The Muppets Take Manhattan

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The Muppets Take Manhattan
Muppets take manhattan.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Oz
Produced by David Lazer
Screenplay by Tom Patchett
Jay Tarses
Frank Oz
Story by Tom Patchett
Jay Tarses
Starring Jim Henson
Frank Oz
Dave Goelz
Steve Whitmire
Richard Hunt
Jerry Nelson
Music by Ralph Burns
Jeff Moss
Cinematography Robert Paynter
Editing by Evan A. Lottman
Studio Henson Associates
Distributed by Tri-Star Pictures
Release dates July 13, 1984
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $25,534,703[2]

The Muppets Take Manhattan is a 1984 musical comedy film directed by Frank Oz. It is the third of a series of live-action musical feature films starring Jim Henson's Muppets. The film was produced by Henson Associates and TriStar Pictures, and was filmed on location in New York City during the summer of 1983 and released in movie theatres in 1984. It was the first film to be directed solely by Frank Oz (who also performs Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and Animal), as he previously co-directed The Dark Crystal with Jim Henson. Cookie Monster, Ernie & Bert from Sesame Street make a cameo in this film, and also got a line.

The film introduced the Muppet Babies, as toddler versions of the Muppet characters in a fantasy sequence. The Muppet Babies later received their own Saturday morning animated television series, which aired on CBS from 1984 until 1990 and has since been syndicated worldwide.

Plot[edit]

As the film opens, Kermit, Miss Piggy, and their friends are graduating from college and are performing in a variety show called Manhattan Melodies on campus ("Together Again"). Kermit believes that there is "something missing" from the script, but his friends suggest that the group take the show to Broadway. Miss Piggy, in particular, hopes to make enough money to marry Kermit as he has promised. Kermit and the others are so confident in the show that they anticipate becoming instant stars. First they start with New York producer Martin Price (Dabney Coleman) who at first seems to be willing to produce the show until he tells them the cost of the show ($300 a piece, which is what he really wants). Just then, Martin's secretary Nancy (Gates McFadden) comes in with an elderly woman and two police officers where the elderly woman identifies Price as con artist Murray Plotsky. Plotsky tries to use Camilla the Chicken and Gonzo as hostages to get out only to be subdued by Animal and Camilla. The Muppets try other theatrical producers with no success ("You Can't Take No For An Answer").

As the months pass and the group runs out of money, its members are forced to get jobs throughout the United States ("Saying Goodbye"). Kermit stays in New York to work on the script and gets a job at a diner befriending the owner Pete (Louis Zorich) and his daughter Jenny (Juliana Donald), a waitress and aspiring fashion designer. Also working at the restaurant are Rizzo the Rat who secures employment for the other rats Tatooey, Masterson, Chester, and Yolanda. Later that night, Kermit climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and shouts from the top that he and his friends will soon be on Broadway. Unknown to Kermit, Miss Piggy also stayed behind. Kermit later gets letters from some of his friends. Scooter gets a job as a house manager at a movie theater in Cleveland, Ohio where he finds the Swedish Chef as the popcorn server and Lew Zealand as a dedicated viewer of a 3-D movie. Fozzie joins some other bears in hibernating within the forests of Maine where he has a hard time hibernating. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem have a gig in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania performing in a polka-themed restaurant.

Kermit, Jenny and Rizzo try to find a way to promote Kermit's play. First Kermit enters the Winesop Theatrical Agency to see producer Leonard Winesop (John Landis). Pretending to be a fellow producer, he bluffs his way through an impromptu meeting praising the play, but Winesop discards the unread script soon after Kermit leaves the room. Then Kermit tries to get his caricature picture on the wall of other famous people who dined at Sardi's Restaurant, ending up replacing a picture of Liza Minnelli. The rats assist Kermit by creating a whispering campaign amongst patrons. However, Minnelli eventually enters and ends up asking Vincent Sardi, Jr. why her portrait was taken down. Rizzo and Yolanda end up giving themselves away by causing havoc as the other rats come out of their hiding place. Vincent discovers Minnelli's portrait near the table where Kermit was sitting. This causes Kermit and the rats to be ejected from the restaurant.

While in Central Park, Jenny comforts Kermit with his loss in the first two attempts. Miss Piggy, jealous of Jenny and Kermit's friendship, secretly spies on them before a thief (Gary Tacon) steals her purse causing her to borrow some skates from a roller skater (Gregory Hines). When Miss Piggy catches up to the thief, a police officer (Joe Jamrog) arrests him just as Kermit and Jenny catch up with her. While Kermit and Miss Piggy argue about Kermit's relationship with Jenny, the roller skater tries to reclaim his skates from Miss Piggy but then allows her to keep them since he never actually uses them. After making amends and taking a ride around Central Park with Kermit ("I'm Gonna Always Love You"), Miss Piggy also takes a job as a waitress at the same diner as Kermit. Kermit reads more letters from his friends while Masterson handles a customer (Brooke Shields) that Miss Piggy was with and starts flirting with her. The letters from Kermit reveal that Gonzo and Camilla are in Michigan trying to make a successful water act. Rowlf is in Delaware working at a dog kennel where Mr. Skeffington (James Coco) leaves his dog for the weekend. Another letter that Kermit got was from Bernard Crawford, a Broadway producer who is interested in producing Kermit's play.

Kermit meets with Ronnie Crawford (Lonny Price), the actual writer of the letter who is willing to fund Manhattan Melodies in order to prove himself to his father Bernard (Art Carney). While Bernard doubts the play, he agrees to help with it. In his excitement over having finally sold the play, Kermit fails to notice a "Don't Walk" sign and is hit by a car while making his way back to the restaurant. When Ronnie comes to the diner to bring up his father's approval to Miss Piggy, Jenny, and Pete, he, Jenny and Miss Piggy go out to look for him. Pete sends a telegram to the rest of Kermit's friends informing them to get to New York as quickly as they can.

Fozzie ends up bringing the bears with him, Gonzo and Camilla bring along some chickens, Rowlf brings along some dogs, Scooter brings the Swedish Chef and Lew Zealand along, and the Electric Mayhem bring Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, and Beauregard along. Kermit awakens in the hospital with no memory of his name, friends, or past. His doctor (Linda Lavin) tells Kermit to find a new life for himself. As "Phil," he finds a job at Mad Ave Advertising with fellow frogs Bill, Gil, and Jill while his friends, Jenny and Ronnie search the city for him ahead of the show's opening at the Biltmore Theater.

After Kermit visits the diner with the frogs and plays the Manhattan Melodies theme "Together Again" with a spoon and glasses of water, his friends recognize him. Miss Piggy restores his memory with a punch after Kermit mocks the idea of romance between a pig and a frog. Kermit realizes that what the script needs is more "frogs and dogs and bears and chickens and whatever", and adds the cast members' many friends from around the country to the show as supernumeraries.

With the expanded cast, Ronnie's producing, and Jenny's costumes, Manhattan Melodies is successful ("Right Where I Belong"/"Somebody's Getting Married"/"Waiting for the Wedding"/"He'll Make Me Happy"/"The Ceremony"). On opening night, Piggy substitutes a real minister (Cyril Jenkins) for Gonzo in the wedding scene finale where the other Muppet characters, many of the characters from Sesame Street, and Uncle Traveling Matt from Fraggle Rock attend. Kermit is surprised, but willingly says "I do" and he and Miss Piggy happily wed.

Cast[edit]

Cameo guest stars[edit]

Producer David Lazer cameos as a customer at Sardi's.

Muppet performers[edit]

Additional Muppets performed by Cheryl Bartholow, Tim DeHaas, Michael Earl Davis, Glenngo King, James Kroupa, Jim Martin, David Rudman, and Melissa Whitmire

Some of the puppeteers made cameos in this movie.

Although not seen in the film, Jim Henson's son Brian Henson operated a marionette of Scooter riding a bicycle. Additionally, Jim Henson's daughter Heather Henson can be seen in an uncredited cameo as a girl serving drinks in a beer hall.

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Under the working title of Muppet Movie III, Jim Henson initially planned to film the project in late spring 1983. Having directed The Great Muppet Caper and The Dark Crystal back-to-back, Henson decided to serve as the producer along with David Lazer. Upon selecting fellow Muppet performer and Dark Crystal co-director Frank Oz to handle directorial duties, Henson stated, "I was looking at the year ahead and I thought my life was very busy and I thought maybe it was a time to have Frank directing one of these."[3] Shortly after, Oz confirmed his involvement to the project. The first draft titled The Muppets: The Legend Continues, written by Muppet Caper scribes Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett, was dismissed by Oz for being "way too over jokey".[3] After being given Henson's encouragement to tinker with the script, Oz revised the screenplay in an effort to develop the "oomph of the characters and their relationships".[3] Once the script was completed and the sets were built, special consultant David Misch was brought in to write cameos for some guest star appearances. Originally, this list of guest stars contained the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Steve Martin, Michael Jackson, Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, and Laurence Olivier to name a few. According to Misch, Hoffman was going to play a Broadway producer and planned to do an imitation of legendary film producer Robert Evans (The Godfather), which he later did in the movie Wag The Dog. However, at the last minute Hoffman decided that the role could be offensive to Evans and dropped out, following which all the other big names dropped out as well. Because of the dropped cameos, Misch and director Frank Oz ended up rewriting most of the movie's entire dialogue.[4]

Release[edit]

Marketing[edit]

The Muppets Take Manhattan was adapted by Marvel Comics in 1984, as the 68 page story in Marvel Super Special #32.[5] The adaptation was later re-printed into a three-issue limited series, released under Marvel's Star Comics imprint (November 1984 – January 1985).[6] The film's script was adapted into comic form by writer Stan Kay with art by Dean Yeagle and Jacqueline Roettcher. Unlike in the film, the comic depicts Gonzo, Floyd Pepper, Animal, Janice, Dr. Teeth, and Zoot in their customary outfits from The Muppet Show.

In addition, a book-and-record set of the film was released in the form of a vinyl record through the Muppet Music Records label.

Box office[edit]

Although the film didn't out gross its predecessors, it did gross $25,534,703 making it the second highest grossing G-rated film of 1984 (behind the re-issue of Disney's Pinocchio).[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The Muppets Take Manhattan opened on July 13, 1984 to mostly positive reviews.[7][8] Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 81% of 21 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.9 out of 10. The site's consensus stated that "if it's not quite as sharp as The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan is still a smart, delightfully old-fashioned tale that follows the formula established by the first two movies -- a madcap adventure assisted by a huge group of human stars."[9]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a three star rating (out of four) stating in his review that "the plot of [the] movie has been seen before." However, Ebert went on to say that just about everything in the film was enjoyable and that Kermit finally solves his long-lasting identity crisis.[10] In his 2009 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film a three star rating (out of four) as well citing that the film is an "enjoyable outing with bouncy songs, [with a] nice use of N.Y.C. locations."[11]

Home media[edit]

Unlike the Henson's previous films (The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Dark Crystal), The Muppets Take Manhattan was originally released by Tri-Star Pictures and not produced by ITC Entertainment; mainly because ITC was suffering from extreme financial difficulties at the time. Therefore unlike the previous films, the distribution rights to The Muppets Take Manhattan did not revert to The Jim Henson Company in 1998. Due to this, it is one of three Muppet films (along with Muppets from Space and the direct-to-video feature Kermit's Swamp Years) whose distribution rights are controlled by Sony Pictures, and not the Walt Disney Studios.

The Muppets Take Manhattan was first released on VHS and the now defunct CED Videodisc format by CBS/Fox Video in 1985, which then reissued it in 1991, followed by a release from Columbia TriStar Home Video on June 1, 1999. The 1999 VHS contained a slightly edited cut from previous versions, possibly derived from the TV broadcast version. Cuts include removal of the audio from the Tristar logo, the scenes of Animal shouting "Bad man!" to Mr. Price, removal of the words "Oh my God" in one scene, and scenes with Miss Piggy hitting the purse snatcher. A DVD version was released on June 5, 2001 with the cuts from the 1999 VHS version restored.[12] A Blu-ray version was released on August 16, 2011, and contains the same bonus features as the DVD.[13]

Music[edit]

Jeff Moss was nominated for an Academy Award for the music and lyrics he wrote for The Muppets Take Manhattan.[14]

Soundtrack[edit]

The Muppets Take Manhattan: The Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by The Muppets
Released 1984
Genre Soundtrack
Length 28:45
Label Warner Bros. Records
The Muppets chronology
The Great Muppet Caper: Original Soundtrack
(1981)
The Muppets Take Manhattan: Original Soundtrack
(1984)
The Muppet Christmas Carol: Original Soundtrack
(1992)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[15]

The Muppets Take Manhattan: The Original Soundtrack contains all of the songs written by Jeff Moss and prominent score cues composed by Ralph Burns from the film, as well as several portions of dialogue and background score. The album reached #204 on Billboard's Bubbling Under the Top LP's chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children, but lost to Shel Silverstein's audio edition of Where the Sidewalk Ends. This is the only Muppet movie soundtrack that has not yet been released on CD. However, three tracks from the album can be found on the 2002 compilation album The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More. A new version of "Together Again" was performed in the 2014 film Muppets Most Wanted and its soundtrack.

Side One
No. Title Writer(s) Artist(s) Length
1. "Together Again"   Jeff Moss Kermit and Friends 2:54
2. "You Can't Take No for an Answer"   Jeff Moss Dr. Teeth 2:00
3. "Saying Goodbye"   Jeff Moss Everyone 3:06
4. "Rat Scat (Something Cookin')"   Jeff Moss Rizzo and the Rats 1:18
5. "Together Again (Carriage Ride)"   Jeff Moss (arr. Ralph Burns) Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf 1:07
6. "I'm Gonna Always Love You"   Jeff Moss The Muppet Babies 2:55
7. "William Tell Overture"   Gioachino Rossini (arr. Ralph Burns) The Chickens 0:59
Side Two
No. Title Writer(s) Artist(s) Length
1. "Looking for Kermit"   Ralph Burns Instrumental 1:42
2. "Right Where I Belong"   Jeff Moss Everyone 2:12
3. "Somebody's Getting Married/Waiting for the Wedding"   Jeff Moss Everyone 2:36
4. "He'll Make Me Happy"   Jeff Moss Miss Piggy and Kermit 2:10
5. "The Ceremony"   Jeff Moss Everyone 1:10
6. "Closing Medley (Final Credits)"   Jeff Moss (arr. Ralph Burns) Everyone 4:18

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jones, Brian Jay (2013). "Twists and Turns". Jim Henson: The Biography. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 371. ISBN 978-0-345-52611-3. 
  2. ^ a b "The Muppets Take Manhattan". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. 
  3. ^ a b c Jones, Brian Jay (2013). "Twists and Turns". Jim Henson: The Biography. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 234, 237. ISBN 978-0-345-52611-3. 
  4. ^ Ryan Roe (March 18, 2011). "A Q&A with Muppet Writer David Misch". WordPress. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ Marvel Super Special #32 at the Grand Comics Database
  6. ^ The Muppets Take Manhattan at the Grand Comics Database
  7. ^ "Variety Reviews - The Muppets Take Manhattan - Film Reviews - - Review by Variety Staff". Variety.com. 1983-12-31. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  8. ^ "Reviews Movies; Muppets Work Their Magic; The Muppets Take Manhattan - Directed By Frank Oz, Produced By Jim; Henson, Starring Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo And; Dr. Teeth With Cameo Appearances By Dabney; Coleman, Joan Rivers And Gregory Hines, At The Charles, Copley Place; And Suburbs, Rated G". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. 1984-07-13. Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  9. ^ "The Muppets Take Manhattan". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  10. ^ Roger Ebert (January 1, 1984). "The Muppets Take Manhattan". Chicago Sun-Times (rogerebert.com). Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ Leonard Maltin (August 5, 2008). Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide (2009 ed.). Signet. p. 1664. ISBN 0-451-22468-X. 
  12. ^ "The Muppets Take Manhattan". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  13. ^ "The Muppets Take Manhattan (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-12-06. 
  14. ^ Davis, Michael (2008). Street Gang. New York, New York: Penguin Press. p. 379. ISBN 978-0-14-311663-9. 
  15. ^ Allmusic review

External links[edit]