UPDATED: Muppets Most Wanted Is a Hit at D23

Published: August 11, 2013
Categories: Feature, Reports

Muppets Most Wanted logo
Disney’s big D23 Expo is happening this weekend in Anaheim. We were hoping there would be some news about the upcoming Muppet movie, and Disney didn’t disappoint. We had not one but two Tough Pigs representatives live on the scene, and they both filed reports. Here’s everything you need to know, from two different perspectives. And after the reports, read on for some photos from the expo’s Muppet merchandise area.

Danny Horn:

Here’s what happened at the “Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at the Walt Disney Studios” arena presentation

The whole show was about two hours long, hosted by Alan Horn, the Chairman of Walt Disney Studios (and, sadly, no relation to me). Horn talked a bit about Star Wars, but couldn’t give any real details. Then there was a Marvel section, promoting Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, plus a little teaser for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. After that, there was a nice bit about DisneyNature and the upcoming Bears movie.

Then Sean Bailey took the stage; he’s the President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production. Naturally, the first and most important movie that he talked about was Muppets Most Wanted.

Constantine trailer shotHe starts with a trailer. A pan across England’s crown jewels. “He’s stolen the greatest treasures. He’s escaped the greatest prisons. He’s been called the world’s greatest criminal. And he bears a striking resemblance… to someone you know.” A shot of Constantine, Kermit’s evil double. He looks just like Kermit, except that his eyes are farther apart, and he has a mole on his cheek. Some quick shots of Kermit and the Muppets.

Then: Fozzie and Walter are on a train. Fozzie has a newspaper with a mugshot of Constantine. He puts his finger over Constantine’s mole, and Walter says, “Hey, it’s Kermit!” Fozzie takes his finger away, and Walter is startled: “Gah! What did you do with Kermit? Where did Kermit go?!?”

Some more quick shots, including Ty Burrell and Sam the Eagle driving down a European street in a tiny Interpol car. (Burrell plays Jean Pierre Napoleon, a French Interpol agent.)

Then: Ricky Gervais sitting with the Muppets in the Theater. He shows them his card — “Dominic Badguy, International Tour Manager”. They react to his name — Badguy? He says that it’s pronounced “Bad-Gee”. It’s French. The Muppets all nod, relieved: Ohhh, okay.

More cuts: Constatine and Kermit do the “mirror” act. A dance number onstage with the Mutations. 80s Robot.

napoleonJean Pierre Napoleon and Sam the Eagle introduce themselves. Jean Pierre shows his Interpol badge. Sam shows his CIA badge, which is larger. “That’s my travel badge. This is my real badge.” They one-up each other with larger and larger badges; Sam wins with a 6-foot-tall badge.

Then we’re in a Russian prison, and Tina Fey (playing a Russian guard) throws Kermit roughly into a tiny, dank cell. She walks away, yelling “Lights out!” — and it’s completely dark in the cells. There’s a crash and a clatter — she’s tripped over something. She barks, “Turn them back on. I can’t see anything!”

Muppets Most Wanted: Spring 2014. A big cheer from the audience.

Sean Bailey says that the movie will be out in March. The Muppets are unwittingly wrapped up in a criminal caper. They’re joined by very funny human costars, and of course, lots of celebrity cameos. Bret McKenzie has written the songs.

Bailey says, “This is going to be big. It’s going to be huge.” — and then the curtains behind him part, and there’s Ty Burrell, driving a tiny little car. He parks in front of Bailey.

It’s going to be hard to express in words how small this car actually is. Basically, it looks like Ty Burrell sat down with his legs up to his chin and completely squeezed as tight as he could, and then they wrapped him in foil like a Hershey’s kiss. Then they put wheels on it, and he drove it onstage. It doesn’t look like it’s possible for him to get in and out, let alone drive the thing under its own power.

Ty Burrell D23 hilariously tiny carBut Ty clambers out of this car, like the pro he is. He says, “Usually, it takes a lot longer to get out of that car.” Bailey says, “That must have been something on the 5 coming down here.” Ty: Yeah, but it’s electric, so I got to use the carpool lane.”

Ty says that the car is a little like the Muppets — it’s little, and it makes a lot of weird noises, but it’s a lot of fun. He’s been a Muppet fan since he was a kid, and on his first day on the set, he was just mesmerized by the whole thing. They had to remind him to focus on the Muppets, and not spend so much time watching the puppeteers.

Bailey asks about Ty’s “French” accent. Ty says, “First, if there are any French people here, I apologize.” He talks about playing Jean Pierre Napoleon and being paired with Sam: “We’re basically trading barbs through the whole thing. Really, my accent is just there to annoy Sam.”

Ty says that many of the cast wanted to come to the Expo to see us, but they’re in London, still working on the film. They asked him to learn how to program satellites and set everything up so they could talk to us. Bailey asks who made him do that. Ty: “I don’t think we can use names. Well, Miss Piggy.”

Impossibly, Ty manages to squeeze back into the tiny car and drive offstage again. Bailey asks if we can have the hookup to London.

Miss Piggy appears on the screen: “Kissy kissy! Yes, applaud wildly.” (Nobody is applauding until that moment.) She explains that she’d love to be here with us, but she’s still filming her new “MAJOR MOTION PICTURE.” Since she can’t be here today, she’s prepared a special tribute to us — the world’s greatest fans.

Kermit and Tina Fey enter, wearing white t-shirts with a logo for P23 Expo 2013. Kermit asks why it says P23, and she says it’s for the Piggy Expo, where all of her fans have gathered to celebrate her. Tina: “What’s the 23 for?” Piggy: “My age.” Tina: “Oh. Right.” When Piggy turns around, Tina does a take to the camera and mouths “No.”

Kermit and Tina explain to Piggy that the Expo is for Disney fans. Tina: “I see a lot of mouse ears out there, not pig snouts.” Shocked, Piggy flounces off screen and starts karate chopping people. Kermit and Tina start to squirm a little. Tina: “This t-shirt is beginning to itch.” Kermit: “You might be allergic to pigs.” Piggy, offscreen: “WHAT?” They quickly introduce a clip from the movie.

Dominic and ConstantineThen we get a nice long scene in the Muppet Theater. Everyone’s wondering where Kermit is, and Dominic is trying to calm them down. (We see Fozzie, Gonzo, Piggy, Animal, Scooter and Sweetums. Piggy is holding Foo-Foo.) A frog enters — it’s Constantine, who’s clearly painted the mole on his cheek green. Dominic says, “Hey, it’s Kermit the Frog! He’s come back!” Constantine greets everyone in a thick Russian accent, explaining that he’s happy to be with his friends and they’ll go on adventures, where they learn lots of valuable lessons about sharing and waiting your turn and things.

Nervous, Dominic ushers Constantine up to a dressing room. Constantine tells Dominic to calm down — remember, he’s number one, and Dominic is number two. Dominic groans: I know, you say that all the time. Constantine says that Phase 1 of their plan is complete. Now it’s time for Phase 2, when they pull off the greatest burlgar — blurgal — bruglar… (spluttering) — when we steal the unstealable crown jewels of England. He’ll be famous! Dominic says that he’ll be famous too, and Constantine repeats that he’s #1 and Dominic is #2.

Constantine plays the piano, singing a mocking song about #1 and #2. They move to a stairwell, and Constantine jumps up to dance on a railing. There’s lots of full-figure Constantine jumping around on the railing; it’s fantastic. Constantine orders Dominic to “dance, monkey, dance!” Ricky Gervais is great; he’s got a verse about always being knocked down to #2, and he does a sad little tap dance.

The number ends with Dominic kneeling on the floor, and Constantine jumps up on Dominic’s head to finish the chorus.

Then Scooter knocks on the door. “Kermit, 15 seconds to curt–” He peeks in the door, and sees “Kermit” standing on Dominic’s head. “Uhhhh… okay!” Scooter ducks out and closes the door.

Lots of cheers. The entire Muppets section got a really warm response from the audience, and the song absolutely sold everyone.


Matt Soberman:

tuxedosOn Saturday, August 10th, thousands of Disney fans swarmed the Anaheim Convention Center in the hopes of seeing a sneak peek at the Mouse House’s live-action slate for the next two years. And while some reporters will risk their lives for a story in ways like navigating a perilous jungle or parachuting into the mountains, this intrepid correspondent did the unthinkable: waking up at 4 AM to stand in line for five hours. But it was all in the name of getting an advance look at the movie first and foremost in the discussion of Muppet fans everywhere: Guardians of the Galaxy. Just kidding, of course, I went to get a first look at Muppets Most Wanted! (But seriously, Guardians looks like it could be really good.)

The first glimpse came in a sizzle reel compiled of rapid-fire clips from upcoming Disney movies. The Muppets’ contribution came courtesy of Dominic (played by Ricky Gervais, in case you forgot) persuading the gang to take him on as their road manager, saying things were going to go worldwide. More of this scene was showed later, after the Marvel presentations and Disney saying they had nothing new to report on Star Wars Episode VII. But the Muppets were the leadoff in the Disney side of the presentations.

First, a trailer was shown that delved a little more into the plot than the teaser we saw last week. Here we got to see Constantine attempt to wreak havoc on our fuzzy crew, but more importantly, we got to hear him. Speculation has been flying like boomerang fish as to who is performing this nefarious amphibian. I can’t confirm anything, but given what I heard, it initially sounded like Dave Goelz, but after a while, it seemed like a natural fit for Matt Vogel.

feyQuick gags were shown, including Kermit the Frog being intimidated by Nadya (Tina Fey), who tosses our beloved hero into a prison cell, Fozzie Bear and Walter slowly deducing Constantine’s resemblance to Kermit, Kermit toughening up in prison, presumably to expose the fraud and reclaim his life, and more of the above scene, where Dominic reveals his name is Badguy, but claims its French, so it’s pronounced bad-gee.

But perhaps the biggest scene stealer in the trailer, and what might set the tone for the movie, is the repartee between Sam the Eagle and Inspector Jean Pierre Napoleon, played to the hilt by Ty Burrell. Napoleon, an Interpol agent, has to contend with Sam, who is now working (presumably) for the CIA. A rivalry erupts between the uber-French Napoleon and the all-American eagle, leading to a great one-upsmanship battle to see who has the biggest badge when they arrive on the scene to investigate.

Following the trailer, Burrell arrived onstage in the same mini roadster, named Le Maxium, that we saw in the teaser, and took a moment just to try to get out of the darn thing. In a quick interview, Burrell revealed that there would be another scene where Sam and Napoleon are spending the night somewhere, and there is a fight for the bed. Other than that, it was the standard issue “it’s great to work with the Muppets” talk (but we already know that the Muppets are great), and then he introduced, “live” via satellite from London where Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fey were supposedly filming.

Miss Piggy gave her warmest regards to her biggest fans, the audience, thinking they were at the P23 Expo, a celebration of all things Piggy. But when Kermit explained it was the D23 Expo, naturally, the pig had a fit. But that was only the setup to the big finish: a first look at one of Bret McKenzie’s new musical numbers, this one featuring Constantine and Dominic.

gotnostringsAfter the switch is made, and Constantine assumes Kermit’s role, “Kermit” says that he is handing all decisions over to Dominic, then retreats to the real Kermit’s office, where he celebrates the success of his plan and reminds Dominic of his place in the relationship (and international criminal standings) with the song “I’m Number One, You’re Number Two.” We saw the bunraku Constantine that was in the teaser, as well as Dominic dancing by his own, also in the teaser. It’s a fun little song that sets up a close but uneasy relationship between the two (at least on Dominic’s end).

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the fact that despite the first word of the movie’s title gives away who the real stars of the film are, no Muppets showed up. This surprised me, given that the Muppets have appeared at both of the previous D23 Expos to promote the then-upcoming The Muppets. A number of people around me were also shocked at the lack of fuzzy presence. Hopefully this isn’t an indicator of the gang’s confidence in the film, because Muppets Most Wanted aims to bring the funny, and it should be one to enjoy early next year.


Thanks, Matt and Danny! But that’s not all…


The Muppets were also represented in the Consumer Products pavilion at the expo. Here are some photos from our friends at Muppet Wiki. First, here’s a view of the Muppet section:

D23 Consumer Products area from Muppet Wiki

The area on the side is for people to draw their favorite Muppets. Amazingly, nobody seems to have drawn Doglion.

D23 draw your favorite Muppet from Muppet Wiki

Here’s another angle on that, tweeted by the official Muppets Studio account:

D23 Muppet drawing wall by Muppets Studio

There was some existing merchandise on display…

D23 existing merchandise from Muppet Wiki
As well as some new stuff, like this Animal beanie:

D23 Animal Beanie from Muppet Wiki
And this Gonzo beanie:

D23 Gonzo Beanie from Muppet Wiki
So despite the absence of living, breathing Muppets, this D23 was a pretty good one for Muppet fans.

Is it March 2014 yet?

Click here to put your finger over Constantine’s mole on the Tough Pigs forum!

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