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The Muppets (2011)

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TheMuppetsfilm.titlecard
Released November 23, 2011
Running time 103 minutes
Director James Bobin
Written by Jason Segel and Nick Stoller
Original music by Christophe Beck (score)
Bret McKenzie, Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis, Chen Neeman, and Andrew Bird (songs)
Studio Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating PG for some mild rude humor
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James Bobin (director), Jason Segel, Nick Stoller (co-writer) and Bret McKenzie (composer) with the Muppets. (Variant)

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Bret McKenzie winning an Academy Award for "Man or Muppet" in the category Best Song.

The Muppets is the Muppets' seventh feature film, released in 2011. The script was written by Jason Segel and Nick Stoller, the writer-director team behind the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall; and was directed by James Bobin, co-creator of the HBO series Flight of the Conchords.

The film started production in September 2010. Principal photography for The Muppets began on October 30, 2010 and concluded on February 11, 2011.

Theatrically, the film was accompanied by a new short film featuring Pixar's Toy Story characters.

The Muppets is also the Muppets' first Academy Award winning film, bringing home the trophy for Bret McKenzie's "Man or Muppet." It is the highest grossing Muppet film, not accounting for inflation (in today's dollars, The Muppet Movie holds this prize).

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S. on March 20, 2012.

Official Synopsis

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary (Jason Segel) and Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets' former stomping grounds. To stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10-million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit the Frog reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called The Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. With secret, signature, celebrity cameos, "The Muppets" hits the big screen November 23, 2011.

Songs

The film features several original musical numbers, plus some classic Muppet songs and covers of popular songs (including those by Nirvana and Cee-lo Green). The film's soundtrack was released on November 21, 2011.

Production

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The Jim Henson Company lot in West Hollywood, transformed into "Muppet Studios" for the film.

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Amy Adams' Invitation to The Muppets

Jason Segel and Kermit sent a video to Amy Adams in order to convince her to take the part of Mary.

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The film's producers, Todd Lieberman (left) and David Hoberman (right).

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Jason Segel started drumming up excitement for the movie as far back as March 20, 2009 when he appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Statler and Waldorf make a surprise appearance to trade banter with Segel and Fallon.

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As in past Muppet productions, remote-controlled versions of the Muppet characters were built for many of the wide shots.

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TheMuppets2011 fireplace

Development

It was working on Forgetting Sarah Marshall with Jim Henson's Creature Shop that initally inspired Jason Segel and Nick Stoller to pitch the movie to Disney.

In 2008, Jason Segel and Nick Stoller pitched a concept for a Muppet movie to Disney Vice President Kristin Burr. The pitch was well received and the pair was offered a deal to develop their script. In March 2008, Variety first reported that Disney signed a deal with Segel and Stoller to create the next Muppet movie; with Segel and Stoller penning the script and Stoller attached to direct.[1] Segel has been very outspoken on his involvement, mentioning his role writing for the Muppets in many interviews and appearances. Drafts of Segel and Stoller's script, originally entitled The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time!!! circulated. According to early drafts of the screenplay, the film would include celebrity cameos by Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Christian Bale, Ben Stiller, Steve Carell, George Clooney, Jack Black, Mel Brooks, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Rachel Ray, Bob Saget, Lisa Lampenelli, Jeff Ross, and Charles Grodin.[2] A cameo was also written for Elmo, but it was said it would've been too expensive.[3]

In June 2008, Segel said: "I just turned in my first draft of the Muppets and I'm really excited about it. I think we're bringing them back. Hopefully it will fall right in the pantheon of The Great Muppet Caper, Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppet Movie, you know, we're trying to make one of those."[4]

Stoller commented on the film in a 2008 interview:

Basically, we're gonna do an old school Muppet movie, where the Muppets have to put on a show to save the studio. It's very simple. A big part of the movie is rounding up all the Muppets from around the world, because they've all been separated. So it's collecting them and bringing them together to put on this big show. It should hearken back to Great Muppet Caper and Muppets Take Manhattan and those kinds of Muppet movies. Jason and I are having a lot of fun writing it. We want to get as many cameos and guest stars as possible. Jason will play a human ventriloquist, and his puppet is alive and wants to be a Muppet.[5]

In his March 20, 2009 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Jason Segel talked about his love for the Muppets, and his then-current work on the script for the next Muppet movie. Statler and Waldorf appeared in the audience to heckle Fallon and Segel.

Early versions of the script described Gary and Walter as "a ventriloquist and his puppet who's alive and wants to be a Muppet." Later versions described Walter as a nondescript, brown puppet.

Said Jason Segel: "We also did have a great trick where at the end I wrote that Kermit is like, 'And I’m so happy that you guys liked our telethon. As a matter of fact, we’re going to relaunch The Muppet Show starting this fall on ABC.' ABC was like, 'What are you talking about? Take it easy, kid.'"[6] According to the Blu-ray commentary, the note they got back from Disney said "Nice try."

While early reports said Stoller would also direct the film,[1][7] in January 2010 James Bobin was hired to direct the film.[8] David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman became producers for the film.

The first table read of the script took place in May 2010.[9] In July 2010, the team involved with producing the movie met with creative heads at Pixar to fine-tune the script.[10] Walt Disney Pictures originally announced a Christmas 2011 release for the film, but in December 2010 the release was announced for Thanksgiving 2011.

On October 15, 2010, it was announced that Amy Adams, Rashida Jones and Chris Cooper were nearing deals to join the movie. According to a report on Hollywood.com, "Segel will star in the lead role, with Adams as his girlfriend. Jones takes the role of an ABC executive. Cooper plays the villain, a greedy man who wants to drill for oil underneath the studio. And he also has a personal vendetta against the Muppets: he never thought they were funny."

Segel discussed composer Bret McKenzie's involvement in a January 2011 interview. Segel said that he had considered writing the music himself but thought he might not be able to do it right. Segel said: "I'm good at writing songs that are allowed to just be funny; They don't need to have a tremendous amount of musical merit, but these Muppet songs have to be great. The lineage of the Muppet songs, things like Rainbow Connection and all that, it's not a job for an amateur. McKenzie really knows what he's doing, and his songs have just been beautiful."[11]

In a 2011 interview, James Bobin revealed that early scripts included a different ending, where it's revealed that Tex Richman was really Kermit in a human suit, having made up Tex's plans so that the Muppets would get back together.[12]

Many Muppet characters that had not been seen in years were rebuilt for the film. According to Muppet designer Stephen Rotondaro; "A lot of stuff was recreated, some puppets had gone missing—like Marvin Suggs [the Muppet Show musician known for playing an instrument made of living balls of fluff]. At this point, there are bibles, so everything’s patterned and labeled."[13]

Although the film used traditional puppets instead of computer-generated characters, there were several visual effects shots in the film, allowing the traditional characters to do things that they had not been able to do before. Visual effects producer Janet Muswell Hamilton spoke of finding the right balance;

About three months before shooting began, I realized that I needed an education on all things Muppets, because we really didn't want to cheat and use computer-generated puppets. We wanted the original puppets to do more than they've ever been able to do before ... and it was very interesting.

I spent lots of time with the puppeteers (and the director, of course) discussing ways to achieve our ideas. We needed cool concepts that no one's seen before -- all while maintaining the integrity of the Muppets, the Muppet franchise, the Muppet name, the Muppet feeling. The puppeteers were very intent on keeping everything, as they said, very "Muppet-y." It's a lot harder working with the fluffy characters than it is working with their computer-generated counterparts. You must always keep in mind where the puppeteers will stand (because they're there even though the audience doesn't see them), how they hold the puppets, and if they're able to move in certain positions. How can we help them achieve something new and exciting without undermining the creative presence of the Muppets?[14]

Filming

Bobin-segel

Bobin and Segel on set with '80s Robot.

Filming in LA Nov 2010

Notice of filming, November 2010. ("Muppets" is incorrectly spelled with two t's.)

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Production started in September 2010 and filming began on October 30, 2010. The November 12, 2010 issue of Entertainment Weekly featured a 2-page spread about the new Muppet movie. The article featured a summary of the film's concept along with quotes from Segel and Bobin. It also included the first photo of Walter, who up until then had never been seen, along with new photos of the Muppets and the movie's co-writer/co-star Jason Segel posing at a mock table read for the film. A second version of this publicity photo was released including James Bobin, Nick Stoller, and Bret McKenzie.

The exteriors of the Jim Henson Company Studio Lot (the former Charlie Chaplin Studios) were redressed as Muppet Studios in November 2010 for the filming of The Muppets.

Mickey Rooney filmed a cameo for the film in November 2010. [15] Ricky Gervais, Kathy Griffin and Billy Crystal filmed cameos in January 2011.

Hollywood Boulevard was closed for two nights on January 18th and 19th to film the final musical number. The shoot involved Amy Adams, Jason Segel and multiple Muppets singing and dancing in front of the El Capitan Theatre, with several rows of backup dancers and dozens of extras and Muppets filling the busy street.[16]

The Los Angeles Times reported that Kermit will once again sing one of his signature songs, The Rainbow Connection to resurrect classic material, but also to show his range as an actor, as he says he's very dramatic in the film. In an interview Kermit said Segel's "a big kid," and added that "the only problem is he's very tall, so I have to do most of my scenes standing on boxes. He's 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, and I'm only about 18 inches high." Kermit also said he's excited to be back in the movies: "Not only is it a big project but we get to be big on the screen. It's good for all of us except Piggy. She's not crazy about being any bigger." [17]

Scenes which take place in Paris were achieved through the use of green screen.[18] Other scenes, including Kermit reprising "Rainbow Connection" in a rainstorm, were filmed on a sound stage.[19]

Principal photography was completed on February 11, 2011.[20]

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.[21]

On July 24, 2011, the film crew returned to Hollywood Boulevard to film some re-shoots in front of the El Capitan Theatre with Jason Segel, several Muppets, and extras.[22] Amy Adams was not available for the re-shoots, so her stand-in was on the set.[23]

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Cast

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Little do Statler and Waldorf know, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) and his associates have a secret plot.

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Gary and Walter

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Some of the rebuilt characters for the movie

Muppet Performers
Additional Muppet Performers
Human Cast
Cameo Performances By
Stunts:
  • Mickey Giacomazzi, Simon Rhee, Bryan Becker, Charlie Brewer, Chris Carnel, Jeff Chumas, John Cypert, Max Daniels, Mark Donaldson, Zoli Dora, AJ Dunn, Thomas Dupont, Debbie Evans-Leavitt, Jeremy Fitzgerald, Jeremy Fry (Anger Management Member), Derek Graf, Dave Hayles (Hobo carrying Jack Black[24]), Steve Kelso, Scott Leva, Bonnie Morgan (Smalltown Circus Acrobat[25]), Gary Morgan ("Punch Teacher" Teacher), Nicole Randall, David Reinhart, Kerry Rossall, Buddy Sosthand (Anger Management Member), Glenn Takajian, CC Taylor, Jimmy Waitman (stunt double for Jack Black), Webster Whinery, Dan Wynands (Anger Management Member), Alvin Zalamea (Anger Management Member)

Casting Notes

Muppet Cast

  • Muppet Characters
80s Robot, Afghan Hound, Animal, Beaker, Beauregard, Behemoth, Bobo the Bear, Camilla, Chickens, Crazy Harry, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Dr. Teeth, Floyd, Fozzie Moopet, Fozzie Bear, Gary, Gonzo, Hobos, Janice, Kermit the Frog, Lew Zealand, Link Hogthrob, Mahna Mahna, Marvin Suggs, Miss Piggy, Miss Poogy, Muppaphones, Pepe the King Prawn, Rowlf the Dog, Sam the Eagle, Scooter, The Snowths, Statler and Waldorf, Sweetums, The Moopets, The Newsman, The Swedish Chef, Uncle Deadly, Walter, Wayne and Wanda, Zoot
  • Background Muppets
Atrics Drummer, Babies, The Barbershop Cactus Quartet, Beautiful Day Monster, Bertha, Big Mean Carl, Blustering Bellowpane Monster, Bobby Benson, Crocodile, Droop, Dr. Julius Strangepork, The Early Bird, Frackles, Frogs, Iguana, James Bobin Muppet, J. G., Lips, Luncheon Counter Monster, Mo Frackle, Monkeys, The Mutations, Nigel, Nigel the Conductor, Penguins, Pigs, Pokey, Rabbits, Rats, Rizzo the Rat, Robin the Frog, Sheep, Singing Food, Thog, Trumpet Girl, Whatnots, Yolanda Rat

Credits

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Director James Bobin and Walter.

Muppet Workshop

Callbacks

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  • Clips from The Muppet Show are used during Walter's origin story at the film's beginning - including the episodes featuring Steve Martin, Peter Sellers, and Julie Andrews, Madeline Kahn and Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge.
  • Various Muppet Show merchandise is seen in Gary and Walter's bedroom, including the 1978 lunchbox.
  • Kermit's office features photographs of Kermit with various Muppet Show guests, including Florence Henderson.
  • Audio clips, including Kermit's introduction of Bob Hope and the announcer's "Veterinarian's Hospital" and "Pigs in Space" intro are heard when Kermit first enters the dilapidated Muppet Theater.
  • The Muppet Telethon features a recreation of "The Muppet Show Theme." The number is rehearsed earlier in the film as well.
  • Gary and Mary also reference the theme song in their attempt to convince Kermit to get the gang back together, by telling him "It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights. It's time to meet the Muppets...."
  • Tex Richman says no one is interested in the Muppets' "Dom DeLuise and Julie Andrews hosts."
  • Some of the Playhouse Video releases can be spotted on the TV and video rack while Walter watches the show.
  • During Gary and Mary's talk following the "We Built This City" montage, Walter and Fozzie can be heard humming the "At the Dance" theme.
  • The Standard Rich and Famous Contract is seen and used as a plot point.
  • When asked how they find the Muppets, Kermit says, "Didn't you see our first movie? We drive."
  • Gonzo and Camilla return to a career in plumbing.
  • Mad Man Mooney's makes a re-appearance, now renamed "Mad Man Mooney's and Son." Sweetums is shown working there again and is once more forced to chase after the gang's car.
  • "The Rainbow Connection" is sung. Piggy's entrance during the song, in a rowboat, references Bernie the Agent's appearance in the original movie.
  • A copy of the 2005 DVD can be seen on Gary and Walter's counter during the "Life's a Happy Song" musical number.
  • Kermit and Piggy's wedding is alluded to.
  • When Tex Richman reads in a magazine that the Muppets have gotten together again, Uncle Deadly and Bobo begin to sing "Together Again." Later, Walter plays a few notes from it on a backstage piano.
  • A copy of the DVD can be seen on a counter during "Life's a Happy Song".
  • A copy of the DVD on Gary and Walter's TV.

Edits

  • The movie made its network television debut on ABC Family, where it edited several scenes, including:
    • Walter's prolonged scream after overhearing Richman's plan
    • Walter's "great idea"
    • Gary and Mary's comment after Walter is shocked by the fence
    • '80s Robot naming the drinks he's willing to serve.
    • Rowlf complaining about his missing montage scene
    • Piggy's secretary telling her about her incoming appointment
    • The Muppets pitching the telethon to NBC, FOX and Univision
    • A portion of the "We Built This City" sequence
    • The Muppets sleeping in the hammocks.
    • "Let's Talk About Me"
    • The first half of the scene with the Muppets outside Richman's office.
    • Bobo's comment "Do you think we're working for the bad guy?" and '80s Robot's drive to the telethon
    • "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
    • The celebrities arriving at Kermit's desk
    • Kermit and Fozzie's conversation when the entire screen is blacked out.
    • Gary searching for Walter before Kermit asks the Muppets for the final act.
    • James Carville's cameo.

Promotion

D23 2011 Segel Piggy Kermit motorcycle

Jason Segel and Kermit promote the movie at the 2011 D23 Expo. Piggy arrives via motorcycle.

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Theater standee released in July 2011.

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Rowlf in a spot for Alamo Rent a Car.

See: The Muppets Promotion

Promotional stills

Behind the scenes photos

Merchandise and tie-ins

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A Muppets merchandise display from The Disney Store in Times Square.

See The Muppets (2011) merchandise

Several books based on the film - I Am Kermit the Frog and Meet the Muppets along with a junior novelization - were released in October 2011. The Muppets: The Reusable Sticker Book and The Muppets: Theater Stage Set were also released as a direct tie-in to the movie.

The film's soundtrack was released on November 21, 2011 from Walt Disney Records. A series of plush dolls - including a doll of the film's new Muppet, Walter - were released by the Disney Store.

OPI produced a line of Muppet nail polish during the 2011 holiday season, to tie-in in with the release of The Muppets. SpiritHoods produced a line of Muppet hoods featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy and Gonzo, as part of the SpiritHoods Kids line, to promote the release of the film.

A set of The Muppets PEZ dispensers were released featuring Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and for the first time, Animal.

The Muppets made promotional tie-ins and cross-promotional material for AMC Theatres, Alamo Rent a Car, Cravendale, Google+, miniclip.com, Orange, Underwriters Laboratories, Wonderful Pistachios and Yamaha.

Selected Awards

Academy Awards

WON

  • Best Song: Man or Muppet - Bret McKenzie, Peter Linz (as Walter) and Jason Segel

Broadcast Film Critics Association Award

WON

  • Best Song: Life's Happy Song - Bret McKenzie, Amy Adams and Jason Segel

NOMINATED

  • Best Comedy
  • Best Song: Man or Muppet - Bret McKenzie, Peter Linz (as Walter) and Jason Segel
  • Best Song: Pictures in My Head - Chen Neeman, Aris Archontis, Jeannie Lurie and Steve Whitmire (as Kermit)

Golden Reel Awards (from the Motion Picture Sound Editors)

WON

  • Best Sound Editing: Music in a Musical Feature Film - Lisa Jaime and Richard Ford

The Comedy Awards (from Comedy Central)

NOMINATED

  • Comedy Director, Film - James Bobin

Kids' Choice Awards

NOMINATED

  • Favorite Movie
  • Favorite Movie Actress: Amy Adams

Sequel

See Muppets Most Wanted

Advance screenings

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Variety - Segel and Stoller Take on Muppets March 12, 2008
  2. Ain't It Cool News - Script Review
  3. Exclusive: On the Set of the New Muppets Movie, Stein, Joel, Time
  4. "Jason Segel Spills More About His Muppet Movie", Movieweb.com. June 8, 2008.
  5. Walsh, Patrick. "Interview with Nicholas Stoller, Director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall", Bloggingsundance.com. April 14, 2008.
  6. Bibbiani, William. Jason Segel Talks 'The Muppets', CraveOnline. November 22, 2011.
  7. Nick Stoller interview
  8. "'Flight of the Conchords' co-creator will direct Disney's Muppet movie". The Hollywood Reporter's Heat Vision blog, Heatvisionblog.com. January 29, 2010
  9. Chud.com May 18, 2010
  10. ABC News "Disney Picks Pixar's Brains for Muppets Movie" by Borys Kit
  11. Truitt, Brian. "Hi-ho! Jason Segel the 'Muppet' movie star here", California Chronicle. January 4, 2011.
  12. Spinoff interview with James Bobin
  13. D23′s Inside the Muppets’ Workshop
  14. Disney Insider, "Going Places No Muppet Has Gone Before", Disney.go.com. April 9, 2012.
  15. Mickey Rooney and Muppets
  16. Lussier, Germain. "Set Photos: The Muppets Take Over Hollywood Boulevard", Slashfilm. com. January 18, 2011.
  17. McIntyre, Gina. "2011 Movie Preview: 'The Muppets'", LA Times. January 16, 2011.
  18. Breznican, Anthony, "'The Muppets': No nudity for Jason Segel. Kermit, on the other hand ...", Entertainment Weekly, 30 March 2011.
  19. Cieply, Michael, "Disney Reviving Muppets Franchise With Movie This Fall", New York Times, 9 April 2011.
  20. Disney's new Muppet movie finished filming last Friday - announced at The Walt Disney Company's 2011 Investor Conference
  21. rgj.com
  22. Photos: 'The Muppets' Visit Hollywood
  23. Toughpigs.com
  24. LA Casting resume - Dave Hayles
  25. Bonnie Morgan resume

See also

Jim Hensons Muppets-logo
Theatrical Feature Films
1979: The Muppet Movie
1981: The Great Muppet Caper
1984: The Muppets Take Manhattan
1992: The Muppet Christmas Carol
1996: Muppet Treasure Island
1999: Muppets from Space
2011: The Muppets
2014: Muppets Most Wanted
(more productions)

External links

Reviews

Start a Discussion Discussions about The Muppets (2011)

  • 80's Robot categorization

    23 messages
    • Again, sorry, I didn't mean to antagonize - I was just trying to discuss the definition of what makes a Muppets. I apologize for ...
    • Sorry I didn't add to this earlier, but I think Andrew's text change works fine. I don't want to repeat any points but while the character may...

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