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Entertainment Earth

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Rogers Magazine Service - Womens Magazines

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Entertainment Earth

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"Ah, the lovely Miss Piggy! The Scarlett Johansson of swine."

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

THE MUPPETS

The Muppets are a group of puppets and costume characters, and the company created by Jim Henson. Individually, a Muppet is properly one of the puppets made by Jim Henson or his Creature Shop – though the term is often used erroneously to refer to any puppet that resembles the distinctive style of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street characters, the term is both an informal name and legal trademark linked to the characters created by The Jim Henson Company.

The Muppets - Full CastSince the mid-1980s, Jim Henson had been in talks with Disney CEO Michael Eisner to sell Disney the Muppets. He and other Muppet performers had secretly filmed tutorials for Disney animators, entertainers and Imagineers on the matter of how to properly operate a Muppet, and many Muppet producers were already preparing for the transfer. On August 28, 1989, the two announced a deal for Disney to buy Henson Associates & all of its characters, excluding those featured on "Sesame Street." The deal fell through several months after Jim Henson's untimely death in 1990, largely due to clashes between the Henson family & Disney attorneys. The Henson family subsequently sold the entirety of the Jim Henson Company to German conglomerate EM.TV in 2000. In 2003, the Henson family repurchased The Jim Henson Company from EM.TV. Eisner, still interested in the Muppet properties, re-opened negotiations with the Hensons and announced the purchase of the Muppets characters from The Jim Henson Company in February 2004.

The word "Muppet" itself was said by Henson to have been created by combining the words "marionette" and "puppet"; however, Henson was also known to have stated that it was just something he liked the sound of, and he made up the "marionette/puppet" story while talking to a journalist because it sounded plausible.

Muppets are distinguished from ventriloquist "dummies", which are typically animated only in the head and face, in that their arms or other features are also mobile and expressive. Muppets are typically made of softer materials. They are also presented as being independent of the puppeteer, who is usually not visible, hidden behind a set or outside of the camera frame.

Sesame Street is an educational American children's television series designed for preschoolers, and is recognized as a pioneer of the contemporary standard which combines education and entertainment in children's television shows. Sesame Street is well known for the inclusion of the Muppet characters created by the puppeteer Jim Henson and is one of the longest-running shows in television history. Sesame Street is produced in the United States by Sesame Workshop, formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW). It premiered on November 10, 1969 on the National Educational Television network, and later that year it was moved to NET's successor, the Public Broadcasting Service. Sesame Street had given Jim Henson's creations invaluable exposure; however, Henson began to perceive that he was being pigeonholed as a children's entertainer. He sought to create a program that could be enjoyed by young and old alike.

The Muppet Show was a television program featuring a cast of Muppets produced by Jim Henson and his team from 1976 to 1981. The show stars Kermit the Frog, also one of the main Muppet characters of Sesame Street. Whereas Kermit was a happy, perky and somewhat avuncular character on Sesame Street, here he is trying to keep control of the varied, outrageous, kinetic Muppet characters (and his temper), as well as keep the human guest stars happy and secure. The television show depicted a vaudeville or music hall style song-and-dance variety show, as well as the backstage antics involved in putting the show on.

The show was well-known for outrageous, highly physical (slapstick), sometimes absurdist comedy, and particularly for using its puppet characters to create uniquely humorous parodies. Each show also featured a human guest star; after the show became popular with audiences, many major celebrities were eager to perform with the Muppets on television and in film. The diverse roster of guests included Twiggy, Sandy Duncan, Julie Andrews, Steve Martin, characters from Star Wars, Mummenschanz, Ethel Merman, Paul Simon, John Denver and Alice Cooper. The Muppet Show became the cornerstone of Jim Henson's enormously popular ongoing productions and the Muppet Show characters went on to star in The Muppet Movie, which was the first film to feature puppets interacting with humans in real-world locations, and later films such as The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets from Space, and a Muppet remake of The Wizard of Oz. The format was later revived as Muppets Tonight in 1996. The premise of Muppets Tonight was that Clifford (a Muppet who first appeared on shortlived The Jim Henson Hour and was voiced by Kevin Clash) was the host of a variety/talk show on KMUP. The show stuck closely to the Muppet Show format of various skits (mostly featuring the show's human guest star) interspersed with some sort of crisis occurring backstage. Muppets Tonight ran from 1996 to 1998. There were 22 episodes produced in two batches. 13 episodes were ordered by ABC, which only ran 10 of them in the 1995-96 TV season. The program was then purchased by the Disney Channel, which ordered a further nine episodes and aired these along with the three episodes ABC did not air, in the 1997-98 season. One of the nine newly-produced episodes was a clip show compilation culled from the earlier episodes.

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The Muppets came to the big screen in 1979's The Muppet Movie. The film is a movie-in-a-movie, as we see Kermit the Frog and the rest of the Muppets gathering for the first screening of The Muppet Movie. Kermit notes that the movie is a somewhat fictionalized account of the true story of how the Muppets first got together.
The Great Muppet Caper (1981) is the second of a series of live-action musical feature films, starring the Muppets. The movie was released shortly after the final season of The Muppet Show, so some fans consider it the movie finale of the original show.
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) is the third of a series of live-action musical feature films starring Jim Henson's Muppets. It was the first film directed by Frank Oz, who also performs Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and Animal. The film introduced the Muppet Babies (toddler versions of the Muppet characters in a flashback/dream sequence). The Muppet Babies later received their own Saturday morning animated television series, which aired from 1984 until 1991.

The Muppet Christmas Carol was the fourth feature film to star The Muppets, and the first produced after the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson. Released in 1992, it is one of many film adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This is the first of the Muppets movies in which the focus of the story revolves around characters played by human beings. Specifically, Michael Caine played Ebenezer Scrooge, Steven Mackintosh portrayed Scrooge's nephew Fred, and Meredith Braun played Scrooge's fiancée Belle. The rest of the cast was fleshed out with Muppet performers, including Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as Cratchit's wife, Robin as Tiny Tim, and Fozzie Bear as Fozziwig ("Fezziwig" in the original story). The film was directed by Jim Henson's son, Brian Henson. This film marked the younger Henson's directorial debut. Ironically, in spite of the majority of the cast being puppets, this film is in one sense one of the truest adaptations of the original story. This is because the film is interspersed with scenes of a narrator (Gonzo playing Dickens), who, along with the characters, recites virtually all of Dickens's original lines.

Muppet Treasure Island was the fifth feature film to star The Muppets, and the second produced after the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson. Released in 1996 and directed by Jim Henson's son Brian Henson, it was one of many film adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. As in the earlier Muppet Christmas Carol, the key roles were played by human guest stars - in this case, Tim Curry as Long John Silver and Kevin Bishop as the putative protagonist Jim Hawkins - while the Muppets filled in supporting roles, including Kermit as Captain Smollett, Fozzie as Squire Trelawney, and Miss Piggy (who Tim Curry states is the prettiest co-star he's ever had) as Benjimina Gunn. Following their success as the narrators of The Muppet Christmas Carol, Gonzo and Rizzo appear in specially-created roles as Jim Hawkins' best friends, and steal the show.

Muppets from Space (1999) was the sixth feature film to star The Muppets, and the first since the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson to have an original Muppet-focused plot. Gonzo has always been classified as a whatever, but after he begins to have disturbing dreams of abandonment, he begins to realize just how alone he is in the world. After an alien race appears to be trying to send him a message through bowls of cereal, Gonzo realizes that he may not be so alone after all and climbs to the rooftop to start watching the sky. His dreams are realized when he's hit by a bolt of lightning that serves as a conduit that allows him to communicate with a pair of cosmic fish, revealing to him that he is, in fact, an alien from outer space.

It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is an NBC television movie produced by Jim Henson Television in 2002. The plot of the movie revolves around the old Muppet Theatre going through financial hardship, and the entire Muppet cast looking towards Kermit the Frog for guidance. Kermit eventually feels he's not useful to anyone, and an angel is sent to help him out. The movie then follows the formula of It's a Wonderful Life, as Kermit is shown what would have happened to his friends if he had not existed. In the opposite world, Joan Cusack's character has changed the park near the Muppet Theatre into a shopping centre. Gonzo is now homeless and Rizzo the Rat has been shoved onto an episode of Fear Factor where a woman has to eat him alive. Dr. Teeth and his band have become country dancers. The biggest change is the Muppet Theatre, which has become a dreadful night club. Dr. Honeydew became a rapper, Beaker became a bodyguard, and Fozzie is now a pickpocketer. Miss Piggy is a widow who lives in an apartment with a series of cats.

The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, an original made-for-television movie, aired May 20, 2005 as a special Friday night edition of ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney. Adapted from L. Frank Baum's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Adam F. Goldberg and The Simpsons writer Tom Martin, this latest retelling of the classic story follows Dorothy (Ashanti) as she journeys through an Oz populated by Muppets to find the Wizard and become a star.

After the consensus was reached that The Muppets' Wizard of Oz failed to deliver critically, the question hung in the air whether or not another Muppet film would be made.

In 2008, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller pitched a concept for a Muppets film to Walt Disney Studios Executive Vice President of Production Karen Falk, and they were offered a deal to develop their script. The news became public in March 2008 when Variety first reported that Disney had signed a deal with Segel and Stoller, with Segel and Stoller writing the script and Stoller directing. In June 2008, Jason Segel announced that he had turned in the first draft of his script and was hopeful that the film would live up to previous Muppets movies. Later in 2008, Stoller noted that he and Segel had written an "old school Muppets movie, where the Muppets have to put on a show to save the studio." In this same interview, Stoller also confirmed that they would get as many cameos and guest stars as possible, and that Jason Segel would play a ventriloquist.

Originally, the film was titled The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time! Another former title of the film was The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made!, after an unused script written by the late Jerry Juhl back in 1985. Although early reports indicated that Stoller would direct the film, in January 2010 it was announced that James Bobin would direct the movie. An early leak of the script rumored that it would feature celebrity cameos by Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Christian Bale, Steve Carell, George Clooney, Jack Black, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Mel Brooks, Matt Damon, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt, Rachael Ray, Bob Saget, Lisa Lampanelli, Jeff Ross, and Charles Grodin, Ricky Gervais, Zack Galifianakis, Billy Crystal, Alan Arkin, and Dave Grohl. However, Gervais, Crystal and several other cameos including Beth Broderick, Kathy Griffin, Ed Helms, Sterling Knight, Mila Kunis, Ben Stiller, Eric Stonestreet, Wanda Sykes Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Danny Trejo were completely omitted from the film due to time constraints (Though Gervais can be seen in the musical finale). Jim Parsons' cameo was kept as a secret by producers despite rumors that leaked on the Internet regarding his role in the film.

The final title for the film was simply, The Muppets, released in 2011 it would be the first Muppets theatrical release in 12 years and stars Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and Rashida Jones along with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear.

In the film, Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan (a muppet himself), his brother Gary (Segel), and Gary's girlfriend Mary (Adams) help Kermit the Frog reunite the Muppets. They must raise $10 million to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman (Cooper), a businessman who plans to demolish the studio to drill for oil.

The Muppets was a box office success and became one of the best-reviewed films of 2011. The film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song "Man or Muppet", written by the film's music supervisor Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Conchords); the first Academy Award presented to a Muppet film. The Muppets is also the highest-grossing film of the franchise to date.

The marketing campaign for The Muppets provided fans with additional "Muppet skits" that appeared in previews and online including a spoof romantic comedy trailer for the movie that was attached to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and was later released online under the faux name Green With Envy. Additional spoof trailers parodied The Hangover Part II (called The Fuzzy Pack), Green Lantern (called Being Green), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (called The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo), Paranormal Activity (called Abnormal Activity), Happy Feet Two (called Dancing on Happy Feet), Puss in Boots (called Fuss in Boots) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (called Breaking Prawn).

 

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