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MoMI Jim Henson exhibit photo
MoMI Jim Henson exhibit

Kickstarter: Help Museum of the Moving Image crowdfund a permanent Jim Henson exhibition

MoMI right along *banjo*
Apr 13
// Hubert Vigilla
Jim Henson was one of the most creative and beloved people who ever worked in television or film. If you ask most people of a certain age, they'll usually express some sort of indebtedness to Jim Henson's imagination; if you ...

Muppets showrunner and co-creator steps down

Show will get a "soft reboot" in spring
Nov 05
// Matt Liparota
ABC's The Muppets is one of the network's highest-rated comedies in years, but it's been taken to task by critics. That's why it's only somewhat surprising to hear that that showrunner and co-creator Bob Kushell has left the ...
Muppet drama! photo
Muppet drama!

Kermit and Miss Piggy split up alongside details of new docu-style show

These puppet relationships never last
Aug 05
// John-Charles Holmes
Prior to a Television Critic's Association panel yesterday covering ABC's upcoming The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy announced on their Facebook pages that their world famous interspecies relationshi...

Muppets Most Wanted spoofs action movie posters

Mar 07
// Liz Rugg
The Muppets Most Wanted promotional campaign has been as delightful as expected from the franchise, though with these new parody posters, The Muppets have upped their game yet again. Each poster parody's a famous action movie...


First song for 'Muppets Most Wanted' is crazy adorable

Feb 28
// Isabelle Magliari
Every time Kermit the frog dances with a gold hat and cane, my heart grows three sizes. After watching the music video for the first song from Muppets Most Wanted entitled "Sequel Song," my heart nearly burst out of my ...

Nick's Flixmas: The Muppet Christmas Carol

Dec 09 // Nick Valdez
First of all, there are two big differences from other Christmas Carol adaptations. One, it's a slight musical. And two, if nothing else (and by that I mean if the singing doesn't grab you), most of the central characters are filled in by Muppets. Which means you get odd situations where Miss Piggy and Kermit have children, Fozzie is a green elderly man, and even the Christmas Ghosts are puppets. Weird looking puppets, but puppets. At the end of it all is Michael Caine (who I will now forever refer to as "My Cocaine" thanks to this video) who provides a serviceable Ebezenzer Scrooge.  I hate to be so sour toward a Muppet film, but there's just not much different about it from other Carols. The songs are great, sure, but they're not exactly memorable other than maybe Scrooge's finale. Beat by beat it's the same, but it's still so darn charming. Tiny Tim is a tiny version of Kermit? DAWWWW. What pains me the most about this whole thing is the whole "Gonzo is Charles Dickens" thing is never played to its full potential. Rather than have Gonzo manipulate the story according to a set design, he simply narrates it. It's a completely wasted omniscience. But then again, it's The Muppets. They're just usually so much better with parody.  Still, every year I watch it because I can't think of a Christmas without it. It's just not a holiday in my heart without The Muppets in it. I hope you all are the same way.  And that does it for A Christmas Carol folks. Sure there's that one starring Jim Carrey, but I honestly don't want to see that one again. I just did not like it. but what am I going to see tomorrow? Still not sure yet. If you guys haven't figured it out, I'm slowly working my way toward bigger and more well known Christmas films.  We're working our way through the mass here. So tomorrow? Hmm. I'll watch The Polar Express. 
NF: Muppet Carol photo
"Hoighty Toighty Mr. Godlike Smartypants"
The Muppets have had a few Christmas specials over the years: It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, A Muppet Family Christmas, and even the awful Artpop commercial, Lady Gaga & The Muppets Holiday Spectacular. But the...

Muppets Most Wanted photo
Muppets Most Wanted

Second trailer for Muppets Most Wanted is still adorable

"My name first, then spacebar spacebar spacebar, and your name."
Nov 20
// Nick Valdez
This second trailer for Muppets Most Wanted shows off a lot more than the teaser released a few months back. We get a story (an "Evilen Froggen" named Constantine frames Kermit and takes his place), more celebrity cameos (Da...
Muppets Most Wanted photo
Muppets Most Wanted

First poster for Muppets Most Wanted is too adorable

Definitely MY most wanted poster.
Oct 29
// Nick Valdez
Muppets Most Wanted (formerly The Muppets...Again!) is one of the few sequels I'm happy they're making. The first Muppets was a hilarious trip down memory lane, and Muppets Most Wanted looks to continue that judging by that f...

The Muppets...Again! will have Miss Piggy's wedding again

Somebody's getting married today...again!
Feb 12
// Hubert Vigilla
Some new news has surfaced about a scene in The Muppets...Again! During an episode of BBC's The Film Programme, production designer Eve Stewart -- fresh from her BAFTA Film Award win for Les Miserables -- revealed what she's ...

Muppets sequel gets official title, plot details and pics

It should have been called The Muppeting
Jan 30
// Thor Latham
It looks like The Muppets' next globe trotting adventure finally has an official title. Brace yourselves. It's The Muppets...Again! Yeah, I didn't make that up, though I gladly would have if Disney paid me instead of who...

Ty Burrell replaces Christoph Waltz in The Muppets 2

Dec 07
// Hubert Vigilla
For a while Cristoph Waltz was in talks to star in The Muppets 2, a Europe-set sequel that starts shooting early next year. Unfortunately it looks like Waltz had to decline because of his schedule. I assume this has something...

The Muppets sequel begins shooting in January in London

Life's a happy song when Brett McKenzie is writing it
Nov 05
// Thor Latham
Last years The Muppets seemed to be a surprise success for Disney, though I'm not sure why they didn't expect it, because anyone who's seen the movie can tell you it's fantastic. Anywho, the studio got the ball rolling o...

Christoph Waltz may star in Muppets sequel set in Europe

Nov 02
// Hubert Vigilla
The Muppets was a good nostalgia trip that left lots of people longing for a follow-up. There's finally some casting news on The Muppets 2. Christoph Waltz is currently in talks for a starring role in the film. If he takes th...

Puppet noir film The Happytime Murders going for R rating

Jun 26 // Hubert Vigilla
As excerpted by the mugs over at JoBlo: The tone of the film: 'I want to try to make the Heat of puppet movies. I want to be The Dark Knight or Heat but in a world where puppets and humans coexist. Brian was like, "This mystery actually needs to be interesting so that even if you took all the comedy out of it, it’s still going to be interesting to watch."' How hard of an R will it be? 'It is full-on R. There is swearing, there's sex, violence, murder. There's no way. Maybe with some work it could be PG-13 but as of now we've embraced the R rating.' Will we recognize any characters in the film? 'Brian has actually already been working on the main character puppet. The Creature Shop has already made a few test puppets that I've met in person that are amazing. Then the whole world, because it's not associated with The Muppets which are owned by Disney, it's a movie in which puppets and humans coexist and a lot of the supporting characters are all puppets. So they have a puppet improv group called Stuffed & Unstrung that tours around America doing improv shows. They're going to use a lot of those puppets but they're also going to create a bunch of new ones. There's a whole cast of characters in the script that they're going to create from scratch.'

A while back this birdy dropped some concept art for The Happytime Murders, a noir film done with puppets from the Henson people. No word what happened to the source, but I figure the bird's singing them canary tunes in a con...

A new Sesame Street movie is in the works

Jun 20 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]210960:38436[/embed]   [embed]210960:38437[/embed]   [embed]210960:38438[/embed]

Sesame Street: The Movie is a thing that's happening through 20th Century Fox. The show's longtime writer Joey Mazzarino will be writing the film's script. Obviously no word on story, and Fox has yet to comment on the project...


Fraggle Rock gets fraggle writers

May 31
// Cecilia Razak
The upcoming film adaptation of Jim Henson's belovedly weird, musical puppet-a-ganza Fraggle Rock has now got some writers attached to it. Jim Byrkit and Alex Manugian, who both worked on Rango, are signed on to write the Fra...

Got back from the city and there was an email about some new Henson project called The Happytime Murders. It's a proposed noir picture done with puppets. Think Roger Rabbit, but plush instead of paint. It looked Dillinger, li...


Hello, folks! Liberal media here. Have you seen The Muppets yet? I thought it was pretty good. My main complaint? Not nearly enough messages to children that capitalism and rich people are evil. There's a time and place for ...


Muppets lifted "Mahna Mahna" from softcore porn

Nov 29
// Jenika Katz
I love old porn, and apparently the Muppets do, too. The super catchy "Mahna Mahna" that I always thought was an original song is actually from the 1968 Italian film Sweden: Hell and Heaven. The movie was portrayed as a docu...

Flixclusive Interview: Max Ivins, LOOK Effects [Part 2]

Nov 28 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
Do you ever change performances after the fact? Does the director ever come up to you and say, "Oh, I didn't really think this actor did a good job, could you change his face/movements?" Have I ever been asked to change the acting? Yes. [Laughs] Do we do that? Never. Ever ever. We'd get in a lot of trouble for that. [Laughs] Really? Well, I guess this isn't a giant secret or anything, but in Blood Diamond, there was a scene where Leonardo di Caprio is talking to his girlfriend, I guess, in the movie on the phone, and she feels really sad; it was Jennifer Connelly. And somehow when they got into the edit room they were like, "Hmm... I don't really think we're getting the message across, I think we want to have her cry." Well, he had never asked her to do that on set, so they came to us and said, "Hey, can you make it look like Jennifer Connelly cries?" and we're like, "Yeah..." So they hired us to do that, and we made the water build up at the bottom of the eye so her eyes look like tears were welling up in the lower part of the eye and the eyelash, then we made a couple of tears roll down, and they're like, "No, we don't want two. We just want one. No, we want it on the right side." It was one of those things. I mean, it changed a little bit of the feeling of the shot probably, but Jennifer wasn't very pleased about it. [Laughs] She was a little like, "I can't believe that! He never asked me to cry! and blah blah blah," and we were all like, "Oh..." [Laughs] "Oops." We didn't know there would be a problem.  It's a touchy subject, you know, beautification, and changing people's acting. The only time we’d have cause to do beautification is when you take somebody who’s sixty-five, and you make them look like they’re forty, and everybody knows it’s not real. That’s okay. You can talk about that. Like in X-Men when they show them earlier. But when you’re doing these touchy little touch-up jobs, like removing crow’s feet or blemishes on somebodies face or something, nobody wants you to do that. So, it happens. [Laughs] But messing with people’s acting is not... The art has not really come so far that that’s a very common request, because to really do anything significant would be very expensive. Tears are probably one of the cheaper things you could possibly do. Anything more, like distorting somebody’s face, would be an enormous investment of time and energy, which translates into cost, so usually you’d be better off re-shooting something. And we’ve done that. They’ve decided they don’t have the right coverage or they want to change the emotional impact of the scene, and they’ll get the actors and shoot them on green screen and then have us put together a background from the footage they shot, wherever they shot on location, and composite them into a shot that will fit into the sequence, so there are variations. Those things all fit into the clean-up patchwork, fix-it-in-post kind of thing. Most movies have a little bit of that. “Oh, you know, we want to get rid of this sign over here. That shouldn’t be here; it’s the wrong language. Let’s get rid of this car back here. Or [laughs] there’s a police vehicle with his lights flashing here, which is part of the lock-up for the street... yeah, get rid of that.” Lot of little things. The Muppets was more like, “Hey... is that a puppeteer’s head [laughs].” It’s like, “Oh... yeah, that is a puppeteer’s head, let’s put something else there. There are some shots where there are 25 puppeteers all going at once, and if you see 20 puppets together, that means there are about 25 people laying in a crowd below them all crunched together, and every once in a while, a puppet will move to the side and suddenly there’s a head, so we had to clean up that stuff.  Do you prefer to work with something closer to reality like The Muppets or something like Captain America, where you’re putting in the world with tanks and Captain America’s shield and the like?  I think they have different aspects. I have to say that I was as excited for The Muppets as I’ve been for the top three or four projects I’ve ever worked on. Just because it’s The Muppets. It really has a lot of fans, and it’s like the revival of a great franchise, and there’s something about puppeteering that’s really close to the visual effects industry. It’s kind of like the most ancient visual effect. If you go back to Chinese shadow puppets, thousands of years ago, it is pretty much the oldest form of cinema in a way. I think that that has this sort of long term connection that sort of is what visual effects is rooted in. Visual effects is kind of layer-on-layer and putting in things that aren’t reality, and building miniatures and puppeteering and puppet theater are kind of the great-great-great-great-great grandfather of all that. And sort of the pinnacle of all of that art is Jim Henson. At least for westerners, for us. So there’s something about it that gets right to the heart of all of us. It’s unbelievable how popular it was with everybody that I talked to. It was just like, “Yeah, of course we’re all huge fans! Of course we are.” [Laughs] It’s not something you talk about all the time or something that I really knew about, but pretty much everyone I know is like, “Yeah, I know, the Muppets are great!” I mean one of our guys knew every single Muppet. I was like, “You’re kidding!” He had blogged about the Muppets before the movie was even ever thought of. He was a crazy fan, so for him it was basically the best project he’d ever worked on in his entire life.  That’s really the great thing about The Muppets. The actual work we did... not really all that technically challenging. We did some helicopter flyover and built 3000 or more people in a crowd going down Hollywood boulevard, which was really cool, and we wrote code to made our own crowd behavior which is fun in its own way, because if you make it a little too active it makes it look like a riot rather than just an enthusiastic crowd. [Laughs] It’s fun and challenging and a lot of geometry and brainpower went into it, but it’s not cutting-edge. It’s standard stuff, totally achievable, and fun to do, and not too challenging to get it to look right, but it was the Muppets and artistically it has its own thing going for it, and it’s staying in that tradition, that’s really satisfying and really fun, and I think the most fun talking to people about it in a really long time. I mean everybody wants to know about the Muppets, what they were like on set. I swear I’ve never seen a set where the instant they shout “Cut!” jokes were cracked. There was also some funny little something from Kermit after a take or some crass remark... it was just a fun place to be and a fun project to do. That being said, Captain America, which is a classic in the comic book genre, which is pretty popular in our field of work [laughs], and it had its own challenges and all this fantastical stuff. Superhuman feats, a Crazy Frisbee, you know. That’s what I called it, the "Crazy Frisbee." That had its own satisfaction. I think the thing that tips it to The Muppets really is just that it’s such an iconic thing for more people than those who love the comic genre, for a huge demographic swath, and the fact that we were the lead company on it, and I got to be there when they were shooting it and work closely with the supervisor and feel like we really contributed some stuff. It’s nice when the supervisor goes, “Oh thank you. You really saved us on that. That’s really awesome.” You get a couple of those, and for little tiny things I suggested, which wouldn’t have been a big problem in the end, but you feel like you have more input when you’re the lead facility on a project. And on Captain America, we did some awesome shots in it. We got, I would say, a third of the top 10% of the best shots in the film. We got the shot where Captain America throws his shield directly at the camera with explosions going off behind him, which is pretty much the iconic shot of the movie. You know, we’re not the biggest company on the planet, but that is a giant coup for us. I mean, I feel like we got the, “Okay, all the best stuff goes to LOOK Effects.” So, I find it hard to say I’m going to enjoy a movie as much as I enjoyed that movie in a long time too, and we did that in our facility while we were working on The Muppets. I mean, you just rattled off two of the greatest projects that we’ve done of all time. I mean, there’s Black Swan, which I didn’t supervise, but was, in its own rite, one of those shows that is clearly not a visual effects blockbuster, but clearly one of the best uses of visual effects in a long, long time. I mean, it’s got like 300 shots in it, but if you watch it, you’re gonna think it has twelve. It is fun to do big, in-your-face effects like on Captain America, but we’ve always prided ourselves in having some Best Picture nominations that we’ve worked on, and they’re almost never the big blockbuster visual effects movies. They’re always the Black Swans and the King’s Speechs. We’ve been pretty successful at those smaller movies that get nominated for Best Picture that we’ve worked on, and that’s always fun. So… [Laughs] in answer to your question, I couldn’t really say, although I had more personal satisfaction on The Muppets, but I would never want to give up the big in-your-face visual effects shots. Without those on your reel, you’re like, “Eh… we do set extensions.” You want to have some spectacular stuff too. That’s one thing that’s great about our industry. It’s not cookie cutter. You’re always working on something that really hasn’t been done exactly before. I mean The Muppets, it’s pretty much an original, completely. Nobody’s done this sophisticated a puppet movie in years, if ever. It’s probably the most sophisticated one so far, and that’s fun. Then it’s fun to switch back and go to a superhero movie and make people fly. How much collaboration do you have with other teams?  We have a collection of freelancers, some that we’ve used a lot and some that we’ve newly acquainted ourselves with, but usually we try to find experts or develop our own expertise in certain areas. For example, water is one of those things that, in the past, we used a person that I’d worked with that was available to work for us on a freelance basis, and he actually did it from Canada, where he was living at the time. That was for Lost, when we did the final season of that. Right now we’re doing a big project in New York that has water and we’re developing our own water pipeline for that. We have one of the more brilliant 3D people working on it there. As we get larger, developing more areas of expertise like that becomes more viable. The other thing that we would outsource significantly would be matte paintings, if we have a project that has a lot of them. We have two very competent matte painters on staff, but one of them happens to be a supervisor for us and is not available very often, and matte paintings tend to come in chunks. You’ve got a matte painting show and you might have ten on it, so we’ll look outside for people to bring onto the project for that, but I don’t think that’s any different than even the really big facilities. You can only keep so many matte painters or particle guys or massive animators on staff, so when you get a show that’s got a lot of something, you’re going to gear up in that area, and I think that’s true for everybody. I’d say a good 40% of the industry are what I’d call "migrant workers." They don’t have full-time jobs at one facility (which are tenuous at best anyway), but they are basically professional freelancers. They go where the work is. So they’ll work at Hydraulx [Battle: LA] for one week, then Digital Domain [Real Steel, X-Men: First Class] the next, then Tippet [Immortals, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I] the next couple of months, and then WETA [Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes] for 8 months, and then, I mean, right now it’s a very international pool of people. You know, WETA, when they get a really big project, they don’t go, “Oh let’s just use our 80 people here.” They go, “Oh, we’re going to have to hire 80 more people,” and they don’t find them sitting around in New Zealand. They bring them in. That’s just the industry now. They’re the international migrant workers of visual effects. It’s pretty much impossible to do projects without doing that to some degree, just because projects have their own things. For example, we have a big character animation project that we’re doing in our Vancouver office, and that is going to cause us to hire about 20 people, so that we probably have a 40 person group in Vancouver, and 20 of those people won’t be brought on full time, just for the project. That kind of gear-up, gear-down is kind of the way that everybody operates now. I think. I don’t know. In New York, we have a big staff on there. They’ve been pretty stable, but I’m sure they’re going to be gearing-up and gearing-down too.  What are you guys working on next? Right now, we’re working on Underworld 4 here and a project called God’s Behaving Badly in New York, which is actually a large project with character animation and CG water. We’re also working on a Zombie movie that has fully CG zombies called Warm Bodies. That’s the working title right now. It is a really great project for us, since it’s some entertainment, and we’re the sole effects company on it and have been supervising it. We’ll start the post on it early next year, and we’re really looking forward to that one. It’s going to be really cool. Those are the big ones on the shelf, and there are some other, smaller projects that are going on, but I’m sort of in my own corner, because I’m slid onto Underworld 4. I know a little bit about what’s going on in the rest of the company, but I’m probably not the best person to ask. [Laughs] Well, that’s all we’ve got. Thank you very much for talking with me! My pleasure.

Since posting part one of my interview with LOOK Effects Supervisor Max Ivins, I was able to see his handiwork in the The Muppets for myself, and I must say that the film is amazing. I haven't laughed that hard that consisten...


The alternate ending to The Muppets

Nov 28
// Hubert Vigilla
The Muppets did well over the holiday weekend, both a critical darling and a financial success. Because of the film, NBC is currently developing a new show with muppets with Jim Henson Studios. It's not th...

Flixclusive Interview: Max Ivins, LOOK Effects [Part 1]

Nov 25 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
Hello Max. Thanks so much for talking with me! My pleasure.  We're all very big fans of the Muppets here at Flixist. Yeah, it's amazing how popular the Muppets are. I never really appreciated it until I told people I was working on it. When I told people, they were like, "Oh! I'll work on it. I’ll do shots for free." [Laughs] Four people or so said that, and I was like, "What? Okay! Come on over to the office." Was there competition for doing the work on The Muppets, a Battle Royale perhaps? No, not really. I think that was primarily up to Disney’s post-production department, and the supervisor on the project, Janet Muswell, was hired on the production as the visual effects supervisor and the visual effects producer (she was doing both), and she picked us to be the lead company on the project. I can't say that I know why exactly she chose us, but I know she interviewed/talked to other companies about it, and we kinda hit it off. Janet's really great and was really good to work with and the whole thing. She was a compositor earlier in her career, so she really understands the nuts and bolts of it really well. Pretty sharp. She was a pleasure to work with. At what point in the production did you guys become involved? We were there from the beginning. They talked to us about a year ago, before they had started shooting. We met with Janet and discussed things, because she was looking for somebody to come in and assist on some of the bigger effects shoots, because she was producing and supervising. She wanted us, being the lead company, to be familiar with what the director was after, how it was going to be put together, and have our input on it so she could go, "Well, you told them to do that!" [Laughs] So, I ended up on the set quite a few times, which was fun, and I would say it was one of the more fun sets to be on.  I can imagine. What sorts of things did you ask for, things that would make your lives easier or something more substantial to the film itself? Our input was not very much creative story input. It was just sort of technically how to achieve something. Do we want to leave this piece in. do we want to put it in later? Suggestions about how to shoot things. I call them minor tweaks. "Oh, you guys want to do a pan here..." It would be more like, Janet and I would discuss a shot, and she and I would decide, "Instead of doing a pan here, you want to do two panels separately, and then if we want to put a move in it later, we can build a pan into it." Just suggestions of methodology instead of actual creative. What we want to do is make things easier for everybody. For example, I asked for some wide plates and some separate plates to cover us. You get that inkling that, at the end of the film, there's a pan up to the sky, and when they were shooting it, I was like, "They're definitely going to want to pan up to the sky... I know it," and they're gonna go, "Oh, we need a pan up to the sky," So instead of cramming our effect into the top of the frame, they're going to want to pan up on it, so I just had them pan up and get the tops of these buildings that were around so we'd have that to build that pan up later. Stuff like that. It was technical things that would make our lives easier. Keeping track of the technical details so we could have an easier time later. Do you guys do any practical effects or are you all digital? We supervise a lot of practical effects. We don't normally go out and shoot them ourselves with the exception being some element shoots, like driving plates and elements for matte paintings. It tends to be that plates are really specific to the production, so 85% of the time the production is where they need to be to shoot what they need to get, so you just have them shoot it and supervise that. Then there's other times when they just want a certain time of day driving footage, and we go, "Okay, we can go out and shoot that, get that for you," and charge a flat rate to shoot our own plates. That's the exception more than the rule. We have supervised a lot of miniature shoots, but we go to someplace where they specialize in miniatures and shoot those, so we just supervise and get the pieces we need. We're more supervisory with live-action and on-set effects and do the post in the office.  How do you guys feel about using digital in a franchise that's so heavily physical? That was one of the key things that the director and the supervisor wanted. I think they were both on the same page from the get go. Keeping everything looking real, and by that I don't mean keeping everything looking like, for example: in one of the shots, we blow up... the mountain that has four president's faces carved into it. Mount Rushmore. [Laughs] Yes, right. Mount Rushmore, sorry. In one shot, we blow up Mount Rushmore and it reveals a Muppet's head. They wanted it to look real, but not like we really blew up Mount Rushmore. You know, it's a comedy version. We build a model and there's a practical explosion that goes off in front of it and chunks fly off. It wasn't really to make it look like we really did whatever it is but make it look like it's practical elements and practical pieces all shot in camera. Don't let that digital feel get into it. They didn't want to take it out of the, "Hey, this is either shot by a helicopter or by a crane." There's no "Wow... that was obviously an all-CG shot." They wanted to keep it tangible, as though some object is really shot even if it doesn't look like something you'd run into in the real world... I mean, it is puppets after all. Reality has to be suspended some, but I think there was a big effort to not make it look digital. When they first approached us to do the job, I was like, "The Muppets, how big a job could that be? Unless they want us to put legs on the Muppets. Do they want us to put legs on them? Are we going to do CG Muppets? No... can't be." And it wasn't that. What they really wanted to do was modernize the approach they could use in the movie by allowing the puppeteers a lot more freedom. There are a bunch of shots, Walter is the new Muppet they introduce in the movie (I think it's the only new Muppet), and it's basically about him and his adventure. And there's a scene early in the movie, and he is basically running around in the kitchen, and he gets up on this cupboard and jumps up on a doorknob and flies into the kitchen. For a couple of shots there were four puppeteers moving him around, doing his legs and his arms and his head, and so when you look at the elements, it's completely a blue screen stage, with four guys in blue head-to-toe crowded behind this puppet, puppeteering him, and that was kind of what we were able to accomplish, was letting a bunch of composite shots, which looks like the Muppet running around (because it is a Muppet), but we gave the puppeteers more freedom to be behind the characters without ending up in the shot at the end.   You've done a lot of work on movies like The King's Speech that you'd think they wouldn't need visual effects. How pervasive is your kind of work in movies nowadays? I think that in the last 10 years, probably what's changed the most in visual effects is not what we can do, maybe there's a little bit of a horsepower issue because computers have gotten a lot faster over that time frame, but it's more how visual effects are kind of planned into almost every production in TV and in motion pictures, because people on the production side of more and more of the projects they work on have visual effects in them, and the role they're willing to let them take gets bigger and bigger. There's sort of a cost trade-off. Do you fly everybody to Budapest to shoot for two days in front of the palace or for three establishing shots on a bunch of walk-and-talk? Well... maybe not. Or an action sequence, maybe you just build those three or four establishing shots with CG set extensions and shoot the rest of the stuff on a small set, or you shoot it in Prague, or you shoot it... they know that they can leverage their locations to cover other locations, they don't need to move the production to do those things, so things that have any "Hey, do we want to be in Paris, hey do we want to shoot it in..." visual effects comes up in the conversation. You get us planned into a lot of projects where they go, "Oh yeah that'll be a set extension, yeah, that's gonna be." It's a lot more pervasive in movies than it used to be.  The King's Speech is a good example. Okay, yeah, you could have gotten 300 extras out there and kinda made it look like that, but it's not the way they plan it, because that has its own limitations and its own shooting schedule problems. You go out and shoot pieces and then you put it together in an animated matte painting and you put it into a shot where your people are walking out of a set onto a green screen balcony, and it looks like they walk out and there's a big crowd with a whole panorama behind them. It’s planned into them more now. I think it's hard for most people to watch a movie and even imagine how many [VFX] shots there are. I think the Muppets has somewhere close to 900 shots or something like that, and a lot of them are niggly things like removing a rod here and there. We did about 500 or something. Somewhere in that range. And i think, when you watch the movie, you're going to think there were 30 or 40 shots in it. There’s a couple where you're like, "Well, there's no way they could have done that without visual effects," but the rest of them aren't even going to register. I mean, maybe if you stopped on them and analyzed them, you'd go "Oh yeah, there's no way that Muppet could do that without removing some stuff." There's a bigger propensity for vfx in movies these days. People are more like clued into it, so they can plan to do it that way. And that's all for part one! Come back Monday when we discuss Captain America, freelance work, and how to make Jennifer Connelly cry. 

There are two types of interviewees: ones that need to be poked and prodded in order to say anything meaningful, and ones who will continue talking until you unintentionally cut them off during a pause. Max Ivins, Supervisor ...


The Flixist Show #4: The Self-Hating Amish

Nov 24
// Alex Katz
So, I'm really, really sorry for this episode. We were two people shy, and it's just unfocused and bizarre as hell. We talk about movies really briefly, but we mostly talk about Amish hate crimes and bulls**t. Anyway, I hope ...

Review: The Muppets

Nov 24 // Jenika Katz
[embed]205667:37430[/embed] The MuppetsDirector: James BobinRating: PGRelease Date: 11/23/2011 Walter (voiced by Peter Linz) and Gary (Jason Segel) are two brothers from a small town called Smalltown who absolutely love the Muppets. Walter, being three feet tall and made of felt, feels particularly close to the Muppets, and adores them like no other. When Gary decides to take his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams), to Los Angeles for their tenth anniversary, he buys an extra ticket so Walter can visit Muppet Studios. Time has not been kind: the Muppets aren't together anymore, and the studio was sold and left to rot. While touring the abandoned, decrepit building, Walter overhears oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), the owner of the studio, talking about his plans to tear down the building for the oil underneath it. Walter, Gary, and Mary set out to reunite the Muppets and save the studio. There was a big to-do about the original Muppet Show cast refusing to work on the new movie, saying that it didn't fit the original spirit of the older work, but it doesn't feel like that at all. Yes, Disney took over and the original crew is not involved, and there are some modernizations to appeal to the younger generation, but it feels just like a Muppet movie should. The characters are silly, there are song and dance numbers all over the place, and it overall gives a nice feeling of warm fuzzies. With the exception of Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear (both voiced by the same actor), the voices are spot-on, and the characters feel just as fun as they always have. I'm very picky about movies that break the fourth wall. It's hard to do well, and when it's not right, it can completely ruin the immersion. The Muppets constantly breaks the fourth wall, and it's fantastic. They know just how to poke at themselves with meta humor while keeping the story intact. It also helps that the movie is just hilarious in general. You know all those wonderful ads they ran? The humor is just like that. It's the kind of movie that has the entire audience laughing. Unfortunately, the film is far from perfect. The pacing is an absolute mess. The beginning of the movie is so strong, and the ending isn't too bad, but the middle seems to drag on forever. A lot of the things happening in the middle of the movie are interesting in theory, but they're presented so poorly that they aren't fun anymore. It should be exciting to watch the Muppets searching for their friends! It should be great to watch them rehearse! Instead, it feels like the Muppets are moseying from one spot to another without much intent behind it. The musical numbers, while (mostly) clever and cute, just seem to delay the action even further, with the exception of a couple of large ensemble numbers. One of the big problems is that it simply feels like there are too many obstacles to overcome. There's the obvious problem of saving the studio and all the trials that come with that, and the loose ends between Kermit and Miss Piggy is very important to tie up, but there's also Mary's relationship with Gary, Gary's relationship with Walter, and Walter's relationship with himself. This would not be so bad if they were interesting characters, but they all feel rather one-dimensional. Since Walter is not an interesting character and Gary and Mary are really meant as side characters, their problems are uncompelling and hard to relate to. If there had been more emphasis on the core issues, it would have made for a much stronger film. Despite its flaws, however, The Muppets is well-worth seeing in theaters. Kids will not notice any of the issues, and adults will be able to put them aside for the sheer joy the good parts bring. There's nothing like seeing a little kid thoroughly enjoying the same material as a full-grown adult, and it's nice to know that the Muppets won't be entirely forgotten by this generation. Maxwell Roahrig: I have to admit, my Muppets fandom is only a recent development. I mean, my parents and I watched Muppets Christmas Carol every year (and still do to this day), and I've always enjoyed The Muppets, but not like I have in the past few years. So it was with baited breath that I awaited Jason Segel and co.'s The Muppets. I had every right to be cautious, too. Since when did the inclusion of a new character in an established universe turned out to be a good thing? But you know what? The movie is damn good. It's the greatest love letter to Jim Henson and all things Muppets. This is the movie the Jim Henson Company should've made ten years ago, instead of Muppets In Space. Everything about this movie just works, too. The music, the jokes, the characters, the cameos. They're all wonderful! Well, except the inclusion of Chris Cooper rapping. That needed to be cut from day one. Aside from that, take the whole family to see The Muppets. Even if you're a cold cynical bastard that only enjoys films that explore the human condition, The Muppets will find a way to warm that frozen heart of yours. Oh, and Kermit and Miss Piggy's duet of "The Rainbow Connection" might be my favorite song from the year. 83 - Great Alec Kubas-Meyer: Although I vaguely remember watching bits and pieces of Muppets movies and TV episodes over the course of my life, this film is my first real immersion in the universe, and it's everything I could have asked for. I freaking loved this movie. With the exception of a couple of slow-ish parts, I laughed constantly throughout the movie. I actually think I laughed more than anybody else in the theater, much to the embarrassment of my younger sister. But no matter. The Muppets is hysterical. I absolutely loved the musical numbers (including Chris Cooper's rap, though not quite as much as the others), and I loved pretty much everything else as well. It was clear that everyone involved was having a blast (the constant stream of cameos (highlights include Jim Parsons and James Carville(???)) served as an excellent illustration of that), and it really made the film so much more enjoyable. The Muppets is easily one of the best movies of the year, and no matter who you are it will make you happy inside. And, really, what more could you ask for? 89 - Spectacular

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Bret McKenzie and Kermit The Frog duet will melt you

Nov 21
// Andres Bolivar
Sometimes you put things out into the universe and the universe miraculously delivers. The stars must've heard me in this case, because the New York Times captured a duet between 1/2 of Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie a...

Fantastic Muppets & Tolkien mashup illustrations

Nov 18
// Liz Rugg
Guys, get ready for your mind to be blown. These are some super awesome drawings by various artists that are mashing up J.R.R. Tolkien's famous books (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and -- The Muppets. With glorio...

Watch Jason Segel and Kermit beg Amy Adams to co-star

Nov 17
// Jenika Katz
Ever since watching Freaks and Geeks (over and over again), I can't help but think of Jason Segel as a really creepy teenager no matter what role he's in. There's just something about his face, you know? I mean, I still like...

The Muppets are way into Twilight

Nov 15
// Jenika Katz
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