Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

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Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Post  eddie on Wed Dec 07, 2011 11:11 am

Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Fox anchor Eric Bolling says the new Muppets movie pushes a dangerous liberal agenda – but what about Kermit's previous films?


The Muppets: family fun or leftwing brainwashing for children? Photograph: Patrick Wymore/Unit

The headline in the Hollywood Reporter reads "Fox Business Network Calls Muppets Communist", followed by the deeply dispiriting words "Debate Goes Viral", which here we may take to mean: "Gains Perverse Legitimacy Because Lots of People Clicked On It". It is just the latest in a series of claims about children's films having a leftwing agenda. Last month a New York Post writer described Happy Feet 2 as "Kiddie Karl Marx". Sorry, I forgot to say SPOILER ALERT.

The Muppets
Production year: 2011
Country: USA
Cast: Alan Arkin, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Zach Galifianakis

If you haven't heard the story yet let me take you – with a heavy heart – back to Friday, when Fox Business Network anchor Eric Bolling announced that the new Muppet movie featured a character named Tex Richman, a greedy oil executive who wants to drill under the Muppets' theatre. The discussion that followed didn't just typify the Fox News mission to recast the outside world as leftwing propaganda; it threatened to usher in a whole new paradigm of stupid.

"Liberal Hollywood depicting a successful businessman as evil – that's not new," said Bolling. He asked his guest, media-bias alarmist Dan Gainor, if Hollywood was deliberately trying to brainwash kids.

"Absolutely," said Gainor. "And they've been doing it for decades." He pointed out that oil could be used to "light a hospital" or "fuel an ambulance". "They don't want to tell that story," he said.

Bolling's Fox News colleague Andrea Tantaros chimed in, saying: "I just wish liberals could leave little kids alone." Bolling wondered aloud why the Muppets couldn't, for once, "have the evil person be the Obama administration". It only remained for him to throw up his hands and cry: "Where are we? Communist China?"

Am I now brainwashed, or could it be that under this new rubric of idiocy, the whole thing suddenly makes perfect sense? After all, even a brief examination of the Muppet canon reveals a definite and longstanding liberal bias:

The Muppet Movie (1979). The Muppets head for liberal Hollywood, portrayed here as some kind of collectivist paradise, while a businessman, a Colonel Sanders-type fast food magnate, is once again the antagonist. The notion of slaughtering a pig (in this case, Miss Piggy) is treated as if it were equivalent to murder. Thank you, veggie-nazis.

The Great Muppet Caper (1981). The Muppets travel to London, home of socialised medicine. Features some squatting.

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). I didn't see this one, but it's clearly about the Muppets joining some sort of terrorist network, which may sound funny to certain leftwing intellectual freedom-haters, but I think it's just sick.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). Based on a story by Charles Dickens, whose other work was known to demonise workhouses, prisons and the wealthy. On the plus-side, the film itself promotes private charity over state intervention, but the overall message is that poor people got that way through no fault of their own, and need rich people to bail them out.

Muppet Treasure Island (1996). Treats the entrepreneurial wherewithal of freelance treasure hunters as "piracy". Why, for once, can't the bad guy turn out to be an overzealous environmental regulator?

Muppets From Space (1999). This film posits an essentially godless universe where certain Muppets turn out to be space aliens and is, in its own way, as anti-Christian as any Harry Potter film.

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Re: Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Post  eddie on Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:38 am

The Muppets: 'You never call them puppets!'

Will children reared on CGI fall for felt-and-foam animals and bad puns? Ellen E Jones on the lasting genius of the Muppets

Ellen E Jones

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 January 2012 22.30 GMT


Muppety man ... Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Rowlf and other Muppets. Photograph: Allstar/DISNEY/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar

The Jim Henson Company studio lot on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles is one of the few remaining original lots in Hollywood. As if to acknowledge its history – it was built in 1917 and was originally the home of Charlie Chaplin's production company – a 12-foot statue of Kermit the Frog dressed as Chaplin's Tramp stands atop the gatehouse, tipping his bowler hat towards the Sunset Strip. Behind Kermit, in the Tudor-style bungalows where Modern Times was filmed, something even more exciting is happening; the unveiling of the first theatrically released Muppets film for more than a decade, since 1999's Muppets from Space.

The Muppets
Production year: 2011
Country: USA
Cast: Alan Arkin, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Zach Galifianakis

The new Muppets movie is all about reclaiming past glories. In depicts the titular puppets disbanded and their studio in a state of bad repair, when a felt-and-foam superfan called Walter, from Smalltown, US, resolves to do everything he can to get the old gang back together. In the real world, the Muppets' saviour is Jason Segel, a superfan who is also a key fixture in Judd Apatow's comedy stable. Dismayed to find his heroes sidelined by Pixar and their brand in a state of disrepair, he also resolved to do everything he could to get the old gang back together.

So when, following his success with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Disney gave Segel the opportunity to name his next project, there was one obvious choice. Segel co-wrote and stars in the film alongside Amy Adams and, of course, Gonzo, Rowlf, Scooter and the rest of the gang. "Jason loves the Muppets," says Nicholas Stoller, director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and his co-writer on The Muppets. "He, like, literally has puppets all around his house. It's kind of weird." Segel threw himself into the movie with gusto, and merrily dances alongside his puppet pals in full-scale song-and-dance numbers. Segel is actually quite a Muppety man in person. His humour is self-deprecating, but never sarcastic. It's Fozzie Bear, the hapless, pun-loving standup with whom he most identifies. "Fozzie has a sort of meritless confidence, in that no matter how bad his comedy is going, he just keeps going for it. He's completely undaunted by a lack of response from the audience, which is how I've spent a lot of my career."

A veteran of more than 20 movies, Segel says shooting a Muppet movie made him a showbiz novice all over again. "We were given a little handbook, by the Muppeteers themselves. It was really, really helpful. Things that you really wouldn't think about, like for example, you never use the word 'puppet'. You don't want to break the suspension of disbelief."

Even so, the Muppets set was like any other. It was shot on location in Hollywood, with the real Jim Henson Studios standing in for the dilapidated Muppet Studios; Miss Piggy's costumes are all designer, as any star of her stature might expect, and include a pair of trotter-sized Louboutins. Says Segel: "I think the most surreal moment is when you're having a long conversation with Kermit – and then it's 'cut', and poor Steve Whitmire crawls out from under the couch. You realise there's been a puppeteer under there for, like, two hours and you've been sitting on him the whole time."

The Muppets producer David Hoberman says it's common for entertainers of Segel's generation to feel an affinity with Kermit and the rest of the gang, which made securing cameos from the likes of Jack Black, Sarah Silverman and the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl a breeze. "What you find out is that comics really grew up on the Muppets. The Muppets were really influential in the kind of comedy they do and are really revered by the Hollywood comedy community."

The Muppets were actually born in the late 1950s when college freshman Jim Henson began developing a group of expressive puppets for Sam and Friends, a local TV show in Washington DC. One of Sam's friends was a lizard called Kermit. By 1970, Kermit had evolved to a frog, and the Muppets had become familiar faces on American TV, thanks to Henson's involvement in the nationally syndicated Sesame Street.

Keen not to be considered simply as a children's entertainer, Henson decamped with his team in 1976 to Elstree Studios in London and created The Muppet Show, a lovably shambolic variety show hosted by Henson's alter ego, Kermit. For five years, until 1981, it hosted the likes of Johnny Cash, Debbie Harry and Gene Kelly as guest stars, as well as establishing the characters that would become Henson's legacy. By the time of his death in 1990, the Muppets had made three feature films and numerous television specials. In 2004, the brand was sold to Disney and, save for the odd TV movie, things have been a little quiet on the Muppet front since.

The movie was quietly announced back in 2008 and anticipation has been building, stoked by the commissioning of a new TV series and a campaign to get the Muppets to the Oscars. But it was an idiotic tirade by Fox News commentator Eric Bolling, accusing the Muppets of communism, that really got them back into the public consciousness.

The Muppets director James Bobin, veteran of Da Ali G Show and Flight of the Conchords, has a theory as to why the Muppets might strike the right note now. "Everything in culture moves in a cyclical way. In the past 10 to 15 years we've had a lot of observational, The Office-style comedy, which is very reality-based and quite cynical about how the world is and how people interact. The Muppets is really about innocence and charm and sweetness and light and having hope – and stupid gags. It's just a good time for Muppets to come back because that's where comedy is going anyway. And they're the best at doing it."

Bobin, a Brit, is evidence that it's not only in Hollywood that the Muppets are remembered with fond reverence. The long Elstree residency and smattering of British guest stars and writers meant the original Muppet Show always felt almost as British as it did American. As a six-year-old, Bobin would watch the show on Sunday evenings at his grandmother's house in Sunningwell, Oxfordshire. Now living in Los Angeles, he was recruited by Disney to direct the new movie, and brought Conchords collaborator Bret McKenzie with him as music supervisor. Bobin says the match of Conchords and Muppets was a no-brainer. "They're both really nice. I think nice is a very weird word, but it's also an apt word for this. The Muppets are always really positive when they come across adversity and they always have the ability to see the good in people."

One unlikely participant in the Muppet story is now-disgraced actor and writer Chris Langham, who began his career as a writer on The Muppet Show before moving on to Not the Nine O'Clock News and The Thick of It. Langham testifies as to the source of the Muppets' "niceness". "Jim saw the organisation as an extension of his family and, although he was a driven, focused individual, he made extraordinary efforts to act as a loving father to all those aboard his little craft."

Comedy nerds and Shrek-fatigued parents might be sold on the genius of the Muppets, but what of today's children? Reared on CG animation and 3D spectacle, will they turn their noses up at felt puppets and bad puns? Hoberman and his producing partner Todd Lieberman are a little nervous. "I hope not," Hoberman says. "Maybe certain ages, for sure, but the Muppets are so real and so lovable and colourful. I don't know … I think you look at these characters and they come alive and you fall into it." Did they ever consider making it a 3D movie? "For about a minute, but it just didn't make sense. Muppets are Muppets, and I think part of that is just buying into the reality of being in that moment with them."

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Re: Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Post  eddie on Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:29 am

The Muppets - review

Chirpy songs and knockabout humour abound – but there's a real sense of sadness at the core of this Muppets reboot

Henry Barnes

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 January 2012 14.10 GMT


Boundless enthusiasm ... The Muppets. Photograph: Patrick Wymore

There's something charmingly relentless about the Muppets' resilience. Animal doesn't need a reason to drum; Gonzo can't stop throwing himself at danger; Kermit – the only one of Jim Henson's creations with any time for introspection – never gives up on his troupe, no matter how bad their act gets. It doesn't matter if no one is watching, as long as the show goes on.

The Muppets
Production year: 2011
Country: USA
Cert (UK): U
Runtime: 103 mins
Directors: James Bobin
Cast: Alan Arkin, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Zach Galifianakis

It's on this sense of boundless optimism (and with a lot of faith in nostalgia) that co-writers Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller peg this revamp of the franchise, which arrives 12 years after the Muppet's last cinematic outing. Their film comes right out and says it: The Muppets are nobodies now. The world's moved on, the group's disbanded. Kermit is hidden away in his Beverly Hills condo, Miss Piggy has wiggled into the editor's chair at Paris Vogue, hopeless stand-up Fozzie Bear works a Reno bar as part of a shoddy Muppets tribute act, the Moopets. Their old theatre is to be demolished by an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper) and no one – least of all the Muppets themselves – seems to care.

It's left to the fans – represented here by a Muppet called Walter (Peter Linz) and his human brother Gary (Segel) – to foil Richman's plan and save the Muppet legacy. Their plan: to hit the road and use their love of a TV show that was popular over 30 years ago to convince Kermit and co to reunite for a benefit gig to save the theatre.

The film is packed with chirpy songs (for which music supervisor Bret McKenzie – of Flight of the Conchords fame – has been Oscar-nominated) and knockabout humour, delivered with flair by Segal and his co-star Amy Adams (perhaps underused) as Gary's placid girlfriend. It's never cloying or too knowing. Cynicism and wariness are real world concerns that have no place among the foam and felt.

You might think that James Bobin's movie takes the Muppets' relevance for granted – but underneath the enforced jollity there's a real sense of sadness. There are some fun cameos – including brief turns from Emily Blunt as Piggy's secretary (a wink to her role in The Devil Wears Prada) and Kristen Schaal as Animal's anger management therapist. Even if there's no George Clooney or Matt Damon (both rumoured to be on board when the script was leaked in 2010) to give the unassuming troupe the sparkle they received from the likes of Julie Christie and Liza Minellli back in the day, it doesn't matter.

Jack Black turns out to be the film's biggest star name – and it's entirely appropriate that he appears midway as Animal's sponsor, refusing the Muppets' offer to host their final show and only appears on stage when kidnapped and tied to a chair. The ropes go on, they play the music, light the lights, totally oblivious to his screams of protest. The Muppets boundless enthusiasm carries them stubbornly on, and if times have changed, they're refusing to acknowledge it. Life's a happy song, as the film's big musical number testifies. Sing it loud enough to drown out the doubters.

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Re: Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Post  eddie on Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:03 pm

Moi, attend the Oscars? It's hard when you feel unwelcome, says Miss Piggy

Porcine star's presence at awards in doubt as Academy's pig-headed attitude to animals leaves her down in the snout

Xan Brooks

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 February 2012 14.57 GMT


A date with Oscar? … Miss Piggy is disillusioned by the Academy's refusal to acknowledge animal actors. Photograph: Eduardo Parra/WireImage

It remains a case of two legs good, four legs bad at the Academy Awards, as organisers continue to espouse a segregated honours system that excludes animal stars. Now Muppet actor Miss Piggy has thrown her weight behind a campaign to end the ban, and is threatening to boycott next Sunday's event if her demands are not met.

The Muppets
Production year: 2011
Country: USA
Cert (UK): U
Runtime: 103 mins
Directors: James Bobin
Cast: Alan Arkin, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Zach Galifianakis

Miss Piggy, age undetermined, joined calls from the likes of Steven Spielberg and James Cromwell for the Academy to rule four-legged performers eligible for acting Oscars. The clamour follows what has been seen as a vintage season for animal stars. In recent months, the likes of Uggie, the canine star of the The Artist, and Crystal, the chain-smoking monkey from The Hangover Part II – not to mention the 14 horses who played Joey in War Horse – have all drawn rave reviews from the critics. Shockingly, however, all have been ruled ineligible by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Miss Piggy had been expected to attend this year's Oscars, where her latest film is nominated in the best original song category. However, she now says she "doesn't know" if she will go.

"It's wonderful to be nominated in the best song category, even if it wasn't a song I sang," she told reporters. "As for going to the Oscars, it's hard to feel right about going to an event like that where you're not really welcome."

The intervention by the porcine star looks set to increase pressure on the Academy, which has hitherto been unmoved by an online "Consider Uggie" campaign, as well as by calls from the writer Susan Orlean to bestow a posthumous Oscar on Rin Tin Tin. "For some reason, the Academy has refused to recognise pigs as actors," Miss Piggy lamented.

Yet again, all 20 performers nominated in this year's Oscar acting categories are human.

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Re: Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Post  pinhedz on Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:41 am

I remember a pair of muppets having this conversation about the Cookie Monster:

-- He's a credit to his race!

-- What race is that?

-- The 100-yard dash.


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Re: Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Post  Yakima Canutt on Sat Feb 18, 2012 8:26 pm








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Re: Muppet movies: their communist plots revealed

Post  eddie on Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:41 am

Kermit: how are the Muppets feeling about their movie comeback?

Was lifelong Muppets fan Jason Segel starstruck – and did anyone manage to out-diva Miss Piggy?

Hadley Freeman

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 9 February 2012 20.00 GMT

[img][/img]
LL Cool J told people "don't call it a comeback" (1). However, a lot of people have described your upcoming film as a "comeback" for the Muppets. Are you more favourably disposed to that word than LL Cool J?

The Muppets
Production year: 2011
Country: USA
Cert (UK): U
Runtime: 103 mins
Directors: James Bobin
Cast: Alan Arkin, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Zach Galifianakis

I'm with LL Cool J on this. (He and I go way back. In fact, as a frog, I was hip to hop before it was hip-hop.) For me, it's not really a comeback because we didn't go anywhere. The Muppets have been up to lots of stuff on television, in books and even on the internet. We just haven't been in a movie in a few years, but when we heard they were making a movie titled The Muppets and they were looking for a few good frogs, pigs, bears and whatevers, we knew it was time to get back up on the big screen.


How was it being working with Jason Segel? He has said that working with you was a lifelong dream come true, so did you have to put him at ease? He must have been very star-struck.

Jason is so talented and funny, a great comic actor who reminds me a lot of Fozzie Bear. Once he got over the fact that he was working with us, he relaxed and had a great time. Of course, Miss Piggy insisted he call her "your majesty", but she does that to all of us.


You've worked with more celebrities than you'd find in an entire year's worth of People magazine. Who has been your favourite and why?

I would never pick one celebrity over another, except in the case of Miss Piggy, who is always my favourite, especially when she's sitting in the next room listening to us do this interview. But I did really like Amy Adams. She's beautiful, talented, and if Miss Piggy had let me, would probably have been fun to talk with.


Was it hard acting opposite Michael Caine in that ludicrous nightgown and bedcap that he wore in The Muppet Christmas Carol and not laugh?

Michael Caine can do anything (2) ... and look great doing it (3). I thought he was brilliant in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Heck, I thought he was great in Jaws 4 (4). As for the ludicrous nightgown and cap, I liked it. Personally, I sleep naked (come to think of it, I do most everything naked; it's a frog thing), but the nightgown-bed cap look is coming back.


There have been stories that The Muppet Show is returning to TV. Is this true, fingers crossed?

I have my flippers crossed. But I really can't say anything about this, not only because I'm sworn to secrecy, but also because they don't usually tell me about it until five minutes before we're supposed to go on the air.


That show seemed to cause you an enormous amount of stress.

There's good stress and bad stress. Good stress is working hard to pull together entertainment. Bad stress is working hard to avoid marrying a pig. My most stressful moments came when I had to go up to Miss Piggy's dressing room to tell her we cut her number. Yeesh!


Who were the biggest divas on that show? I bet it was Waldorf and Statler.

Statler and Waldorf aren't really divas. They are curmudgeons, critics, and hecklers, but they come to every show, so I'm not complaining. They keep us honest. No, if you want a diva, I'd have to say Miss Piggy. And she admits it. In fact, she's president of the Hollywood Diva Association, as well as winner of their Irrational Tantrum Award three years running.


There are lots of celebrity couples but you and Miss Piggy really are the cream of the crop. Do you have any advice to the others on how to handle their relationship in the public eye?

Well, it's true that Miss Piggy and I have been a couple for a long time. In fact, we're the longest-running interspecies couple in Hollywood. But even if you date within your own species (which I recommend, though I don't have a choice), the best thing you can do when you're trying to have a celebrity relationship is this: never ever agree to do a reality show. Reality and celebrity don't mix. Fun to watch, but not pretty to live through.


It is, as you know, quite the trend for celebrity couples to have a cute name: Brangelina, Bennifer, etc. How should we refer to you and Miss Piggy?

We did try to trademark the names "Permit" and "Kiggy" but they never really caught on.




How are you two getting on? You've had your ups and downs.

I know Piggy would like there to be more to our relationship, but like a lot of frogs, I'm just not ready to commit yet. As for Piggy, she's OK with that. She's an independent pig who can handle herself, and anyone else who gets in her way.


Has it gotten any easier being green in this post-racial Obama era?

Green is what I want to be, which is a good thing, because being a frog is not like being a chameleon: you don't get a lot of choices in terms of colouring.


What are your thoughts on the 2012 election?

I don't get too involved in politics, but I am an amphibitarian. I'm in favour of wetlands, green jobs (that's jobs for anyone who is green) and I'm opposed to interspecies marriage between pigs and frogs.

The Muppets still engender the same affection as they did 30 years ago. Why?

I don't know how we do it. We're just us (5). And I guess it's that honesty, the fact that we're not perfect, that helps people see themselves in the Muppets. Everyone has friends who are just like us – an overwhelmed frog, an overbearing pig, a joke-telling bear, a crazy drummer and all the rest. When you laugh at the Muppets, I think you're laughing at life.


None of you seem to have aged in the past 30 years. What moisturiser do you use?

I don't know about the rest of the gang, but personally I soak up to my neck in pond scum one hour every day.


Where, exactly, is the Rainbow Connection? I've been looking for years

It's inside you. You have to listen for it, then follow that voice, that dream. Pretty soon you meet other people who hear it, too. And the more people you share your dreams with, the better it gets.

Footnotes

1 In his seminal hip-hop song, Mama Said Knock You Out, which has yet – to our knowledge – to be covered by the Muppets. 2 Not necessarily true, as anyone who has seen Jaws 4 can testify. 3 Again, not really true. He did not look so good battling killer bees in The Swarm. 4 Proof, were proof needed, that the Muppets are kinder than Guardian journalists. 5 It helps that they appear not to have aged in 30 years, which Kermit puts down to his daily regime of sitting in pond scum for an hour.

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