|Written by||Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher|
|Publisher||Welbeck Music Corporation and Muppet Music Inc. (renewed); Fuzzy Muppet Songs|
"Rainbow Connection" is a song written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher for The Muppet Movie and originally performed by Kermit the Frog. It is sung by Kermit as the movie's opening number and reprised by the whole cast of Muppets at the end of the movie; it since has been featured and reprised in other Muppet productions, including 2011's The Muppets.
The single of this song reached #25 on Billboard's "Hot 100 Singles" chart in 1979 and the American Film Institute named Rainbow Connection the 74th greatest movie song of all time in AFI's 100 Years…100 Songs.
In 2021, the Library of Congress inducted the song into its National Recording Registry.
Behind the scenes
When Williams and Ascher started work on the songs for The Muppet Movie, they met at Williams' house with Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, and Frank Oz to talk about the direction about the songs. Knowing they needed an "I am song", they looked at the setting. Williams and Ascher had a discussion about a film they both loved, Walt Disney's adaptation of Pinocchio. At the beginning of Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket sings "When You Wish Upon a Star," which the pair felt set the mood for the whole picture. "It opens up you heart, and there's this spiritual awareness." This was the inspiration to write something very special for Kermit as well.
Although they had nearly completed the song, they had difficulty coming up with a title until a friend of Williams asked them "What's the problem? You having difficulty finding that rainbow connection between people and their dreams?" They knew at once that they had their title.
In the Music, Mayhem and More! CD booklet, Williams briefly shared the creative process that surrounds "Rainbow Connection" and the movie's finale, as follows:
“It's one of two favorite songs I've written in my life, and oddly, they're both from The Muppet Movie. (The other is 'I'm Going to Go Back There Someday.') When we started working on the film, Kenny and I and Jim and Jerry Juhl all agreed that we had to establish Kermit's soul from the very beginning. And to do that, he has to ponder some big questions. Kenny and I began to write this song -- the song addresses that inner voice that tells Kermit he can try to do these big things. Then Jerry Juhl did this great thing in the script at the end, when the stage explodes and the end of the rainbow appears — the actual 'rainbow connection.' That's the proof of the whole Muppet philosophy.”
Williams later recalled "The amazing thing about the song is that it's a song about questions instead of answers... We start out with Kermit sitting in the swamp... We looked at it and said, well what has he got? He's got water, he's got air, he's got light. You have refraction, you have rainbows. So the first line came immediately."
After the initial meeting with Henson, Juhl, and Oz, Williams assured Jim that he and Ascher would actively update him on the songs. Henson replied, "oh no, that's all right I'm sure they'll be wonderful, I'll hear them in the studio." Williams comments that "There's a level of trust in that, that is so immense."
The Muppet Movie opening
The opening of The Muppet Movie features Kermit the Frog singing the song while sitting on a log in his swamp, completely surrounded by water. It was one of those "how'd they do that?" moments that Jim Henson loved to create. Rather than use a radio-control rig, like had been used to make Emmet and his ma sing while rowing a boat down the river in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, Henson wanted a more precise way to operate the character for the poignant, subtle and emotional performance required and opted to perform Kermit by hand from under the water.
A large swamp set was created in a watertank on the studio backlot (the same tank that was used as the lagoon on Gilligan's Island), complete with real trees that were shipped in from the Georgia bayous. A diving bell equipped with a rubber sleeve was submerged into the tank so that Henson could perform Kermit from inside. Even though oxygen was being pumped in to Henson, and he was in continual contact with the surface via his headset, biographer Brian Jay Jones said it was "like being buried alive." Henson later referred to the set-up as "no place for someone with claustrophobia." There were rescue divers nearby in case of trouble. At one point during the five days it took to film the sequence, Henson spent nearly three straight hours sealed underwater in the cramped diving bell.
According to Paul Williams, originally Kermit was going to be seen in the swamp sitting on a lily pad, however it turned into a log because it was easier to position Kermit and hide Henson.
A 1979 Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter answered the question of "How does Kermit sit on a log in the middle of a swamp?":
“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...”
The Muppet Movie finale
The closing reprise of "Rainbow Connection" in The Muppet Movie featured a crowd of more than 250 Muppet characters—virtually every Muppet that had been created up to that point in time. According to Henson Archivist Karen Falk: "137 puppeteers were enlisted from the Puppeteers of America (along with the regular Muppet performers) to perform every Muppet extant. Prior to the day-long filming of the shot, Jim Henson gave the enthusiastic participants a lesson in the art of cinematic puppetry. Amazingly, it did take just one day."
The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter answered the question of "How did they do 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.”
|Kermit in The Muppet Movie (1979).|
|Kermit and the Muppets in the finale of The Muppet Movie (1979).|
|Kermit at the 52nd Academy Awards (1980).|
|Kermit and Debbie Harry duet in episode 509 of The Muppet Show (1981).|
|Kermit during the second act of The Muppet Show On Tour (1984).|
|A ballroom full of Muppets in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1985).|
|Kermit and Raven-Symoné in The Muppets at Walt Disney World (1990).|
|Kermit on The Odyssey Channel series Donna's Day (2000).|
|Kermit on Telling Stories with Tomie dePaola (2001)|
|Kermit, Paul Williams, and the Muppets in The Muppet Show Live at MuppetFest (2001).|
|Kermit on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with makeover team member Paul DiMeo on guitar (2006).|
|Kermit, Pepe the King Prawn and Wilco on the red carpet of the 50th annual Grammy Awards, as seen in a video released on Disney Xtreme Digital.|
|Kermit at Bernie Brillstein's Memorial Service (2008).|
|An instrumental version in various Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades when the Kermit the Frog balloon appears.|
|The Muppets on a replica of the Mark Twain riverboat at D23 Expo (2009).|
|Jason Mraz and Elmo on inFANity (2009).|
|Kermit, Piggy, and Sukanya Krishnan on PIX 11 Morning News (2009).|
|Kermit and Rowlf at the D23 Expo during the ceremony honoring Jim Henson as a Disney Legend (2011).|
|Fozzie Bear and The Moopets perform a rendition of the song with altered lyrics about the Pechoolo Casino in The Muppets (2011).|
|Kermit, Miss Piggy and the Muppets in The Muppets.|
|Kermit on The Muppets soundtrack; iTunes exclusive (2011).|
|Kermit at the Puppeteers of America's 75th annual National Puppetry Festival (2011).|
|Kermit on promotional tour for Die Muppets with Christoph Krachten on YouTube (2012).|
|Kermit and Darren Criss at the 2012 Academy Awards preshow on E!|
|Kermit, Miss Piggy and Walter on a 2012 Good Morning America appearance.|
|At Jim Henson's Musical World by Paul Williams, Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, Scooter, Gonzo, Dr. Teeth, Rowlf the Dog, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Bob, Gordon, Susan, Leela, Gina, Alan, Maria, Rachel Dratch, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, and John Tartaglia.|
|Kermit and Miss Piggy on The Bachelorette (2012).|
|Kermit, Miss Piggy, Floyd, Pepe, Gonzo, Scooter, Walter, Fozzie, Animal and two chickens in The Muppets All-Star Comedy Gala at the Just for Laughs festival (2012).|
|In Muppets Most Wanted, Constantine watches The Muppet Movie on VHS and nails his Kermit impression by singing the song to "the lovers, the dreamers and cheese". (2014)|
|Kermit, Miss Piggy, Queen Latifah and John Legend perform the song on The Queen Latifah Show. (2014)|
|Kermit and Miss Piggy at the Muppets Most Wanted pre-show at the El Capitan Theatre.|
|Kermit and some kids on A Capitol Fourth (2014).|
|Kermit and Ed Sheeran on Red Nose Day (2015).|
|Kermit in The Muppets episode "Pig's in a Blackout" (2015).|
|Kermit and Tori Kelly in Disneyland 60 (2016).|
|Kermit, Paul Williams, Bobby Moynihan, and the Muppets in The Muppets Take the Bowl (2017).|
|Baby Kermit in Muppet Babies: Show & Tell (2018).|
|Kermit, Seth Rogen, Lauren Miller and the audience (backed by Craig Robinson and the Nasty Delicious) in Seth Rogen's Hilarity for Charity (2018).|
|Kermit and Maddie Poppe on American Idol (2018).|
|Kermit, Bret McKenzie, Walter, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Sam the Eagle, and Lew Zealand at The Jim Henson Retrospectacle Live in Concert (2018).|
|Kermit joined by the rest of the Muppets, guests and others in The Muppets Take the O2 (2018).|
|Kermit and Marissa Jaret Winokur on The Talk (2018).|
|Kermit and James Corden sang a brief rendition on The Late Late Show in December 2018.|
|Kermit sings on stage playing the Wizard in The Wonderful Winter of Oz.|
|Upon the request of host Sandra Mitchell, Kermit sings a few lines of the song in a December 21, 2018 appearance on KCAL 9 News at Noon.|
|Kermit sings an abridged version of the song, with Jimmy Fallon on ukulele, on The Tonight Show on January 7, 2019.|
|Kermit and Jim James at the Newport Folk Festival (2019).|
|Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Fozzie, and the Muppets in a Christmas-themed commercial for Facebook Portal.|
|Kermit performs the song in a web video published to The Muppets' social media accounts on April 25, 2020. Matt Vogel, inspired by a similar video put out by Steve Martin. The banjo track was performed by Lucas Ross.The video was conceived by|
|Kermit the Frog performs with Paul Williams and other celebrities, musicians, and session singers for Soundtrack of Our Lives: Jodi Benson, Darren Criss, Zach Dellinger, Anthony Evans, Judith Hill, Andy Karl, Lucy Lawless, Patti LuPone, Reba McEntire, Orfeh, Ken Page, Mark Edward Smith, Taura Stinson, Pinar Toprak, Mervyn Warren, Elyse Willis, and "Weird Al" Yankovic.|
- Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams performed the song in The Muppets Go Hollywood (1979)
- The Carpenters recorded the song in 1980, but it wasn't released until 2004.
- Bob McGrath with Erich Kunzel & Cincinnati Pops Orchestra for the album Young at Heart (1992); McGrath has performed the song for various Canadian Children's telethons since then.
- Kenny Loggins on his Return to Pooh Corner album (1994)
- Paul Williams, as Bernard Weeden, at Ginny's funeral in the third season Picket Fences episode "Cold Spell" (1994)
- Vera Lynn on her Thank You For The Music album (1997)
- Lea Salonga on her 1981 debut album Small Voice (recorded when she was 9 years old), and I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing (1997)
- Less Than Jake on Muppets (1997)
- Vonda Shepard, in the second season Ally McBeal episode "Angels and Blimps" (1999)
- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes on their album Are a Drag (1999). The recording was featured in the end credits and over a reel of outtakes from Kermit's Swamp Years.
- Willie Nelson on his Rainbow Connection album (2001)
- Sarah McLachlan on the For the Kids album (2002). This rendition was later used in the New Zealand version of Dancing with the Stars.
- Various employers in a commercial for Yahoo HotJobs (2003)
- Dixie Chicks on the album Mary Had a Little Amp (2004)
- Jason Mraz performs the song on For the Kids Too (2004)
- Willie Nelson and Paul Williams on the dual-disc DVD I'm Going Back There Someday (2005)
- John Michael Higgins & His Symphony of Guys, a cappella version arranged by John Michael Higgins as heard during the ending credits for The Break-Up (2006)
- Jason Mraz performed the song as a launch.com exclusive, now Yahoo! Music, introducing it as "one of [his] favorite songs" (2006)
- Jason Mraz and Paul Williams on Mraz's Influences album (2007)
- Willie Nelson's 2001 version of the song in the end of the Las Vegas season 4 episode "The Chicken Is Making My Back Hurt" (2007), when Ed Deline smashes up a car with a golf club.
- Paul Williams on the Nickelodeon series, Yo Gabba Gabba! (2008)
- Jane Monheit recorded the song for her album The Lovers, The Dreamers and Me (2009)
- The Whiffenpoofs, Yale's all-male glee club, have performed the song on multiple occasions, including April 18, 2010 in Kansas City. They also performed the song on Glee's season four finale in 2013, as the fictional glee club, The Waffletoots.
- Paul Williams and the Roots performed it on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (June 15, 2011)
- Meredith Braun performed the song on her debut album Someone Else's Story (2012)
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Seth Rogen and Samuel L. Jackson sang part of the song for Jimmy Kimmel Live's YouTube-referencing "David After Dentist Double Rainbow Oh My God! in 3D" (2014)
- Sleeping At Last covered the song on their 2016 album, Covers, Vol. 2. This rendition was later used on the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing.
- David Haller (Dan Stevens) sings the song while playing the banjo in the first season Legion episode "Chapter 5" (2017)
- Lisa Loeb on her album Lullaby Girl (2017)
- Thirteen year old The Voice Kids contestant Besim sang the song in his audition on the German version of the series (2018)
- Sophie Dixon (played by Lizzy Greene) performs an acoustic guitar version in the first season A Million Little Things episode "The Game of Your Life" (2018)
- Kacey Musgraves and Willie Nelson at the Country Music Awards (2019)
- Fifteen-year-old The Voice contestant Carter Rubin sang this song in the semifinals in the U.S. series, dedicated to his brother Jack, who has autism, leaving his coach Gwen Stefani in tears.
- The Muppet Movie: Original Soundtrack Recording (1979)
- Rainbow Connection/I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along (single, 1979)
- Favorite Songs From Jim Henson's Muppets
- Put Some Zing in Your Spring
- Music, Mayhem and More! (2002)
- Best of the Muppets (2005)
- It's Not Easy Being Green (2005)
- The Muppets: Original Soundtrack (2011)
- We're Doing a Best Of (both versions, including the Moopets version, from The Muppets, 2018)
- The Muppet Movie
- The World of Jim Henson (1994, first verse cut and played during the credits)
- Henson's Place (2010, excerpt of The Muppet Movie finale)
- The Muppets
- The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (excerpts of The Muppet Movie finale)
- The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson (clips)
- I Love Muppets (clips)
- Other media
- Muppet RaceMania (clip plays before the first race)
- The Muppet Movie: Nearly 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray (Frog-e-oke lyric video)
- Sheet Music Magazine
- Favorite Songs from Jim Henson's Muppets
- The Reader's Digest Children's Songbook
- The Rainbow Connection
- Jim Henson: The Works
- It's Not Easy Being Green... and Other Things to Consider
- Before You Leap - dedicated to "the lovers, the dreamers, and you".
- The Muppets: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
"Rainbow Connection" has been referenced many times, both by Muppets and others:
- An early script draft for The Great Muppet Caper called for Rowlf the Dog to be playing the tune on piano after Beauregard's taxi crashes into the Happiness Hotel. Kermit tells him that's the "wrong movie."
- The Muppets at Walt Disney World — Mickey Mouse and Kermit "argue philosophy." Kermit's philosophy is "Someday you'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me".
- Muppets Tonight, Episode 107 — When Bobo puts the mad bomber on hold, the song that plays is "Rainbow Connection."
- Muppets Inside — Rizzo the Rat suggested about making up a song about rainbows connectors but Kermit doesn't like Rizzo's idea because he's stealing his song.
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie — Kermit passes by a statue erected in his honor, the caption of which reads "For the lovers, the dreamers, and you".
- Elmo's World: Skin — At the end, a chameleon asks Elmo if he knows how to play "Rainbow Connection" on his piano.
- The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson Issue #2 — Kermit is surprised that there aren't several Kermit the Frog celebrity impersonators, citing the song as a big reason for his fame.
- Muppets Most Wanted — Constantine, posing as Kermit, mentions him singing the song while performing in Spain during the "Interrogation Song." Constantine also watches Kermit's performance of the song in The Muppet Movie in order to mimic his voice better.
- Carpool Karaoke: The Series — While he's got the Muppets together, Jason Sudeikis suggests the perfect song for all of them to sing. When he queues up "Rainbow Connection" on the Electric Mayhem Van radio, all the Muppets groan and insist on another song.
- In the viral video "The Muppets Find Out Which Muppet They Really Are", when asked what talent they have, Kermit mentions his talent is singing. He starts singing "Rainbow Connection" before Miss Piggy cuts him off saying "Okay, okay, we've heard that song enough."
- Muppets Now — The Muppets video chat using an app named "Connector" with a rainbow logo.
- On the same show, in the episode "Getting Testy," a chyron on Scooter's new "Test-o-Tron" test audience app, quotes the song as follows: 54% ask: "Why are there so many songs about rainbows?"
- Family Guy — In the episode "Fifteen Minutes of Shame," Peter tries to get attention on the Griffins' reality show with a puppet. When the camera starts to pan away from Peter to something more interesting, Peter tries to regain his attention saying, "She's gonna sing Rainbow Connection!"
- Wonderfalls — In the episode "Muffin Buffalo," lead character Jaye is playing Pictionary with her family and her friend Pat. While Jaye's sister draws frantically, Pat shouts out guesses as to what she's drawing: "It's a frog! He's singing! 'Rainbow Connection!'"
- Nightwing comic book, #135 — Vigilante references "Rainbow Connection."
- Saturday Night Live — In a sketch called "Rowlf and the Swedish Chef", Rowlf, as played by Seth Rogen, offers to play "Rainbow Connection."
- InFANity — Jason Mraz mentions that The Muppet Movie was the first movie he saw. He and Elmo sing the beginning of "Rainbow Connection."
- The Neighbors — Several clips of the song are featured in the episode "Cold War."
- Darkwing Duck — The revised version of "The Ballot of Darkwing Duck and Launchpad" (as seen in the Darkwing Duck: The Definitively Dangerous Edition book) includes a shot of newspaper with a headline saying "There Really Aren't That Many Songs About Rainbows, Study Finds."
- Toy Story 4 — In a bonus scene, Ducky says to two frog toys "Up here 'Rainbow Connection'."
- On March 20, 1996, "Rainbow Connection" was the basis of a bizarre crime in Wanganui, New Zealand. A twenty-one-year-old overly enthusiastic Muppet fan took a radio station manager hostage claiming to have a bomb and demanded to hear the song played nonstop on the air for the next twelve hours. Several buildings were evacuated due to the threat. When it was learned that the man had no bomb, police stormed the station and arrested him.
- I Love the 70s lists the song as Kermit's favorite.
- In Jim Henson's childhood hometown of Leland, Mississippi, a local bridge was named "The Rainbow Connection," in his honor on September 24, 2011 (Henson's 75th birthday).
- AFI - The Top Movie Songs of All Time (2004)
- The Hollywood Reporter "Music from Janet Jackson, Connie Smith, Nas, Jimmy Cliff Enter National Recording Registry" by Mike Barnes, March 23, 2021
- "Story Behind the Song: 'The Rainbow Connection'", Tennessean on YouTube, 3 October 2016.
- The Muppets Go Hollywood
- Toughpigs.com A Thankful Heart: The Paul Williams Interview (2013)
- Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (page 235)
- Interview with Ed Christie for The Archive of American Television
- Webbe. "Muppet Mania"
- Holub, Joan. Who Was Jim Henson?. 2000.
- ToughPigs.com. Mokey Fraggle Speaks: The Kathy Mullen Interview (2013)
- The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter (vol. 2, no. 1)
- Ask Henson.com question #50 (1998)
- Hollywood Honcho Bernie Brillstein Remembered
- YouTube - Clixoom: Kermit singt mit Christoph: Rainbow Connection (2012-02-13)
- Matt Vogel on Disney Marvels Podcast (00:15:46)
- CNN report