The old Muppets guard—a group of writers and performers involved in creating the franchise—is eager for the neglected troupe to shine again, almost desperate in their longing for the film to work. But though they have not yet seen it, some wonder whether screenwriter and star [Jason] Segel—an obsessed Muppets fan—has a true grasp of the characters they helped create.
Huh. That's from The Hollywood Reporter, which recently posted a big story about how a bunch of the Muppeteers are worried that the new movie is GOING TO RUIN EVERYTHING. Here, have a giant block quote:
The concern among Muppets insiders is that Segel and director James Bobin (a writer on Da Ali G Show and Flight of the Conchords) didn't have a complete understanding of the Muppets characters or were willing to sacrifice the characters' integrity to land a joke. "They're looking at the script on a joke-by-joke basis, rather than as a construction of character and story," says one.
A small example is in one of the many trailers Disney has released, when Fozzie makes a fart joke. "We wouldn't do that; it's too cheap," says another Muppets veteran. "It may not seem like much in this world of [Judd] Apatow humor, but the characters don't go to that place."
There is a list of similar concerns: Kermit would never live in a mansion, as he does in this movie. The Muppets, depicted in the script as jealous of Kermit's wealth, would not have broken up in bitterness. The script "creates a false history that the characters were forced to act out for the sake of this movie," says an old Muppets hand.
"I'm very hopeful the characters are as warm and loving to each other as they were when Jim was directing," says Bonnie Erickson, executive director of the Jim Henson Legacy, dedicated to keeping his work in the public eye. Erickson, who designed and built the original Miss Piggy, says she's "very excited" that Disney is putting so much energy into bringing the Muppets back but acknowledges that she's nervous. "I'm hoping the standard of excellence that Jim set is maintained," she says.
Frank Oz, the most famous living Muppets performer—known best as Miss Piggy—spoke more harshly in a recent interview with the British paper Metro. "I wasn't happy with the script," he said bluntly. "I don't think they respected the characters. But I don't want to go on about it like a sourpuss and hurt the movie."
So is it just me or are these people sounding... kinda Waldorf and Statler-y?
I'm not defending the new Muppets movie without having seen it—who knows, it might turn out to be terrible!—but as someone who grew up with the Muppets, I've been pretty impressed by all the trailers so far, not to mention Segel's near-rabid enthusiasm. This thing looks fresh and sharp and funny and sweet—in other words, the opposite of all the other Muppet things that've come out since the last decent Muppet movie, 1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan. Here's what the Muppets have been up to in the meantime, or at least what they were up to when they weren't gathering dust in Disney's basement: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets from Space (1999), two TV movies (It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie  and The Muppets' Wizard of Oz ), and depressing ads for Pizza Hut Cheesy Bites Pizza. There's a reason you don't remember like, any of those movies, and a reason why little kids don't know/care about who Kermit and Fozzie are: The Muppets have had it rough for a while.
Maybe Oz and Erickson and all of those Muppet people who wouldn't go on the record are right—maybe the new Muppet movie will, in fact, dumb things down and not live up to our memories of when a bunch of felt puppets and the people behind 'em were some of the best things pop culture had to offer. But I'm rooting for Segel, et al., in this fight—because if they pull this off like it looks like they have, the Muppets could be great again. And also? A world full of crappy Muppet TV movies and people grumbling about how the Muppets used to be better in their day isn't one I want to live in. That world would be terrible. That's the sort of world where people would eat at Doc Hopper's Frog Legs.