The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Muppet Movies

Ryan Dosier – Hey, remember a few months ago when Disney announced that they were making a new Muppet movie called The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made? Yes, think hard now… because they did! We ravenous Muppet fans can only assume that the film is in pre-production as we type. We’re still unsure if the film is being written by Jason Segel, Jim Lewis, Steven Spielberg (hey, it’s always a possibility!), or some unknown–but what we do know is that it will be a Muppet movie. We’ve had many Muppet movies in the past–even The Muppet Movie–some more successful than others. What is it that makes a good Muppet movie you ask? Well, I’ve done little research and am basing my opinions entirely on my own… opinions–but these are The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Muppet Movies.

Yes, Lew Zealand is a habit of highly effective Muppet movies. Why? How? Well… he has been in every one–with at least one line in all but Muppet Treasure Island (but Muppet buffs will know that he does sing a bar in the extended version of “Cabin Fever” on the soundtrack). For some reason Lew is on a very exclusive list of Muppets to have appeared in every film; including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Bunsen, Beaker, Rowlf, Statler, Waldorf, The Electric Mayhem, and Sam Eagle. Not even Scooter has appeared in every film, and he was a major character throughout the entire run of The Muppet Show!

The only explanation for this is that Lew Zealand is part of some sort of fish-thrower’s guild, requiring him to appear in every film. I am not sure how he became a part of said guild… but I’ll start hurling grouper too if it means I’ll be in the next Muppet movie!

No, Miss Piggy did not pay me to include this on the list. It is a well-known fact that the most successful Muppet movies, as wacky and crazy they may be, all had a backbone of frog and pig romance to fall back on. Everyone remembers Kermit and Miss Piggy’s infamous date with Steve Martin in The Muppet Movie, their raucous song and dance number in the DuBonet Club in The Great Muppet Caper, their scandalous wedding in The Muppets Take Manhattan, their illegitimate children in The Muppet Christmas Carol, and their passionate-pirate love affair in Muppet Treasure Island. Miss Piggy even snuck in a froggy tushy pinch in The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz–and who can forget their sensuous sunscreen exchange in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa?

Whatever occurs in this next Muppet movie, the frog and the pig need to have a romantic subplot. Not only has this aspect been sorely missing for years, but it truly is a habit of highly effective Muppet movies. Everyone knows about the will they/won’t they relationship between Kermit and Piggy–now is the time to tap into it! We don’t want another Muppets From Space theatrical bomb, do we?

5.)   MUPPET
A word is a highly effective habit? Yes, it is. Every single Muppet movie has had the word “Muppet” in the title in some form. This is probably just used for sheer public marketing purposes; but, c’mon, it makes sense! Why would you have a Muppet movie without the word Muppet in it? You wouldn’t have an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie called, “Nuts for Trying.” Nay, you would call it, “Alvin and the Chipmunks are Nuts for Trying.”

Since the new movie already seems to have a set title with Muppet in it, I won’t waffle on this habit too long. But for all further projects, let’s avoid titles like Letters to Santa, okay? Even if you toss “A Muppets Christmas” in front of it, it isn’t highly effective. How about “Muppet Letters to Santa” or “Letters to Muppets”? …Scratch that. Keep the last one as a segment on the new Muppet show, though.

Excuse the lame pun, but I feel it fits Fozzie well. The fourth of the highly effective habits is the one and only Fozzie Bear. In the past, Fozzie has simply been tossed into Muppet movies just to have him there (I’m looking at you, Fozziwig and Squire Trelawney!). When this happens, Fozzie’s relationship with Kermit suffers immensely. The frog and the bear are the two best friends that drive the plots of the best films. The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper are, in a way, buddy movies starring Kermit and Fozzie (and Gonzo). Bringing back the frog and the bear dynamic is just as important as the frog and the pig. The only reason this one ranks higher is because it has been missing more than the other. Fozzie is the one Kermit can turn to when he’s out of ideas, Kermit is the one Fozzie can turn to… always.

Kermit and Fozzie have returned as a duo in recent films–most notably It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and Letters to Santa and in promotional interviews for The Muppet Show Season 3 on DVD–and hopefully they will continue to do so. Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson have fantastic chemistry as these two characters, and it needs to be tapped!

3.)   MUSIC
Remember how much people didn’t like Muppets From Space? Have you ever stopped and wondered why? Well, if so, you should have come up with this blaring fact: There was only one song truly performed by the Muppets–and it wasn’t even the Muppets who performed it (Gonzo’s relatives did, of course). Every Muppet movie has music and every Muppet movie needs music. It is important for the characters, the story, and the movie itself. Without music, the Muppets can grow flat. Music that is good, catchy, and evenly-dispersed throughout the film will lead to a highly effective Muppet movie.

Another thing that can be tacked on to this habit is Paul Williams. His music is always the best fit for the Muppets. Let’s bring him back again, shall we?

2.)   HEART
This one should pretty much go without saying. Behind every explosion, flipping penguin, and singing pig, there is heart. No matter how rampant the crazy may run, heart is always the biggest overriding aspect of every Muppet movie. Be it “Rainbow Connection” in The Muppet Movie, Gonzo’s loneliness in Muppets From Space, or Tiny Tim in The Muppet Christmas Carol, there is always heart more than anything else. There is always love between the Muppets, the desire to do what is right, and a hug to tie it all together.

No matter what the plot of the movie may be, the heart needs to be the most important thing. If there is no heart, there is no Muppets. And who would you hire to do a Muppet movie instead? The Smurfs?

Yeah, heart is important… okay, so the frog and the pig should share a moment… and yeah, Lew Zealand needs to pop up somewhere… but who wants to go see a Muppet movie that isn’t funny? Above all, make the people laugh! If you can be silly and unhinged while retaining Lew Zealand, frog/pig love, the word Muppet, Kermit and Fozzie bonding, music, and heart… well, by gum, you’ve got yourself a pretty darn perfect Muppet movie.

As Kermit said in The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson after the rest of the Muppets sang “Just One Person”, “You guys were great! But, uh, do you have something silly to end with?” So, Disney, no matter how cheap your Muppet movie may be, make it silly! Toss a penguin, scare a chicken, throw a pie–just make it silly. It’s what Jim would want!

I hope you’ve enjoyed The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Muppet Movies. If you’re from Disney, then I really hope you enjoyed them–because you’re the ones who need to apply them to the next film. I have no doubt in my mind that you will. You’ve been doing right by us Muppet fans so far! Keep up the great work, Muppet Studios! And don’t forget Lew Zealand!

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

4 thoughts on “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Muppet Movies

  1. Yes yes YESH! (Myth?) I could add a few highly effective Muppet moments to that list I think:

    The Running Gag: Be it modern rats in Robert Lewis Stevenson, falling lightbulbs, or sekshy ladish appearing from behind billboards — the best Muppet movies have always included running gags. Failing that, just get a certain fashionitta celebrity to cameo and have a running Gaga.

    (This comment was brought to you by the confirmation word: mingadus)

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