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Old September 15 2014, 01:19 AM   #1
Gaith
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The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?



I just this weekend watched Muppets Most Wanted, and I enjoyed it much more the self-congratulatory, self-insert fanficwank that was 2011's The Muppets. I give it a B+. Still, I was left wondering: just what are the Muppets? What is their deal? And what do they want, anyway? Anything apart from being rich and famous and making people happy? Not that there's anything wrong with that...

So, skimming over their Wikipedia article, it seems that The Muppets as a group of puppet characters pretty much originated as entertainers whose variety show hearkened back to vaudeville and sketch programs that were already creaky and going out of style when they started getting big. So they were essentially conceived as a throwback act, making their new Disney-produced material throwbacks to throwbacks. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it does raise the question of to what extent contemporary kids will embrace the gang, especially now that at least one generation has grown up on such newer pop-culture riffing franchises as The Simpsons, South Park, Shrek, etc. Sure, none of those are about self-aware entertainers, but the question remains.

It also seems to me that the Muppet-verse, if you will, revolves around The Muppet Show, a TV series that's been off the air since 1981. 1979's The Muppet Movie was essentially a prequel to the show, 2011's The Muppets was about putting on a one-show reunion, and now 2014's Muppets Most Wanted put the revival show on tour, with a story in which most attendees were only there because of bribes - and then the movie itself fizzled at the box office, crushed by a Hunger Games rip-off. (And it didn't even get a thread here on the BBS - ouch. )

So, again, one has to ask: what's the deal with these felt figures? Where are they going as a troupe? I don't see Disney producing a prime-time Muppet Show revival series, nor do I see one-off specials being of much use in keeping the brand going. And, given the tepid performance of Muppets Most Wanted, I'm not sure there's any juice left in the storyline of the fictional show revival that connects both of these reboot movies.

Maybe the best way forward would be to return to the non-Muppet Show story movie template of Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. That said, I'm not sure what story they should do next. Maybe something classical - Jason and the Argonauts, the labors of Hercules, that sort of thing? Something Robin Hood or King Arthur-like? A Temple of Doom prequel, starring the great adventurer Gonzo Jones? I admit that while I grew up with an awareness of the Muppets, their only product I ever really connected to was Treasure Island, and while the Muppets are great in that movie, the classic story and incredible Tim Curry performance are just as important.

Another thing that's been nagging at me: I do not care about the Kermit-Piggy relationship. At all. Not one bit. Kermit is great, and Piggy is all well and good in her own way, but in no scene from The Muppet Movie, The Muppets, or Muppets Most Wanted have I ever sensed that he was in any way into her as a romantic partner, and her dogged (pigged?) pursuit of him has therefore never struck me as in any way interesting, let alone funny. Not to be too sensitive about this, but if the genders were reversed there's no way this borderline harassment would persist as a Muppet trope/plot point.

What say you all?
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Old September 15 2014, 01:28 AM   #2
J. Allen
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

They're a cross between a mop and a puppet. Also, they are awesome, and connected to my childhood in a big way, so I make giant emotional allowances for anything they create.
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Old September 15 2014, 01:30 AM   #3
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

J. Allen wrote: View Post
They're a cross between a mop and a puppet. Also, they are awesome, and connected to my childhood in a big way, so I make giant emotional allowances for anything they create.
Yeah that.
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Old September 15 2014, 01:34 AM   #4
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

Just because kids haven't seen the original show doesn't mean they aren't indoctrinated to the characters. When I was a kid in the late 80s Muppet Babies was on. Sesame Street has been on since the 70s and Kermit appears on it. There was also a Christmas special that crosses the Muppetverse over with Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock.

That was my generation, I don't know what Muppets related media later generations were exposed to, but all the characters are still heavily entrenched into our culture.
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Old September 15 2014, 01:39 AM   #5
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

you are over-thinking what is essentially a fun and entertaining concept. where are they going? what is their origin? if you're wondering how the Muppets eat and breathe just repeat to yourself, its just a show i should really just relax.
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Old September 15 2014, 02:47 AM   #6
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

The Muppets in-universe are like the Toons in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". They just exist, no further explenation provided (or needed).
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Old September 15 2014, 02:53 AM   #7
Alidar Jarok
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

As far as story ideas, a Robin Hood one would be fun.

Muppets have been ubiquitous my entire life even without really having a TV Show. In addition, Sesame Street is essentially an offshoot that has Kermit on it, so it's easy to transition from Sesame Street to Muppets (think of Kermit as a gateway drug. It isn't easy being green). Shows like Muppet Babies is an 80s show, but was definitely playing when I was young in the 90s. After that, its a parent's job to show their kids some Muppet movies to get them up to speed. Really, it's not all that hard to catch up and appreciate them for what they are.
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Old September 15 2014, 03:09 AM   #8
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

Actually the Muppets were not originally retro, but quite cutting-edge. Before Henson, hand puppets on TV (like Kukla and Ollie or Beany and Cecil) were always confined within the proscenium arch of a puppet stage, always behind a wall that hid the puppeteers and isolated from the humans beyond their stage. Henson's innovation was to realize that the frame of the TV screen itself could be the proscenium arch, that by choosing the right camera angles you could free the puppets from their confinement and let them interact directly with human beings and the world they occupied. It was just one of many technical innovations that Henson pioneered over the years. Later on he'd use marionette techniques to show puppets full-length standing on their own in certain shots. The first couple of Muppet movies had pioneering, elaborate rigs for puppeteering Muppet characters riding bicycles in real-world locations -- first just Kermit in The Muppet Movie, then a whole bunch of characters in The Great Muppet Caper. And later he founded Jim Henson's Creature Shop and did lots of pioneering work with animatronics and special effects, and he was even dabbling with CGI as a means of character creation in his later years.

Which is why the makers of The Muppets got it so wrong when they insisted "Oh, everything has to be old school, no CGI, because Jim wouldn't have wanted that." Rubbish. If Henson had lived, he would've been at the vanguard of CG animation. He was an innovator, not a nostalgist. Sure, maybe the vaudeville-esque setting of The Muppet Show was a little retro, but it was the framework for one of the most creative and subversive comedies on television.


J. Allen wrote: View Post
They're a cross between a mop and a puppet.
Henson used to claim that "Muppet" was a portmanteau of "marionette" and "puppet," but later retracted that, saying it was just a word that sounded fun to him and the "marionette" explanation was just an excuse he gave to reporters.

http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Marionette_and_Puppet
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Old September 15 2014, 03:32 AM   #9
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

Christopher wrote: View Post
Sure, maybe the vaudeville-esque setting of The Muppet Show was a little retro, but it was the framework for one of the most creative and subversive comedies on television.
"Subversive"? As in not just technically innovative (no disrespect to the craft)? Please elaborate.


J. Allen wrote: View Post
They're a cross between a mop and a puppet. Also, they are awesome, and connected to my childhood in a big way, so I make giant emotional allowances for anything they create.
JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
That was my generation, I don't know what Muppets related media later generations were exposed to, but all the characters are still heavily entrenched into our culture.
Alidar Jarok wrote: View Post
Really, it's not all that hard to catch up and appreciate them for what they are.
Awareness and nostalgia aren't always enough to pay the bills and galvanize projects. Sure, Disney can well afford to keep the brand going in the occasional online short or theme park attraction, but I'm wondering about the gang's bigger mass-media future here.
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Old September 15 2014, 04:22 AM   #10
Owain Taggart
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

Yeah, a take on Robin Hood would be fun. So would a take on Camelot. I could just picture Kermit singing Camelot.

Or maybe a Muppet Superhero movie.
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Old September 15 2014, 04:24 AM   #11
Nerys Myk
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

Gaith wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Sure, maybe the vaudeville-esque setting of The Muppet Show was a little retro, but it was the framework for one of the most creative and subversive comedies on television.
"Subversive"? As in not just technically innovative (no disrespect to the craft)? Please elaborate.

My guess is "subversive" refers to the content not the technology.
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Old September 15 2014, 05:45 AM   #12
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

I never really liked the themed Muppet movies. I only enjoy when they are playing "themselves". Muppet Movie, Manhattan, and Most Wanted would be my top three. :-)



Christopher wrote: View Post
J. Allen wrote: View Post
They're a cross between a mop and a puppet.
Henson used to claim that "Muppet" was a portmanteau of "marionette" and "puppet," but later retracted that, saying it was just a word that sounded fun to him and the "marionette" explanation was just an excuse he gave to reporters.
J. was making a Simpsons reference.
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Old September 15 2014, 07:40 AM   #13
J. Allen
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

^ Yep!
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Old September 15 2014, 10:08 AM   #14
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

Owain Taggart wrote: View Post
Yeah, a take on Robin Hood would be fun. So would a take on Camelot. I could just picture Kermit singing Camelot.

Or maybe a Muppet Superhero movie.
Muppet Die Hard.
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Old September 15 2014, 10:43 AM   #15
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Re: The Muppets: just what is their deal, anyhow?

^^ Muppet Calvin and Hobbes.

To this day, my favorite Muppet stories are the original TV movies: The Frog Prince, Hey, Cinderella, The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, and The Great Santa Claus Switch. I'd prefer to see them go in that direction. While I personally love Vaudeville, I don't see it as a good format for the movies. It works for a TV series, because you've got the skits and the songs and the guest star, but in a movie it becomes repetitive.
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