Fast Company

Revitalizing The Muppets Franchise

This month's The Muppets movie tries to reverse decades of brand mismanagement.

THE FAULTTHE FIX

Selling out
Some fans balked in 1996, when their beloved Miss Piggy started shilling for Baked Lays, and then again in 2006, when she appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial to sing suggestively about "Cheesy Bites." Kermit's bizarre Ford Escape Hybrid ads didn't fare much better.

Sharing the spotlight
Since The Muppets was green-lighted in 2008, its fuzzy stars have interviewed political candidates on Nightline, yukked it up on SNL, and more. And Miss Piggy's debut novel, The Diva Code: Miss Piggy on Life, Love, and the 10,000 Idiotic Things Men Frogs Do, won rave reviews from fans.

Recycling story lines
Audiences scoffed at 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol and 1996's Muppet Treasure Island, in which Jim Henson's creatures were forcefully jammed into classic tales instead of going off on their own fresh, quirky adventures.

starting fresh
The Muppets takes place in the real world, just as Henson intended. And fun, character-driven story lines abound: Miss Piggy, for example, starts the movie as a plus-size fashion editor at Vogue Paris, and Animal is in a clinic for anger management.

Overextending the brand
Theme-park rides! Baby clothes! A Muppified version of America's Next Top Model! For decades, no possible extension was too off-brand for Henson's franchise, which made fans wonder if its ever-changing owners knew what made the Muppets special at all.

focusing on the funny
Though some corporate tie-ins are inevitable (see: a line of Kermit the Frog kicks from Adidas), the modern Muppets promote themselves on YouTube, where their cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" has logged more than 22 million hits.

selling to kids
Muppets movies have long been rated G--an odd choice for a group whose '70s TV gig contained an episode titled "The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence." And Tim Hill, who directed 1999's Muppets From Space, was best known as a writer on SpongeBob SquarePants.

courting to grown-ups
The Muppets touts an edgier PG rating, for "mild rude humor," and coscreenwriters Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, who penned the R-rated hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The laundry list of buzzed-about cameos--Jack Black! Mila Kunis! Zach Galifianakis!--doesn't hurt either.

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1 Comments

  • Mandy Kilinskis

    Whoa whoa whoa. Muppet Christmas Carol is one of the best versions of the Christmas Carol ever made. Well-written songs, lovable Muppets, and an amazing Scrooge by Michael Cain.