Disney announced earlier in the week that a sequel for The Muppets has been green lit, although Jason Segel will not be involved. Two words in that sentence bother me. Those two words are 'Disney' and 'sequel'. The Muppets was first announced in March 2008 and as a big Muppet fan I was both excited and apprehensive. After all, Disney's 2005 Muppet debut The Muppets' Wizard of Oz feat. Queen Latifah was an embarrassment and certainly verified the fears of the hardcore Jim Henson fans who thought Disney were sure to ruin the franchise. Of course people were going to be worried.
Waiting for the film to come out was like waiting for your best pals to come visit, but in order for them to get to your house they have to cross a minefield, battle Minotaurs and scale an erupting volcano before you can even whip out the scrabble board. Unnerving.
The only thing that stirred hope for me was Jason Segel's attachment to the film. A reputed hardcore Muppet fan, I knew he'd write something great - but being a realist, I also knew that Disney executives have to power to say 'No, I think we should have...' and my greatest fear lay not in the writing of the project, but the negotiation faced by Segel & Stoller when they delivered the script to the studio. Now, changes were made and scenes were cut and plotlines rewritten - Segel and Stoller reveal several huge changes in various interviews and podcasts; but the integrity and the heart of the script they wrote certainly did survive and I think that's a fucking miracle in itself. A colleague of mine visited Disney very recently and was told that Disney considered Animal to be their 'big star'. Fuck sake.
Nothing against Animal, but true Muppets fans know that Kermit the Frog is Jim Henson and true Muppets fans will know that Jim Henson is Kermit the Frog and true Muppets fans will know that Kermit the Frog IS the Muppets because he embodies everything Jim Henson stood for. Kermit is their big star, for that very reason. Disney only likes Animal, because he looks the funniest as a fucking plush doll.
Now, I'm not naive. I'm aware that Jim Henson and Company were a bunch of hippies that made their pals out of fabric and ping pong balls and spent their time singing about rainbows and love and acceptance and hope. I'm aware of that and I'm cool with it; in fact that's why I love The Muppets so much.
When The Muppets marketing campaign kicked off, I was mega excited - all of my pals were negotiating the minefield. They'd beaten the Minotaurs and I could see them peering down from the top of that volcano. Homestretch.
The film came out and I went to see it on the opening night with my pal Michael. We laughed, we cried like children and we came out smiling like two big stupid smiling things.
They'd done it. They made a Muppets film that would ignite a love of the Muppets in new fans, but also nurtured their old fans and gave them lots of little treats and homages along the way. An absolute joy. I saw it twice after that.
The Muppets were back and my friends' babies were watching The Muppets; which was very nice indeed. This triumphant return is somewhat soured for me though, by the news of the sequel; although not because Segel isn't attached. He's done his bit and he's launched the Muppets back into the limelight at full force - fair play to him. And fair play to Flight of the Conchords' Brett McKenzie on his Oscar win for Best Song for The Muppets at The Oscars.
It's not that at all, although I would be thrilled to see another Segel/Muppet outing any day of the week/month/year. No, my fear and my unease lies far beyond Pride Rock, past even the elephant graveyard and is buried much deeper than the caverns beneath the sands of Agrabah (total fucking Disney geek, by the way).
My fear? Cars 2.
I don't think I need to explain myself further than that. Disney do love a money-maker and as box office records show - but sadly the Muppets are exactly that. I hope this film is cared for and nurtured as much as the last; do it right, eh?
I love you Disney, but do not fuck with my Muppets. Do not fuck with our Muppets. Don't you dare take advantage of my pals.
(P.S - I am available if you need someone to fill Jason's shoes. 'Kay? Thanks.)