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The Muppet Movie

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Released June 22, 1979
Running time 95 minutes
Director James Frawley
Written by Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl
Original music by Paul Williams
Studio ITC Entertainment / Henson Associates
MPAA Rating G
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The Muppet Movie is the first of a series of live-action musical feature films starring the Muppets. The film is a movie-in-a-movie, as we see Kermit the Frog and the rest of the Muppets gathering for the first screening of "The Muppet Movie." Kermit notes to his nephew Robin as the lights dim that the movie is a somewhat fictionalized account of the true story of how the Muppets first got together.

The movie was a critical and commercial success. In 2009, the film was selected by the U.S. National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.[1]

Synopsis

As the story opens, Kermit is enjoying a relaxing afternoon in the swamp, singing a tune and strumming his banjo, when he is approached by an agent who recognizes his talents and encourages Kermit to pursue a career in Hollywood. Inspired by the idea of making millions of people happy, Kermit sets off on his trusty bicycle. Almost immediately, he is pursued by the conniving Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), owner of a struggling french-fried frog legs restaurant franchise who has set his sights on Kermit as a potential new mascot.

Kermit stops at the El Sleezo Cafe, where he meets Fozzie Bear working the place as a stand-up comedian. Kermit invites Fozzie to join him on his quest for stardom, and together they continue on their journey. They make several new friends along the way, including Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem rock band (whom they bring up to speed on current events by giving them a copy of the movie script); Gonzo the traveling plumber and Camilla, his chicken girlfriend; and the inimitable Miss Piggy, who leaps at the chance to accompany the group to Hollywood.

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After Kermit manages to evade Doc Hopper's persuasive tactics a number of times, Doc Hopper responds by capturing Miss Piggy in order to lure Kermit into his clutches. Kermit is very nearly lobotomized by a mad scientist's electronic cerebrectomy device, intended to brainwash him into performing in Doc Hopper's TV commercials, until Miss Piggy, after being insulted by said mad scientest, manages a last-minute rescue with some black belt karate maneuvers.

Refusing to run from a bully for the rest of his life, Kermit resolves to face Doc Hopper in a showdown. He gives an impassioned plea to allow him and his friends to continue on their way and make their dreams come true. Although the speech falls on deaf ears, Kermit and friends are saved at the last moment by Animal, who has gotten into Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's growth pills and successfully scares away Hopper and his henchmen.

Behind the Scenes with the Fan Club

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A 1979 Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter (vol. 2, no. 1) featured an article with behind the scenes information about the movie:

"The Muppet Movie comes to your neighborhood theaters this summer. If you think it's a film version of The Muppet Show, you're in for a surprise. For one thing, it doesn't take place in the theater. The Muppet Movie is set in the real world -- it's like waiting in line at a gas station and looking up to find Fozzie and Kermit driving the next car over. After you've seen the movie, you'll ask, 'How did they do it?' -- Well, here is some inside information so that you can whisper to the person sitting next to you in the movie theater, 'I know how they did that.'
"How does Kermit sit on a log in the middle of a swamp? Simple. 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 work Kermit) and a monitor (to see what Kermit was doing), and positioned himself under the water, under the log, under the Frog. Jim spent about five days in this bathysphere. (It's not easy...)
"How does Fozzie drive a car? He doesn't -- a midget drives the car by remote control from the trunk, using a television monitor to guide his steering. The puppeteers were lying on the seat or were scrunched on the floor and couldn't see a thing. The first time they tried 'driving', the television monitor went on the blink, and the driver had to be talked through the scene by an assistant director on a walkie-talkie. 'A little to the right, now, to the left... hold it...'
"There are 250 puppets in the last shot of the film, and they're all moving. How? 150 puppeteers in a 6' deep, 17' wide pit, that's how. They were recruited through the Los Angeles Guild of The Puppeteers of America, and almost every puppeteer west of the Rockies reported for pit duty.
"Several of the characters are shown as full figures for the first time. Think -- have you ever seen Fozzie, Dr. Teeth, Scooter, Floyd or Zoot below the waist on television? No. And yes, their legs aren't half bad.
"Miss Piggy has no fewer than ten costume changes. Her clothes were designed exclusively for her by Calista Hendrickson.
"Watch carefully for a rare moment, never before captured on film -- a confrontation between Frank Oz and Fozzie Bear. In the bar scene, Frank, playing a particularly unsavory thug, wrestles Fozzie bearhanded, picks him up... and throws him at the bartender! Fozzie barely escapes.
"It took 87 days to make a 90 minute film -- about one day to get one minute of film. It takes three days of taping to make a 30 minute television show -- or 10 minutes in one day. The film, therefore, took ten times longer to make than the TV show. Sam the Eagle, upon hearing this startling statistic, remarked, 'And it's probably ten times weirder.' The Eagle, of course, is not always our most receptive critic."

Production notes

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  • The closing song, known as "The Magic Store/Rainbow Connection Reprise" featured a crowd of more than 250 Muppet characters -- virtually every Muppet that had been created up to that time, with a few exceptions (mainly Sweetums, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Sam the Robot, and most of the muppets created for Sam and Friends and other early Henson productions). 137 puppeteers were enlisted from the Puppeteers of America to help the regular Muppet performers film this scene. The crowd sequence took one day to film. [2]
  • One version of the movie's one-sheet featured Kermit and Miss Piggy in period costume with the quote "Frankly, Miss Piggy, I don't give a hoot," a reference to Gone With the Wind.
  • In a 2004 interview, John Landis revealed that he was the puppeteer for Grover during the final sequence, as Frank Oz was busy operating Miss Piggy. Landis also noted that Tim Burton was also among the many puppeteers in the finale.[3]
  • The cover of the screenplay that Dr. Teeth has at the end of the movie in the desert is slightly different than one that was given to him by Kermit and Fozzie in the church; the Mayhem band scribbled all over it.
  • The back of the theater seat Animal is sitting in clearly shows an exact outline of the chunk Animal rips off when he eventually starts eating the seat.
  • Just as he hits the billboard for the pie advertisement, Fozzie yells, and the steering wheel comes off, but it's re-attached the next time we see them in the station wagon.

Deleted and Alternate Scenes

For a complete list of deleted scenes, see The Muppet Movie deleted scenes
  • A 1987 home video release of this film in the United Kingdom lasted a few minutes longer than in America. Some of the extra scenes included a slightly longer comedy club performance from Fozzie including a longer dance number with Kermit, a short opening and closing speech from Doc Hopper on his French Fried Frogs Legs commercial, a longer conversation between Doc Hopper and Max before they encountered Kermit and Fozzie in the rainbow-painted Studebaker, Dr. Teeth gives a more in-depth reading from the script, and an extra verse of "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along." Also in this version of the film, the Muppets' conversations during the end credits can be heard more clearly over a quieter, and different closing theme. These extra scenes were also available for the German dub Muppet Movie when it first aired on TV in the mid-1990s, but were later removed when the movie was released on VHS and DVD.
  • The DVD release features an English-language audio track and a French audio track. In the French version, an alternate version of the musical track for the closing credits can be heard (in which the piece written for the credits is heard in its entirety instead of the music being looped). The French version also has the music edited differently during the "Rainbow Connection" finale (after the sound stage is destroyed and the rainbow starts to creep through the hole in the ceiling).

Credits

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Cast

  • Muppet Performers
Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Kathryn Mullen, Bob Payne, Eren Ozker, Caroly Wilcox, Olga Felgemacher, Bruce Schwartz, Michael Davis, Buz Suraci, Tony Basilicato, Adam Hunt
  • Human Cast
Charles Durning as Doc Hopper
Austin Pendleton as Max
Scott Walker as Frog Killer
Lawrence Gabriel, Jr. as Sailor
Ira F. Grubman as Bartender
H.B. Haggerty as Lumberjack
Bruce Kirby as Gate Guard
Tommy Madden as One Eyed Midget
James Frawley as Waiter
Arnold Roberts as Cowboy
  • Cameo Guest Stars
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy as themselves
Milton Berle as Mad Man Mooney
Big Bird (Caroll Spinney) as himself
Mel Brooks as Professor Krassman
James Coburn as the El Sleezo owner
Dom DeLuise as Bernie the Agent
Elliott Gould as beauty contest host
Bob Hope as ice cream salesman
Madeline Kahn as woman at the El Sleezo
Carol Kane as the myth
Cloris Leachman as Lew Lord's secretary
Steve Martin as waiter
Richard Pryor as balloon salesman
Telly Savalas as tough guy at the El Sleezo
Orson Welles as Lew Lord
Paul Williams as piano player at the El Sleezo

Muppet Cast

  • Muppet Characters
Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rowlf, Scooter, Dr. Teeth, Animal, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Camilla the Chicken, Sweetums, Robin the Frog, Statler and Waldorf, Sam the Eagle, Lew Zealand, The Swedish Chef, Crazy Harry, Doglion, Marvin Suggs, Beauregard, Big Bird
  • Background Characters
Link Hogthrob, Fletcher Bird, Mean Mama, Luncheon Counter Monster, Blue Frackle, Baskerville the Hound, Nigel, Pigs

Rainbow Connection Finale

  • Muppet Characters (in alphabetical order)
Afghan Hound, Animal, Anything Muppets, Babies, Baby Koozebanian Creatures, Baskerville the Hound, Beaker, Beauregard, Beautiful Day Monster, Behemoth, Bert, Biff, Big Bird, Billy the Bear, Blue AM Kid, Blue Frackle, Brad, Brewster, Bruce Monster, Bubba, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Camilla the Chicken, Catgut, Chick, Chuck Stoat, Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Cousin Monster, Crazy Harry, Cow, Crocodile, Dimples the Dog, Doglion, Dr. Teeth, Droop, Eric the Parrot, Ernie, Farley, Female Koozebanian Creature, Fleet Scribbler, Fletcher Bird, Floyd Pepper, Forcryingoutloud Bird, Fozzie Bear, Frank, Fred the Wonder Horse, Frogs, George the Janitor, The Gills Brothers, Gladys, Gladys the Cow, Gonzo, Gorgon Heap, Gramps, Green Frackle, Grover, Guy Smiley, Harold, Harry Monster, Harvey Monster, Herbert Birdsfoot, Herbie the One-Octopus Band, Herry Monster, Hilda, Howard Snake, Janice, Jerry, Jim, Jim Frawley Muppet, J.P. Grosse, Judy, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Kangaroo, Kermit the Frog, King Ploobis, 2 Lautrec Sisters, Leatherwing Bat, Lenny the Lizard, Lew Zealand, Little Bird, Lobsters, Louis Kazagger, Link Hogthrob, Lou, Lubbock Lou, Luncheon Counter Monster, Mahna Mahna, Male Koozebanian Creature, Mary Louise, Marvin Suggs, Maurice Monster, Mean Mama, Mildred Huxtetter, Miss Kitty, Miss Mousey, Miss Piggy, Mr. Johnson, Muppy, The Newsman, Nigel, Ohboy Bird, Ohreally Bird, Old Lady Possum, Oscar the Grouch, Paul Revere, Prairie Dawn, Pumpkin AM Man, Queen Peuta, Quongo, Righton Bird, Robin the Frog, Ronald Duck, Roosevelt Franklin, Roosevelt Franklin's Mother, Rowlf the Dog, Sam the Eagle, Scooter, Screaming Thing, Scred, Shakey Sanchez, Sherlock Hemlock, Slim Wilson, Snake Frackle, The Snowths, Sopwith the Camel, Statler and Waldorf, Sully, The Swedish Chef, Swinetrek Crewpigs, Tessie Twiddlebug, Thog, Thomas Twiddlebug, Timmy Monster, Two-Headed Monster, Uncle Deadly, Vazh, Wanda, Wayne, Whaddayasay Bird, Whatnots, Winky Pinkerton, Wisss, Youknow Bird, Zeke, Zelda Rose, Zoot

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)

Sources

  1. Muppets Among 25 in United States Film Registry
  2. Ask Henson.com question 50
  3. IGN FilmForce "An Interview with John Landis" by Kenneth Plume, 02/11/04

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