|CHARACTERS • HOME VIDEO|
SOUNDTRACK • MORE
|Released||June 22, 1979|
|Written by||Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl|
|Music||Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher|
|Studio||ITC Entertainment / Henson Associates|
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.
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; Sweetums, who works at a car dealership and tries to catch up with the gang throughout their trip; and the inimitable Miss Piggy, who leaps at the chance to accompany the group to Hollywood.
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 scientist, 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.
Once the Muppets reach the Hollywood studio, they finally meet movie mogul Lew Lord, who signs the Muppets to a "standard 'rich and famous' contract." The first attempt to film their movie goes awry when Gonzo crashes into the prop rainbow, and an explosion blows a hole in the roof of the studio. A rainbow shines through the hole and onto the Muppets. The camera pulls out to reveal a sea of Muppets singing in unison. At the movie's end, Sweetums crashes through the screen, having finally caught up with his friends, who congratulate each other during the credits.
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."
- The Muppet Movie began filming on July 5, 1978, and proceeded over 87 days in the summer and fall of that year, during a production break partway through the taping of the third season of The Muppet Show (between Helen Reddy and Harry Belafonte).
- The closing song, known as "The Magic Store/Rainbow Connection Reprise" featured a crowd of more than 250 Muppet characters from The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, and the Land of Gorch sketches on Saturday Night Live -- virtually every Muppet that had been created in the 70s up to that time, with a few exceptions (mainly Sweetums [absent for plot reasons], 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.
- The film was scored by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, and their song "Rainbow Connection" received an Academy Award nomination.
- The movie is dedicated to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, who made his final film appearance in this movie.
- One of the two specially-painted 1951 Studebaker Commanders used in the film resides in the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana.
- 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.
- 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.
- The original outline was titled The Muppet Get-Together.
- 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, a different instrumental track is used for Never Before, and 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).
- When the film aired on ABC Family in January 2014, the following scenes were edited:
- The first of Statler and Waldorf's criticisms ("Private screening?" "Yeah, they're afraid to show it in public.")
- Lew Zealand's interaction with Kermit at the screening.
- A few seconds of the El Sleezo scene, including Fozzie's line "Go, go, on the house" after he tricks the bar clients.
- Some of the Electric Mayhem's goodbyes as Kermit and Fozzie drive away.
- The "Mad Man Mooney's" scene has several minor edits; including some of the Muppets' arrival, Mooney's line "Get out here!", and a bit of Sweetums moving the car.
- A portion of the first far shot of the Bogen County Fair.
- "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along" was removed entirely. After a commercial break, the end of the dinner scene cuts to Steve Martin calling for Kermit, followed abruptly by Kermit talking on the phone to Doc Hopper.
- The theatrical and Magnetic Video releases have the Associated Film Distribution logo, but subsequent home video releases replace it with the Jim Henson Pictures logo.
- Director: James Frawley
- Producer: Jim Henson
- Co-Producer: David Lazer
- Original Music: Paul Williams
- 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
- Special Guest Stars
- Edgar Bergen (and Charlie McCarthy) as themselves
- Milton Berle as Mad Man Mooney
- 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 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, Big Bird
- Background Characters
- Muppet Characters (in alphabetical order)
- Afghan Hound, Alice Otter, Animal, Anything Muppets, Babies (x4), Koozebanian Pups (x4), Baskerville the Hound, Beaker, Beauregard, Beautiful Day Monster, Beaver, Behemoth, Bert, Bertha, Biff, Big Bird, Billy the Bear, Blue AM Kid, Blue Frackle, Brad, Brewster, Brown Bat, Bruce Monster, Bubba, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Camilla the Chicken, Catgut, Canary, Charlie Muskrat, Chickens (x7), Chuck Stoat, Clyde, Cookie Monster, Count von Count, Cousin Monster, Crazy Harry, Cow, Crocodile (x5), Dimples the Dog, Doc Bullfrog, Dogs, Doglion, Doris, Dr. Teeth, Droop, Duke, Emmet Otter, Eric the Parrot, Ernie, Farley, Female Koozebanian Creature, Fleet Scribbler, Fletcher Bird, Floyd Pepper, Fozzie Bear, Frank, Fred Lizard, Fred the Wonder Horse, Frogs (x6), George and Melissa Rabbit, George the Janitor, Georgie, The Gills Brothers, Gladys, Gonzo, Gorgon Heap, Gramps, Gretchen Fox, Green Frackle, Grover, Guy Smiley, Harold, Harrison Fox, Harry Monster, Harvey Beaver, Harvey (bird), Harvey Monster, Herbert Birdsfoot, Herbie the One-Octopus Band, Herry Monster, Hetty Muskrat, Hilda, Howard Snake, James Badger, Janice, Jerry, Jim, Jim Frawley Muppet, J. P. Grosse, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Kangaroo, Kermit the Frog, King Ploobis, 2 Lautrec Sisters, Lenny the Lizard, Lew Zealand, Link Hogthrob, Little Bird, Lobsters (x4), Louis Kazagger, Lou, Lubbock Lou, Luncheon Counter Monster, Mahna Mahna, Male Koozebanian Creature, Mary Louise, Marvin Suggs, Maurice Monster, Mean Mama, Mel, Mildred Huxtetter, Miss Kitty, Miss Mousey, Miss Piggy, Mr. Johnson, Mutt, Muppy, Natalie, The Newsman, Nigel, Old Lady Possum, Oscar the Grouch, Paul Revere, Pigs (x3), Prairie Dawn, Pumpkin AM Man, Queen Peuta, Quongo, Robin the Frog, Ronald Duck, Roosevelt Franklin, Roosevelt Franklin's Mother, Rover Joe, Rowlf the Dog, Sam the Eagle, Scooter, Screaming Thing, Scred, Shakey Sanchez, Sheep, Sherlock Hemlock, Shirley (bird), Shirley and Nat Muskrat, Slim Wilson, Snake Frackle, The Snowths (x2), Sopwith the Camel, Squirrels, Stanley Weasel, Statler and Waldorf, Sully, The Swedish Chef, Swinetrek Crewpigs, Tessie Twiddlebug, Thog, Thomas Twiddlebug, Timmy Monster, Two-Headed Monster, Uncle Deadly, Vazh, Wayne and Wanda, Wendell Porcupine, Whatnots, Will Possum, Winky Pinkerton, Wisss, Yancy Woodchuck, Zeke, Zelda Rose, Zoot
- Creative Consultant: Frank Oz
- Muppet Designers: Caroly Wilcox, Mari Kaestle, Dave Goelz, Kathryn Mullen, Ed Christie, Larry Jameson, Faz Fazakas, Kermit Love, Sherry Amott, Wendy Midener, Janet Lerman-Graff, Bonnie Erickson, Don Sahlin and Amy Van Gilder
- Muppet Workshop Coordinators: John Lovelady, Amy Van Gilder
- Muppet Production Coordinator: Lynn M. Klugman
- Muppet Design Consultant: Michael K. Frith
- Muppet Costume Designer: Calista Hendrickson
- New York Muppet Workshop supervisor: Robert McCormack
- Muppet Visual Consultant: Leigh Malone
- Muppet Technical Coordinators: Richard Holloway, Martin Baker
- Special Thanks to David Odell
- Big Bird courtesy of Children's Television Workshop