The people at Walt Disney Studios have apparently been Kermit-flailing over the upcoming release of The Muppets as much as the fans have. They recently released a ton of images, character descriptions, and extra fun facts about the show’s history. Seriously, there are so many Muppets in this post that I’m fairly certain it will explode in a pile of felt and stuffing if we’re not careful.
The images are lovely, but I mainly adore the way the character bios are written. Did you know that the character of Kermit the Frog will be played by none other than Kermit the Frog, who was once on The Muppet Show? News to me! Clearly, Disney pulled all the stops on getting top-of-the-line talent in this picture. Seriously, there’s a lot of new information I had no idea about before. Hit the jump to get some Muppet knowledge!
In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the official synopsis:
On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage a telethon and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets, who have all gone their separate ways: Fozzie now performs with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets, Miss Piggy is a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, Animal is in a Santa Barbara clinic for anger management, and Gonzo is a high-powered plumbing magnate. With secret, signature, celebrity cameos, Disney’s The Muppets hits the big screen Nov. 23, 2011.
GARY (Jason Segel) is loyal to his brother Walter—the two do everything together. “Gary is from Smalltown, USA,” says Jason Segel (TV’s How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a longtime Muppet fan who created the role with himself in mind. “He’s very naïve, sweet and innocent, and he’s very much in love with his girlfriend Mary. He’s torn between his brother and growing into a new phase of maturation where it’s time to be with his girlfriend. He’s lived with his brother forever so that is his big struggle.”
The plot thickens when the trio decides to take a vacation. Says Segel, “The movie starts out with me and my brother Walter, whose wildest fantasy is to meet the Muppets. My goal is to take a vacation to L.A. with my girlfriend Mary. So we all come to L.A. and while taking a tour of Muppet Studios, which are now decrepit, we find out that they’re going to be torn down to drill for oil. So we have to find Kermit, reunite the Muppets—who have disbanded because of professional rivalries—and put on a show to raise enough money to save the studio.”
Gary throws himself into the effort, putting his relationship with Mary on the back burner—again. Will he ever be able to grow up and embrace true love?
With his Kermit t-shirt and watch, WALTER (Walter) is a devoted fan of the Muppets. The lifelong resident of Smalltown, USA, dreams of meeting his heroes one day, and feels that—just maybe—he belongs with them. So when brother Gary and his girlfriend Mary plan a trip to Los Angeles, Walter joins them with hopes of realizing his dream once and for all.
The role marks the big-screen debut for Walter, and one seemingly written for him. “I play Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan,” says the star, “which is a real coincidence, since I happen to be the world’s biggest Muppet fan and my name is Walter. It’s like I was made to play this part.”
Walter finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time—or is it the right time?—when he overhears evil oil baron Tex Richman discussing a plot to destroy Muppet Studios. With the help of Gary and Mary, it’s Walter who sets the plan in motion to reunite the Muppets and save the studio. His pure-hearted enthusiasm for all things Muppets just might save more than the studio, too.
MARY (Amy Adams) is a valued shop teacher in Smalltown, USA—at least if the number of apples on her desk are any indication. She is Gary’s longtime girlfriend who often finds herself playing third wheel to Gary and his brother Walter.
Mary shares Gary and Walter’s sweet, innocent disposition, but she’s growing weary of sharing her boyfriend with Walter. She can’t help but hope for a magical proposal during their Los Angeles vacation, but her plans are derailed when news of Muppet Studios’ pending demise spur the trio into expressly non-marriage-proposal action.
Amy Adams (The Fighter, Julie & Julia) was called on for the role—in a way that was impossible to miss, says the actress. “Jason and Kermit sent me an invitation to be in Disney’s The Muppets—they asked if I’d read the script and consider the role of Mary. Kermit was a big part of my decision. I don’t like to tell Jason that ‘cause he’s a little sensitive that I might be partial to Kermit, but I am.”
In Disney’s The Muppets, KERMIT THE FROG (Kermit the Frog) lives a quiet, solitary life. It’s been a few years since the Muppets last performed together and Kermit doesn’t realize how much he misses his friends until he’s tracked down by Walter, Gary and Mary from Smalltown, USA, and convinced to reunite with the rest of the Muppets to save Muppet Studios.
Returning to the role he made famous in six previous Muppet movies, The Muppet Show and countless TV specials and internet videos, is Kermit the Frog. “I’ve played other parts, like Bob Crachit in A Muppet Christmas Carol and Captain Smollett in Muppet Treasure Island,” says Kermit, “but I think me is my favorite part.”
The role is a bit of a departure for the frog known for his unifying spirit and award-winning songs like The Rainbow Connection. “The movie is filled with comedy, music and adventure—like all the Muppet movies,” says Kermit. “But I play quite a dramatic role. You see a side of me that maybe you haven’t see before—and I’m not just taking about new camera angles. Acting wise, I really stretch to play me. One of my favorite moments is singing a brand new original song called Pictures in my Head. I walk through the halls of a big mansion looking at portraits of my Muppet friends and missing those guys. It was very emotional…and I think it will disprove critics who’ve said ‘the frog can’t emote.’”
Kermit, who’s always the glue that holds the Muppets together, has a big job in this movie, going head to head with Tex Richman—a guy who’s lost his laugh—to save the studio.
TEX RICHMAN (Chris Cooper) is a rich oil baron who’s concocted a devious plan to destroy Muppet Studios, presumably to dig for the oil he claims is underneath.
But the truth, says Chris Cooper (Adaptation, The Bourne Identity), who portrays the villain, is that Tex has a personal vendetta against the Muppets. “He blames the Muppets for a terrible event that happened to him at his 10th birthday party,” says Cooper. “He is unable to laugh and has vowed to destroy the Muppets.”
But Tex Richman’s inability to laugh doesn’t stop him from taking part in other Muppet antics. He may be cold-hearted and conniving, but this oil magnate has a few secrets up his sleeve that are more fun than fiendish.
MISS PIGGY (Miss Piggy) showcases her diva attitude and big personality in a new made-to-order gig in Disney’s The Muppets. As plus-size editor of Vogue Paris, she shares her sublime fashion sensibilities with readers worldwide… at least until Kermit shows up.
The Frog is there, of course, as part of his mission to reunite all the Muppets to save Muppet Studios from Tex Richman. But Miss Piggy can read between the lines: she knows an invitation for love when she sees it. And really—how could she say no to Kermie?
Playing the role of Miss Piggy is none other than Miss Piggy (Muppets from Space, TV’s The Muppet Show). “It’s the role I was born to play,” says the internationally famous star. “Moi plays a high-powered, confident, charismatic, gorgeous, scene-stealing star who saves the day and wins her frog’s heart.”
Her fans would expect nothing less.
FOZZIE BEAR (Fozzie Bear) lives to make people laugh. So during the Muppets’ extended hiatus depicted in Disney’s The Muppets, the stand-up comic bear was determined to keep his act and the spirit of the Muppets alive—even if it meant joining up with a Reno casino tribute band called the Moopets. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the Moopets may be sincere, but they’re also a little creepy.
“The Moopets recreate great Muppet moments,” says Fozzie Bear (The Great Muppet Caper, TV’s The Muppet Show), who is back on the big screen as his namesake, “at least that’s what they told me we were doing. Could’ve fooled me.”
Regardless of who he shares the stage with, Fozzie will try anything to tickle the audience’s funny bones: gags, novelties, whoopee cushions, banana peels, custard pies and recycled jokes that earn more winces than laughs—particularly from his in-house hecklers, Statler and Waldorf (aka “those two old guys in the balcony”) In truth, Statler and Waldorf just might be the bear’s biggest fans. Though they’d never admit it, they may actually be happy to see Fozzie and the Muppets reunited—and they might have to throw the bear a laugh or two this time if it means saving Muppet Studios.
VERONICA (Rashida Jones) is a network executive called on by the Muppets to air their studio-saving telethon. She’s not easily swayed, and it’ll take a big-name star to seal the deal.
Actress Rashida Jones (The Social Network, TV’s The Office) portrays the tough-as-nails woman to impress. “I play a hard-nosed, stressed-out TV executive,” says Jones, “but I am the only one who gives the Muppets the chance to air their fundraising telethon. I definitely crack the whip, though, because I’m scared of losing my job and I’m scared it’s not going to be successful—I yell at Kermit a lot.”
It won’t be easy, but hopefully, Kermit can charm Veronica like he charms every woman, network exec and diva pig he encounters.
GONZO THE GREAT (The Great Gonzo) has been very busy since the Muppets last performed. In Disney’s The Muppets, Kermit, Walter and the gang find that Gonzo’s career is down the drain—literally. “I play a plumbing magnate,” says the daredevil who returns to the role he singlehandedly made famous. “In this movie, we see what happens when I pursue plumbing—my original career choice. Actually, show business and plumbing have a lot in common—especially when it comes to clogs and snakes.”
It takes some convincing—and an increase in health insurance coverage—to get Gonzo back on stage. Fortunately, Gonzo (The Muppets Take Manhattan, TV’s The Muppet Show), a pioneer of all things weird, can’t resist the temptation of the wild and wacky stunts he performs to earn the eternal admiration (not to mention shock and awe) of his audience—and one very special chicken named Camilla.
Gonzo’s stage act, which includes shooting himself from a cannon, balancing a piano on his nose, or eating radial tires to classical music, will likely always end in disaster… but that’s the whole point!
ANIMAL (Animal), the ultimate rock n’ roll survivor, finally addresses a troublesome personality trait and finds himself in an anger management program in Disney’s The Muppets. He’s traded in his drums for a flute and is struggling to redefine his identity. As if…
But fear not, fans of the over-the-top, monosyllabic, appetite-with-legs drummer from Dr. Teeth’s Electric Mayhem Band. Once reunited with the Muppets, Animal’s incessant (yet innocent) pursuit of rock n’ roll, food and women (not necessarily in that order) returns. “Me like,” says Animal (Muppet Treasure Island, TV’s The Muppet Show). “Movie good.”
BY THE NUMBERS
- LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN — Disney’s The Muppets is the 7th feature film featuring the Muppets.
- MANY MUPPETS — More than 120 Muppets appear in the film.
- STEPPIN’ OUT – The film tapped 60 dancers to perform with Jason Segel and Amy Adams for the “Everything’s Great” opening musical performance.
- Hollywood Blvd. was shut down for two evenings to record the finale dance scene of the reprise of “Everything’s Great,” featuring 100 dancers.
- PRETTY PIG — A total of 12 different costumes were made for Miss Piggy—more costume changes than any other actor in the film.
- SO BIG — The largest Muppet, Thog, stands over 9.5 feet tall and is 4 feet wide.
- TOP TEACHER – Amy Adam’s character Mary is a teacher with 16 students. Thus, no less than 16 perfect apples sit on the edge of the stellar teacher’s desk.
- AT THE HELM — Director James Bobin makes his film directorial debut. Bobin co-created HBO’s Flight of the Conchords, which he wrote, directed and executive produced.
- CUE THE MUSIC — Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords wrote and produced three original songs and served as music supervisor for the film. McKenzie fills some big shoes: The Muppet Movie was nominated for two Oscars®: Best Music, Original Song (Rainbow Connection) and Best Music, Original Sound Score.
- ALL IN THE FAMILY — Choreographer Michael Rooney is the son of Mickey Rooney, who appears in the film in a cameo role. This is the first time the two have ever worked together on a film.
- MINI ME — Muppet versions of Gary/Jason Segel and director James Bobin were created.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ACCESSORIES
- HIGH FASHION — Miss Piggy had shoes made for her by Christian Louboutin and a dress by Zac Posen, which she wears in the finale scene.
- FANCY DUDS — Kermit had a suit made for him by Brooks Brothers for the scene where he walks through the streets of Paris with Miss Piggy.
- TIME WILL TELL — Walter wears a Kermit watch in the film.
- TICKLING THE IVORIES — Rowlf’s original piano is back—incorporated into the Muppet Show orchestra.
- STRUMMING THE SAME STRINGS — Kermit uses the banjo from 1979’s The Muppet Movie during The Rainbow Connection performance in Disney’s The Muppets. The staging of the scene features Kermit on a replica of the log where he was first found strumming his banjo in the very first Muppet movie. Miss Piggy shows up in a rowboat very much like the one the late Dom DeLuise used when he joined Kermit in their sweet duet.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
- SEEING GREEN – Disney’s The Muppets was a green set (in more ways than one) with an environmental steward who made sure the proper recycling receptacles were utilized on set. All of paper products were made from recycled materials and were compostable. The production also provided each crew member with aluminum refillable water bottles to cut down on the use of plastic bottles and paper cups. Water was readily available on set for cast and crew to fill their personal water bottles.
- NICE PAD — Kermit’s mansion was filmed at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.
- OUI, OUI — Miss Piggy’s Vogue Paris office was filmed at the Pink Palace mansion in Bel Air.
- GO BIG — Tex Richman’s 51st Floor office was shot in the old ARCO headquarters on Figueroa Street in downtown LA.
- MAKING MUPPET STUDIOS — The Muppet Theater, built on Stage 28 on the Universal Studios Lot, incorporated parts of the old Phantom of the Opera set into its audience section. The Jim Henson Company gate was turned into the Muppet Studios entrance. A sign showcased a series of tour attractions, along with their sad fates:
- Fozzie’s Joke Room: Closed
- Gonzo’s Cannonade: Closed for Repair
- Rowlf’s Music Parlor: Under Renovation
- Dr. Honeydew’s Laboratory of Fun: Out of Order
- TRICKY TOUR — Walter’s tour through Muppet Studios actually went through The Jim Henson Company on La Brea, Crossroads of the World on Sunset Blvd., the outside of Stage 3 on the Disney Lot in Burbank, two soundstage sets on the Universal Lot (Kermit’s Office and the Muppet Theater interior).
- SIGNATURE ARCHES — A set design replicating the arches from the opening title sequence of The Muppet Show was recreated and used in the Muppet telethon.
THEY’VE GOT CHARACTER
- RIBET – Kermit the Frog first appeared on Afternoon, Footlight Theater and Sam and Friends in 1955. A balloon of Kermit appears annually in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Kermit has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Kermit celebrated his 50th Anniversary in Kermit, Texas, in 2005 and received a key to the city.
- PROMINENT PIG – Miss Piggy first appeared in the chorus on The Herb Alpert Special in 1974. The confident character was called Miss Piggy for the first time on The Muppet Show in 1976. She appeared as 1st Sow in the Return to the Planet of The Pigs bit on The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975 (which was, in effect, the pilot for The Muppet Show). She was also a chorus pig in the first season of The Muppet Show. Her break-out performance was in a number called Temptation on the Juliet Prowse episode.
- MAKING HIS DEBUT — Walter was a character conceptualized by Jason Segel specifically for Disney’s The Muppets.
- THE GREAT – Gonzo first appeared in The Great Santa Claus Switch as the Cigar Box Frackle in 1970. He appeared on The Herb Alpert Special in 1974. Gonzo as he’s now known debuted on The Muppet Show in 1976.
- WOCKA WOCKA – Fozzie first appeared on The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975.
- TOP DAWG – Rowlf first appeared on for a Purina Dog Chow commercial in 1962. He began appearances on The Jimmy Dean Show in 1963.
- HECKLERS — Statler & Waldorf first heckled on The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975.
- STAR-SPANGLED — Sam the Eagle first was offended and appalled by the Muppets on The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975.
- PRE-HEATED — The Swedish Chef kicked off his cooking career on The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975.
- RAT-A-TAT — Rizzo the Rat originally appeared as an uncredited vermin in The Muppets Musicians of Bremen in 1972. He was revamped by Steve Whitmire for The Muppet Show sometime between 1978 and 1980, and credited as Rizzo the Rat for the first time in 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper.
- IT’S ELECTRIC — The Electric Mayhem, including Dr. Teeth, Animal, Janice, Floyd and Zoot, launched their legendary career on The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975.