Mitchell Stein – This weekend finally sees the opening of the long-awaited movie of the year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In honor of this grand release, we’re celebrating it in the only way we know how: By taking a detailed look at the connections between Star Wars and The Muppets. At the forefront, it’s fitting, considering both franchises began just one year apart from each other, with The Muppet Show airing its very first episode in 1976, and Star Wars premiering just one year later in 1977. Since then, both franchises have truly left their mark upon pop culture, and their connections and similarities run through the history of each franchise. Today, we’re taking a look at the biggest highlights in the long history between The Muppets and the vast world of Star Wars.
Star Wars Crash Lands on The Muppet Show
There’s no better place to begin than this legendary episode of The Muppet Show, which was originally supposed to guest star Angus McGonagle the Gargling Gargoyle, until the cast of Star Wars rudely crash landed into The Muppet Theater. With a far better option for a guest star for that evening, Kermit quickly swaps for their new guest stars including Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca, with a special appearance by Luke’s cousin, Mark Hamill. In true irony, this episode concludes with the cast of Star Wars and The Muppet Show crew singing to Disney’s ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, now ironic as both franchises are properties owned by Disney. This Star Wars episode came at the point between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, and is one of the true pinnacles of The Muppet Show in its finest form.
Star Wars Visits Sesame Street
In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 made a guest star appearance on Sesame Street in a truly memorable episode. Early in the episode, Big Bird spots a flying saucer near his nest, and out from the saucer emerges none other than everyone’s two favorite droids. R2-D2 is there to deliver an encoded secret message to one of Sesame Street’s residents, which ultimately ends up being a grumpy holographic message for Oscar the Grouch. For all those asking, yes, this episode certainly deserves to be apart of Star Wars canon.
Jim Henson and George Lucas’s Longstanding Relationship
In addition to being two of the most culturally recognized franchises in the world, the creators behind these two franchises shared a long relationship that spanned through many of their respective projects. While Lucas and Henson are best known for working together on Henson’s Labyrinth film, the two began to become familiar with one another, both with projects being produced at Elstree Studios in London. Whether it was The Muppet Show and Star Wars, or The Dark Crystal and The Empire Strikes Back, these two franchises were never too far away from one another. This also allowed Kermit and Piggy to visit the Dagobah set from the The Empire Strikes Back early in production. Perhaps the greatest contribution to the franchise was Frank Oz and Yoda, who Jim Henson suggested when Lucas approached the Muppet team while creating the concept for the character.
Star Tours and Muppet-Vision 3D
Since the opening of Muppet-Vision 3D in 1991, the relationship between Star Wars and The Muppets has been close, at least geographically. That’s because the Star Wars themed attraction, Star Tours is located right next to the famous Muppet attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In the 1990 television special, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, Miss Piggy and Beauregard briefly visit Star Tours, and the Star Wars-Muppet proximity has led to some hilarious encounters and opportunities, including this fantastic photo of Sweetums visiting the Star Tours section.
Merchandise and Products
Of course, considering how close in proximity that Star Tours and Muppet-Vision 3D are, this had no shortage of crossover products and merchandise found throughout the parks. One of the best highlights were a series of spectacular Muppet/Star Wars action figures, which before the fantastic set released by Diamond Select Toys were the closest thing Muppet fans had to the classic Palisades figures. With many pins, shirts, and action figure products, Star Wars/Muppet products remained a big part of the former Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Parodies, Parodies, and Parodies Galore
Considering Star Wars’ cultural relevance, and The Muppets’ reputation to parody such franchises, there’s no shortage of hilarious parodies that the Muppets have taken on. Some of the best include this recent Sesame Street parody, ‘Star S’mores’, this ‘Star Chores’ poster (which now hangs on the side of Muppet-Vision 3D), and the phenomenal episode of The Muppet Show.
That’s it for today’s look at some of the best and greatest connections between Star Wars and The Muppets. Having seen the film, I can sadly confirm that this installment does not include any of the characters visiting the Planet Koozebane, so Muppet fans may find themselves quite disappointed when they leave the theater tonight. Thanks for joining us for this class of Muppetology 101, and may the Force be with all of you.