The Muppet Movie
|The Muppet Movie|
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||James Frawley|
|Produced by||Jim Henson
|Written by||Jack Burns
|Music by||Paul Williams
|Editing by||Christopher Greenbury|
|Distributed by||Associated Film Distribution1|
|Running time||97 minutes (UK)
95 minutes (US/International)
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 and released by ITC Entertainment.1 It was released between the third and fourth seasons of The Muppet Show.
The film is dedicated to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen who died during production.
The film opens with the various members of the Muppet cast gathering to see the first screening of their new movie.
As the film-within-the-film opens, Kermit the Frog enjoys a relaxing afternoon in a Florida swamp, singing "Rainbow Connection" and strumming his banjo, when he is approached by an agent (Dom DeLuise) who encourages Kermit to pursue a career in show business. Inspired by the idea of "making millions of people happy," Kermit sets off on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, but is soon pursued by the villainous Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), (patterned after Colonel Harland Sanders of "Kentucky Fried Chicken") and his shy assistant Max (Austin Pendleton) in an attempt to convince Kermit to be the new spokesman of his struggling French-fried frog legs restaurant franchise, at which Kermit is horrified. As Kermit continues to spurn Doc's advances, Hopper resorts to increasingly vicious means of persuasion.
Kermit then meets Fozzie Bear, who had been working as a hapless stand-up comedian in a sleazy bar. Kermit invites Fozzie to accompany him, and the two set out in a 1951 Studebaker 2-door sedan loaned to Fozzie by his hibernating uncle. The duo’s journey includes misadventures which introduce them to a variety of eccentric human and Muppet characters, including Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem and their manager Scooter (who receive a copy of the script from the pair), Gonzo and Camilla the Chicken, Sweetums (who ran after them after they thought he declined their offer), and the immediately love stricken Miss Piggy.
Kermit and Miss Piggy begin a relationship over dinner that night, when Doc Hopper and Max kidnap Miss Piggy to lure Kermit into a trap. Using an electronic cerebrectomy device, mad scientist Professor Krassman (Mel Brooks), attempts to brainwash Kermit to perform in Doc’s commercials until Miss Piggy, insulted by Krassman, breaks free in a rage and defeats Doc Hopper's henchmen. After receiving a job offer, however, she promptly abandons Kermit in the restaurant alone and sad.
After being joined by Rowlf the Dog and eventually Miss Piggy once more, the Muppets continue their journey. Fozzie trades his uncle's Studebaker to a used car dealer (Milton Berle) for a station wagon to make room for their new friends, but later regrets the trade after the car breaks down. During a campfire that night, they sadly consider that they may miss the audition tomorrow, and Gonzo cheers up most of the group with a song about his longing to find his place in the world, while Kermit wanders off, ashamed of himself for seemingly bringing his friends into a dead end, and wondering whether his dreams were really worth leaving home for. Upon consulting a more optimistic vision of himself, Kermit remembers that it was not just his friends' belief in the dream that brought them this far, but also his own faith in himself. Reinvigorated, he returns to camp to find that the Electric Mayhem and Scooter have read the script in advance, and arrived to help them the rest of the way.
Just as it seems they are finally on their way, the group is warned by Max that Doc Hopper has hired an assassin (Scott Walker) to kill Kermit. Kermit decides he will not be hunted by a bully any longer and proposes a Western-style showdown in a nearby ghost town inhabited by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, who invent materials that have yet to be tested. While confronting Hopper, Kermit explains his motivations, attempting to appeal to Hopper’s own hopes and dreams, but Hopper is unmoved and orders his henchmen to kill him and all his friends. They are saved only when one of Dr. Bunsen's inventions, "insta-grow" pills, temporarily turns Animal into a giant, scaring off Hopper and his men.
The Muppets proceed to Hollywood, and are hired by producer and studio executive Lew Lord (Orson Welles). The Muppets attempt to make their first movie involving a surreal pastiche of their experiences. The first take suddenly erupts into a catastrophic explosion that makes a hole in the roof through which a portion of rainbow shines through on the Muppets. The film ends as the Muppets, joined by the characters from Sesame Street, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, the "The Land of Gorch" segment of Saturday Night Live, and the James Frawley Muppet, sing "Rainbow Connection." As the film ends, Sweetums bursts through the screen having finally caught up with the rest of the Muppets.
- Austin Pendleton as Max
- Charles Durning as Doc Hopper
- Scott Walker as Snake Walker
- Mel Brooks as Professor Max Krassman
- Melinda Dillon as Woman with Balloon
- Lawrence Gabriel, Jr. as a Sailor
- Ira F. Grubman as a Bartender
- H.B. Haggerty as a Lumberjack
- Bruce Kirby as a Gate Guard
- Tommy Madden as One-Eyed Midget
- Arnold Roberts as a Cowboy
- James Frawley as an El Sleazo Waiter
Cameo guest stars 
- Edgar Bergen as Himself and Charlie McCarthy
- Milton Berle as Mad Man Mooney
- James Coburn as the El Sleezo Cafe Owner
- Dom DeLuise as Bernie the Agent
- Elliott Gould as a Beauty Contest Compere
- Bob Hope as an Ice Cream Vendor
- Madeline Kahn as an El Sleezo Patron
- Carol Kane as Myth
- Lisa Henson as Beauty Contest Model
- Cloris Leachman as Miss Tracy, Lew Lord's secretary
- Steve Martin as an Insolent Waiter
- Richard Pryor as Balloon Vendor
- Telly Savalas as El Sleezo Tough
- Orson Welles as Lew Lord (possibly modeled on Lew Grade, by then Lord Grade, who approved production of The Muppet Show)
- Paul Williams as El Sleezo Pianist
Muppet performers 
- Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, Waldorf, Swedish Chef, Nigel the Conductor
- Frank Oz as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Marvin Suggs
- Jerry Nelson as Floyd Pepper, Crazy Harry, Robin the Frog, Lew Zealand, Camilla the Chicken, Blue Frackle
- Richard Hunt as Scooter, Statler, Janice, Sweetums, Beaker, Kermit the Frog (Some Scenes)
- Dave Goelz as Gonzo the Great, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Nigel, Doglion
- Caroll Spinney as Big Bird
Muppet performers Frank Oz and Steve Whitmire can briefly be spotted. Frank Oz appears in the El Sleazo Cafe as a biker that beats up Fozzie Bear while Steve Whitmire can be spotted standing behind Kermit the Frog at the Bogen County Fair. Movie directors John Landis and Tim Burton were uncredited puppeteers in the final shot of the film.
Muppet cameos 
|This section requires expansion. (January 2013)|
Some of the Muppets appear in this film without dialogue:
- Baskerville the Hound
- Blue Frackle
- Fletcher Bird
- Link Hogthrob
- Luncheon Counter Monster
- Mean Mama
Austin Pendleton, who played Max in The Muppet Movie, recalled that the film was shot on "a very unhappy set, because Jim [Frawley] was very unhappy directing that movie. And I noticed that was the only time the Muppet people used an outside person to direct a Muppet movie. They never did that again. After that, it was either Jim Henson or Frank Oz. And I would have liked to have been in one of those, because those sets were very harmonious. But this was not."
- 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.
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 and Steve Whitmire. This scene took five days to film.
Before this, no movie had a hand puppet act with its entire body appearing onscreen. That is, hand puppets were only seen from the waist up, and it became a major plot point to show Kermit with legs. 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 pedals and handlebars. 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.
Box office 
The film sold over 30.5 million tickets and grossed $76,657,000 domestically (adjusted for inflation, this would equal $242,492,661 in 2012 dollars), making it the seventh highest-grossing picture of 1979 and also, the second highest-grossing Muppet film after the release of The Muppets in 2011. The success of the film gave Jim Henson Productions an opportunity to release more Muppet productions theatrically.
Critical reception 
The Muppet Movie opened on June 22, 1979 to positive reviews. As of February 1, 2012, the film holds an 90% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 40 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. In his favorable review, he was fascinated that "The Muppet Movie not only stars the Muppets but, for the first time, shows us their feet."
- American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- Rainbow Connection – #74
- AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals – Nominated
Home media 
The film was first 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. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment re-issued the 2005 release in stock along with other Disney-owned Muppet films as part of the 2011 film's promotion. There is also special – short 17 min. version of the film released by Walton Super 8 Home Movies. The version is in colour and sound.
|37th Golden Globe Awards||Best Original Song||Nominated||"Rainbow Connection" – Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher|
|22nd Grammy Awards||Best Album for Children||Won||Jim Henson and Paul Williams|
|52nd Academy Awards||Best Original Song||Nominated||"Rainbow Connection" – Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher|
|Best Adaptation Score||Songs by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher; Adaption by Paul Williams|
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."
"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.
|The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording|
|Soundtrack album by The Muppets|
|The Muppets chronology|
The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording features the songs from the film, written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher. This album reached #32 on Billboard's Top LP's and Tapes chart in 1979, and was certified Gold by the RIAA. Several of the songs were included in The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More – The 25th Anniversary Collection released in 2002.
|1.||"Rainbow Connection"||Paul Williams, Kenny Ascher||Kermit the Frog||3:16|
|2.||"Movin' Right Along"||Williams, Ascher||Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear||2:57|
|3.||"Never Before, Never Again"||Williams, Ascher||Miss Piggy|
|4.||"Never Before, Never Again" (Instrumental)||Williams|
|5.||"I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along"||Williams, Ascher||Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog|
|6.||"Can You Picture That?"||Williams, Ascher||Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem||2:31|
|7.||"I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" (Instrumental)||Williams|
|8.||"I'm Going to Go Back There Someday"||Williams, Ascher||Gonzo the Great|
|9.||"America"||Katharine Lee Bates||Fozzie Bear|
|10.||"Animal...Come Back Animal"|
|11.||"Finale: The Magic Store"||Williams, Ascher||The Muppets||5:19|
- Gold Record (Soundtrack)
- Platinum Record (Soundtrack)
- ^ After the purchase of The Muppets characters by The Walt Disney Company, the film's distribution rights were transferred from The Jim Henson Company to Walt Disney Pictures.
- ^ Some estimates have the film's gross total $76,657,000, whereas Box Office Mojo reports a gross of only $65.2 million.
- Rabin, Nathan (July 29, 2009). "Austin Pendleton | Film | Random Roles". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
- 100 years of filmmaking in New Mexico 1898–1998. New Mexico Dept. of Tourism. 1998. p. 118.
- "The Muppet Movie, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
- "The Muppet Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- Roger Ebert (November 14, 1979). "The Muppet Movie". Chicago Sun-Times (rogerebert.com). Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- "25 new titles added to National Film Registry". Yahoo News (Yahoo). 2009-12-30. Retrieved 2009-12-30.[dead link]
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
- AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Ballot
- Connelly, Brendon. "Trailer: The Muppet Movie Getting "Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition" On Blu-Ray". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- "Rainbow Connection". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2009-12-07.
- "The Muppet Movie". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Official website
- The Muppet Movie at the Internet Movie Database
- The Muppet Movie at AllRovi
- The Muppet Movie at Box Office Mojo
- The Muppet Movie at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Muppet Movie at Metacritic
- Tough Pigs: The Muppet Movie from Script to Screen