|CHARACTERS • HOME VIDEO|
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|Released||June 26, 1981|
|Written by||Jerry Juhl, Tom Patchett, Jack Rose and Jay Tarses|
|Studio||Henson Associates and ITC Entertainment|
The Great Muppet Caper is the second in a series of live-action musical feature films starring the Muppets.
In the story, Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear play the roles of twin brothers (yes, twin brothers) who are newspaper reporters for the Daily Chronicle. Accompanied by Gonzo as their photographer, they are assigned to investigate the theft of a valuable diamond necklace from fashion designer Lady Holiday. They travel to London, England to interview her, but without any money for travel, they're forced to fly in the baggage hold of an aircraft and are thrown out of the plane as they arrive over Britain. They stay at the ramshackle (but free) Happiness Hotel, run by Pops and populated by the likes of Scooter, Rowlf, and the Electric Mayhem. When Kermit seeks out Lady Holiday in her office, however, he instead finds her receptionist, Miss Piggy, and mistakes her for the fashion designer. Piggy falls in love with the little green reporter and masquerades as Lady Holiday, even going so far as to sneak into a ritzy house in order to impress Kermit with her dwellings, much to the surprise of the true British residents.
In fact, the jewel theft was orchestrated by Lady Holiday's nefarious brother Nicky, assisted by three of her put-upon fashion models. Despite Nicky's instant attraction to Miss Piggy, they successfully frame her for the theft and proceed to steal an even more valuable prize -- the coveted Baseball Diamond, which is on display at a local gallery. Kermit's crew, along with their friends from the Happiness Hotel, have no choice but to intercept and catch the thieves themselves in order to clear Miss Piggy's good name. Piggy, meanwhile, has escaped from prison and, in a bout of serendipity, finds a motorcycle which she uses to literally crash into the film's climax and help apprehend the lovestruck Nicky. The Muppets then return to America the same way they departed, being thrown out of the cargo hold and parachuting back to Earth as the credits roll.
- Gonzo's classification as a "whatever" is officially cemented in this film, as this is the label affixed to his shipping crate en route to Great Britain.
- The fourth wall is completely demolished by the characters during the course of the film.
- Fozzie comments on the opening credits as they appear on screen.
- Kermit talks directly to the audience about the roles that he and Fozzie and Gonzo will play.
- Miss Piggy questions Lady Holiday giving her information about her brother for no apparent reason, to which she replies that it's important exposition that had to go somewhere.
- Kermit later reminds one of the guest stars (Peter Falk), after a meandering monologue, that they need to get back to the story.
- Kermit and Miss Piggy break character and start arguing over her acting skills.
- During the scene where Miss Piggy steals the truck, the driver (played by Peter Ustinov) questions the presence of Oscar the Grouch, to which he replies "A very brief cameo."
- The end of the bicycle scene, where all the Muppets are shown riding together was actually done by putting all of the Muppet characters onto their bikes, then hooking them together. Brian Henson, on an oversized tricycle, was amongst those pulling the bikes.
- In addition to Brian Henson, Lisa Henson worked as a production runner. On-screen cameos were made by Jim Henson and Amy Van Gilder (as club patrons), Frank Oz (working at the Daily Chronicle), Jerry Nelson and his daughter Christine (as father and daughter in the park), and Richard Hunt and Kathryn Mullen (in "Hey a Movie!").
- A full body Miss Piggy was used in the film twice. Once when Miss Piggy was leaving the supper club, and another time when she was diving in a pool during her fantasy.
- The song "The First Time It Happens" by Joe Raposo was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the 54th Academy Awards.
- Jim Henson had various friends and relatives suggest titles for the movie. The winning title was suggested by Lisa Henson.
A working title for the project was The Muppet Movie 2; Henson's notes in 1980 refer to the project as "MM2". His original conception of the movie was fairly vague:
“From the beginning, Jim knew he wanted his film to be a homage to early movie musicals, "because I so enjoy those movies. I intended [the second Muppet movie] to have the fun and joy of those earlier films." He also knew he wanted Kermit to be a reporter-turned-detective who would have to compete with a rival for Miss Piggy's affections -- but typically, he was having a difficult time articulating the rest of his story, only vaguely directing that it be "joyful" with a "positive attitude toward life," and that it contain "several hilarious sequences [with] big laughs" as well as "some real emotions/relationships." He thought there might be a big chase at the end, and he was certain the movie would end with all the Muppets floating down in "parachutes -- everybody sings as they go down."”
Muppet head writer Jerry Juhl was the first person to take a crack at a script, and in September 1979, Henson talked to Jack Rose, a comedy gag man and screenwriter who scripted several Bob Hope films, including Road to Rio and The Great Lover. Rose scripted the 1949 Dennis Morgan/Doris Day film It's a Great Feeling, a spoof of the Hollywood studio system that seems appropriate as inspiration for the fourth-wall-shattering Caper film. Juhl and Rose completed their first draft of the screenplay in January 1980, with a second draft in March titled The Muppets Hit the Road.
Henson was unsatisfied with Juhl and Rose's script, and in April, he met with Tom Patchett and Jay Tarses, a writing team that had worked in the 1970s on a series of sitcoms, including The Bob Newhart Show, The Sandy Duncan Show, The Tony Randall Show, as well as the comedy-variety series The Carol Burnett Show. Patchett and Tarses did a rewrite of Juhl and Rose's script, which was delivered in June under the title The Good, the Bad and the Muppets. The final screenplay was completed in July, a composite of material from all four writers.
The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter (vol. 3, no. 2, 1981) had this description of the filming of The Great Muppet Caper:
“Watch for the shadow on the wall in Kermit's Fred Astaire dance number. It took 43 takes to get it right, the most takes needed for any shot in any movie.
Miss Piggy's underwater musical number was the most difficult scene to shoot, mostly because of communication problems. Lights, cameramen, cameras, speakers, monitors and Miss Piggy were all underwater. There were also 18 professional swimmers who had to dive into the pool at the right moment. We tried to get a dolphin to direct this part, but only one goldfish answered the ad.
So, the heat was on -- literally. We kept the water at 90 degrees Fahrenheit which made the air temperature a moist 95 degrees. The conditions were tropical! We then tried to get a director who also happened to be a monkey or a crocodile. One monkey applied, but he didn't like our terms (3 bananas/hour), and the crocodile ate his agent on the way to the studio.
We did almost all of our location shooting in England, working in and around London for about a month. Except for one rainy night, we never had to postpone shooting because of the weather. Then we went to "sunny" Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had bad weather half of the time! It just goes to show that you can't trust a cloud.
In Albuquerque, we shot the hot air balloon sequence which comes at the beginning of the film. It wasn't easy because there were so many variables. Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo went up in a genuine hot air balloon. If the wind blew, the balloon wouldn't go up. when the balloon did go up, a helicopter, with a cameraman suspended underneath it, followed it around. (We tried to find a bird to work the camera, but the chickens didn't like the idea and threatened to strike.) Occasionally, the helicopter would go above the balloon, forcing the hot air out and the balloon down, CRASH! An even more uncomfortable problem was filling the balloon with hot air. A burner was pushed up inside, and one time Kermit and Fozzie got singed! Gonzo, of course, loved it.”
Frank Oz commented on the effects in an interview for Dynamite magazine:
“The water ballet scene with Miss Piggy was really wonderful. I was under the water for a week. I had three days of scuba training and then down I went. Having them swim for the first time really was exciting!
It's amazing, though, you work and work on the most difficult things and people say, 'That's nice.' then something easy will occur and it will be all anyone talks about! In the first movie, it was Kermit riding a bike. It was very easy to do that. It was just a simple marionette with strings. In the same film, there was that whole complicated sequence with Gonzo in the balloon, crashing into the sign and landing in the car. It took forever to film that -- and all the talk was about the bike! That's why we have a whole bicycle parade in this film.”
- Prior to 1993 video releases and TV broadcasts of the movie, "Night Life" lacked Dr. Teeth's vocals; when Piggy is walking down the alley after leaving Kermit, Joe Raposo's scoring is interrupted by Big Ben tolling, with no other sound effects; also the same score continues for both the jewel thieves and the Muppets going over their check lists; and Piggy delivers an elongated, "Hiiiiiiiiii-yaaaaaa!" as she crashes through the window at the Mallory Gallery. The underwater vocals during "Piggy's Fantasy" were also changed, originally having more of a "gurgling" effect.
- When this movie aired on the Odyssey Network, the entire bicycle sequence was cut.
- When aired on AMC, the following scenes were cut:
- Gonzo takes a picture of a pigeon was cut.
- Most of "Night Life".
- Muppet Performers
- Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, Steve Whitmire, Louise Gold, Kathryn Mullen, Bob Payne, Brian Muehl, Mike Quinn, Robbie Barnett, Hugh Spight, Brian Henson, and Kiran Shah (Uncredited: Christopher Leith)
- Human Cast
- Charles Grodin as Nicky Holiday
- Diana Rigg as Lady Holiday
- Erica Creer as Marla
- Kate Howard as Carla
- Della Finch as Darla
- Michael Robbins as Guard
- Joan Sanderson as Dorcas
- Peter Hughes as Maitre d'
- Peggy Aitchison as Prison Guard
- Tommy Godfrey as Bus Conductor
- Katia Bong as 1st Model
- Valli Kemp as 2nd Model
- Michele Ivan-Zadeh as 3rd Model
- Chai Lee as 4th Model
- Christine Nelson as Girl in Park
- Reg Thomason as gentleman at Dubonnet Club (uncredited)
- Charkey's Water Ballet:
- Cynthia Ashley, Susan Backlinie, Sherrill Cannon, Christine Cullen, Susie Guest, Wendy Holker, Linda Horn, Lee Kenan, Darine Klega, Lynn Latham, Cynthia Leake, Kahren Lohren, Tricia McFarlin, Denise McKenna, Melina Lee Phelps, Denise Potter, Ann Rynne, Roberta Ward
- Cameo Guest Stars
- John Cleese as Neville
- Robert Morley as Man by Pond
- Peter Ustinov as Truck Driver
- Jack Warden as Mike Tarkanian
- Peter Falk (uncredited) as Disheveled Gentleman
- Oscar the Grouch (Caroll Spinney) as himself
- Muppet Characters
- Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal, Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Rowlf, Scooter, Rizzo the Rat, Sweetums, Pops, Lew Zealand, Lips, The Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, Beauregard, The Newsman, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker, Statler and Waldorf, Louis Kazagger
- Background Characters
- Annie Sue, Crazy Harry, Gaffer, The Mutations, Droop, Timmy Monster, Frackles, Luncheon Counter Monster, Flower-Eating Monster, Miss Kitty, Lubbock Lou, Bubba, Gramps, Lou, Slim Wilson, Zeke, the Singing Food, Kermit and Fozzie's Dad
- Animated Characters
- Executive Producer: Martin Starger
- Producers: David Lazer and Frank Oz
- Associate Producer: Bruce Sharman
- Director of Photography: Oswald Morris
- Film Editor: Ralph Kemplen
- Choreographer: Anita Mann
- Muppet Designers and Builders: Caroly Wilcox, Tim Miller, Leslee Asch, Nomi Frederick, Ann Keeba-Tannenbaum, Janet Kuhl, Kathy Lazar, Joan Garrick, Tom Newby, Tom McLaughlin, Perry McLamb, Lyle Conway, Maria McNamara, Ed Christie, Connie Peterson, Jane Gootnick
- Muppet Technical Designers: Faz Fazakas, Tim Rose, Tad Krzanowski, Larry Jameson
- Muppet Costumes: Calista Hendrickson, Mary Strieff, Joanne Green, Carol Spier, Danielle Obinger
- Workshop Supervisor: Robert McCormack
- Muppet Doctor: Amy Van Gilder
- Special Assistant to Miss Piggy: Barbara Davis
- Design Consultant: Michael K. Frith
- New York Workshop Coordinator: Will Morrison
- Miss Piggy's Hairstyles: Christine Cooper
- Miss Piggy's Portfolio: John E. Barrett
- Jim Henson's Red Book - 8/9/1980 - 'Shoot Peter Falk.'
- Henson's note refers to project as "Muppet Movie 2" 10/27/80; Henson's notes refer to project as "MM2" 11/10/80, 3/-/80, 10/21/80, 10/6/80, 7/7/80, 4/25/80
- Jones, Brian Jay. Jim Henson: The Biography, chapter 11. Random House/Ballantine Books, 2013.
- Jim Henson's Red Book - 7/7/1980 - ‘Tom and Jay in town working on MM2.’
- Jim Henson's Red Book - 7/7/1980 - ‘Tom and Jay in town working on MM2.’
- Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal, pages 130-132
- "Dynamite's Great Muppet Caper" by Jane Stine, Dynamite vol. 4 no. 12, June 1981.
- The Great Muppet Caper (video)
- The Great Muppet Caper (soundtrack)
- The Muppets Go to the Movies (promotional special)
- The Great Muppet Caper script (July 22, 1980 draft)