A few weeks ago, I had what I expect is the last conversation I will have with a person who doesn’t know that there’s a new Muppet movie coming out in November. A co-worker saw that I was watching the trailer on my computer, and said, oh, are they doing a new movie? And I said, yes! It’s coming out for Thanksgiving, and she said, wow, you must be really excited. And I am really excited, because I was thinking, this is the moment — May 24th, mark it on your calendar — the very last second that a resident of the planet Earth is informed that the Muppets have a new movie coming out.
Because this is it, kids, at long last — the mighty and terrible Walt Disney promotion machine slowly raises its head and turns its bright, glittering attention to a new target. It’s going to take a minute to warm up, because it just finished with the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and then there’s Cars 2 coming out next week.
By the way, did you know there was a new Cars movie coming next week? I’m kidding. Of course you knew that, everybody knows that, there are aboriginal tribes who know about it, there are people in solitary confinement in maximum security prisons who are sick to death of hearing about it. Because they are not a shy people, the men and women of Walt Disney Pictures. They have no secrets. When they get together and make a movie, they say to themselves, damn, this is a good movie. it would be a shame if people missed out on this one. Let’s go tell them all about it.
So here, as they say, it comes. We’ve got Pirates in May, Cars in June, and Winnie the Pooh in July, and then, as far as I can tell, there is exactly nothing on Disney’s agenda but the Muppets, all the way through Christmas.
Which means: go and do a search on Twitter for the words muppets my childhood. It’s amazing. “Just watched the trailer for the new Muppets movie, reminds me of my childhood… Bringing back my childhood one movie at a time… A little bit of awesome from my childhood… SO excited for the new Muppets movie. Hello, revisited childhood.”
Right? So that’s weird.
Cause we’re Muppet fans, and over the next six months, we’re going to hear a lot of people talking like the Muppets haven’t been seen in decades. As far as the world is concerned, the Muppets just up and disappeared at some point, and now they’re making a huge unexpected comeback, and where have they been all this time?
Now, you and I know that the Muppets didn’t go anywhere. They were here this whole time, flirting with Jay Leno and making Pizza Hut commercials with Jessica Simpson. They were on Family Feud and America’s Funniest Home Videos and Extreme Home Makeover. They did a Wizard of Oz movie and they won some Webbys and I think they were involved with NASCAR at one point. It’s all kind of a blur, and all I can say is: thank goodness nobody was paying any attention to that stuff. Because when you think about it, everything since around 1996 was amazingly depressing, wasn’t it? Just one false start after another.
And nobody else remembers that stuff, because they didn’t even notice it at the time. Back in October 1999, I had exactly that same conversation with a co-worker about an upcoming Muppet movie, except it was Muppets From Space, and it was three months after the movie came and went. Remember Muppets From Space? Cause nobody else does. It was very heavily promoted on the Odyssey Channel, a basic cable station which played exclusively in nursing homes.
But never mind! 15 years after they didn’t go anywhere: they’re back! And pretty soon, a whole bunch of people who think Beaker is an obscure character will be Muppet fans again. So before the n00bs arrive — in this moment when I can still write an article for a Muppet fan site and pretty much know all of the people who read it by name — I have some advice about how we should handle ourselves.
#1: Don’t worry about the future. This isn’t going to last. Most things don’t. This might be the beginning of a new renaissance for the Muppets, where they become the multimedia powerhouse brand that they used to be. But they probably won’t. So relax, and just enjoy this crazy moment. Don’t try to analyze Disney’s marketing strategies and fret that they’re not reaching out to kids, or that they’re reaching out to kids too much. If this turns out to be the last time that the Muppets have a big, exciting mainstream project that everyone loves — well, at least we had one more lap around the track.
#2: Don’t correct people. Over the next six months, you’re going to have conversations with people who think that the Muppets stopped when Jim Henson died. They’ll say that they really liked that blue monster, and they don’t mean Beautiful Day; they mean Gonzo. They think that Rizzo is a new character. They always thought it was weird that you only saw Nanny’s shoes.
Take a breath, and resist the urge to correct them. They don’t want an update on everything that’s happened since The Great Muppet Caper. This is their moment too; let them enjoy it.
#3: Ask them who their favorite Muppet is. And then watch how their face changes. It’s the most unbelievable thing. You can ask a perfect stranger who their favorite Muppet is, and they’ll tell you something amazingly intimate about themselves. Either they tell you who they feel like they are inside — “My favorite is Fozzie, because I always felt like I was trying really hard…” — or you get an adorable story about how they played “Miss Piggy and Kermit getting married” with their older sister.
The one thing that you never hear is, “I don’t know, I never really liked any of them.” Everyone has a favorite Muppet, and when you ask them who it is, they reach back into their childhood, and it makes them smile. That’s why we love the Muppets, and that’s why — even if it’s only for a little while — the whole world is going to love the Muppets again.
Click here to enjoy the comeback on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Danny Horn