The Muppets: How Mickey Mouse Drank your Milkshake

The Muppets

Regardless of everything (this article included), the Muppets were the Muppets. A fun Muppet movie was promised and a fun Muppet movie was delivered. There was some minor hubbub by Frank Oz about the new movie not being true to the Muppets. But I felt it lived up to expectations and perhaps the real issue could be the audience. This is essentially a kids movie made for nostalgic 30-year-olds, mostly because nobody under 30 remembers the Muppets (a plot point which the movie addresses). In fact, some of the younglings I work with were shocked that they were making a live-action adult version of the Muppet Babies. The Muppets basically disregarded most of Muppet history after 1984, which means the target audience is an adult nostalgic for things he or she never saw. It’s a heavily manufactured product composed of prepackaged memories and false childhoods, but while it is a processed product, The Muppets is a good product.

Starring and written by Jason Segel, The Muppet’s has a few fun gags (80’s Robot is a scene stealer) and cute songs (I'm a very manly Muppet). It manages to somehow be slightly irreverent while displaying zero full frontal shots of Segal. However, the most interesting part of film is its plot. The movie revolves around the Muppets being largely forgotten and about to have their studio and trademarked name sold to an evil tycoon. To stop this, Kermit and the gang have to put on one last big show to raise enough money to buy their studio back. However, in the context of Muppet history, you have to remember that the Muppets were sold to the Walt Disney Company in 2004. So, everything in this movie actually happened in real life.

It’s interesting that they would pick the villain to be a maniacal Texas oilman (portrayed by Chris Cooper) drilling for oil underneath the Muppet Theater because the message of the movie is basically saying, “I drank your milkshake.”

Mickey and Kermit
Mickey drank your milkshake.

It’s saying that Disney has usurped Jim Henson’s vision for purely monetary reasons. Disney is the oil tycoon, Muppets are the theater, and Muppet blood is being drained out of them for profit.

Follow up:

Without a doubt this movie has a Disney stamp on it: from the 30 minutes of Disney trailers before the movie to almost every scene of the movie featuring a gigantic poster for Cars 2. That’s really in the film. There’s a poster for Cars 2 outside the Muppet Theater, so every exterior shot has a picture of Cars 2. Cars 2. Cars Effing 2! What did they think was going to happen? I must… buy… Cars… 2… on… DVD/Blu-ray… combo pack. I suspect Disney doesn’t think we’re savvy enough to see through this, but I’m pretty sure Jason Segel does. Besides Cars 2, Disney manages to shoehorn in cameos by Whoopi Goldberg (co-host of the ABC’s The View, also, owned by Disney), Selena Gomez (from Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place), and Rico Rodriguez (from ABC’s Modern Family). Upon seeing Rico Rodriguez I said to myself, “Who they hell is that!?” almost at the same time Kermit made a similar joke. It’s as if Segel was given a list of celebrities who upper muckety-mucks insisted must make appearances, and he had a little fun with it (see… I said “as if,” so you can’t sue me, Mouse). You may argue that John Krasinski (NBC) and Neil Patrick Harris (CBS) have similar celebrity cameos, but they were neither acknowledged or have lines (ok… NPH had half a line). The joke the movie makes is that these three Disney approved stars just happened to wander onto camera at the same time. Was Disney trying to hit us over the head with advertising or is that part of film?

Also interesting are the Moopets, a group of Muppet impersonators. The Moopets have worked out a deal with oil baron, Tex Richman, to inherit the Muppet property if the original Muppets cannot raise the funds to buy back their theater. The Moopets are slightly edgier, “hipper” versions of the Muppets with wrong sounding voices. Now this joke may be ripped off of Family Guy, but the point is that the Muppets in this film are the Moopets. I mean wasn't wanting edgier, hipper Muppets the reason Jason Segel was hired in the first place? And while these are old characters, they're not the same old characters from The Muppet Show heydays. New performers voice all the Muppets in this movie (except for Dave Goelz). That’s not the Kermit the Frog of our youth. That’s not the Miss Piggy we remember. And SPOILER ALERT…

The Muppets lose! They don’t raise enough money by the deadline. Tex Richman wins the theater and the oil and therefor the Moopets would also replace the Muppets in the reality of this film. It’s a blatant metaphor for Jim Henson’s estate selling the Muppets to a corporate mega-giant that has no intention of honoring the characters the way they promised they would (Richman had promised to turn the studio into a Muppet museum), and the original Muppet performers leaving with new performers taking over the cherished roles.

It makes me wonder if anyone at Disney read the script or they were too busy photoshopping in posters of Cars 2. Yes, you get your plugs and you make your tons of money, but the filmmakers are making fun of you, and they’re doing it in such a way that you’re paying them to make fun of you and distributing the joke to the world for them. Either A) Disney doesn’t care as long as they make a buck or B) they’re too stupid to read between the lines. And I don't think they're stupid. Or maybe, of course, they’re in on the joke, and the jokes on us for buying tickets to The Moopets.

Still The Muppets was a good time. A vast improvement over the last couple of films and, of course, Muppets Tonight starring the ever-memorable Clifford (the Poochie of Muppets—rastified by 10%). These are examples of the dumbed down, focus grouped Muppets we could have gotten. Instead we got some smart and refreshing Moopets, and a good Moopet is better than a bad Muppet.

  • Margaret Crymes
    Comment from: Margaret Crymes
    11/28/11 @ 02:57:55 pm

    But they don't completely lose...they win in overtime! Didn't you see the newspaper headline at the end? "RICHMAN GIVES BACK THEATER, RIGHTS. SUDDEN CHANGE OF HEART HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HEAD INJURY"?

    (something to that effect.)

  • Brad
    Comment from: Brad
    11/29/11 @ 03:39:42 pm

    They didn't "photoshop in" any Cars 2 billboards. They filmed on the streets of Hollywood which were full of Cars 2 billboards. Those billboards were actually there? Have you ever been to Hollywood? There is nothing but movie marketing as far as the eye can see. Every billboard is for a movie. They even paint entire sides of office buildings with movie posters here. Of course Disney was happy to get those Cars 2 billboards in the background, but they didn't have to sneak them in digitally - all they had to do was shoot on any of the thousand corners of Hollywood where one alady existed.

  • download new movies
    Comment from: download new movies
    02/07/12 @ 01:08:48 pm

    @Brad. What you have said is absolutely true.All the billboards and scenes in cars2 movie are imagined to be graphics but Its all a real thing.Disney always rocks..

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