Mickey Moose
February 18, 2004 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Muppet News Flash: Disney Buys Muppets Jim Henson had long considered a partnership with the Disney Company, but never was able to work a deal. Now that the Comcast offer has been rejected, Disney is looking to expand its entertainment offerings. But with Pixar and Disney splitting, is this merger the House of Mouse's attempt to revive its "synergy" or just another cultural gem for Eisner to strip mine?
posted by jazon (27 comments total)
 
Maybe they'll bring back Farscape.
posted by rich at 6:39 AM on February 18, 2004


Didn't Disney temporarily own the Muppets about ten years ago before selling them to that German company?

I would think it would be similar to what it was like back then, no more, no less.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:46 AM on February 18, 2004


No, Disney never owned the Muppets. They had a temporary license to use the Muppet characters and a partnership deal to create the popular (and now, technologically outdated) 3D movie for the theme parks.

No, Disney won't bring back Farscape (or the Dark Crystal, or Labrynth), as the deal is only for the Muppets and not the entire Jim Henson empire. And the Sesame Street characters were not involved.

This Disney deal was expected to happen since the former Muppet owner (some German company) sold the Muppets back to the Henson family last year.

Is this a way for Eisner to hold off the circling vultures? No -- this deal was started months before Roy left the board. Is it enough to stop the bleeding from losing Pixar? No -- although an argument could have been made if the entire Henson company had been purchased instead of just the Muppets.

Regardless, if they don't over-merchandise these beloved characters and treat them with the respect they deserve, then I applaud Disney for finally sealing this long-awaited deal.

Now if Disney would just settle the Winnie-the-Pooh lawsuit instead of risking losing that moneymaker, then maybe we'll have something.
posted by aaaaa at 6:56 AM on February 18, 2004


Regardless, if they don't over-merchandise these beloved characters and treat them with the respect they deserve, then I applaud Disney for finally sealing this long-awaited deal.

Hold your applause, friend. The strip-mining is about to begin.
posted by briank at 7:09 AM on February 18, 2004


if they don't over-merchandise these beloved characters and treat them with the respect they deserve

That line was crossed already when Jessica Simpson called Kermit Kermie.
posted by archimago at 7:10 AM on February 18, 2004


If there's any justice in the world, Disney will be bankrupt within 3 years....
posted by rushmc at 7:17 AM on February 18, 2004


...and the Henson Empire will survive, and thrive, and they'll be renaming the rides. There'll be "Bert & Ernie's Junior Jungle Boats," "The Fozzy Bear Jamboree," "The Hall Of Hecklers" (which would be just Statler & Waldorf mocking you unmerciful for six and a half minutes while you wandered around in the dark), "Gonzo of The Caribbean," and of course, "Pigs In Space Mountain."

I'd pair off and have kids just so I could take them there.
posted by chicobangs at 7:35 AM on February 18, 2004


I think Gonzo (and his chickens) would be more suited to the adult entertainment industry, but perhaps that's just me.
posted by jonmc at 7:39 AM on February 18, 2004


True that, actually. I bet Ron Jeremy's just waiting for Gonzo to step up so's he can finally retire.
posted by chicobangs at 7:40 AM on February 18, 2004


Well...I think it's sad. Of course, I think everything that's happened to the Muppets and Jim Henson's stuff in the last 10 years is sad. And, as I've probably mentioned before, I think Disney is the Evil Empire and Eisner is a minion of the sulfurous one...
posted by dejah420 at 7:46 AM on February 18, 2004


Does anyone know where or how to get ahold of any Sam & Friends episodes? I have been looking for ages and have only seen one video tape (which was not for sale) at the Birthplace of Kermit the Frog Exhibit in Leland, Mississippi.
posted by toddst at 7:55 AM on February 18, 2004


my prediction: first move of Disney will be to elliminate the puppet and strings department and replace it with CGI, since it is clearly the future of muppeteering.
posted by Peter H at 8:02 AM on February 18, 2004


The Muppets died with Jim Henson. What we see now are their animated mouldering corpses.
posted by deadcowdan at 8:10 AM on February 18, 2004


I think everything that's happened to the Muppets and Jim Henson's stuff in the last 10 years is sad

jazon ... first, thanks for linking to Muppet Central -- its not only (by far) the best Muppet site on the web, its one of the best fan sites on the web, for anything.

Second, I think its important to remember that the Muppets pretty much started as a company that made commercials and "exploited" its characters to sell products. Jim Henson was making commercials for Wilkins Coffee as far back as 1957, and Rowlf the dog was pitching products on The Jimmy Dean Show as early as 1963.

Third, remember that the Disney/Muppet deal is one that Jim Henson himself had all but committed to in the days prior to his death.

Yes, certainly the vibrance and innovation of the "classic" Muppet routines we know and love has all but disappeared in the past ten years, but that's only natural given that the creative genius behind (or, more properly, below) the characters died in 1990. Jim Henson was a rare visionary, and no one, no matter how devoted to the company or how creative, is going to match the magic spark that Henson gave those puppets. But new characters (like Bear) continue to evolve, and I have faith that the Henson Co will continue to innovate and produce programs that are both entertaining and educational for children and adults.

On the upside, one of the biggest ongoing complaints with Henson Co has been that they have been very slow to release the fairly substantial backlog of Muppet-related 'stuff' (like Sam & Friends) to home video, or that home video presentations have been sub-par, at best (as, for example, the horrifically cut Muppet Family Christmas DVD). Hopefully this deal with Disney will get more of the back catalog out in the marketplace for fans to enjoy.
posted by anastasiav at 8:13 AM on February 18, 2004


Really this only interests me in terms of WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR FARSCAPE?!?!?!
posted by McBain at 8:55 AM on February 18, 2004


If anyone here thinks the Jim Henson company isn't doing anything innovative with puppets or entertainment, they need to go out and get all the Farscape DVD's. It was one of the best shows on television ever. Sci Fi executives will burn in their own special circle of hell for canceling it before it's final season.
posted by McBain at 9:06 AM on February 18, 2004


There may be a problem with that deal after the photo here gets out...
posted by wendell at 9:15 AM on February 18, 2004


Wendell's link is NSFW.
posted by PrinceValium at 9:23 AM on February 18, 2004


Good point anastasiav, and I don't discout Henson's use of the muppets as advertising delivery method. What concerns me is the lack of creativity that's come from Henson, Inc since Jim died. There have been some great stuff (Farscape) but I miss the zany muppets. I do hope Disney helps push out some of their old catalog (I'd like to see The Storyteller again myself), but I fear that Disney will continue to crush any creative muppet embers thay may still exist

for example, I would take Muppet Treasure Island II as a sure sign of the coming Apocalypse
posted by jazon at 9:35 AM on February 18, 2004


thay == that
posted by jazon at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2004


Wendell's link is NSFW.
...if your boss doesn't know a puppet pig when he sees one. (At least she isn't wearing a metal thingy). Just want to clarify that this is NOT nearly as bad as Mutant Turtle Pr0n... (Is it?)
posted by wendell at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2004


The crystal has cracked. And what deadcowdan said. Jim's vision and Disney's evil are like water and oil.
posted by squirrel at 10:12 AM on February 18, 2004


There have been some great stuff (Farscape) but I miss the zany muppets.

I just don't think the 'Zany Muppets' are Brian Henson's 'thing', and the core muppeteers are now all basically either working on Sesame Street or on other non-muppet projects. I actually believe that Farscape is much closer to Brian Henson's creative esthetic than his dad's famous characters were. That's not all bad -- I can sympathise with his implied obligation to try and continue moving those characters forward without necessarily having any real feeling for them. Nothing is forever, and I sincerely believe that the time of the core Muppets as comic icons (as opposed to cultural icons) has passed. But that doesn't mean that we can't expect better (and different) things from the Creature Shop in the future.

The Storyteller Collection, by the way, is out now as a great DVD set.
posted by anastasiav at 10:25 AM on February 18, 2004 [1 favorite]


I love the Muppets as much as the next person growing up in the 70s and 80s, but why is this endless recycling even necessary? Is it really so hard to come up with some new characters? The Muppets were great; Jim Henson is dead; time to move on and come up with something else.
posted by muckster at 11:48 AM on February 18, 2004


Kermit meet Mickey. Now meet Winnie the Pooh. See what we've done to Pooh over the last decade. Well it's your turn.
posted by juicyraoul at 11:48 AM on February 18, 2004


Kermit meet Mickey. Now meet Winnie the Pooh. See what we've done to Pooh over the last decade. Well it's your turn.

That's absolutely my fear. The only upside with the tsunami of merchandising that's about to happen is the hopeful thought that they'll start selling muppet puppets again. When I was a kid, I had a cookie monster and a kermit, and I loved, loved, loved them. I would love for my son to have Sesame Street puppets...but not those weird animatronic things...those aren't toys that foster imagination. Yech.
posted by dejah420 at 4:37 PM on February 18, 2004


I think I'm going to cry. Seriously, this is sad.

I hate you so much, Disney. Quit appropriating my childhood.
posted by Jairus at 6:36 PM on February 18, 2004


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