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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What Can The Muppets Do Next? by Nicholas Napoli

The last seven years have been exciting for Muppets Fans around the world, we waited patiently since the last millennium and finally 2011 gave us The Muppets back on the big screen with a successful turnaround. Meanwhile for the next few years The Muppets were taking over YouTube, late night talk shows, commercials, magazines, bus stop ads, The Disney Store, they were everywhere and in 2014 they returned with another movie... again. 

In 2015 after almost twenty years the Muppets also returned to prime time TV with their own weekly show. Sadly The Muppets have still not been renewed for a second season but remember this, Prison Break is airing Season 5 eight years after Season 4 ended, who is to say The Muppets can’t take a year or two off to concentrate on themselves before returning for a better and even stronger second season. Give Kermit some time to think and sing his troubles away at the swamp with his nephew Robin and for Miss Piggy to go on an around the world shopping spree with her new BFF Uncle Deadly. Meanwhile the rest of the Muppets can band together without their two leaders and refurbish and rebuild the old Muppet theatre with the help of the Theoretical Mafia. As a Muppet Fan I prefer to hold out hope for a season two renewal as opposed to hoping for another movie or even another TV Show a few years down the line. When Muppets Tonight ended I never thought it would take this long for us Fans to get another TV Show, it took about twenty years, I don’t want to take the same risk twice.

After The Muppets (2011) became a hit with audiences (including me) we were ready for a new Muppet show, one that reminded us of the original not so much because we felt nostalgic but rather because The Muppets first movie in over twelve years got us excited and hyped for them to get back together and put on a show again. Their next movie had the Muppet take their show across the globe on a grand world tour, that alone in my opinion would have been a good premise for the follow up film. The plot involving Constantine would have made a great two part episode arc for the TV Series and would have allowed Constantine to make occasional appearance as Kermit’s doppelganger foe throughout. Although my personal preference would have been to continue the pattern that no Muppet movie is connected to each other. 

I remember when I was a kid and watching The Great Muppet Caper I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Kermit and Miss Piggy didn’t know each other, they had met in The Muppet Movie, how did they not remember each other now? Kermit points out various times that this was a movie but as a child that would go over my head. I was used to the pattern that sequels continued the story where the first one ended so this did not make sense to me. As I grew older I realized each movie was its own individual standalone story, I’m glad the Muppets broke that pattern of thinking for me. Perhaps this is why The Muppets have made seven sequels and still keep the quality in storytelling, they have no guide lines to follow. For the first time Muppets Most Wanted (2014) continues exactly where the previous movie left off and again we are hyped at the fact that the Muppets are together again planning to put on a show. The anticipation over three years is too much, finally perform a full Muppet Show for us already.

In 2014 we learn the Muppets have been picked up for their own TV show, sadly many did not get what we were expecting. I understand trying new things but one of the biggest criticisms about Muppets Tonight was the fact that Clifford was the host and not Kermit, I understand why Miss Piggy had to be the host but in my opinion it was Kermit who should have been hosting whatever show they were planning. This is why I am excited for a second season because the way the last few episodes played out they were hinting that this is what we would get. Unfortunately the introduction of Muppet sketches including the return of Vets Hospital as well as a combination of The Swedish Chef’s Kitchen and Muppet Labs was introduced to late in the season. The grand return of many classic Muppet characters filling up the Muppet cast greatly happened in the last two episodes, they should have been there since the beginning. 

I think The Muppets Season One would have worked much better had they implanted the ideas at the end at the beginning and those at the beginning at the end. For example we should have had a whole season to get to meet a huge cast of Muppets whilst Kermit and Miss Piggy should have broken up in the last two episodes, not before the show even premiered. The Muppets should not only take advantage of their wide selection of characters but they must also remember how important Muppet Whatnots are to the franchise as well. It should be clear that in the world of The Muppets you can call a plumber and either a Human, a Muppet Whatnot or even a Muppet Rat will arrive to do the job for you yet a group of around thirty Muppets band together as a team to put on a show in a world full of Muppets. Most of the Muppets introduced after The Muppet Show tend to disappear after a few years, why introduce new characters only to forget about them later? Luckily Pepe, Bobo Bear, Big Mean Carl, Yolanda Rat and Bean Bunny did not suffer this fate but unfortunately so far Walter is nowhere to be found. Walter is the Muppet of the people, the new generation of fans, the Muppets light to Statler and Waldorf’s darkness. A fan of everything not just The Muppets, uncontrollable OCD, Walter is the perfect character to use when explaining past Muppet moments or current new trends, why forget about such a great and useful character within the Muppet community. 

Kermit and Miss Piggy’s estranged relationship should be further explored and not simply ignored. If not through their TV Show have them return to talk shows discussing their relationship, fight about it or at least reunite at a public event, this is something that needs to be dealt with before any other production is produced besides The Muppets Season Two. The video below is one of my favourite Kermit and Miss Piggy guest appearances throughout the years, I would really like to see more of this.


What I’ve come to learn when people try to help is that most people simply criticize, at times that can be helpful but if you truly want to help think about what can be done next, think not about the past but about the future, as a fan my future for the Muppets is a hopeful season two renewal. I could start an online campaign, I could write an article about Muppet toys, I could share a funny Muppet video on my Facebook wall but as Fans we can also share our ideas in the hopes at a bright future for The Muppets. The way I see it at this moment the Muppets need to continue being relevant and mainstream on practically a daily basis, after struggling for seven years to reach this point it would be a shame to slowly lose those new fans. How to keep the Muppets strong without fading away from their current popularity and without the help of a new movie or TV series to place them back in the spotlight?

The Muppets need to take over the world wide web, they generally tend to be funnier, more entertaining and at their best for non-Muppet fans when served in smaller doses. This is why the YouTube videos work so well, that is why The Muppet Show format worked so well. People use the internet more than they use the bathroom, the Muppets need to keep in contact with their audience, they have a YouTube channel, a Facebook page and a Twitter account and probably a website somewhere, online is where they need to concentrate on at the moment. Some of my most enjoyable Muppet content from the last few years have been the YouTube videos, I’m particularly fond of Jungle Boogie, Flowers On The Wall and Kodachrome. The Muppet YouTube channel would be best used in my opinion to provide new content whilst the Muppets Facebook page would be better off focusing on classic Muppet productions/sketches which for most younger fans will appear to be “new” Muppet videos whilst older fans can smile whilst reminiscing about their childhood. I would be excited to see a random old Muppet show sketch pop up on my Facebook wall thanks to The Muppets. Some examples would include Mahna-Mahna, Java, Hugga-Wugga, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, Put The Lime In The Coconut, Octopus’s Garden, Time In A Bottle and Two Lost Souls just to name a few.

Last year marked the grand return of the Swinetrek Crew and with only two out of four episodes available on YouTube I hope we see them again soon. As a fan this is what excites me the most, this is what I want to see more of and as a non-fan a two minute Muppet video seems more appealing than watching an entire episode or movie. I hope this pattern continues and that other classic The Muppet Show sketches continue to make a revival on YouTube. They have so many options including but not limited to Bears on Patrol (poking fun at today’s ridiculous justice system), Vets Hospital (poking fun at today’s silly health scare problems), Muppet Labs (poking fun at the future we’re heading for) and The Swedish Chef’s Kitchen (the world needs more talking Burgers).

Gonzo’s Wild Stunts, Fozzie’s Comedy Acts, Pepe’s Celebrity Interviews and Muppet Newsflash segments poking fun at today’s world happenings with a light hearted Muppet touch to it. The important thing here is that the sketches need to be clever and entertaining enough that the fact that a Muppet character is hosting is not necessarily the “share this video” reason for it. Perhaps these sketches can eventually be combined to create a ten minute The
Muppet Web Show where Kermit would introduce three sketches with at least one of them featuring a celebrity guest star.

The Muppets should also make it a new tradition to take over Christmas every year, for some reason Christmas is one of the Muppets biggest strengths, they both work so well together. 

The Muppets have quite a selection of Christmas productions available but when you consider the fact that A Muppet Family Christmas contains characters from Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock that is one less Muppet Christmas production we’re likely to see. Seeing as how Disney doesn’t own the rights to release John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together or It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie that leaves them with only two Muppet Christmas productions. The Muppets Christmas Carol and The Muppet’s Letters To Santa, a new Muppet Christmas special to look forward to watching with the family every year would be a great Christmas gift for us fans, Disney should expand on their Muppet Christmas library. 

Moving away from the Christmas theme Muppet specials in general have always worked very well in the past and I’m surprised we have not seen more of them even if they are released directly to DVD. 

Speaking of DVD’s where are The Muppet Show Season 4 and 5 DVD Sets? Whilst we’re at it where is the rerelease of The Muppet Show Seasons 1-3 on Blu-Ray and the complete collection for Muppets Tonight? Let’s assume it’s due to music right or even low sales and perhaps if the latter that is why other classic Muppet content has not been released on any format since Disney purchased The Muppets. If these production aren’t going to be released any time soon why not share them online? I think the Muppets need to take advantage of the Luke Skywalker, C3P0 and R2D2 episode of The Muppet Show around the same time Star Wars Episode 8 premiers. I’m not really into Star Wars but I do know much of the anticipation for Episode 8 is the return of Luke Skywalker. If The Muppets aged in real life and I had the chance to see something I had not seen before in which Kermit had been part of in his younger years and playing the character I most remember him as rather than himself then you can be sure I’d go crazy over it, I imagine the same thing applies to Star Wars fans. I think many Muppet fans both old and new would find each of the six individual Muppet Classic Theatre fairy tales both entertaining and new as these have not been seen in years. These could be made available for Fans via the Muppets YouTube Channel or even as a random surprise posted by The Muppets on their Facebook page.

There are many Muppet productions I hope get the Blu-Ray treatment but since all we ever seem to get is rereleases of the various Muppet movies I’ll ask only one thing, no more The Muppet Movie Golden Camilla Edition’s. If you’re going to give us another The Muppet Movie release please do it right, otherwise I can’t justify buying yet another copy. 

The Muppet Movie: The Rainbow Connection Collection Bonus Features Include: The Muppets Go Hollywood – Miss Piggy’s Hollywood Various versions of The Rainbow Connection – Muppets Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony Commentary by Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie,owlf, Scooter, Floyd and Walter – Deleted Scenes Commercials – Interviews – Walter’s Muppet Film History – Backstage Footage The Muppet Show Episodes Guest Starring: Paul Williams, Bob Hope, Milton Bearl, James Coburn, Edgar Bergen, Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman and Dom DeLuise.

The nostalgic factor is very important and nowadays it seems like every franchise is using this sneaky technique to get us to spend our money and I’m glad it’s working, for the most part I’m enjoying it. In the case of The Muppets they’ve been around for years, they’ve never stopped. When you’re a Muppet it’s hard to become nostalgic but certain aspects of these characters are able to be such as any time Kermit sings The Rainbow Connection. In my opinion the nostalgic factor the Muppets have going for them are the red curtains, the classic sketches, the variety show format, the two old men heckling from their balcony box and perhaps even Muppet guest spots. At one point parents who had grown up as kids watching The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) were excited to take their own kids to the theatre to see the latest Muppet movies to be realised once they grew up. 

Those kids who were dragged by their parents to the cinema to watch The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996) and perhaps even Muppets From Space (1999) are the kids who have now grown up and took their own kids to watch The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014). I am a 90’s kid and so the first Muppet film I remember watching in the cinema was Muppet Treasure Island and thanks to The Disney Channel The Muppets Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island played enough times to become important to other kids who also watched The Disney Channel during the 90’s... if there were any others besides me watching. Seeing the Muppets dressed up and taking on roles from literature is what at this moment most adults my age consider a nostalgic Muppet factor alongside the red curtains. I remember as a kid I was opposed to the idea of the Muppets playing other characters but now I actually welcome the idea. A new series of books titled Muppets Meet The Classics was recently announced with the first book in the series allowing Uncle Deadly to take on the starring role in The Phantom of The Opera. I am very excited to read these, the most exciting part is imagining which Muppet will play which character.

We might have lost the giant Kermit balloon at MGM Studios, the Muppet fountain might be under refurbishment yet slowly The Muppets are making a bigger presence at Disney World and that will always be a good thing. I remember excitedly rushing into MGM Studios when I was thirteen years old hoping to spot Muppet Vision 3D before my parents decided to sit us down for lunch. The best thing about The Muppets is that unlike Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck the “real” Muppets can be introduced to guests at the park rather than having walk-around versions of the characters. 

When I went to Disney World it was exciting seeing all these
Disney characters including Kermit and Miss Piggy walking around the park. It was nowhere near as exciting nor as realistic as when I entered the Muppet Vision 3D theatre and saw Statler and Waldorf heckling live from their balcony box or when Sweetums walked into the theatre searching for Bean Bunny. Last year Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie and Sam the Eagle made the move to Disney World and take part in a live show at the Magic Kingdom titled The Muppets Presents... Great Moments in
American History. 

I’m thrilled that this is happening, more Muppets at Disney World is always a good thing but from what I’ve seen of the show it feels a little slow and I would personally prefer it to be a little more interactive with its audience. Perhaps Kermit shaped gold chocolate coins could be tossed out the window by Fozzie and Gonzo against Sam the Eagle’s wishes allowing the children watching to excitedly gather the coins. Audio-Animatronic versions of Dr Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker also reside at Disney World travelling across the park in their 2007
invention Muppet Mobile Labs. 

I think this is a very clever way to have The Muppets interact with the guests throughout the park without having to solely rely on puppets and ways of hiding the puppeteer from the park guests. 

More of these would be very welcomed, imagine The Electric Mayhem Bus travelling around MGM Studios with either audio-animatronic or old fashioned puppetry used to bring The Electric Mayhem to life playing their instruments out the window whilst providing music around the park. This idea would also work with Gonzo stuck inside a canon being pushed around by Sweetums and with Kermit and a group of Frog singing songs and interacting with guests from a fountain swamp type setting.

Rizzo has also opened up a small business within Disney World and now after watching Muppet Vision 3D you can dine at PizzeRizzo. 

Sadly other than the name and a few Muppet pictures hanging on the wall it doesn’t really feel like a Muppet restaurant, having real Rats wearing bowties serve your food would be a step in the right direction. Imagine having a kitchen window closed off by shutters, when these shutters open what appears to be a window leading into the kitchen is actually a giant television screen. Each time the shutters open something different is visible through the kitchen window such as Muppet Rats preparing your pizzas or even The Swedish Chef fighting off Italian Meatball Mobsters. Lastly before leaving Disney World and having to wait for the bus make sure to finish your magical Disney World experience by visiting Gonzo’s Royal Flush. How come Miss Piggy has still not been crowned a Disney Princess? Should Janice be crowned first Miss Piggy would go mental.

It’s clear that so many generations have grown up with The Muppets that when a new movie premieres the cinemas will be packed with parents and their children, now getting the children
excited to be taken to see the movie is another thing. Toys and Apps this is the best way for Muppets to reach out to kids these days, I’m not much for games but last year I downloaded my first game and spent over six weeks hurdling angry birds at green pigs and because of this I found myself excited to watch The Angry Birds Movie.

After playing Angry Birds I soon discovered Flappy Bert Warning: after playing this game the name Ernie will forever frustrate you. Happy Penguins, Crazy Chickens, Hungry Rats, Build A Muppet Whatnot Village, Gonzo’s Weird Stunts, Fozzie Bear’s Bad Joke Tomato Dodger, Marvin Sugg’s Muppaphone Musical Challenge, so many ideas for simple games that would hopefully get kids excited to see these characters within future Muppet productions. Mahna-Mahna: Doo-Doo-Do It would find Mahna-Mahna singing along jumping over a row of coloured Snowths, each coloured Snowth makes a different noise, the first level would obviously be easy and based to the tune of Mahna-Mahna meaning Mahna-Mahna (character) would only have to jump on pink Snowths to get the correct sound for his song. Muppet Toys! 

I wrote a whole article about this over a month ago. We have plenty of toys coming our way but you know what I think is lacking? Muppet soft toys. Are background characters from Monsters Inc. more deserving or even recognisable in a few years in plush form compared to Sam the Eagle, Floyd, Dr Teeth, Janice, Zoot or Sweetums amongst others? Having a wide selection of Muppet characters to choose from does not only make fans happy but allows Disney to observe which characters are more popular than others, they are nowhere near as expensive to make as action figures, it’s easier to find shelf space in stores and damn it I want a Sweetums plush.

Spin-Off shows are very popular these days and in 2018 The Muppets will be taking advantage of this by reintroducing the Muppet Babies to a new generation of kids. This sounds like a great idea and from what I can see in the picture above it’s moving in the right direction. I do hope this new show is not just limited to a select group of Muppet characters represented as babies. 

Something The Muppets need to remember is that they have a large cast of characters and the more characters you throw at people the better chance you have that they’ll find a favourite. Up Late With Miss Piggy was also a good idea for a show perhaps it would have worked better as an actual show rather than a show within a show. Up Late With The Muppets, now that is something I would stay up late to watch every night, if not why not give Sweetums a go at his own show, Up Late With Sweetums. The host is the face of any late night talk show but when you can place a team of various individuals inside a Monster then that face is always there but the work load is much lighter. In 2001 the Muppets performed The Muppet Show Live and in 2016 The Electric Mayhem performed their first live concert at Outside Lands Music Festival and this September The Muppets are heading to the Hollywood Bowl. This is exactly what the Muppets can do that no other non-human franchise can, they can make live appearances and should take advantage of this more often. 

Was there not a rumour a while ago that The Muppets were heading for Broadway? That sound like a very logical next step if you ask me, if Shrek can make it work on Broadway I’m sure The Muppets can make it too.

Nicholas Napoli

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