Jarrod Fairclough – Fun fact: In the next town over from where I live, there are 4 giant antique warehouses, often filled with old movie merchandise. So the other week when I was searching through them with my old friends at Duck and Mouse, I stumbled across a couple of old 1980’s Muppet books, including a storybook version of the 1984 film The Muppets Take Manhattan. When I decided to review it for the site, my first thought was ‘How am I going to make the distinction between the film and the book?’ By the time I finished it, however, all I could think was ‘…What the hell was that?’
The book follows what is essentially the same plot line as the film, but some of the differences between script and book are just insane. Having not read the original movie’s script (if anyone has it, I’d love to see it) I’m not sure if there was some threads that were canned from the shooting schedule, but there’s a few moments in the book that had me scratching my head thinking ‘Well that just didn’t happen’. It’s possible these moments were actually filmed, because there’s some photos that go along with the scenes in the book that were obviously done during the shoot, so it’s possible that there’s some directors cut out there we’re not seeing.
The descriptions in the book were the first thing that drew my attention, like the fact that ‘Gonzo was… well he was gonzoing’, which I didn’t even know was a verb until this point, but I’ll be using it forever from now on. The author, Danny Abelson, seems to have a great time with our curved beak friend, later describing Gonzo’s former living quarters as a filing cabinet (in the film it’s a cement mixer). We get to learn about their lives in lockers, their run in with Martin Price, and their quest to woo the other producers (sans ‘You Can’t Take No For An Answer’, disappointingly). And while the film appears to take place over a matter of a couple of weeks, the book claims that this all occurs over months and months. I guess the Muppets just can’t take no for an answer! No no no. Etc.
We’re also treating to an entire transcribing of Pete’s ‘people’s is peoples’ speech, but with a twist, almost like the author heard it once and wrote it from there. Still, it’s just as confusing as the actual thing… Peoples is people, by the way.
The book allows inner thoughts to be described, mainly by Piggy as she watches the friendship between Kermit and Jenny blossom, at one point wishing Jenny would go to fashion school in Siberia (I heard there’s a gulag there putting on a talent show). It adds just an extra layer to the character, although watching the film back you can almost see this fiery anger exuding from Piggy anyway.
A lot of the changes between book and film start once the Muppets have separated, and we’re given a glimpse in to their lives away from Kermit. For example – there was an entire scene while the Electric Mayhem did their polka did that involved Bunsen and Beaker! Animal is playing out of tune, so Bunsen plugs in his gas-powered drumometer directly in to Animal’s brain, which leads them in to an apparently planned song ‘How Come They Never Get Tired Of The Polka’ – I really hope a recording of that song exists somewhere! Gonzo’s water skiing act is all but the same, but instead of the William Tell Overture, his chickens cluck to ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’. It’s later revealed that the polka bars janitor is old Beauregard himself!
Now, at this point in the film, we’ve already been introduced to the Muppet Babies, and the skater who just likes the shorts. However in the book, we see these scenes well before Kermit has even done his Sardi’s trick. Though Kermit it still questioned by Piggy over giving Jenny ‘the huggies’, and who could blame her? Unlike the rest of the book, the Muppet Babies get an entire page to themselves with no words at all, like Abelson was told ‘these characters are gonna be big stars, so just make a poster’.
When Kermit is hit by the taxi, we’re treated to a far longer scene between the frog and the doctor. By the way, unleashing an amnesia patient upon New York City just because he’s physically okay always sat weird with me. I mean, I know American health care has always been a controversial subject, but this is ridiculous. To help Kermit figure out who he is, the doctor hypnotises him, sending him back to his fathers death, and the first time he brought a girl back to the lilypad. The doctor then pretends to be this girl, named Freida, offering marriage and a life together, and while it doesn’t work, it just adds to the fact that this doctor is a crazy lady herself.
Another strange change from the movie is the fact that the frog ad-guy Gill is named Will. Why is he named Will? Will we ever know? #Wocka Wocka.
The last major changes come from the theatre during the premiere of Manhattan Melodies. While Kermit ‘Phil’ the Frog is being shaken in to his normal life, Statler and Waldorf turn up to offer their services. In the film they’re portrayed as essentially just two old guys who don’t like these new creatures that have waltzed in to town, so its understandable why they were cut from the movie in this segment.
Possibly the biggest difference comes right at the end as Miss Piggy and Kermit walk down the aisle, where it’s revealed that a real minister is presiding over the wedding. Kermit questions multiple times why Gonzo isn’t playing the minister (in the film only doing so once), even asking Gonzo himself once the wedding was over, shocked that he actually just got married (probably illegal in most states, I’d assume).
And so the book ends, hand in hand with a friend, as the Muppets look forward to a heck of a lot more performances on Broadway, maybe Tony Awards, gigs on Late Night shows, leading in to bigger and better roles, like TV and film and Gonzo and Scooter doing ‘Waiting for Godot’ which now I need to see happen. There’s some real strange differences in the book, but I’d love to see an original cut of the film, because I have to imagine there’s some scenes we never got to see! Hey Frank, call me!