The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by world-famous "Muppeteer" legend Jim Henson in 1955. Disney had originally been promised to buy the Muppets in May of 1990, but, most unfortunately, the week Jim Henson was supposed to sign the contract that would give the rights to the characters to the Disney company, he unexpectedly passed away.
In 2004, The Walt Disney Company, distributor and owner of Pixar, acquired the ownership and materials of The Muppets from The Jim Henson Company, placing it under the same ownership as Pixar. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy appear with other Disney characters (including Pixar) on the cover of the 2004 Disney annual report. However, as a result, Sesame Workshop had also lost the rights to Kermit the Frog, and they could no longer show new material with him on Sesame Street.
The Muppets (2011 film)
The Muppets is a live-action Muppet movie released theatrically in U.S. theaters by Walt Disney Pictures on November 23, 2011. The script was written by Jason Segel and Nick Stoller, the writer-director team behind the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. James Bobin, co-creator of the HBO series Flight of the Conchords, directed the film.
The second episode in the Toy Story Toons series, Small Fry, appears before the film. This is the second time that a non-Pixar film has showcased a Pixar short before it (the first being Disney's Bolt), and the first live-action film to do so.
Muppet mentions & references
- Monsters, Inc. co-director, Pete Docter, has often stated that The Muppet Show influenced his work in terms of both humor and character.
- He expounded on it in greater detail in 2009: "The Muppet Show was a big influence on me and just because of the sense of quirkiness, the fun and especially the sense of very specific characters that they created. It really transcended puppets. I think, these guys became, for me, very deep characters. They have a lot of sides to them, and they’re really amazingly well-defined characters."
- Speaking specifically on character development, Docter used the example of Fozzie Bear's facial expressions to explain Kevin from Up, in an NPR interview:
- Terry Gross: You gave Kevin emotion, the kind of emotion you couldn't read in the real bird that you based him on, so what kind of methods did you find for giving your bird emotion.
- Pete Docter: Well, the cool thing was, we did the same thing that I described where there is no facial expressions. And, the Muppets do this wonderfully. Where you'll have Fozzie, who has no facial -- other than he can open and close his mouth -- the rest of it's just movement. So, the bird has a great deal of expression and range of attitudes, but it's all through movement.
- A San Francisco Chronicle reporter noticed Docter's Muppet influence:
- Peter Hartlaub: Some of the characters in "Up" have a Muppet vibe.
- Pete Docter: "The Muppet Show" was definitely something I watched when I was growing up. They're such great characters. I think in a lot of ways that was an influence on Pixar in general.
- Peter Hartlaub: In what way?
- Pete Docter: They just had this great specificity in their character. I don't even think they thought of them as puppets. They were caricatures of people, but they had real underlying foibles. Fozzie has some sadness to him. He's a failed comic, and that's what makes him funny, of course. ... There's a sense of funny, quirky, goofball stuff, but it always comes down to character, and the whole show is running off these personalities. That's what we're trying to do. However the plot works out, it's always a character study that gets you through the movie.
- In the audio commentary for Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton explains that Austin Pendleton was cast as one of the fish on the basis of the crew's fond memories of Max from The Muppet Movie.
- In a brief shot from the short film Presto, Presto Digiotagione runs across the stage with a group of balconies behind him. In one of those balconies, Statler and Waldorf (two characters who are known for sitting in a balcony) can be seen.
- The end credits to Up include a dedication "to the real life Carl and Ellie Fredricksen's who inspired us to create our own Adventure Books"; the list includes Mike Oznowicz, father of Frank Oz, former puppeteer for The Muppets.
- The book The Art of Up discusses the influence of Jim Henson and The Muppets on the character designs in Up. The book also has a quote by Jim Henson in the first chapter reading: "Simple is good."
Pixar mentions & references
- The title card for the Kermit segment of Pepe's Profiles ("A Frog's Life") is similar to the title design of A Bug's Life.
- WALL•E is parodied with a movie poster spoof, "BEAK•E".
- In The Muppets, multiple advertisements for Cars 2 are seen in the background. The first one is seen among the skyline of Los Angeles, and the second is seen in the background during the ending dance.
- During the opening number in Muppets Most Wanted, Gonzo jokes that they are making the film to kill time until Tom Hanks makes Toy Story 4.