Nostalgic humans will doubtlessly feel a mixture of excitement and apprehension at the news of a new Muppet movie, scheduled for release in November this year. The film will star Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and, obviously, the Muppets.
The Muppets were a powerful force in the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s, created by Jim Henson, a wonderful, shiny individual who had enough darkness in him to give the Muppets that edge that made them so popular.
With an outstanding television series and some really, quite excellent, films such as A Muppet Christmas Carol and A Muppet Treasure Island, the Muppets didn’t compromise, they were rough around the edges, and constantly parodied everyone and everything with gusto.
And then, in 2004, the Walt Disney Company acquired the franchise, and then this happened.
However, it would not be utterly foolish to feel optimistic about the upcoming Muppets film, for one thing it is directed by James Bobin, who has worked as a writer/director on Da Ali G Show, and co-created Flight of the Conchords (incidentally Bret Mckenzie has written the songs). Also, the filmmakers are promising- promising- to make the film old school, harking back to The Great Muppet Caper and Muppets Take Manhattan.
Although the Muppets are undoubtably Jim Henson’s most memorable creation, it must not be forgotten than he tried his hand at creating numerous other worlds, the beautiful/terrifying world of the Dark Crystal, the wonderfully absurd world of Labyrinth, and the charming little fables of The Storyteller, which consisted of a single season of European folk tales aimed at a family audience.
The Storyteller was a perfect outlet for Jim Henson’s groovy peace-loving ideals and imaginative special effects. The actual teller of stories was played by John Hurt, while his dog (a puppet performed and voiced by Brian Henson) acted as the viewers voice. John Hurt and his puppet/dog would sit before a warm fire, in a comfortable looking armchair, and played a prominent part in each episode. Hurt would tell some story, sometimes taken from German, or Russian folklore, and we would flit back and fourth, from the story to the storyteller, as he weaves his narrative.
Many of the characters, particularly the obligatory monsters, were puppets, some small and grotesque, some huge and refreshingly beastly, such as the wonderful Griffin in The Luck Child.
The series didn’t last long, although an attempt was made to revive it with a second series (this time featuring Michael Gambon and focusing on Greek Myths) only four more episodes were made. For me, Jim Henson’s puppets were best suited to fantasy, and my favourite Muppet movies were the period pieces like Christmas Carol and Treasure Island, which looked visually rich and dirty, unlike later films that were a bit too clean and sterile. If the new Muppets film is a success, there’s talk of bringing the series back to television, which I think would be a very good idea, particularly as it would give the Muppets a chance to go crazy again, in their natural environment (which has always been television) and by crazy I mean crazy. In italics.
Oh and just in case you’d forgotten, The Storyteller had a few familiar faces, for example in The Solider and Death, we see a young Bob Peck, best known for his role in Jurrasic Park as Robert Muldoon, the chap who says ‘clever girl’. Here’s a clip of the great man in action.
To watch the trailer for the new Muppet Movie (titled: The Muppets) click on this link.