The Muppets (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James Bobin|
|Produced by||David Hoberman
|Written by||Jason Segel
|Based on||The Muppets
|Music by||Christophe Beck|
|Editing by||James M. Thomas|
|Studio||Walt Disney Pictures
The Muppets Studio
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios
|Running time||103 minutes|
The Muppets is a 2011 American musical comedy film produced by Walt Disney Pictures, and the first Muppets theatrical release in twelve years. The film is directed by James Bobin, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, and stars Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and Rashida Jones.
In the film, Walter, a devoted Muppet fan, his brother Gary, and Gary's girlfriend Mary help Kermit the Frog reunite the Muppets. They must raise $10 million to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman, a businessman who plans to demolish the studio to drill for oil.
The Muppets was first announced in March 2008, with principal photography commencing in September 2010. The film premiered at the 2011 Savannah Film Festival and was released theatrically in North America on November 23, 2011. The film was a commercial success, grossing $165 million worldwide against a $45 million budget, becoming the highest-grossing film of the franchise to date (not accounting for inflation, otherwise, the highest-grossing Muppet film is The Muppet Movie). The Muppets garnered universal critical acclaim with much praise going to its characterization, humor and soundtrack. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for Bret McKenzie's "Man or Muppet", as well as earning BAFTA, Grammy Award and Critic's Choice Awards nominations.
Brothers Walter and Gary, residents of Smalltown, are introduced as avid fans of The Muppets, having watched The Muppet Show throughout their youth. Now adults, Gary plans a vacation to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Mary, to celebrate their tenth anniversary, inviting Walter along so he can tour the Muppet Studios. Mary feels that Gary's devotion to Walter is detracting from their relationship.
Arriving in Los Angeles, the three visit the abandoned Muppet Studios. During the tour, Walter sneaks into Kermit the Frog's office and discovers Statler and Waldorf selling the Muppet Theater to oil tycoon Tex Richman. Waldorf explains that if the Muppets can raise $10 million by the time the original contract expires, they can repurchase the theater. After Statler and Waldorf leave the office, Walter overhears Richman revealing his plans to destroy the theater and drill for oil underneath.
The group find Kermit and inform him that he must organize a telethon to raise the money, which appears initially difficult as the Muppets have gone their separate ways since The Muppet Show ended its run. After Walter convinces him to try, Kermit and the three set off to reunite the group by car. Kermit dissuades Fozzie Bear from continuing to perform in Reno with the Moopets, a group of uncouth Muppet impersonators. Meanwhile, Gonzo has become a plumbing magnate, and despite his initial objection, decides to destroy his business and join them. Animal is recovered from a celebrity anger-management clinic, but is warned by his sponsor Jack Black to avoid drums. The other primary Muppets are located and rejoin through a montage. Later in Paris, the group finds Miss Piggy working as an editor for "plus-sized" fashion at Vogue Paris. Unable to convince Miss Piggy to return, the group replaces her with Moopet counterpart Miss Poogy.
The Muppets pitch their telethon idea to several television networks, but are rejected. However, CDE executive Veronica gives the Muppets a recently vacated two-hour slot in the network's schedule, on the condition that they find a celebrity guest. The Muppets refurbish the theater, but their first rehearsal is unsuccessful and Kermit is unable to contact a celebrity guest. Miss Piggy returns, forces Poogy out, and informs Kermit that she refuses to work with him. Kermit inspires Walter to find his talent and perform in the telethon. Meanwhile, Mary goes sightseeing alone.
Declining Kermit's plea to return their studio, Richman reveals that the Muppets will also lose their trademark names, which he plans to entitle to the Moopets. Unsuccessful, Kermit returns home and Miss Piggy enlists the remaining Muppets to kidnap Black as a celebrity guest. Meanwhile, after discovering that an upset Mary has left for Smalltown, Gary realizes that he must improve his relationship with Mary and follows her back home to reconcile, while Walter discovers he was meant to join the Muppets. The telethon begins and gradually attracts a large audience, with the Muppets raising donations with support from celebrity callers and Black serving unwillingly as host. During the show, Richman cuts the theater's power supply, however Gary and Mary, having returned, manage to restore it. Richman then attempts to destroy the theater's television transmitter, but a regretful Uncle Deadly stops Richman. Kermit and Miss Piggy finally conciliate and the Muppets perform "Rainbow Connection" as their final act.
However, the telethon runs short as the $10 million has yet to be collected. Having found his talent, Walter gathers the courage to perform a whistling act, which is unanimously praised by the audience. Richman, refusing to lose, disables the telephone lines and evicts the Muppets from the theater, after the latter fall short of their monetary goal. Kermit gathers the group in the lobby and delivers a speech, suggesting that they will restart their career together as a family. Exiting the theater, the Muppets are greeted by a vast gathering of supporters on Hollywood Boulevard. With Gary's encouragement, Walter greets the crowd and is accepted by the Muppets as a new member. At the end of the film, Gary proposes to Mary, Richman gives the theater and naming rights back to the Muppets after suffering a head injury, and Kermit and Miss Piggy have time in private.
- Jason Segel as Gary, Walter's human brother and a fan of the Muppets.
- Amy Adams as Mary, an elementary school teacher and Gary's longtime girlfriend. She is a very capable mechanic.
- Chris Cooper as Tex Richman, an oil magnate who desires to destroy the Muppet Theater to get to the oil that is supposedly underneath it. He has issues with the Muppets when he was unable to laugh at his 10th birthday.
- Rashida Jones as Veronica, a network executive at the CDE network.
- Jack Black as Himself (uncredited), Animal's court-appointed sponsor and unwilling celebrity host of The Muppet Telethon.
- Alan Arkin as Muppet Studios Tour Guide
- Bill Cobbs as Grandfather
- Zach Galifianakis as Hobo Joe (Joanna Newsom did his brief singing voice), a hobo who is the first audience member of The Muppet Telethon
- Ken Jeong as Punch Teacher host
- Jim Parsons as Human Walter
- Donald Glover as a Junior CDE Executive
- Eddie Pepitone as Postman
- Kristen Schaal as the Anger Management Group moderator.
- Sarah Silverman as a Mel's Drive-In restaurant greeter.
- Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo as a Univision Executive
- Dahlia Wangort as FOX executive
- Michael Albala as NBC executive
- Aria Noelle Curzon as a Mel's Drive-In waitress
- Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Statler, Rizzo the Rat, Link Hogthrob, The Muppet Newsman, Lips
- Eric Jacobson as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Marvin Suggs
- Dave Goelz as Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, Beauregard, Waldorf, Kermit Moopet
- Bill Barretta as Rowlf the Dog, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth, Pepe the King Prawn, Bobo the Bear, Beautiful Day Monster, Mahna Mahna, Behemoth, Fozzie Moopet, Muppet Gary, Whatnot Hobo
- David Rudman as Scooter, Janice, Miss Poogy, Wayne, Nigel the Conductor, Bobby Benson
- Matt Vogel as Floyd Pepper, Camilla the Chicken, Sweetums, '80s Robot, Lew Zealand, Uncle Deadly, Crazy Harry, Rowlf Moopet
- Peter Linz as Walter
Archival recordings of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt can be heard in the film through The Muppet Show segments in the opening flashbacks. In his final Muppets performance, Jerry Nelson reprised his role from The Muppet Show as the announcer of The Muppet Telethon.
Cameo guest stars
- Emily Blunt as Miss Piggy's French receptionist (spoofing her prior role as Emily Charlton from The Devil Wears Prada).
- James Carville as Himself
- Leslie Feist as Smalltown Resident
- Whoopi Goldberg as Herself
- Selena Gomez as Herself
- Dave Grohl as Animool
- Neil Patrick Harris as Himself
- Judd Hirsch as Himself
- John Krasinski as Himself
- Rico Rodriguez as Himself
- Mickey Rooney as Smalltown Resident.
- Rob Corddry as Superman Impersonator (deleted scenes)
- Billy Crystal as Himself (deleted scenes)
- Ricky Gervais as Himself (deleted scenes)
- Kathy Griffin as Herself (deleted scenes)
- Sarah Hyland as Credit Card Club girl (deleted scenes)
- Sterling Knight as Credit Card Club boy (deleted scenes)
- Wanda Sykes as Officer Ethel (deleted scenes)
- Danny Trejo as a Prisoner (deleted scenes)
In 2008, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller pitched a concept for a Muppets film to Walt Disney Studios Executive Vice President of Production Karen Falk, and they were offered a deal to develop their script. The news became public in March 2008 when Variety first reported that Disney had signed a deal with Segel and Stoller, with Segel and Stoller writing the script and Stoller directing. In June 2008, Jason Segel announced that he had turned in the first draft of his script and was hopeful that the film would live up to previous Muppets movies. Later in 2008, Stoller noted that he and Segel had written an "old school Muppets movie, where the Muppets have to put on a show to save the studio." In this same interview, Stoller also confirmed that they would get as many cameos and guest stars as possible, and that Jason Segel would play a ventriloquist.
Originally, the film was titled The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time!!!, and an early leak of the script suggested that it would feature celebrity cameos by Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Christian Bale, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, George Clooney, Jack Black, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mel Brooks, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Rachael Ray, Bob Saget, Lisa Lampanelli, Jeff Ross, and Charles Grodin. Another former title of the film was The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made!, after an unused script written by Jerry Juhl back in 1985. Although early reports indicated that Stoller would direct the film, in January 2010 it was announced that James Bobin would direct the movie. In February 2010, additional details about the plot surfaced, indicating that the film would be about a villain that wanted to drill for oil underneath the old Muppet Theater, and that the only way to stop him would be to put on a show that draws ten million viewers. Reports from the summer of 2010 revealed that the production team had met with the creative heads at Pixar to fine tune the script. During the summer of 2010, it was announced that the film would be released on Christmas 2011, but in December 2010, the release date was moved to Thanksgiving 2011.
In October 2010, it was confirmed that Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and Rashida Jones would also be starring in the film. Over the next few months, several guest cameo announcements emerged, including, but not limited to Emily Blunt, Ricky Gervais, Zack Galifianakis, Billy Crystal, Jack Black, Alan Arkin, and Dave Grohl. However, Gervais, Crystal and several other cameos including Beth Broderick, Kathy Griffin, Ed Helms, Sterling Knight, Mila Kunis, Ben Stiller, Eric Stonestreet, Wanda Sykes Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Danny Trejo were completely omitted from the film due to time constraints (Though Gervais can be seen in the musical finale). Jim Parsons' cameo was kept as a secret by producers despite rumors that leaked on the Internet regarding his role in the film. In a March 2009 interview on The Late Late Show, Segel revealed that he had asked host Craig Ferguson to appear in the film, and at the time, he (Ferguson) had been the only person that had agreed. Ferguson was ultimately not given a role, for which he chastised Segel in a November 2011 interview. A cameo was written for the Sesame Street Muppet Elmo, but was rejected by Disney's attorneys and representatives from Sesame Workshop.
Filming for The Muppets started in late 2010, with the first set photos emerging in December 2010. The November 12, 2010, issue of Entertainment Weekly featured a spread about The Muppets, including a summary of the film's concept, quotes from Segel and Bobin, the first images of Walter, and new photos of the Muppets with Jason Segel.
Hollywood Boulevard was closed for two nights in January 2011 to film a reprise of "Life's a Happy Song", the final musical number for the movie. According to /Film, the shoot involved Amy Adams, Jason Segel, and hundreds of extras performing an elaborate musical number outside the El Capitan Theatre. The Los Angeles Times also noted that other musical numbers would appear in the film, including Kermit singing his signature song, "Rainbow Connection", which he played on the same banjo that he used when he performed the song in The Muppet Movie.
Universal Studios' Soundstage 28, most famous for containing the Paris Opera House set from 1925 Phantom of the Opera film, served as interiors for The Muppet Theater, with the Opera House being used as part of the theater set. Scenes set in Smalltown were filmed at Disney's Golden Oak Ranch, whereas the fictional "Muppet Studios" were filmed at various locations including the El Capitan Theatre (with a digitally changed marquee), the Jim Henson Company Lot and the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.
Other filming locations included Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, Pink Palace Mansion in Bel Air, the Crossroads of the World, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and the City National Plaza (acting as the interior of Richman Oil's headquarters) in downtown Los Angeles. Scooter's scene in the Muppet reunion montage was filmed at Google's Zurich headquarters in Switzerland.
Although principal photography was completed on February 11, 2011, on April 26, 2011, a second unit film crew traveled to Reno, Nevada to film some exterior shots, including a scene in the Bonanza Casino parking lot with some Muppet characters, and a small shot looking into the casino.
The film required extensive blue-screen shots and matte backgrounds. In the scene where Walter is dancing atop a dresser, the puppeteers performed Walter's choreography while wearing blue costumes against a blue screen. The end result had the puppeteers completely gone from the final shot. Look Effects were responsible for those visual effects shots, whereas Legacy Effects designed the mechanics for '80s Robot.
The film's score was composed by Christophe Beck with songs by Bret McKenzie. An original soundtrack was released on November 22, 2011, followed by a Spanish version of the soundtrack released as Los Muppets: Banda Sonora Original de Walt Disney Records on December 6, 2011. McKenzie won an Academy Award for the song "Man or Muppet" he wrote for The Muppets, beating out "Real in Rio" from Rio. Although it was the fourth Muppet film to receive an Academy Award nomination, this was the first time a Muppet film had won an Academy Award and the first Muppet film nominated for Best Original Song since 1981's The Great Muppet Caper and the first time a Muppet film in general had been nominated for any kind of Academy Award since 1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan.
In May 2011, Kermit the Frog attended the world premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at Disneyland to promote the upcoming Muppets release. A spoof romantic comedy trailer for the movie was attached to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and it was later released online under the faux name Green With Envy. Additional spoof trailers parodied The Hangover Part II (called The Fuzzy Pack), Green Lantern (called Being Green), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (called The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo), Paranormal Activity (called Abnormal Activity), Happy Feet Two (called Dancing on Happy Feet), Puss in Boots (called Fuss in Boots) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (called Breaking Prawn). In November 2011, Brooks Brothers announced that it had designed a custom wardrobe for Kermit the Frog for the movie.
On August 23, 2011, Walt Disney Records released Muppets•The Green Album, a tribute album of popular Muppet songs performed by multiple contemporary artists, as part of the film's promotion., as well as reissuing the 2006 Christmas album on November 1, 2011. The Muppets also performed "Life's a Happy Song" on the November 15, 2011 episode of the American version of Dancing with the Stars. In addition, Walt Disney Records released the soundtrack of the film on November 21, 2011, two days before the film's release date.
The Muppets were guest stars on WWE Monday Night RAW and interacted with several WWE Superstars including Jack Swagger, Hornswoggle and Sheamus. They also joined Olly Murs on stage during the UK version of The X Factor on November 27, 2011, to perform his new single "Dance With Me Tonight" and promote their new film.
An iPhone app called Tap Tap Muppets was released for iPhone the day prior to the film's release. The app features six new musical numbers and three classic Muppet songs which are "The Muppet Show Theme," "Rainbow Connection," and "Mah Nà Mah Nà."
The Muppets premiered at the 2011 Savannah Film Festival, and held its world premiere of on November 12, 2011, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The film was released in the United States on November 23, 2011 and in the United Kingdom on February 10, 2012. Originally, the film was set to be released in the United States on Christmas 2011, but it was later moved to Thanksgiving 2011. It was also the opening gala at the 2012 Glasgow Youth Film Festival.
Segel and Adams appeared at CinemaCon in March 2011, to promote the project, showcasing several clips from the film. Clips from the film were also shown at Suffolk University in April 2011 during a Q&A with David Hoberman, Muppeteer Steve Whitmire and Kermit the Frog. Although there had been some speculation that the cast would appear at Comic-Con, no official announcement was made.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Muppets on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on March 20, 2012, the same day The Muppets received a collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The release was produced in four different physical packages: a three-disc combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital copy) with soundtrack download ("The Wocka Wocka Value Pack); a two-disc combo pack (Blu-ray and DVD); a one-disc DVD with soundtrack download; and a one-disc DVD without soundtrack download. The film was released digitally in high definition and standard definition. The two-disc edition's supplementary features include bloopers, deleted and extended scenes, "Muppet Intermission", "Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of Disney's The Muppets", the fully intact version of "Let's Talk About Me", "A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read Through," and an audio commentary with Jason Segel, James Bobin, and Nicholas Stoller. The three-disc combo pack also includes the theatrical spoof trailers (including exclusive, unreleased parody trailers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Fast Five) and a digital download of the soundtrack, while still including the same features as the two-disc combo pack.
The Muppets received universal critical acclaim. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 96% of 204 critics have given the film a positive review, a "Certified Fresh" score, with a rating average of 8 out of 10, and is the highest rated film in the Muppets series. Metacritic gave the film a score of 75/100 based on 37 "generally favorable reviews." CinemaScore audiences gave The Muppets an "A" grade rating on an A+ to F scale.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, praising the revitalized Muppets and their distinctive personalities. Justin Chang of Variety called it "an unexpected treat," noting that the film effortlessly blends "wised-up, self-reflective humor with old-fashioned let's-put-on-a-show pizzazz." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film as "A mostly winning return for childhood favorites from a prior century [that] looks to accomplish its goal of pleasing old fans and winning new ones." Alonso Duralde of The Wrap agreed writing that, "The Muppets has the same brilliant absurdity, anarchic humor, subtle uplift and ensemble comedy that fans have come to expect over the years." Both The Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly praised the screenplay's self-referential humor, Jason Segel and Amy Adams' supporting roles, and the film's clever employment of cameos.
Michael Phillips gave the film three out of four stars, positively summarizing that "those of us who've had Muppets in our memory since childhood will find ourselves in a state of contentment." Peter Travers, writing for Rolling Stone, commended the film's musical segments, particularly Bret McKenzie's "Man or Muppet". The Boston Globe also gave it three out of four stars and said, "The result is refreshing on every level, a piece of nostalgia so old it's new again, and a breather from Hollywood's 3-D digital onslaught in favor of fur and fuzz." Christopher Kelly of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram stated that the film was "much more than just an affectionate reimagining of familiar Muppets routines, [but it] is rooted in real emotions and characters," and that "they remain as committed as ever to doing what Muppets do best: putting on a grand show."
Prior to the film's release, it was widely reported that several Muppet performers were supposedly critical about the film's portrayal of the characters. Semi-retired Muppet performer Frank Oz had spoken critically of the film, citing his disapproval of the script and thought that the early version was disrespectful towards the characters.
In July 2012, after the film's release, Oz seemed to soften and clarify his stance, stating,
I thought the film was really sweet and fun, a little too safe, a little retro. I prefer more cutting edge in the Muppets. But the main thing is everybody got back to appreciating The Muppets…it brought people back to The Muppets. Although they never really left, it's always been a kind of subculture, it's always been there in our popular culture a little bit. So I'm happy that people are happy.
In the statement, Oz was more critical of the "Disney process", but much less harsh about the film itself than had previously been reported.
The Muppets was a commercial success, accumulating a box office gross nearly quadruple its $45 million budget. It grossed $6.5 million on its opening day and debuted in second place, behind The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. The following day, Thanksgiving Day, the film grossed $5.8 million for a two-day total of $12.5 million. From Friday to Sunday, The Muppets grossed $29.2 million, while holding onto the No. 2 spot. Overall, the film grossed $41.5 million in five days, during which, it out-grossed every previous film in the Muppets series, excluding The Muppet Movie. The film closed on April 5, 2012, having grossed $88,631,237 in North America, along with $76,553,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $165,184,237, becoming the highest-grossing film in the Muppets series and the first film in the series to gross over $100 million worldwide (unadjusted for inflation).
|Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards||Best Comedy||Nominated|
|Best Song||Won||"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie|
|Nominated||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie|
|"Pictures in My Head" – Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis and Chen Neeman|
|The Dorian Awards (Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association)||Campy (Intentional or Not) Film of the Year||Won|
|Georgia Film Critics Association Awards||Best Adapted Screenplay||Nominated||Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller|
|Best Original Song||Won||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie|
|Golden Tomato Awards||Best Reviewed Kids/Family Film|
|Houston Film Critics Society||Best Song||"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie|
|Indiana Film Journalists Association Awards||Best Film||Nominated|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||Best Live Action Family Film||Won|
|Best Original Song||"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie|
|Satellite Awards||Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media||Nominated|
|Original Song||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie|
|"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie|
|Sierra Awards||Best Song||Won||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards||Best Comedy||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller and Jim Henson|
|Utah Film Critics Association Awards||Best Adapted Screenplay||Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller|
|Women Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Family Film|
|2012||84th Academy Awards||Best Original Song||Won||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie|
|59th Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing: Music in a Musical Feature Film||Lisa Jaime and Richard Ford|
|Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Movie||Nominated|
|Favorite Movie Actress||Amy Adams|
|38th Saturn Awards||Best Fantasy Film|
|Kerrang! Awards 2012||Best Film|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Comedy|
|2013||55th Annual Grammy Awards||Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media||Original soundtrack|
|Best Song Written for Visual Media||"Man or Muppet" - Bret McKenzie|
|66th British Academy Film Awards||BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer||James Bobin|
In March 2012, after the critical and commercial success of the film, Walt Disney Pictures secured a deal with James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller to direct and write, respectively, a new installment. On March 4, Jason Segel stated that he would have no involvement in the sequel. On April 24, the Walt Disney Studios officially announced that the sequel was in development with a release date of March 21, 2014. The cast includes Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey. David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman will return to produce the film, as well as Bret McKenzie returning to write music for the film.
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"We Belong Together" from
Toy Story 3
|Academy Award for Best Original Song
"Man or Muppet"