on July 14, 2011 [11 favorites]


It wasn't just Kermit who died. It was Kermit, Ernie, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Swedish Chef, and Waldorf. And so many others. What are you going to do, have an in-universe plane crash?

What you do is something else.

The Muppets died with Jim Henson to me. I couldn't care less about the new movie.

This article is way too long for what it says, but it hits the point right: the Muppets died with Henson.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:13 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Long, stupid, frequently self-contradictory article. Here's a much better one with a similar thrust.

Most egregious flaw: Kermit dying would have completely violated the long-standing Muppet tradition of Muppets always having their own existence, never to be seen by children in a disassembled state.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:21 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


> I don't think nu-Kermit et al are doing any particularly heinous violence to Henson's legacy (see the atrocities that are the post-Herbert Dune books), so why not keep it around?

This is the essence of the problem, which may or may not be in line with the conclusions of the author in the linked article:

Jim Henson, as the guy running Henson Associates and the guy with his hand controlling Kermit the Frog's head, could do anything he wanted. What he wanted to do was make a lot of the TV shows and movies that he did. If he wanted to make Kermit scream "Fuck shit balls" and vomit felt on camera, he could've done that too. Fortunately he didn't, and we're all the more fortunate for that.

Henson Associates and the puppeteers who've followed Henson are, by contrast, incredibly restricted in what they can do. Everything will be weighed according to whether it's what the esteemed founder would've done. And so it's not really that The Muppets died when Jim Henson died, it's that The Muppets suddenly started checking their 401Ks and reading the editorials in the Wall Street Journal before deciding what to do next.

I still enjoy the soundbite-scale doses they've been posting to YouTube, but I don't really get excited about the prospect of a new Muppet Movie either. It might be because I'm older, or because The Muppets have changed, or maybe because The Muppets haven't changed. It doesn't really matter because I'm not the audience for this any more.
posted by ardgedee at 9:24 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I actually like the Muppets youtube campaign. Bohemian Rhapsody in my mind comes pretty close to what Henson might have done with the song on television. Habanera is a worthy successor to Danny Boy. But I'll blaspheme a bit more here and suggest that they always worked better as sketch comedy with a sitcom frame than on the big screen. The Muppet Movie (which wasn't written or directed by Henson) was sweet. The Great Muppet Caper (1981, Henson) and Manhattan (1984, Oz) were pushing it, and Henson had clearly moved on in his writing and directing development with Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and his television production with Fraggle Rock and The Storyteller.

Undermining the tight association between performer and character is Henson's visionary production methods for Fraggle Rock, a television show that was designed and produced in three different languages with different human characters for the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, and Germany.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:32 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]



A part of my soul died with Jim Henson, and no, I don't think the Muppets are the same without him. I do credit them with putting forth a good effort and doing about as well as could be done in the circumstances.

Still, this is my favorite muppet movie.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:42 AM on July 14, 2011


I have to shamefacedly admit that for quite a long time I didn't realize that the different actors playing James Bond were supposed to be the exact same character. I thought that different guys who became MI6 agents each got assigned the 007 designation and that the "James Bond" identity was passed down as each one retired, because each would abandon his real identity upon entering the service.

There's no shame at all in imagining something much more awesome than the truth. That is such a great idea, it's a shame the Bond franchise didn't think of it from the beginning.

I mean, of course, "James Bond" is a pseudonym.

The important bit is you'd have to handle the transition right. Having someone told to try to be Bond and living in the shadow of his predecessors would be completely wrong. Bonds are born, not made. It would have to be something like this:

"Have you reviewed this file, M? Look at this report. And how he handled Venice. I think we've got another Bond on our hands."
posted by straight at 9:42 AM on July 14, 2011 [14 favorites]


doesn't recognize the point of the muppets

the "point" of the Muppets has always been to 1) entertain; and 2) sell shit to people who don't need it.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Muppets. My brother and I played full 162-game seasons of baseball with nerf balls in our basement. His team was the crew from The Awful Green Things from Outer Space (Sparks was always his favorite, but Yeoman was his best player I think), and I was the Muppets (Beauregard was my 1B; Scooter was my SS; Camilla was my ace pitcher for some reason).

I am curious, though, what the "point of the muppets" might be...

Oh I see...so some people think that Jim Henson IS Kermit The Frog. Got it. Christ.

You deny that the post-Jim Henson Muppets are very different? The article makes some very good points about that.

Whether you like the new Muppets or not, I think the act is much different post-Henson. It's hard to deny that Kermit now looks like another puppet doing a Kermit imitation. Perhaps the author and I both were too close to the Muppets as children. I think Kermit should have been laid to rest with Jim, forever.

Anyway, I obviously liked the article. Thanks. If you didn't read it and like the Muppets, you should. It's not really that long.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:43 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Have you reviewed this file, M? Look at this report. And how he handled Venice. I think we've got another Bond on our hands."

I agree that would be far, far cooler than the existing franchise. And that way, there would be actual suspense as to whether or not "Bond" gets killed. It's a lot more interesting to me when I don't know how the story will end.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:45 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The point of the article in one sentence:

The new movie features the Muppets lip-synching to Starship's "We Built This City."
posted by MrVisible at 9:48 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I only found this somewhat tl;dr because the Sesame Street and the Muppets were after my time, and I just don't have any emotional investment in them. However, heaven help them if anybody ever tries to recast the characters from something important from my childhood like Star Tr ... wait. Oh. *cough*
posted by zomg at 9:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The other day I saw an ad spot with Foghorn Leghorn, but his voice was ALL WRONG. Those characters without Mel Blanc are empty for me.

Same thing with the Muppets. They've lost their edge, their energy, their slightly subversive sense of fun, not to mention the characters mentioned above.

Disney jumped the shark for me when he started animating in color.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:05 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm pissed the actor playing Ronald McDonald isn't the same one from my childhood too.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:08 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have watched exactly one Bond movie in my life, but I would watch the hell out of the one XMLicious and Straight are working on.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:34 AM on July 14, 2011


ardgedee: Oh, there's some television footage of some of the more racy and adult Kermit stuff around. He tamed the character down considerably for television.

I have a different take on The Jim Henson Company and the Henson legacy. A large chunk of that legacy is smart, deeply weird and commercially weak. Jim's last television project was The Storyteller that attempted to bring less bowdlerized versions of folk tales to television audiences. This was the guy who put the Muppets aside to do two whole movies with Brian Froud, possibly involving a fair bit of drugs. So you have Muppets, Creature Shop, and Bear in the Big Blue House to pay bills, combined with Farscape, Mirrormask (which threw money at Gaiman/McKean to make a movie), and a quixotic attempt at doing another Dark Crystal.

I think that The Jim Henson Company would possibly have been much more profitable in the 90s with his involvement, but it probably wouldn't have been creatively different. Jim had already passed the torch on The Muppets to Marvel and Disney. Brian Henson practically grew up on set and apprenticed to Jim on Labyrinth and The Storyteller. His Muppet movies got about the same box office performance and critical attention as the single one directed by his father.

Unfortunately, part of growing up in his father's shadow seems to be that Brian gets unfairly attacked for not being Jim.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:39 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I thought that different guys who became MI6 agents each got assigned the 007 designation and that the "James Bond" identity was passed down as each one retired, because each would abandon his real identity upon entering the service.

Wait wait wait wait wait wait whoah hold on there.

Is that not how it works?
posted by rusty at 10:58 AM on July 14, 2011


What, /nobody/ has linked to "A Boy and His Frog" yet? (Or the MP3, or the webcomic about it, or the artist's notes...)

It's been over 20 years, and this is still one of the most bittersweet things I've ever heard. When I listened to it a bunch of times in a row to pick the best video link, even though I'd just heard it, each time caught me the same as the first one.
posted by DataPacRat at 11:14 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article is broadly correct that the Muppets haven't been as great as they were during Henson's life, and that there is something to them that can't be reduced to mere "assets." But I also have problems with this article. I'll stick with this one.

In the article, the author says that that Statler and Waldorf were made to appear to float in The Muppet Christmas Carrol because the performers were removed in post-production, and this goes against the kind of craft and working with limitations the Muppets have always stood for, giving as his example the famous bike riding scene in Great Muppet Caper.

The Caper scene was awesome yes, but the Muppets have used technical solutions as well as more mundane tricks throughout their existence. Kovacsian AV effects were used as early as Sam & Friends. They did the bike riding scene in Caper specifically because they knew such a scene could only be made by the Muppets at that time, and they knew the audience would know that too.

Nowadays they probably wouldn't go with computer animation, not because it's any kind of rejection of Muppet principles, but because they can do it better, simpler, cheaper, and with much more life with puppets than pixels. CGI has limitations too. It's a hell of a lot easier to express personality and emotion with your hand than with a render farm, and no one would understand that better than the Muppet guys.
posted by JHarris at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2011


I thought that different guys who became MI6 agents each got assigned the 007 designation and that the "James Bond" identity was passed down as each one retired, because each would abandon his real identity upon entering the service.

That would be the plot of the 1967 version of Casino Royale, an amazing, absurdist, off-the-wall spoof starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Orson Welles, and Woody Allen. (true!)

The tagline: "Casino Royale is too much… for one James Bond!"

Apparently, Columbia Pictures acquired the rights to Casino Royale ages before MGM turned Bond into a franchise, but the film fell through and they forgot about it. Then the "real" Bond films took off and Columbia realized they still had the rights to it... so they decided to produce the movie as a farce!

It's crazy and absolutely ridiculous. It's definitely worth watching if you're into the idea of Bond farces. Apparently MGM (after acquiring the rights back for the more serious 2006 Casino Royale) has posted the entire movie to YouTube here (but I can't vouch for it, YouTube is blocked at my office).
posted by purple_frogs at 11:28 AM on July 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


In the article, the author says that that Statler and Waldorf were made to appear to float in The Muppet Christmas Carrol because the performers were removed in post-production, and this goes against the kind of craft and working with limitations the Muppets have always stood for, giving as his example the famous bike riding scene in Great Muppet Caper.

Yeah, she's just flat-out wrong about that. The Muppets have always used green screens, matted-out puppeteers and similar post-production trickery. As just one of many possible examples, here's Alice Cooper performing "Welcome to My Nightmare" on The Muppet Show. How is that ghost effect any different from what she's complaining about? Her sheer ignorance of Muppet history overwhelmed any valid point she may have had, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:31 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, what the heck. Have some more composited Muppet ghosts singing the Beatles' "I'm Looking Through You," and the green-screening abounds as Kermit and Robin sing "Friendship" with a couple of whales.

It's safe to say that Jim Henson never had a problem with the Muppets in post-production.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:39 AM on July 14, 2011


Throughout my childhood I hoped in vain for a James Bond story along the lines of "The Five Doctors" where you'd get Sean Connery AND Roger Moore AND Timothy Dalton bustin' heads and schmoozing the ladies together...

I would watch this SO HARD. (On preview: a serious version vs. 1967 Casino Royale; or at least one with some of the actual Bond actors.)

I think the mention of Mr. Hooper is worth noting, as a way of talking about the death of a major character on a show. Admittedly, Kermit (et al) is much more central to what the Muppets are/were.

Personal digression: Mr. Hooper died two months before my dad died, when I was 8, although looking at Wikipedia the episode about it wasn't shown until the following fall. In my head the two deaths are weirdly intertwined as part of the year of horribleness. I think for a couple of years our local PBS station showed a Sesame Street Xmas special that included Mr. Hooper, and all of us kids got kinda choked up when it came on.

I'm torn about whether there should be (should have been) more Muppets after Henson's death. There's something creepy (to me, anyway) about the toyifying of the characters; FWIW I feel the same way about Peanuts. And maybe it's time to make room for something new; for the next generation's Hensons to come up on their own.

On the other hand, zomg's mention of Star Trek reminds me of something I read, but can't remember where, about approaching that ensemble & story as a play that could be reinterpreted by many different casts. Like Hamlet or Punch & Judy.
posted by epersonae at 11:46 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


And maybe it's time to make room for something new; for the next generation's Hensons to come up on their own.

I don't know. Production credit for Dinosaurs, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Farscape as well as running one of the top effects houses in the business doesn't seem like a bad resume for Brian Henson.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:57 AM on July 14, 2011


But whom exactly does Mickey need protection from? The public domain—isn’t that us? What does Congress think we’re going to do to him?

Use him to make money that doesn't go to the Disney corporation.
posted by cereselle at 12:05 PM on July 14, 2011


Here's a creepy thought: when Parker and Stone are gone and Disney gets ahold of South Park, how socially redeeming will they make Cartman?
posted by kinnakeet at 12:23 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


But whom exactly does Mickey need protection from? The public domain—isn’t that us? What does Congress think we’re going to do to him?

Draw him shooting heroin while Goofy fucks Minnie for a couple bills.

"An inside source at Disney told Realist editor Paul Krassner that the company chose not to sue to avoid drawing attention to what could ultimately be a losing battle. However, Disney was not so reluctant when an entrepreneur pirated the drawing and sold it as a black light poster. The blatantly commercial nature of the bootleg--as well as its potential to reach an audience far larger than the Realist--prompted Disney to file a lawsuit, which was ultimately settled out of court."

- The Disneyland Memorial Orgy
posted by mrgrimm at 12:48 PM on July 14, 2011


On a second and third read, the article struck me as very hit and miss for reasons previously described. Henson was already passing the Muppet torch after '81, first to Frank Oz and then to Marvel with Muppet Babies. Brian Henson first used chroma keying as lead puppeteer under his father's direction on Labyrinth. Christmas Carol and Treasure Island were both produced by TJHC. I don't know if Disney had more of a heavy hand on them than they did on Toy Story or even Pulp Fiction for that matter.

I also don't think the Henson family had much of a choice in selling The Muppets or for how much. The Jim Henson Company had been almost completely destroyed by the collapse of EM.TV. (EM.TV. bought TJHC for $600 million. Three years later, the Hensons bought it back for $73 million.) Disney already had the distribution and a fair quantity of merchandising rights, TJHC wasn't in a position to produce, sell, or broadcast new Muppet material, no one else was going to step in, and the Hensons obviously wanted to rebuild the other side of Jim's legacy: an independent production company that specializes in the fantastic.

Ultimately, I think that Disney would have gotten production rights one way or another. The Hensons got desperately needed cash and creative freedom from the deal when the alternative was likely losing everything. Whether they can rebuild the company using Dark Crystal, Farscape, Fraggles, television projects like Dinosaur Train, and effects contracts is an open question.

I hope they do because I'm a fan of the entire 60-year legacy.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:36 PM on July 14, 2011


Worth a re-link in this thread, Muppets in Thor. Read through to the end.
posted by Neale at 5:30 PM on July 14, 2011


Even if kids today aren't getting the original article, nostalgic possessiveness is no reason to deny them great characters like Kermit the Frog.

But how will they know he's a great character if they're always seeing him in not-so-great movies where most of his lines are kinda crummy?
posted by Adventurer at 5:34 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think something the article author sort of is getting at is that Henson and associates were always strong on the puppeteers creating their own characters building on their own strengths and abilities as a puppeteer. There's something to be said about invention and creativity rather than repeating what someone else had already done. On Sesame Street for example there was a red monster Muppet that several puppeteers failed to make anything of until Kevin Clash picked it up and created Elmo. The Muppets could be stronger and funnier if new generations of puppeteers were encouraged to create their own characters in similar ways. I wouldn't go so far as writing Kermit out completely but I do think they shouldn't be so reliant on trying to update characters from the past, a strategy that just falls flat.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 10:14 AM on July 15, 2011


then to Marvel with Muppet Babies

Damn, I forgot all about Muppet Babies. I certainly watched it, but boy was it unfunny. I would guess the consensus disagrees with me there.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:54 AM on July 15, 2011


I don't care what anybody says about the state of Muppets today. Pepe The King Prawn is post-Jim's-death, and Pepe is AWESOME. Period. But that could be an argument for "letting Muppeteers create their own characters instead of rehashing old ones" too, I suppose.

Anybody who hasn't, should watch Henson's Place: The Man Behind The Muppets. I watched it recently, and it had lots of info and interviews that I hadn't seen before. Also, I watched The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, which was a tribute to Jim (produced in 1990) that looked like they were going to retire the Kermit character after all, only to have Kermit come back at the end all "Hey guys, no, I'm ok, look, I'm here, it's all good. But I sure am going to miss Jim."
posted by antifuse at 12:05 PM on July 15, 2011


I really haven't watched the post-Henson Muppets (wasn't there a new show with a rasta guy character as the host?), but Pepe seems a little like a Spanish version of Rizzo?

Pepe is AWESOME. Period. But that could be an argument for "letting Muppeteers create their own characters instead of rehashing old ones" too, I suppose.

I agree there. With Kermit and Rolf, there's literally nothing new you can do (well).
posted by mrgrimm at 12:13 PM on July 15, 2011


[W]asn't there a new show with a rasta guy character as the host?

That would be Muppets Tonight. Never watched it myself, but it's where many of the new muppet characters (including my beloved Pepe) were introduced.
posted by antifuse at 1:13 PM on July 15, 2011


Look on the bright side: We'll always have Meet the Feebles.
posted by whuppy at 1:39 PM on July 15, 2011


Muppets Tonight was awesome and sadly underrated. It took the original Muppet Show format, introduced a bunch of great new characters (including Clifford, who was always being reminded by the cat that he was not as awesome as Kermit), and really took it in a great direction.

The Garth Brooks episode was especially well done. Who knew Brooks had such comic timing? I'm not sure if it was the geisha costume, his rendition of If I Was a Rich Man or his Tom Jones impersonation (with Muppets throwing tiny Muppet underpants at him!) that made me laugh the most.


Evidence here
- so glad the whole episode is finally up on YouTube!

P.S. I also love/hate Meet the Feebles.
posted by rednikki at 12:12 PM on July 16, 2011


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