Must There Be a Fraggle Film?

Published: June 18, 2012
Categories: Commentary, Feature

In the past few weeks, entertainment news sites and blogs have gotten really excited over the announcement that the Jim Henson Company is working on a Fraggle Rock movie. These people either have short memories or they just don’t spend 35% of their time thinking about Fraggles like we do, because Henson has been talking about this movie for at least six years.

It was October 2006 when the Henson Company sent out a press release with the headline “THE RUMORS ARE TRUE! Fraggle Rock Feature is in the Works!” This was about two years after the Henson Company had sold the Muppet Show franchise to Disney, so I’m pretty sure the Henson people woke up one day and went, “Oh, crap! We got rid of our most popular and lucrative characters! What do we do now?!” So with Kermit, Fozzie and Piggy having left the building, they decided to make a movie about Gobo, Mokey, Wembley, Boober, and Red.

At this point, it was stated that Ahmet Zappa would be writing the treatment for the film, and it was generally assumed that he would be writing the script as well. Fraggle fans all over the world were jazzed: Fraggles! Movie!

In the months after the 2006 announcement, we were bombarded with a complete lack of further updates. That finally ended in May 2008, when Henson and The Weinstein Company unleashed a new press release declaring that they were joining forces on a Fraggle film. Mr. Zappa was now listed as a producer, while Hoodwinked auteur Cory Edwards was now on board to write and direct. Once again, fans got themselves worked up: A partnership with the Weinstein Company? Now this Fraggle movie thing is really gonna happen, yaaaaaay!

Then we had a few more years in which the FRAGGLE MOVIE NEWS section of the newspaper was blank every day. Although during that time Cory Edwards occasionally posted about the project on his blog, usually to say that the movie wasn’t getting made yet. You may also recall some hubbub when Tough Pigs’ own Joe Hennes got his hands on an early draft of the script and reviewed it here. Eventually, the Weinstein Company deal fell apart like an unstable Doozer tower, and it seemed like that was that.

But just recently, the Hollywood Reporter reported (from Hollywood) that the movie is going forward, with the Montecito Picture Company co-producing. The script will be written by Alex Manugian, who used to work at Cartoon Network, and Jim Byrkit. Byrkit co-wrote the Oscar-winning animated film Rango, in which Johnny Depp played a talking lizard who is aspires to be a great actor and accidentally becomes the sheriff of an old west town. It was the most normal role Depp has played in years.

So once more the fans are atingle from head to baloobius. And yet, throughout this whole process of stops and starts, I have never been able to get excited about the prospect of this movie. I love Fraggle Rock, I think it’s one of the best TV shows ever, and I understand why folks are intrigued by the idea of new stuff. But while you may think you want a new Fraggle Rock movie, I’m here to tell you to be careful what you wish for.

Hiring the writer of a critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning all-ages movie is a smart move. I recently watched Rango (which is available to watch instantly on Netflix as of this writing), and it was pretty good. It was funny, it had some strange, memorable characters, and it was full of stuff that kids would probably be entertained by even though they wouldn’t fully understand it. There was even some music, in the form of an owl mariachi band that serves as a Greek chorus (beak chorus?). All of which is the kind of thing we would hope to see in a Fraggle movie. If there has to be a Fraggle movie, it’s much better off the hands of one of the Rango guys than if they had hired, say, one of the writers of 2010’s Yogi Bear.

But my point here is that there does not have to be a Fraggle movie. There are three primary reasons for this:

1. None of the original creators will be involved.

And by creators, I mean writers. After recent public appearances by Red, Traveling Matt, and Wembley, it seems likely that some of the original puppeteers would sign up for a movie, which would be great.  But while they were an essential part of Fraggle Rock, the writers are the ones who, you know, wrote everything.

We’ve heard all these names attached to the script for this thing: Zappa, Edwards, Manugian and Byrkit. But not once have we ever heard names like Jocelyn Stevenson, Laura Phillips, Sugith Varughese, David Young, Bob Sandler… Those are some of the writers from the Fraggle Rock series who are still around, and you’d think that if the producers want to make a good Fraggle movie they’d go to the folks who made the show. Even if it’s just to serve as the production’s Trash Heap, in a creative consultant capacity, it would be nice to see one of those people involved.

Of course it’s possible that they have asked some of those writers, and they declined. But if the Henson Company is determined to make this movie happen, wouldn’t it be nice to have some link to the team who made the Fraggles great in the first place?

2. The Fraggle Rock TV series concluded with a perfect ending, 25 years ago.

Unlike The Muppet Show, whose characters have kept appearing in new stuff since the series went off the air, the Fraggles had an ending.  It’s unusual for a children’s show to even have a final episode, but “Change of Address” was a doozy. It’s uplifting, it’s spiritually deep, and it’s so good we can even overlook the fact that Doc moving to the desert to continue being neighbors with Ned Shimmelfinney doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It was the last word on the Fraggle universe, and we’ve done just fine without any new stuff so far.

Where could they possibly go with a new story? They’re not going to want to establish the movie as taking place 25 years later… The Fraggles would all be approaching middle age, and who wants to see Red with gray pigtails? So they’d probably end up ignoring all previous semblance of continuity, which is the kind of thing that makes the fans cringe.

And anyway, Fraggle Rock was the product of a very specific group of people combining their talents at a very specific time.  I know Marjory told us we cannot leave the magic, but what are the chances of a new Fraggle production having the same charm over two decades after the show concluded? Especially in today’s cold, filthy, cynical world.  Which brings me to my next number…

3. Most movie relaunches of beloved old childrens’ properties are crappy.

The aforementioned Yogi Bear is just the tip of the icebear… Need I mention Alvin & the Chipmunks, The Smurfs, Garfield, and Alvin & the Chipmunks II: Chiplectric Chipaloo?

To be fair, Fraggle Rock would be starting from a better place because the source material was superior to begin with. But as we continue to recover from the harrowing nightmare that was Fozzie’s fart shoes, how can we be sure a Fraggle movie wouldn’t be laced with potty jokes, which seems to be all the rage in kids’ movies these days? Somewhere out there is a movie executive who thinks it would be terrific for the kids if Sprocket urinated on Wembley in the first act. Can we really take that chance?

So those are my grumpy, whiny arguments against the making of a Fraggle Rock movie. And what they all come down to is this: There is no possible way a Fraggle Rock movie could be as good as the show. Do you agree with me? Disagree with me? Wish I would get stomped by a Gorg? Feel free to join in the conversation on the Tough Pigs forum! We have plenty of time to talk about it until the next Fraggle Rock movie announcement, which I expect to show up sometime around 2017.

Click here to accidentally become the sheriff of an old west town on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Ryan Roe –


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