Back in September, I had the chance to head out to Los Angeles for a Disney Dreamworks Event. While there, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Jim Henson Studios for a tour and also interview the people who are behind the The Muppets, which will be released into theaters on November 23rd.
In the next 7 days, I’ll be bring you exclusive interviews and more about The Muppets!
We had the chance to sit down and talk to David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, producers of The Muppets.
Why is The Muppets was rated PG and not rated G?
I’m not sure we couldn’t have gone for “G” you know. I think “PG” is probably where you wanna’ be with this kinda’ film because you’d like to get early teens and, and you’d wanna’ get everybody. So I think if it were–let’s say we could have gotten that, and I don’t know if we could have or not, but you’d rather be “PG” than “G” I think. Or you know you’re gonna’ get little kids and, and only their parents. And you might lose uh a lot of in between.
Todd also had to say:
You know when we put this movie in front of an audience thankfully kids are enjoying it, parents are enjoying it, but also the general audience is really responding to it. So hopefully it goes beyond kids and parents and into general but we want, we want all.
Have you always been Muppets fans?
I can speak for myself. I’ve been a fan my whole life and grew up with them and saw all the movies, watched the show. So when the opportunity arose to be involved in the brand it was really exciting. And I have 2 young children. I have a 6½ year old boy and a 2½ year old boy. So getting them and showing them you know the movie and getting them into– invested in the brand and Kermit and the gang is really fun. And watching the love that my kids had mirroring the love that I had when I was a kid is really special.
I think I’m too old actually to have, to have grown up with them. I was older I think and sort of passive, but I was at the studio as an executive when we did Treasure Island and one of the other ones. So I knew the Henson’s that was the executive on that. So I loved it going back from that time.
What were some of the biggest challenges in bringing it all together?
A theatrical movie hadn’t been in over 10 years. So you know Disney bought the brand several years ago and I think always had a desire to wanna’ do something with it. You know sometimes the timing of things just works out and there was a script being developed that Jason Segel and Nick Stoller wrote. And Jason kind of jump started the whole thing by taking a general meeting at Disney and pitched the idea as a life long fan of saying I wanna’ do this as a movie.
They just started it and Disney had always had the desire to do a theatrical film. The timing just felt right and hopefully that’ll show itself to be true when we unveil it to the world and people will say, “Yeah actually I wanna’ see that movie.” But the challenges in getting it made were less so than actual challenges of making the movie. ‘Cause there were a lot of technical challenges that we weren’t necessarily aware of having never produced a Muppets movie before.
That’s where the real lessons came in of you know how do you fit 10 people in a small space? How you choreograph a scene where you just have to show from here to here. How you build a set that enables Puppeteers to go there and actually show the puppets. How do you put a group of people in the real world and not show the humans and just show the puppets?
So there’s technical challenges to the movie, but the desire was really to make the movie. So that was, that was thankfully a good process.
What are the plans for the franchise now?
You know it’s really waiting for this movie that–all the studios…a successful film triggers a lot of different areas of the company to want to, whether it’s merchandising, or a TV show, or special, or whatever, what have you, we’re all kind of waiting to see how the movie does and how that ignites interest in the various division of the company to move forward and put it together you know.
And I mean it’s pretty amazing being at a corporation like Disney where there’s so many different arms that are kind of working in sync. And you’ve got marketing and, and product collaborations and there’s just marketing in parks and things you know well–that go well beyond the movie, but are really interesting to kind of watch and see how it all works in tandem. So as David said hopefully people like the movie and that will generate other things.
I mean look at what Pirates has done and look at what even like–something like Nightmare Before Christmas has done.
You know it took years for that to catch on in merchandising to really pop, but you know it’s a huge business for them now, as it Pirates, and they did some work to the ride and so forth. So there’s a lot of potential out there. It just depends on the success of the film.
Who are your favorite Muppets?
Fozzie is probably my favorite.
I think I would say, I say Kermit and Fozzie. And I really, really do love the Muppet that we’re introducing in the movie Walter. He’s super sweet and just a great character. I hope people like him.
Did you ever think about putting The Muppets in 3D?
We thought about it just literally for you know like that and realized the beauty and the magic of this movie is in the puppeteering. And you know and a lot of people you know who don’t– who are familiar with how Muppets movies are made is there talk about well is it all CG? Or you know what is it?
We say, “No. You know it’s a retro movie you know. The puppeteering is an art form and if you supplemented it or you know did something that wasn’t true to it you’d kinda’ mess it up. So we sort of took pride in the fact that there wasn’t CGI–3-D.
It feels like there’s a lot of movies today where they’ll just do the 3-D thing to take advantage of 3D, but the story telling doesn’t necessitate 3-D. And the story telling didn’t necessitate 3-D in this. Um if it did we may have talked about it more but it’s, it’s a you know clean, basic story that there’s really no reason to have it 3-D.
Here’s a fun extra for when you see the film!
There’s a scene in the movie where there’s a 100 Muppets at the very end. This exact scene that David’s talking about, but on the– if Kermit’s doing the speech here, on the other side there’s 100 Muppets that are listening to the speech. And we puppeteered separately. We each had a Muppet [LAUGHS] in tandem. We each had a Muppet and it’s excruciatingly difficult to keep your arm up for that long.
David chimes in:
But in addition to that you realize the technical challenges of it because when the mo– when we saw the movie there was one Muppet that was off and the Director James, who’s here. He said, “Yeah we have to erase that one right there ‘cause he’s kinda’ lopsided.” And I said, “Yeah that’s mine.” [LAUGHTER] It’s not easy.
It was so great to speak with producers Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman! I loved learning more about how The Muppets came together!
Make sure to like The Muppets on Facebook! The Muppets will be in theaters on November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving!
Disney/DreamWorks is providing me with an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles for an advance screening of Real Steel and select footage from The Muppets. All thoughts and opinions are my own.