Muppet Love

I have something I need to say. It’s something I don’t say often enough, and for that I am sorry. You deserve to hear it. The words are few but powerful.

I love you. I love you, Muppet Movie.

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The Muppet Movie and I are childhood sweethearts. We met when I was nine years old, and it was a brand-new first-run release. I saw it repeatedly on that first run in both traditional hard-top theaters and drive-ins. As it passed into second and third runs, I kept chasing after it, smitten. I loyally stayed with it throughout its life on HBO and pay-cable.

It was, in fact, the site of my first “date.” I was 10. The girl was a 3rd grade classmate of mine, named Michelle. When I first met her, I mistook her for a boy named Michael. She told my mom she wanted to marry me. I spent most afternoons after school at her house, watching Space Giants (the best television show of all time). I don’t recall the circumstances of how we ended up going to see this movie together–did I invite her? Did she invite me? Did our parents set this up? What I do remember is that she didn’t love the movie enough for my tastes, and we went our separate ways. That’s how I roll: love me, love my movies.

Miss Piggy

Flash-forward about 25 years: a revival screening of The Muppet Movie was playing at the AFI’s Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. I was living in the DC suburbs at the time, and decided this was the perfect venue and opportunity to introduce my beloved Muppets to my own children. Now, bear in mind that the Washington area is not designed to facilitate travel from one suburb to another, so the journey from my home in Alexandria to the theater in Silver Spring could take as much as an hour, depending on traffic. One does not undertake it lightly.

But that seemed a small price to pay for a big screen Muppetstravaganza, so off I went. My son Max was about five years old at the time, and an absolute tyrant. My wife and I had nicknamed him Kim Il Jong when he was three, in honor of his determination to go for the nuclear option in any dispute.

For some reason, Max had decided that he didn’t want to leave the comfort of his car seat, and refused to get out of the car to go into the theater. Dragging him out of the car, for the purpose of taking him to see the flipping Muppet Movie, initiated a tantrum of epic proportions. It is still spoken of in the legends of suburban Maryland. The caterwauling he unleashed still shakes me to my core.

Experiences like these have caused me to become withdrawn and protective of my Muppet Love. I am reluctant of sharing of my passion, because I cannot take for granted that others share it. The advent of The Muppets this week (god bless you, Jason Segel) has encouraged me to venture out of my shell. And of all the things Muppet that I love, the original 1979 Muppet Movie is a work of absolute genius.

Animal!

If you wish to argue that The Great Muppet Caper is the better film, well, I won’t waste your time disputing that. Caper is infinitely tighter, it is brilliantly funny, it has John Cleese and Diana Rigg in it. And don’t underestimate the significance of that–both John Cleese and Diana Rigg were in The Avengers, but not at the same time. John Cleese and Diana Rigg each appeared in James Bond films, but not the same ones. The only time they shared the same credit–thank the Muppets.

But this isn’t a blog about The Great Muppet Caper, it’s about the original, the definite article. The Muppet Movie.

Which is, admittedly, a structurally flawed movie. It follows the road movie/Wizard of Oz paradigm, in which the audience identification figure sets out on a quest and collects fellow travellers on his journey.

Which is a problem, from a narrative standpoint. Just how many compatriots does the protagonist need to facilitate his quest? In any quest story, it’s the first and last encounters that matter. For example, in Wizard of Oz, Dorothy isn’t getting anything done without the Scarecrow. The others have their roles to play, but there’s a reason she says goodbye to him with a special emphasis.

Other quest narratives have the same structure: Milo and Tock, Luke and the droids, Kermit and Fozzie. That first friend is what you need to make it all the way.

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And, as I said above, then there’s the last stop of the journey–the Wizard behind the curtain, facing down Darth Vader, that final triumphant pitch meeting with Orson Welles:

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The structural problem is what happens in between. The middle of a quest story is just a bunch of stuff that happens that fills out the time between the hero meeting his new best friend and when he finally gets what he’s been questing for. But just how many stops along the way are strictly necessary to make the story work? Two? Eleven? A hundred? In other words, how many Muppets and wacky guest stars does Kermit need to meet before he’s ready to confront Orson Welles?

Apparently a whole helluva lot, because regardless of how sloppy and structurally saggy this film gets, it’s all those stopover points along the way that make the movie worth watching.

Here are just some of my favorites:

Milton Berle

Bob Hope

Richard Pryor

Steve Martin

The movie beautifully mixes two or three generations of comedy talents into one stew. There are old guard comics like Milton Berle and Bob Hope making cameos alongside comedy stars of the 1970s like Steve Martin and Richard Pryor.

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The cameo by Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy is another highlight. McCarthy was the Muppet star of the 1930s, and it’s only right for Henson and his team to tip their collective hats to the puppeteer comedians who came before them. Here’s a clip of McCarthy in his day, from the nutty B-movie Look Who’s Laughing.

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I also cherish the meta textural self referential aspects of The Muppet Movie. This scene is perhaps my favorite single scene of any movie ever, or at least it takes the short list along with the scene in Testament of Dr. Mabuse where Lohmann tries to trap his prime suspect in a clever gotcha trap that bizarrely springs back the wrong way. Oh, and Godzilla’s second attack on Tokyo in the 1956 Godzilla. And the kiss from Rear Window. Let’s just say I really like this scene:

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So, just to get this straight–the Muppets are in attendance at the premiere of a movie that chronicles the making of the movie they are watching, which already includes loopy digressions into retelling its own story within the telling of its story, but this interrupted when the film breaks. Within the film. Too bad it’s a gag that loses so much of its meaning to an audience reared on digital projection and DVD viewings at home.

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Lastly, I have to say a few words about the soundtrack. I have no other interest in the work of Paul Williams, and generally the style of music represented by this soundtrack is not my cup of tea, but The Muppet Movie has the best songs the Muppets ever sang. I bought my kids a Muppet soundtrack CD that included the complete songs of all their movies (up to Muppets From Space) and it was physical proof of the superiority of the 1979 score. The CD started out with its best stuff, the songs you just had to crank up the volume on and start smiling like a little child, and then as it went on your attention would drift away.

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Now, if you’ll forgive me, I’m off to see The Muppets with Jason Segel again.

44 Responses Muppet Love
Posted By Tom S : November 26, 2011 7:57 am

I haven’t watched the new movie yet, but if it does nothing else, I’m glad it’s made the Muppets a subject of critical attention again- they absolutely deserve it. I’ve spent years infecting any small child I had in my power- nephews and babysittees and the like- with Henson love, both the Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock (and when they get older, Labyrinth.) I drove about 120 miles to see a Muppet triple feature in the theater. The Muppets are one of my favorite pieces of pop culture, and I absolutely agree that while there are any number of stellar outings, The Muppet Movie is the epitome of all muppetdom. The songs are great, the jokes are hilarious, and the metafiction is Roland Barthes-esque. What could be better?

I feel the need to stand up for Muppets from Space, though, which is often unfairly lumped in with the dregs of the Muppet Wizard of Oz sort. It’s a really entertaining movie with some weak parts- the same could be said of Muppets take Manhattan. And while it doesn’t have original songs, the songs they licensed for it are uniformly fun as heck. It’s post-Henson Muppets, so there’s always going to be something missing, but I’d say of the post-Henson ones, it’s second best (behind the excellent Muppet Christmas Carol.)

Posted By Tom S : November 26, 2011 7:57 am

I haven’t watched the new movie yet, but if it does nothing else, I’m glad it’s made the Muppets a subject of critical attention again- they absolutely deserve it. I’ve spent years infecting any small child I had in my power- nephews and babysittees and the like- with Henson love, both the Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock (and when they get older, Labyrinth.) I drove about 120 miles to see a Muppet triple feature in the theater. The Muppets are one of my favorite pieces of pop culture, and I absolutely agree that while there are any number of stellar outings, The Muppet Movie is the epitome of all muppetdom. The songs are great, the jokes are hilarious, and the metafiction is Roland Barthes-esque. What could be better?

I feel the need to stand up for Muppets from Space, though, which is often unfairly lumped in with the dregs of the Muppet Wizard of Oz sort. It’s a really entertaining movie with some weak parts- the same could be said of Muppets take Manhattan. And while it doesn’t have original songs, the songs they licensed for it are uniformly fun as heck. It’s post-Henson Muppets, so there’s always going to be something missing, but I’d say of the post-Henson ones, it’s second best (behind the excellent Muppet Christmas Carol.)

Posted By Doug : November 26, 2011 8:04 am

David, one of my favorite memories from back in the day came about due to The Muppet Movie. 1980, Sault St. Marie Ontario, Canada-a large roller skating rink filled with teens. The highlight of the night was skating to “The Rainbow Connection”. Some friends and I drove 100 miles from no-where to get there, and it was well worth it.
I need to see the movie again.

Posted By Doug : November 26, 2011 8:04 am

David, one of my favorite memories from back in the day came about due to The Muppet Movie. 1980, Sault St. Marie Ontario, Canada-a large roller skating rink filled with teens. The highlight of the night was skating to “The Rainbow Connection”. Some friends and I drove 100 miles from no-where to get there, and it was well worth it.
I need to see the movie again.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 26, 2011 8:41 am

I absolutely love The Muppet Movie as well. Often, if I’m in a hurry, I wil bust out singing “Movin’ Right Along”; and “The Rainbow Connection” is one of those songs that recalls my childhood and how wonderful and carefree it was compared to adulthood’s icky responsibilities and cynicism. While watching the new movie last night the hairs on my arm stood up when Kermit played the first few banjo notes of the song.

Also, instead of the grating “LOL”, I will often use “Wocka wocka wocka” to express my online laughter.

While The Great Muppet Caper may be more structurally sound, it doesn’t hold a candle to The Muppet Movie’s pure fun and zaniness. Or to its songs.

The new movie is good and I encourage everyone to see it. While it is not as good as Henson’s movies, it takes you back to the show and the Henson movies. It was made with Muppet-love and it is easy to see that in almost every frame. The songs are fun, the jokes are funny and it’s the frickin’ Muppets! The only problem I have with the new movie is its lack of my beloved Fozzie Bear. There’s not enough Fozzie. Regardless, thank you, Jason Segel for bringing the Muppets back into the public consciousness.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 26, 2011 8:41 am

I absolutely love The Muppet Movie as well. Often, if I’m in a hurry, I wil bust out singing “Movin’ Right Along”; and “The Rainbow Connection” is one of those songs that recalls my childhood and how wonderful and carefree it was compared to adulthood’s icky responsibilities and cynicism. While watching the new movie last night the hairs on my arm stood up when Kermit played the first few banjo notes of the song.

Also, instead of the grating “LOL”, I will often use “Wocka wocka wocka” to express my online laughter.

While The Great Muppet Caper may be more structurally sound, it doesn’t hold a candle to The Muppet Movie’s pure fun and zaniness. Or to its songs.

The new movie is good and I encourage everyone to see it. While it is not as good as Henson’s movies, it takes you back to the show and the Henson movies. It was made with Muppet-love and it is easy to see that in almost every frame. The songs are fun, the jokes are funny and it’s the frickin’ Muppets! The only problem I have with the new movie is its lack of my beloved Fozzie Bear. There’s not enough Fozzie. Regardless, thank you, Jason Segel for bringing the Muppets back into the public consciousness.

Posted By davidkalat : November 26, 2011 10:26 am

Duke–

The hairs stood up on my arm too!

Even better, though, was the recreation of the opening titles of The Muppet Show. When that started, and the music was playing, and the whole thing was splayed out across a ginormous movie screen, I turned to my daughter and she turned to me at the same moment and we just grinned like idiots. I don’t get many nice moments with my daughter these days–she’s a teenager–and this was truly golden. I still feel a little worked up from it.

Posted By davidkalat : November 26, 2011 10:26 am

Duke–

The hairs stood up on my arm too!

Even better, though, was the recreation of the opening titles of The Muppet Show. When that started, and the music was playing, and the whole thing was splayed out across a ginormous movie screen, I turned to my daughter and she turned to me at the same moment and we just grinned like idiots. I don’t get many nice moments with my daughter these days–she’s a teenager–and this was truly golden. I still feel a little worked up from it.

Posted By Jenni : November 26, 2011 12:17 pm

I have also enjoyed all of the muppet movies, Treasure Island is a particularly good one, but my fave is The Great Muppet Caper. I laugh everytime Charles Grodin serenades Miss Piggy, how much he loves her, while an Esther Williams/Busby Berkely type water ballet is performing. Love that scene so much!!

Posted By Jenni : November 26, 2011 12:17 pm

I have also enjoyed all of the muppet movies, Treasure Island is a particularly good one, but my fave is The Great Muppet Caper. I laugh everytime Charles Grodin serenades Miss Piggy, how much he loves her, while an Esther Williams/Busby Berkely type water ballet is performing. Love that scene so much!!

Posted By Fred : November 26, 2011 12:44 pm

I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but my wife took our kids to see it yesterday (I had to work :-( ), and they loved it. I had given my kids some brief exposure to the Muppets growing up (basically showing them clips of the Swedish Chef on youtube, as well as the obligatory viewings of Sesame Street), so it was all new and fresh to them. My 6 year old daughter wouldn’t stop talking about Miss Piggy during lunch, and my 8 year old son sounded like he especially liked Gonzo’s toilet store, Beaker’s predicaments and “those two old guys” (he kept forgetting the name Statler and Waldorf).

I’m a little older than you, and still remember Episode 1 of Sesame Street, which they showed in my kindergarten classroom 42 years ago on the only color television in my elementary school; to think that Henson’s Muppets almost didn’t make the show because some of the folks at PBS thought the Monster Muppets would scare the little children in the audience. Ever since then (my first exposure to the Muppets and my man Kermit), I’ve been a huge Muppet fan.

I think I’m going to borrow The Muppet Movie DVD from the library this week so they can see the best, as well as try to locate some episodes of The Muppet Show I have lying around to show them as well.

Posted By Fred : November 26, 2011 12:44 pm

I haven’t seen the new movie yet, but my wife took our kids to see it yesterday (I had to work :-( ), and they loved it. I had given my kids some brief exposure to the Muppets growing up (basically showing them clips of the Swedish Chef on youtube, as well as the obligatory viewings of Sesame Street), so it was all new and fresh to them. My 6 year old daughter wouldn’t stop talking about Miss Piggy during lunch, and my 8 year old son sounded like he especially liked Gonzo’s toilet store, Beaker’s predicaments and “those two old guys” (he kept forgetting the name Statler and Waldorf).

I’m a little older than you, and still remember Episode 1 of Sesame Street, which they showed in my kindergarten classroom 42 years ago on the only color television in my elementary school; to think that Henson’s Muppets almost didn’t make the show because some of the folks at PBS thought the Monster Muppets would scare the little children in the audience. Ever since then (my first exposure to the Muppets and my man Kermit), I’ve been a huge Muppet fan.

I think I’m going to borrow The Muppet Movie DVD from the library this week so they can see the best, as well as try to locate some episodes of The Muppet Show I have lying around to show them as well.

Posted By SeeingI : November 26, 2011 2:15 pm

Muppet Movie and Space Giants … two of the staples of my childhood! I’m amazed to hear somebody else reference Space Giants!

Posted By SeeingI : November 26, 2011 2:15 pm

Muppet Movie and Space Giants … two of the staples of my childhood! I’m amazed to hear somebody else reference Space Giants!

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : November 26, 2011 3:06 pm

I hate the Muppets. Always have, always will. I gave up on Orson Welles after he appeared in THE MUPPET MOVIE as Lew Lord, “a potent and famous movie producer.” That is really weird casting, since Welles had nothing but trouble with mouth-breathing producers who sliced-and-diced his directorial work post-CITIZEN KANE from 1942 until he left Hollywood in 1958, after his solid crime meller TOUCH OF EVIL was butchered by Universal International nincompoops. Welles stooped low, working in many lousy pictures by other directors to finance his own productions… but turning up in a dang Muppet movie was the final indignity. And by 1979, 400-pound Orson Welles only had so much juice left in him. Shame to see him waste it on the Muppets, when he could have been completing his legendary DON QUIXOTE. Much DQ footage has been lost forever since 1979. An attempt to assemble DQ after Welles’ death in 1985 was a fiasco.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : November 26, 2011 3:06 pm

I hate the Muppets. Always have, always will. I gave up on Orson Welles after he appeared in THE MUPPET MOVIE as Lew Lord, “a potent and famous movie producer.” That is really weird casting, since Welles had nothing but trouble with mouth-breathing producers who sliced-and-diced his directorial work post-CITIZEN KANE from 1942 until he left Hollywood in 1958, after his solid crime meller TOUCH OF EVIL was butchered by Universal International nincompoops. Welles stooped low, working in many lousy pictures by other directors to finance his own productions… but turning up in a dang Muppet movie was the final indignity. And by 1979, 400-pound Orson Welles only had so much juice left in him. Shame to see him waste it on the Muppets, when he could have been completing his legendary DON QUIXOTE. Much DQ footage has been lost forever since 1979. An attempt to assemble DQ after Welles’ death in 1985 was a fiasco.

Posted By Tom S : November 26, 2011 3:32 pm

In 1979, Welles was only a few years off a masterpiece (F for Fake), had just made the remarkable Filming Othello, and was still working on both Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind. He was still a brilliant artist, and his turn in the Muppet Movie was delightful. As it probably took about a day to shoot, I doubt it was significant in keeping him from his other work- and surely it was far more dignified than the commercial work he was forced into, and which he despised.

It’s not ‘weird’ that they cast a famous outsider as the man in charge, it’s a deliberate and conscious joke. It’s a smart movie.

Posted By Tom S : November 26, 2011 3:32 pm

In 1979, Welles was only a few years off a masterpiece (F for Fake), had just made the remarkable Filming Othello, and was still working on both Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind. He was still a brilliant artist, and his turn in the Muppet Movie was delightful. As it probably took about a day to shoot, I doubt it was significant in keeping him from his other work- and surely it was far more dignified than the commercial work he was forced into, and which he despised.

It’s not ‘weird’ that they cast a famous outsider as the man in charge, it’s a deliberate and conscious joke. It’s a smart movie.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : November 26, 2011 4:00 pm

F FOR FAKE a masterpiece? I don’t think so. This half-baked mockumentary cobbled together using reassembled footage from a François Reichenbach documentary on art forger Elmyr de Hory wasn’t half as good as THE STRANGER. I haven’t seen FILMING OTHELLO. I understand Welles wanted to keep himself in the public eye, but the Paul Masson wine commercials were less demeaning than his cameo in THE MUPPET MOVIE. Up here in Canada, Welles lent his voice of God to a series of award-winning Uniroyal Tire commercials featuring characters from Johnny Hart’s BC comic strip. He also starred in an atrocity (ZEN BUSINESS). I saw a few test shots from a film Welles intended to direct – THE DREAMERS, based on a perfervid novel by Isak Dinesen. Pretentious twaddle, even more leaden-paced than THE IMMORTAL STORY.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : November 26, 2011 4:00 pm

F FOR FAKE a masterpiece? I don’t think so. This half-baked mockumentary cobbled together using reassembled footage from a François Reichenbach documentary on art forger Elmyr de Hory wasn’t half as good as THE STRANGER. I haven’t seen FILMING OTHELLO. I understand Welles wanted to keep himself in the public eye, but the Paul Masson wine commercials were less demeaning than his cameo in THE MUPPET MOVIE. Up here in Canada, Welles lent his voice of God to a series of award-winning Uniroyal Tire commercials featuring characters from Johnny Hart’s BC comic strip. He also starred in an atrocity (ZEN BUSINESS). I saw a few test shots from a film Welles intended to direct – THE DREAMERS, based on a perfervid novel by Isak Dinesen. Pretentious twaddle, even more leaden-paced than THE IMMORTAL STORY.

Posted By Tom S : November 26, 2011 11:30 pm

Well, at least the accuracy of your opinions is consistent

Posted By Tom S : November 26, 2011 11:30 pm

Well, at least the accuracy of your opinions is consistent

Posted By JeffH : November 26, 2011 11:38 pm

Ummm…Harvey? I think we are talking about Muppets here, with Orson Welles a small element of the discussion, OK? I have always loved the Muppets, and wish the season with Spike Milligan would come out on DVD…

I have always loved this movie, and I remember when it came out a friend of mine who is a huge Bergen/McCarthy fan being very displeased that they only had a cameo in the film. I told him that Bergen even had a line “Be quiet Charlie-it’s their movie,” so if he had a problem with it, even Edgar Bergen knew he and Charlie only had a small part in it.

Also glad that the film is available on DVD in the correct aspect ratio-when does the Blu-Ray come out?

Posted By JeffH : November 26, 2011 11:38 pm

Ummm…Harvey? I think we are talking about Muppets here, with Orson Welles a small element of the discussion, OK? I have always loved the Muppets, and wish the season with Spike Milligan would come out on DVD…

I have always loved this movie, and I remember when it came out a friend of mine who is a huge Bergen/McCarthy fan being very displeased that they only had a cameo in the film. I told him that Bergen even had a line “Be quiet Charlie-it’s their movie,” so if he had a problem with it, even Edgar Bergen knew he and Charlie only had a small part in it.

Also glad that the film is available on DVD in the correct aspect ratio-when does the Blu-Ray come out?

Posted By dukeroberts : November 27, 2011 12:46 am

Jeff- I’m thinking that The Muppet Movie, and possibly some of the others, will be available on Blu-ray when The Muppets is released. Disney usually does great things with their Blu-rays so maybe we will even get some goodies.

Posted By dukeroberts : November 27, 2011 12:46 am

Jeff- I’m thinking that The Muppet Movie, and possibly some of the others, will be available on Blu-ray when The Muppets is released. Disney usually does great things with their Blu-rays so maybe we will even get some goodies.

Posted By smalllerdemon : November 27, 2011 10:15 am

*heh* The Muppet Movie was more indignant than Paul Masson (not to mention the drunken out-takes)?

Anyway, thanks for a wonderful look back at The Muppet Movie. I watched it a few months ago with my daughter (three – just turned three at the time) and The Muppets was our very first full length motion picture family outing (we’ve been two a children’s block at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Festival when she was two as our very first outing – we have that movie pass in a lovely frame on her wall) and it was great.

As someone who actually likes Jack Black and was sad to see his turns in things like Gulliver’s Travels, seeing him in this was spectacular and his presence in the barbershop quartet’s rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit as the one stating that they’re ruining the song was a highlight of the movie for me (and I love that he participated in another much older joke in that bit with the head shrinking from the hot towels – that’s straight from Looney Toons). And I only just found out last night what the chickens were singing, to which I say “HA!” Now THAT was indeed what the original Muppet Show was all about to me which was taking a lot of the seriousness of adult things and really deflating them. (Not that Ce Lo Green’s song isn’t a rather joyous anthem to separation from the wrong person in your life.) Anyone who appeared with the Muppets on the Muppet show was, to me, someone that love fun and loved being able to laugh at themselves. Vince Price’s appearance on the show probably outshines Welles’ appearance in the movie for me personally as wonderful moments in Muppet entertainment.

The Muppet Show itself was also a true bridge between a dying age of entertainment (and entertainers that Jim Henson loved and was able to work with) and kids born in the 60s and 70s. We may not have know who a lot of them were, or we may have known if our parents didn’t pay much attention to what we watched on television (I knew who everyone was, btw), but it didn’t matter really because they were being funny. And later in life, as we all grew up and discovered classic movies and music, we had a special gift from Jim Henson and The Muppet Show when we saw movies that held a ring of familiarity to them and ultimately figured out that it was because that actor was a good enough sport to play along making fun of their persona (or simply doing what they do best, like Danny Kaye) on The Muppet Show.

Re Paul Williams, David: Don’t forget The Phantom of the Paradise and also Bugsy Malone and, well, anything in the top ten of any year in the 70s. :) (Even Bowie covers a Paul Williams song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIog1vxXN4U

Posted By smalllerdemon : November 27, 2011 10:15 am

*heh* The Muppet Movie was more indignant than Paul Masson (not to mention the drunken out-takes)?

Anyway, thanks for a wonderful look back at The Muppet Movie. I watched it a few months ago with my daughter (three – just turned three at the time) and The Muppets was our very first full length motion picture family outing (we’ve been two a children’s block at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Festival when she was two as our very first outing – we have that movie pass in a lovely frame on her wall) and it was great.

As someone who actually likes Jack Black and was sad to see his turns in things like Gulliver’s Travels, seeing him in this was spectacular and his presence in the barbershop quartet’s rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit as the one stating that they’re ruining the song was a highlight of the movie for me (and I love that he participated in another much older joke in that bit with the head shrinking from the hot towels – that’s straight from Looney Toons). And I only just found out last night what the chickens were singing, to which I say “HA!” Now THAT was indeed what the original Muppet Show was all about to me which was taking a lot of the seriousness of adult things and really deflating them. (Not that Ce Lo Green’s song isn’t a rather joyous anthem to separation from the wrong person in your life.) Anyone who appeared with the Muppets on the Muppet show was, to me, someone that love fun and loved being able to laugh at themselves. Vince Price’s appearance on the show probably outshines Welles’ appearance in the movie for me personally as wonderful moments in Muppet entertainment.

The Muppet Show itself was also a true bridge between a dying age of entertainment (and entertainers that Jim Henson loved and was able to work with) and kids born in the 60s and 70s. We may not have know who a lot of them were, or we may have known if our parents didn’t pay much attention to what we watched on television (I knew who everyone was, btw), but it didn’t matter really because they were being funny. And later in life, as we all grew up and discovered classic movies and music, we had a special gift from Jim Henson and The Muppet Show when we saw movies that held a ring of familiarity to them and ultimately figured out that it was because that actor was a good enough sport to play along making fun of their persona (or simply doing what they do best, like Danny Kaye) on The Muppet Show.

Re Paul Williams, David: Don’t forget The Phantom of the Paradise and also Bugsy Malone and, well, anything in the top ten of any year in the 70s. :) (Even Bowie covers a Paul Williams song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIog1vxXN4U

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : November 27, 2011 3:53 pm

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I’m sure you meant that (Welles’ appearance in) THE MUPPET MOVIE was more “undignified“ rather than “indignant“… is it not so? Be that as it may, those drunken out-takes of Paul Masson Wine commercials are works of consummate artistry compared to Welles’ dreadful ham-faced cameo as Lew Lord in THE MUPPET MOVIE, which also goes down as another of The Great One’s pathetic late-career attempts to ingratiate himself with the Hollywood crowd that spurned him, so the aged enfant terrible could gather a few coins and complete his Hollywood-denigrating free-for-all THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND – touted as the greatest home movie (n)ever made.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : November 27, 2011 3:53 pm

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I’m sure you meant that (Welles’ appearance in) THE MUPPET MOVIE was more “undignified“ rather than “indignant“… is it not so? Be that as it may, those drunken out-takes of Paul Masson Wine commercials are works of consummate artistry compared to Welles’ dreadful ham-faced cameo as Lew Lord in THE MUPPET MOVIE, which also goes down as another of The Great One’s pathetic late-career attempts to ingratiate himself with the Hollywood crowd that spurned him, so the aged enfant terrible could gather a few coins and complete his Hollywood-denigrating free-for-all THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND – touted as the greatest home movie (n)ever made.

Posted By Juana Maria : November 27, 2011 7:57 pm

I have been a fan of the Muppets seen I was a baby. I rember watching “The Muppet Show”,”Muppet Babies”,”Fraggle Rock”, “Seasame Street”, “Jim Henson Hour” and “Storyteller” and several of the Muppet movies. My favorite is “Muppet Treasure Island”. My sister and I saw it in the theatre when it came out. Such fun! We would watch that movie on Disney channel until my dad would say:”Aren’t you sick of it yet?” My answer:”No!” There are some really funny Muppet moments you can find on youtube. I too love the Muppets. Thanks for this trip down memory lane. Wocka wocka wocka. P.S. I love Kermit the frog, but my favorite character always was Gonzo.

Posted By Juana Maria : November 27, 2011 7:57 pm

I have been a fan of the Muppets seen I was a baby. I rember watching “The Muppet Show”,”Muppet Babies”,”Fraggle Rock”, “Seasame Street”, “Jim Henson Hour” and “Storyteller” and several of the Muppet movies. My favorite is “Muppet Treasure Island”. My sister and I saw it in the theatre when it came out. Such fun! We would watch that movie on Disney channel until my dad would say:”Aren’t you sick of it yet?” My answer:”No!” There are some really funny Muppet moments you can find on youtube. I too love the Muppets. Thanks for this trip down memory lane. Wocka wocka wocka. P.S. I love Kermit the frog, but my favorite character always was Gonzo.

Posted By smalllerdemon : November 27, 2011 10:28 pm

Indeed. I suspect I mean a lot of things. Although you, Harvey, certainly seem indignant regarding Welles’ appearance in The Muppet Movie. ;)

Sorry you don’t like Muppets. Such is life. I don’t like dramas, and it seems that the majority of the movie industry is quite obsessed about the modern drama as the baseline for great cinema. I just don’t watch ‘em and stick with my Muppets, cartoons, horror movies, monster movies and classic cinema. (My cutoff for what drama I watch seems to be 60s backwards. The 70s sort of ruined drama.)

Posted By smalllerdemon : November 27, 2011 10:28 pm

Indeed. I suspect I mean a lot of things. Although you, Harvey, certainly seem indignant regarding Welles’ appearance in The Muppet Movie. ;)

Sorry you don’t like Muppets. Such is life. I don’t like dramas, and it seems that the majority of the movie industry is quite obsessed about the modern drama as the baseline for great cinema. I just don’t watch ‘em and stick with my Muppets, cartoons, horror movies, monster movies and classic cinema. (My cutoff for what drama I watch seems to be 60s backwards. The 70s sort of ruined drama.)

Posted By Commander Adams : November 29, 2011 1:09 am

My special relationship with The Muppet Movie? It was the first movie I ever saw in a theater (at the age of 3). Yes, I owe it a lot.

Posted By Commander Adams : November 29, 2011 1:09 am

My special relationship with The Muppet Movie? It was the first movie I ever saw in a theater (at the age of 3). Yes, I owe it a lot.

Posted By swac : December 5, 2011 1:45 pm

Nice appreciation David. Do you have any comment on the fact that the movie seems to be altered in its home video version, with a number of snippets altered or missing? I’ve heard the bit where Kermit is in a bar and asks for “a grasshopper” is gone, but I haven’t watched the most recent DVD to confirm this.

Also, have the Morlocks ever tackled the early film career of Bergen & McCarthy? I’ve seen a handful of short subjects starring the man and his dummy that are chock full of innuendo and topicality, much like the Muppets were in their heyday. No wonder they were an influence on Henson.

Posted By swac : December 5, 2011 1:45 pm

Nice appreciation David. Do you have any comment on the fact that the movie seems to be altered in its home video version, with a number of snippets altered or missing? I’ve heard the bit where Kermit is in a bar and asks for “a grasshopper” is gone, but I haven’t watched the most recent DVD to confirm this.

Also, have the Morlocks ever tackled the early film career of Bergen & McCarthy? I’ve seen a handful of short subjects starring the man and his dummy that are chock full of innuendo and topicality, much like the Muppets were in their heyday. No wonder they were an influence on Henson.

Posted By Juana Maria : December 8, 2011 6:59 pm

I love that you remember about Bergen & McCarthy, I have seen some of his work on TCM before. His daughter, Candice Bergen was on “The Muppet Show” in 1976. She said she was used to being around puppets because of her father’s act. Thought you might like to know. Speaking of “the Muppet Show”, there are some really unforgetable perfomances on that, such as Rita Moreno, James Coburn(who got along with animal), Alice Cooper(super scary episode), Raquel Welch(very sexy-for a kids’ show), Harry Belafonte(I just love him!), Diana Ross(who didn’t like “Pigs In Space”,but lied and said she did),Roger Moore(who Miss Piggy was enamored with!),Candice Bergen(I remember her eating grapes and getting her portait painted). Any one else have any favorite episodes?

Posted By Juana Maria : December 8, 2011 6:59 pm

I love that you remember about Bergen & McCarthy, I have seen some of his work on TCM before. His daughter, Candice Bergen was on “The Muppet Show” in 1976. She said she was used to being around puppets because of her father’s act. Thought you might like to know. Speaking of “the Muppet Show”, there are some really unforgetable perfomances on that, such as Rita Moreno, James Coburn(who got along with animal), Alice Cooper(super scary episode), Raquel Welch(very sexy-for a kids’ show), Harry Belafonte(I just love him!), Diana Ross(who didn’t like “Pigs In Space”,but lied and said she did),Roger Moore(who Miss Piggy was enamored with!),Candice Bergen(I remember her eating grapes and getting her portait painted). Any one else have any favorite episodes?

Posted By swac : December 9, 2011 3:00 pm

As a big Goon Show buff, it’s a treat to have Muppet Show episodes for both Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan (Spike was an especially rare sight on North American TV), and call me crazy (“You’re crazy!”) I also love the episode where Muppet Show writer (and actor/comic) Chris Langham had to fill in as a last-minute replacement for absent star Richard Pryor.

Although one wonders what a Pryor appearance on The Muppet Show might have been like…

Posted By swac : December 9, 2011 3:00 pm

As a big Goon Show buff, it’s a treat to have Muppet Show episodes for both Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan (Spike was an especially rare sight on North American TV), and call me crazy (“You’re crazy!”) I also love the episode where Muppet Show writer (and actor/comic) Chris Langham had to fill in as a last-minute replacement for absent star Richard Pryor.

Although one wonders what a Pryor appearance on The Muppet Show might have been like…

Posted By JeffH : December 9, 2011 3:35 pm

The Milligan show is my all-time favorite (when he grabs a chicken and yells at it “Which came first!!??)-what season was that one? Will immediately put it at the top of my Netflix queue. Another fave was Dudley Moore’s-I think one of the scientist’s experiments had gone kerflooey and it almost wrecked the theater, so Moore did his piano number in a hardhat while occasional debris came down.

Posted By JeffH : December 9, 2011 3:35 pm

The Milligan show is my all-time favorite (when he grabs a chicken and yells at it “Which came first!!??)-what season was that one? Will immediately put it at the top of my Netflix queue. Another fave was Dudley Moore’s-I think one of the scientist’s experiments had gone kerflooey and it almost wrecked the theater, so Moore did his piano number in a hardhat while occasional debris came down.

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