Jerrjuhl-writer2

Jerry Juhl

Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made

Title image for "Walt Disney Pictures Presents: The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made!" shown at the D23 Expo in September 2009.

The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made! is an idea for a film that Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz first developed in 1985.

Juhl, the Muppets' head writer from the late 1970s through the 1990s, discussed the film's concept in a 1998 interview with Muppet Central:

There was a project for a Muppet movie that we kept returning to. Jim and I worked on it and just loved it. It grew out of the fact that Jim was talking about finances and if we did another Muppet movie at the time, it would need to be done inexpensively, since we were using bigger and bigger budgets for all our other projects...So we conceived of a movie slated as "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made." That was the original working title and that later became the subtitle with the title along the lines of, "Into the Teeth of the Demons of Death."

The idea being that this was a film that Gonzo directed. Kermit was too busy so when Gonzo asked, Kermit said, "Sure, go ahead. I can't take on the responsibilities behind the scenes at this time, but I'll perform in it." So Gonzo wrote this cheesy, terrible plot that made absolutely no sense whatsoever about something being stolen that led to a chase around the world. Unfortunately Gonzo blows half the movie's budget on the opening titles! So as the film progresses, it gets cheaper and cheaper where they're using a shot of the same street corner for every city in the world! We were still talking about this project in the last meeting I ended up having with Jim.

Every now and then, we still bring up the movie. Six months ago, Frank had said to me, "You know, there's still something in that movie, it would be a lot of fun to do." One thing that kept it from happening though was that for "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made," it still turned out to be expensive to shoot. Things like a tranquil island blowing up with a volcano and such.[1]

Additional plot details were recounted in Jim Henson: The Biography: Gonzo's film, Into the Jaws of the Demons of Death, would eventually get cheaper and cheaper in looks, turning into "black-and-white Super 8 film," then to a slideshow and storyboards. Eventually, Gonzo would gain some corporate sponsorship, ending the movie in hi-def widescreen.[2]

Frank Oz discussed resurrecting the 15-year old script in a 2000 interview.[3]

The script was again mentioned as a next movie for the Muppets in September 2009 as discussed at the D23 Expo. It was later set aside yet again in favor of The Muppets.[4]

Frank Oz responded to a question about the project on a Reddit AMA in January 2018:

When Dick Cook was head of Disney, he asked me to get involved with a Muppet movie, so because the previous script was dated from being written 40 years ago, I did rewrite it with the help of Jim Lewis. And personally, I love it. And I wish it could be made. But maybe it's time now is gone because it feels like Disney would like to go their own way.[5]

Sources

  1. McKim, D.W. "Written in Foam: An Interview with Muppet Writer Jerry Juhl", Muppet Central. July 24, 1998.
  2. Jim Henson: The Biography, page 408.
  3. Plume, Ken. "Interview with Frank Oz", IGN.com. February 10, 2000.
  4. Rosenberg, Adam."The Muppets Are Coming! 'American Woman' Goes Viral On Memorial Day, 'Lost' This Wednesday!" MTV. May 3, 2010
  5. Frank Oz, Reddit AMA, January 4, 2018