Tales from the MUPPET Press Conference

The Muppets are back this Thanksgiving!

Beyond the Marquee was on hand at this Saturday’s Beverly Hilton press conference for Disney’s The MUPPETS movie (in theater this November). And the question that everyone wanted to know first and foremost was “where have the Muppets been?” This question and others were addressed by the creative team behind the movie including Jason Segel, Amy Adams, director James Bobin, Miss Piggy, and Kermit the Frog.

“They went on holiday” suggests Bret Mckenzie (Flight of the Conchords) the music supervisor on the project. Producer Todd Lieberman (The Fighter, The Proposal) added that realistically “they didn’t necessarily go away as much as they kind of scaled back on how much product they put out.”

The origins of this film followed the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, written by Nick Stoller and Jason Segel, when Disney asked the duo what they were interested in doing next. They were  immediately drawn to the idea of a new Muppet feature. They saw this as a “great opportunity to do a comeback movie” screenwriter Nick Stoller added. “I wanted to acknowledge that this movie was bringing them back to the forefront of comedy where they belong.” Jason continued. When tackling what the plot of this new tale would be, they asked themselves “What do the Muppets do best? They put on a show, so I knew ultimately the movie was going to be about putting on a show.  That’s the real spirit of the Muppets” said Jason.

Fozzie Bear and Walter with some of their other fellow Muppets

There’s no question that the Muppets of the Henson era laid the groundwork for family comedy as it is today. “The show could work for 4 year-olds and 60 year-olds and 30 year-olds, because when you watch it you take different things from it, and that’s what’s so clever about them.” said director James Bobin (Flight of the Conchords, Da Ali G Show). “We see a bit of ourselves in the Muppets. They’re a group of people who always are hoping for the best” and that optimism has been infectious and lasting for over 40 years now. Producer Todd Lieberman thought that this movie seemed perfectly timed because while filming “we shut down the whole street, and we all looked up and there was this big banner celebrating Jim Henson and it kinda felt like we were supposed to be there at that time.”

Old Muppet fans can rest assured that their favorite characters are present and thriving, but fresh faces have also been added to update the franchise. Part of this revamp includes the introduction of Walter, a brand new Muppet who plays Gary’s (Jason Segel) brother. It is safe to say Walter was overjoyed to be offered the part.”Its unbelievable, I keep pinching myself, I have bruises to prove it…Its just been overwhelming and a dream come true.” The production called upon seasoned veterans such as Muppeteer Dave Goelz who played he original Gonzo. Goelz and others involved in past creations of the “Muppet world” helped teach the cast and crew the intricacies of Muppetdom. Bret McKenzie shares one valuable lesson he learned from the old school Muppeteers, “Every other Muppet can talk and sing but chickens can only cluck.”


Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog

Like the mix of old and new characters, classic Muppet songs like “Rainbow Connection” and new songs written by McKenzie are joined to create a fun, fresh soundtrack in with classic Muppet mentality.  Jason felt that Bret’s creations were “right in the spirit of the Muppets.”

The ever charming Amy Adams (Enchanted, Doubt) continues her reign as Disney’s go to gal for movie musicals in the film as Mary. Amy shared how she became a part of the project,  “I got involved because Jason and Kermit sent me a DVD singing to me and asked me to be in the film. I was definitely doing the shoot.” Also joining the cast is Academy Award-winning actor, Chris Cooper (Adaptation, American Beauty) as Tex Richman, the menacing Muppet antagonist. Cooper’s character portrayal and use of method acting truly seemed to shake up Miss Piggy, she had the following to say about his moments on set, “He isn’t evil or mean, but he is scary!”


Gary, Mary, Walter, Kermit and Fozzie check out the paragraph above their heads for any misspellings.

Despite various updates, Miss Piggy’s diva reputation remains unchanged. “She wanted a very strange credit, where we would all be introduced and then it would say ‘and Miss Piggy’ but then that would just stay on throughout the entire movie, which I thought was really weird” said Jason. “I saw nothing wrong with that!” Miss Piggy rebutted, “I did not demand any re-writes, I want to go on the record with that, but that’s probably just because I didn’t really read the script.”

Of the many cherished moments on set, the Hollywood Boulevard dance number was everyone’s favorite. In regard to Jason’s dance skills, Amy shared, “He’s quite a natural I have to say … he didn’t drop me but he did lift my skirt up on accident once.” That night of filming was especially memorable for Jason, ” We filmed that the night of my birthday … I walked out and all of the Muppets sang me “Happy Birthday”, which was like the greatest moment of my life.”

Looking back on the experience, each cast member took away something unique. Because of the amount of work Jason Segel put into the production as a lead actor, co-screenwriter and executive producer he felt this project is “the thing I’ve done in my career that I’m most proud of without a doubt…I was working with my childhood idols and I think  the best actress of our generation (Amy Adams). Every day was a joy.”

Gary (JASON SEGEL) and new Muppet WALTER get spiffy before their big trip to Hollywood

Newcomer Walter was just as excited about working on  the film, “It’s just so deliberate and crafted and just gone over with a fine tooth comb, and I think that speaks to the professionalism of everyone who worked on it” The film also holds a special place in the heart of Amy Adams who said, “For me it was my first family film that I did after having a daughter and it was really really cool to work with the muppets, they were a big part of my childhood so everyday was sort of me reliving my childhood while I had a child and that was really really cool and special. ”

“The goal was to set the stage for the Muppets to take the torch and do a million more movies and TV shows so hopefully we have accomplished that” concluded Jason.

Kermit expressed the hopes of everyone involved in the film when he wrapped up the conference by stating “I hope you guys like it, I really do.”

The Muppets is due in theaters across the country November 23rd.

World Muppet Domination happens this THANKSGIVING


* (additional story contributions Ava Klein)

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One Response to “Tales from the MUPPET Press Conference”

  1. Chris says:

    Too cool. It’s great, The Muppets are back! Can’t wait to bring the grandkids to see the movie, so they can experience the same joy I did years ago. Hope it’s just the beginning of these lovable performers’ comeback trail.

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