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Movies and TV

It’s Getting Easier Being Green

04.10.06 | 4 Comments

Today is one of those rare days in which I’ll probably post more than once. Lots to talk about.

For starters, Kermit the Frog was on ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover last night. I didn’t really watch it, but Mrs. Flametoad watched part of it so I saw a couple minutes of footage at least. I was the perfect age to be mesmerized by the original Muppet Show, so I’m well indoctrinated. I have to be honest, I have mixed feelings about this resurgence of muppets in media.

If you’ll remember, a year or more back Jim Henson Studios sold the Muppets to Disney. From what I’ve read from multiple sources, the Muppets had always been something of an obligation on the part of Henson’s heirs. It was a big responsibility to simultaneously keep the brand alive with movies and such, while avoiding crass commercialization that would taint it. My impression was that the movies (especially post-Henson) were never terribly successful, which put a further drain on the studio’s resources. In a way, the Muppets were a prison. The Henson Studio folks were a creative bunch of people, but they were locked into Muppets because they could only afford so many simultaneous projects. Other excellent projects include The Storyteller tv series, Dinosaurs, and Farscape were some excellent exceptions.)

Apparently Disney and Henson Studios had been dancing around a deal off and on for years–going back to when Jim Henson himself was alive. Finally they came to an agreement that would keep Muppets alive in the hearts and minds of a new generation, while freeing Jim Henson Studios to work on new projects, like the Farscape movie Peacekeeper Wars and Power of the Dark Crystal (a sequel to the original Dark Crystal movie).

Disney got to work right away. Now you can buy DVDs of the original Muppet Show episodes (with a disappointing dearth of special features), posters in airport terminals (I never quite understood that one), The Muppets Wizard of Oz on the Disney Channel, and a Pizza Hut commercial. That last one bugged me. That seemed to be crossing a line–probably a line that Henson himself wouldn’t have cared about, but it’s a line that we fans drew. By comparison, Kermit showing up on Extreme Home Makeover (a show I like and respect, although it gets a bit repetitive) isn’t such a big deal. It’s just another sign of Disney’s hand. After all, Disney (which I’m pretty sure owns ABC), is doing exactly what they promised Jim Henson Studio they’d do–keeping the Muppets alive. So why do I keep thinking of the old saying about being careful what you wish for?

PS: Little fact checking went into this essay. If you can show me information that refutes some of what I’ve written here, I’ll be glad to revise it.

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4 Comments

Comment by Thomas
2006-04-10 14:30:10

One other tidbit: Back when they were hyping up Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars at San Diego Comic Con, Brian Henson mentioned that the rights of some of the Muppets were split between Children’s Workshop Television and Jim Henson Studios. (I remember Kermit the Frog appearing on Sesame Street with a Muppet News Flash.)

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Comment by Neal5x5
2006-04-10 15:05:59

Disney definetly owns ABC, and they rule it with an iron fist, as well as a host of other media/entertainment divisions. They also own a large chunk of Yum Brands, which includes Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, KFC, and A&W. When Disney put out some serious cash for the Muppets, they did so with an eye toward their marketing side. Also, Disney was desperate for a new entertainment element after losing future distribution rights to the Pixar movies (Finding Nemo, Incredibles, etc.) around 2002. Now, Disney has both the Muppets and Pixar, and the largest shareholder is Steve Jobs of Apple Computer fame. Don’t be surprised if Dr. Teeth and Animal are hawking Ipods soon and Gonzo asks his chicken girlfriend if she’s Original or Extra Crispy.

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Comment by Prest0
2006-04-10 15:20:50

Hmmm. Maybe I should start a contest to predict where we’ll see the muppets show up next. It’ll be an exercise in learning just how many pies Disney has its fingers in.

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Comment by Prest0
2006-04-10 15:35:26

As Thomas (congrats on the new baby!) mentions, some Muppets belong to Sesame Productions. I discovered this wonderful Muppets FAQ that has even been updated to 2006. It details when each transaction happened, and in much better detail than I did. In fact, it’s a great starting point for all sorts of muppets-related information.

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