The Muppet Movie


The Muppet Movie
The Muppet Movie

Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed by James Frawley
Produced by Jim Henson
David Lazer
Sir Lew Grade
Martin Starger
Written by Jack Burns
Jerry Juhl
Starring Jim Henson
Frank Oz
Jerry Nelson
Richard Hunt
Dave Goelz
Charles Durning
Austin Pendleton
Music by Paul Williams
Kenny Ascher
Editing by Christopher Greenbury
Studio Henson Associates
ITC Entertainment
Children's Television Workshop
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures (2005)
Associated Film Distribution
(1979)
Release date(s) June 22, 1979 (1979-06-22)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $273,976,557

The Muppet Movie is the first of a series of live-action musical feature films starring Jim Henson's Muppets. Released in 1979, the film was produced by Henson Associates, Children's Television Workshop and ITC Entertainment.

The film is dedicated to Edgar Bergen who died during production.

It was released on DVD by Sony Pictures on June 5, 2001 and again by Walt Disney Pictures on November 29, 2005 as Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition.

Contents

Plot

The film is a film-within-a-film, wherein Kermit the Frog and the rest of the Muppets create havoc in a screening room, where they are about to watch The Muppet Movie. When asked by Robin if the film depicts how the Muppets began, Kermit responds "It's sort of approximately how it happened."

As the story opens, Kermit is enjoying a relaxing afternoon in a Florida swamp, singing a tune (the Oscar-nominated "Rainbow Connection") and strumming his banjo, when he is approached by an agent named Bernie (Dom DeLuise) who recognizes his talents and encourages Kermit to pursue a career in Hollywood. Inspired by the idea of "making millions of people happy," Kermit sets off on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, initially via bicycle but eventually via Studebaker after teaming with Fozzie Bear, who had been working as a hapless stand-up comedian in a sleazy bar, whose owner and pianist are cameoed by James Coburn and Paul Williams respectively. During their journey, they are pursued by the villainous Doc Hopper (Charles Durning, speaking with a Southern accent and wearing an outfit similar to Colonel Sanders), owner of a struggling French-fried frog legs restaurant franchise, and his shy assistant, Max (Austin Pendleton). Doc Hopper wants Kermit to be the new spokesman for his restaurants, but when Kermit refuses, Hopper refuses to accept "No" for an answer and resorts to increasingly threatening means of persuasion.

Kermit and Fozzie's journey also includes misadventures which introduce them to a variety of eccentric characters, some played by human guest stars, others played by Muppets. During one of their drives, they encounter Big Bird and offer him a ride. Big Bird declines stating that he's heading to New York City to make a debut in public television. Kermit and Fozzie Bear encounter Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem and their manager Scooter who plan to turn an abandoned church into a coffee house. They manage to disguise Kermit's car so that Doc Hopper can't recognize them. They end up encountering Gonzo and Camilla the Chicken whom had been working as plumbers until their truck crashes into Kermit and Fozzie's car. When it comes to getting a replacement car from a used car dealer owner Mad Man Mooney (Milton Berle), they meet Sweetums and invite him to join them. Sweetums runs off and Kermit drives away unbeknownst that Sweetums has left to pack his things. At a carnival, the group meets Miss Piggy following a beauty contest (she falls in love with Kermit in the process). She joins Kermit and Fozzie as they continue traveling to Hollywood. Sweetums is still trailing Kermit. At a local motel, Kermit meets up with Rowlf (who works as a pianist at a lounge). Doc Hopper and Max kidnap Miss Piggy and Doc sends a call to Kermit to exit the motel where Kermit runs into Doc's henchmen because Doc Hopper said that if Kermit didn't, Miss Piggy would be slaughtered. Doc Hopper has hired a mad scientist named Professor Max Krassman (Mel Brooks) in an attempt to brainwash Kermit. Fortunately, the scientist insults Miss Piggy just before he starts the process, causing her to break free in a rage and defeat Doc Hopper's henchmen. Immediately after freeing Kermit, Miss Piggy gets a call from her agent about a job and leaves Kermit to attend it.

Following a problem with the film, the movie continues as Kermit's group is now joined by Rowlf. Meanwhile, Doc Hopper goes to an even further scheme by hiring an assassin named Snake Walker (Scott Walker) who kills frogs for a living. Doc Hopper broadcasts on the CB Radio threatening for Kermit to surrender and agree to Doc Hopper's deal or he will become a frog burger. When night falls, Kermit's car breaks down leaving the group stranded in the desert. Luckily for Kermit, the Electric Mayhem and Scooter arrive in their bus having followed the script that Kermit left behind and end up taking them to Hollywood.

The next day, Max appears to Kermit disguised as a motorcycle policeman to warn Kermit that Doc Hopper has hired an assassin to kill Kermit. Refusing to be hunted any longer, Kermit attempts a Western-style showdown in a ghost town where the group meets Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker (who owns a laboratory in a ghost town). Kermit breaks tradition by trying to talk Hopper into backing off, but Hopper refuses and orders his henchmen to kill him and all his friends. Kermit is saved only when one of Dr. Bunsen's inventions, "insta-grow" pills, temporarily turn Animal into a giant who is able to permanently scare off Hopper and his men.

The Muppets proceed to Hollywood, where they finally meet the imposing producer and studio executive Lew Lord (Orson Welles) (a reference to Lord Lew Grade who in real life gives The Muppet Show the green light), and hires them on the spot under "the standard rich-and-famous contract" after Kermit reveals why they've come. The film ends with Kermit and the gang attempting to make their first movie, which turns out to be a surreal pastiche of their experiences, hinting that the movie they're making is the same one the audience has been watching all along, but a huge stage accident occurs causing most of the props to collapse and fall, and cause the lights to explode. As the dust around shattered roof clears, a stream of rainbow appears, and the Muppets joined in by other Muppet characters, the characters from Sesame Street, and the characters from "The Land of Gorch" segment of Saturday Night Live sing one last reprise of "Rainbow Connection", ending the film.

After the end title appears, Sweetums tears through the screen "finally" having caught up with the others to the amusement of the audience who then talk amongst each other as the credits roll. After the credits finish rolling, Animal tells the viewers to go home, then he says goodbye and passes out.

Cast

Cameo Guest Stars

Muppet Performers

Production notes

Style

The Muppet Movie uses meta-references as a source of humor, as characters occasionally break the fourth wall to address the audience or comment on their real-life circumstances:

Fozzie: [to Big Bird] "Hey, there! Wanna lift?"
Big Bird: "Oh, no thanks. I'm on my way to New York City to try to break into public television."

(This refers to Big Bird's future "career" on Sesame Street.)

In a particularly meta-fictional plot twist, Kermit and Fozzie actually give the screenplay to Dr. Teeth, who later uses it to find and rescue them after they have been stranded in the desert.

Locations

Filming locations included Albuquerque, New Mexico.[2]

Effects

To perform Kermit static on a log, Jim Henson squeezed into a specially designed metal container complete with an air hose (to breathe), a rubber sleeve which came out of the top to perform Kermit and a monitor to see his performance, and placed himself under the water, log, and the Kermit puppet. He was also assisted in this operation by Kathryn Mullen. This scene took five days to film.

Before this, no movie had a hand puppet act with their entire body appearing on-screen. To have Kermit ride a bicycle in a full-body shot, a Kermit doll with legs was posed onto the seat and his legs and arms were attached to the peddles and handle bars. An overhead crane with a marionette system held the bicycle through strong strings invisible to the camera, guiding the bicycle forward. The crane and system was out of the camera's frame of vision.

Other shots required Muppets standing and acting in a full-body shot. Specially-made, remote-controlled dolls were placed on the set and controlled by puppeteers out of the frame. A dancing Kermit and Fozzie Bear were operated by their usual puppeteers in front of a blue screen, and were composited onto a separate reel of the stage. Both of these effects and the bicycle effect would be used again, and refined, in the next Muppet films.

Prop vehicles

Several classic cars were specially selected by Henson for appearances in the film. The most famous was a pair of psychedelic painted 1951 Studebaker Commander Coupes. In the film, Fozzie states that he inherited the car from his uncle. When asked by Kermit if his uncle is dead, Fozzie replies "no, he's hibernating". One car was painted but unmodified and driven by a person in the front seat. It was used for long, traveling shots. The second car was driven by a person in the trunk, who viewed the road through a TV set. The TV received its image from a camera located in the center nose of the car's front grill. This made it possible for Frank Oz to sit in the front seat and portray Fozzie driving the car in close up shots. This car is now on display at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana.

Doc Hopper is chauffeured throughout the movie by Max in a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine. The 1959 is distinctive for its enormous fins.

The final car driven by the Muppets is a 1946 Ford 'Woody' Station Wagon, which is famous for its wood panel siding and is a valuable collectible.

Reception

The Muppet Movie received positive reviews; as of July 6, 2009, the film holds an 89% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 35 reviews and a 67/100 rating, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", at Metacritic. Roger Ebert gave it three-and-a-half out of four stars. He stated, "The Muppet Movie not only stars the Muppets but, for the first time, shows us their feet." The film sold nearly 26 million tickets and grossed $65,200,000 domestically (adjusted for inflation, this would equal $206,509,960 in 2010 dollars), making it the highest-grossing Muppet film. The success of the film gave The Jim Henson Company an opportunity to release more Muppet productions theatrically, all of which were successful.

In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time.[3]

Soundtrack

The film's soundtrack was released by Atlantic Records in 1979, and on CD by Jim Henson Records in March 1993. The songs were written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher. Williams recalled to Songfacts: "Jim Henson gave you more [creative] freedom than anybody I've ever worked with in my life. I said, 'You want to hear the songs as we're writing them?' He said, 'No. I'll hear them in the studio. I know I'm gonna love them.' You just don't get that kind of freedom on a project these days."[4]

"Movin' Right Along", "Never Before, Never Again" and "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" were shortened in the film, compared to their soundtrack versions, for continuity purposes. The latter, a duet between Rowlf and Kermit, contained references that the studio considered too mature for children. In "Finale: The Magic Store", a line performed by Kermit in the film is sung by Fozzie on the soundtrack recording.

Several of the songs were included The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More - The 25th Anniversary Collection released in 2002.

Track listing
  1. "Rainbow Connection" - Kermit
  2. "Movin' Right Along" - Kermit and Fozzie
  3. "Never Before, Never Again" - Miss Piggy
  4. "Never Before, Never Again" (Instrumental)
  5. "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" - Kermit and Rowlf
  6. "Can You Picture That?" - Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
  7. "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" (Instrumental)
  8. "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" - Gonzo
  9. "America" - Fozzie
  10. "Animal...Come Back Animal"
  11. "Finale: The Magic Store" - Company
Awards and nominations
  • Gold Record (Soundtrack)
  • Platinum Record (Soundtrack)
  • Grammy Award - Best Children's Album (Soundtrack)
  • Golden Globe Award - Best Song ("Rainbow Connection")
  • Academy Award Nomination - Best Song ("Rainbow Connection")
  • Academy Award Nomination - Best Original Score (Soundtrack)

References

External links

Portal-puzzle.svg Muppets portal

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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