Celebrating 20 Years of Muppet Treasure Island – Behind The Scenes

Jarrod Fairclough – MtiposterIt’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since my mother took me out of school in the middle of the day to see Muppet Treasure Island, cementing an already budding Muppet fan in to the hardcore fan he is today.  That’s right, it’s been 20 years since Tim Curry strapped his leg behind his back, 20 years since an angelic Kevin Bishop wished for something better, and 20 years since the world was introduced to the great Muppet of all time – Angel Marie!

We’re celebrating 20 years of Muppet Treasure Island by sharing some of our favorite behind the scenes images from the film, as well as a little bit of commentary on each one!

MTI4Here we see Fozzie Bear being played by Kevin Clash.  Frank Oz was directing In & Out at the same time this film was being shot, meaning he was only available for a few days, so Kevin took over.  Frank would later dub the scenes he was unable to perform in.

MTI9Kevin Clash, as well as a few others, play chickens in the background of a scene on the dock.

MTI7Kermit’s introduction as Captain Smollett was filmed against a black screen, with Steve Whitmire dressed in a black velvet outfit.  This is a common film making / puppetry technique, which Jim Henson used a lot in the early days of both The Muppets and Sesame Street.

MTI5Here Steve Whitmire performs Kermit in the same scene as the previous image.  This was Steve’s second film as Kermit, and a lot of people were interested to see how much he had improved since his first outing in Muppet Christmas Carol.  Of course he nailed it, and is still playing Kermit today.

MTI8This is the small scale model of the ship, The Hispaniola.  Several ships were made for the shooting of the film, including a large scale ship that was on a gimble, allowing it to sway naturally.  Director Brian Henson was so concerned that the cast and crew would get sea sick that he gave them all motion sickness tablets, which put them all to sleep!

MTI2This film was one of Bill Barretta’s earliest projects with The Muppets.  He stars in the film as a multitude of pirate Muppets, his main being Clueless Morgan.  His brother Gene (who is the namesake of Behemoth) has worked on a stack of Muppet projects, including the storyboard artist on Muppets From Space and the character designer on the Henson Company pilot Late Night Buffet with Augie and Del.  Kevin Bishop was just 14-15 when he shot the movie.  In pre-production for a musical film it’s common for a basic track to be recorded by the cast before the proper soundtrack.  Kevin’s voiced broke between recording the basic track and filming, meaning he could no longer hit those high notes. Brian Henson instead used Kevin’s basic track for the actual soundtrack.  Here the three of them are singing The Beatles.  Fun fact about the films soundtrack: Tim Curry is singing live during ‘Professional Pirate’, which is rare for a musical.

MTI6This shot is actually from the film’s straight to video companion, Muppet Treasure Island Sing-a-long.  Kevin Clash and Steve Whitmire watch as our good pal Peter Linz performs one of the wild boars.

MTI3Finally, we see Frank Oz on one of his rare days on set.  Frank was shooting In & Out at the time, but still made the effort to show up for a few days work.  He was on set for the scene between Smollett, Benjamina and Long John Silver, and in the making of, several people commented on the chemistry and timing Frank and Tim Curry shared.  They would often try to one up each other, with hilarious results.

Check back next week as we take a look at some of our favorite Muppet Treasure Island moments!

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