Reflections on the Eve of Muppets

Published: November 16, 2011
Categories: Commentary, Feature

Well, there it is.  My ticket to see the motion picture The Muppets at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York tomorrow night.


There was a time when I came to accept the harsh likelihood that there would probably never be another big-budget, theatrically released Muppet movie.  Back then, that was a reasonable assumption.  Muppets From Space and its box office performance made everyone sad and then faded into obscurity, and even when Disney bought the Muppets, we spent years wondering if they would ever really figure out what to do with them.  I assumed we’d keep on getting the occasional TV specials and TV movies, and maybe some direct-to-DVD productions and internet videos.  And perhaps the steady stream of uninspired merchandise would contine, as if we didn’t have enough Kermit dolls on our shelves already.  But there was no reason to believe the Disney guys were motivated to spend the money, time and effort necessary to make the Muppets a Big Deal in entertainment like they used to be.

But look at the Muppets now!  They have a huge new movie coming out!  And everyone in the world knows about it!  And look at us now!  The fans are more excited about a new Muppet thing — heck, about anything — than we’ve been in years and years!  And this time, it looks like we might actually have good reason to be!

When I go to my favorite pop culture websites, I see headlines about Muppets practically every day.  When I go to work, I pass a bus stop with an ad featuring Animal’s giant close-up face.  When I get to work, my boss tells me his kids have been reciting lines from the movie’s TV commercials, and when I get back home, I see those commercials during every show.

When I check my e-mail and Facebook, friends and family members and complete strangers are sending me news stories and blog posts and videos, all preceded with the question “Have you seen this Muppet thing over here?  Have you seen this other Muppet thing over there?  What about that other other Muppet thing over yonder?” During any other period of time, the answer would be yes, because I care about Muppets more than most people do.  But the truth is, I can’t even keep up anymore, because the Muppets are EVERYWHERE, and we fans have just been swimming in Muppets these last few weeks, trying not to drown in a sea of dogs and frogs and bears and chickens and things. (But what a way to go!)

There’s a whole library of new Muppet books out now or coming soon.  There’s a movie soundtrack and a tribute album.  There are Muppet dolls, and Muppet headphones, and Muppet makeup, and I could come up with a funny joke here, like “I’m pretty sure I saw a Muppet waffle maker,” but chances are pretty good that such a thing will actually exist by the time I finish typing this sentence.

Oh yeah, and there’s an actual movie coming out too.  In the intro for my timeline of the movie’s development, I said I didn’t even need the movie to ever come out, because it’s been exciting enough  just anticipating it.  I was mostly joking, but you know what?  I wasn’t joking.  It’s been so much fun reacting to every little tidbit of news along the way with all my Muppet fan homies.  We were cautiously optimistic about Jason Segel and Nick Stoller writing a Muppet movie.  We were suspicious of reports that Walter’s voice would be dubbed by a celebrity.  We were thrilled beyond belief to discover that a ton of characters had been rebuilt or refurbished, characters nobody except us has ever heard of.  We debated endlessly about “fart shoes,” its meaning, and its long-term implications for the future of the franchise in the Disney era.  No, really, that’s what we did.

I’ve had a great time riding the New Muppet Movie Roller Coaster, and I don’t want it to end, but I know that at some point it has to conclude with actually seeing the movie.  This whole time, my basic mantra has been: “I hope it’s good.  I hope it’s good.  I hope it’s good.”  So far, evidence overwhelmingly suggests that it will be, and that I and the rest of America will enjoy it.  But there’s always that nagging uncertainty, and that part of my brain that can’t ignore the less-than-positive reports no matter how loudly I sing “Life’s a Happy Song” in an attempt to drown it out.  As I started writing this article, I tried to think of another big event movie for which my excitement level was comparable, and the first thing that popped into my head was The Phantom Menace.  And we all know how that turned out.

So let me put my expectations into a nice, concise list to keep them in check.  I’ve probably expressed these sentiments here before, but here are the Top Three Things I’m Hoping For When I See The Muppets:
1. I hope I laugh a lot.
2. I hope the musical numbers are good.
3. I hope the Muppets act like themselves.
4. I hope Lew Zealand throws some fish.

Okay, so that was four things.  But you know what?  I can distill my hopes even further, into a single statement: I hope I have the urge to see the movie again as soon as it’s over.  If not sooner.

By the end of the day tomorrow, I’ll have a real opinion of The Muppets — an opinion not shaped by rumors, hints and spoilers, but by actually having seen the movie.  And before long, the rest of the world will have an opinion too.  Maybe it’ll be humongous, and Disney will want to start planning the next movie right away, and then our speculation machine will start crankin’ all over again.  Or maybe it will be a disappointment, and we’ll never get a new anything from the Muppets again.  But either way, I’m just happy to have experienced the era of Muppet Domination.

And hey, no matter what happens, we’ll always have Miss Poogy!

Come back Friday for a review (of the new Muppet movie)!  And click here to share your tingling feelings of anticipation on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Ryan Roe –

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