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Disney Milks the Muppets

Anybody catch "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on ABC last night? Did you spot the puppets?

No, I'm not talking about the Muppets, which were given 10 minutes or more of shameless promotional positioning during the latter half of the show. I'm referring to the show's producers and the ABC execs who dangle at the end of Disney's long strings.

Here's the backstory for those who don't keep up on Muppet lore: Mickey and Co. bought Jim Henson's washed-up band of puppets just over a year ago. Since then the company has trotted them out for ABC's short-lived "The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour," a Pizza Hut commercial and Disneyland's new California Adventure park, where they've posed for photos. (Coincidently, Fast Company blogger Heath Row mused on the Muppets' new role at Disney just last year.)

In last night's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the justification for giving the Muppets a cameo on the highly-rated primetime series was thinly disguised as the inspiration of "bad boy" lead designer Ty Pennington. Building a home for a couple with sextuplets, Pennington and his crew thought the Muppets would offer the design team a chance to tap the resources of some "child experts." (Sigh)

Now, I know Disney's gotta get Kermit and the gang back out on the road - and the company has made some smart strategic moves, from giving them a Disney-powered web site to casting a Muppet's version of the Wizard of Oz (with pop star Ashanti as Dorothy). But *sheesh*... fix the voices first. On last night's show, Kermit sounded more like a Sunday morning political commentator with a head cold than the frog many of us grew up with. (I'm not alone on this, just drop by the Muppet Central Forum!) The voices of Fozzie and Miss Piggy? Well, hear for yourself. ABC will be showcasing the Muppets again on tonight's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - How Did They Do That?"

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  • Bruce DeBoer

    I didn't see the show last night but it doesn't surprise me. They've been sinking further and further into blatant product placement since episode one. The feeling I get is that they are getting pressure to make more money (another non-surprise) so they have to fit more plugs in were they can find room. It’s too bad because I like the concept. If they had only left the endorsements on the subtle side of blatant.

    I think the bottom line is that viewers are eventually going to get more savvy and – in turn – sick of the commercialization of their shows. Before T-VO at least we had a break from commercials for 10 minutes at a time. Now it’s like watching one long advertisement.

    Poor Muppets. Like our favorite Led Zepplin tune, they can be ruined when they get in the wrong hands.

  • Chris Houchens

    Forget the Muppets...they're just the latest thing that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has prositituted.

    The entire show revolves around blantant and obvious product placement...oh yeah..and the deserving family

    I'm so bummed...I think I'll go to Sears.

  • Ben

    Dang, you almost make it sound like this is the first instance of product placement.

  • James

    , i am totally disgusted with the way the muppets are being used by disney, i worked for the henson company from 1998 to 2002, i was thier when it was still the Hesnon comapny i knew and loved, watched them get sold to a bunch of Corporate Nazis in Germany, then bought back only to get re sold to a bunch of corporate Nazis here in America,

    the big problem here is that the poepl who are running the show now arent creative, or inspired , they are Lawers, and accountants, who think that reading Marketing info, and looking at Demographic tests are the way you get good ideas flowing,
    they dony have a single person running the muppets these days who have a clue what they are doing,
    to paraphrase the song old man river

  • J Mag

    I'm not sure I get the post. Was Disney's decision to put the Muppet crew on Extreme Home Makeovers that carrer threatining? If you a fan, your happy to see them making the rounds again. And I think the piece featured Frank Oz .