This is a fantastic time to be a Muppets fan. There's the upcoming movie, "The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made," written by and starring Jason Segel. There are also the wildly successful YouTube shorts; 79 Muppets assembled to re-create Queen's classic video for "Bohemian Rhapsody" in November of last year. It was an instant sensation, gathering more than 14 million views to date and four Webby nominations. That's not even mentioning the universe of branded Muppet materials out there for serious fans to indulge in.
So the Muppets are back, and in a very big way. They weren't ever really gone, but they've re-emerged in the pop culture consciousness thanks to this recent viral excitement on the Internet. It turns out that this is all part of Disney's master plan, as Muppets Studio general manager Lylle Breier explained in an interview with MTV last week.
"The idea really has been, over the last couple of years, to make a Muppet resurgence so that when [Jason Segel's] movie comes out, everybody in the world would be ready," she said. For Breier and the rest of the folks at Muppets Studio, it's really the viral video outbreak that has been the biggest boon to that comeback.
"The Internet was a perfect place to do it. We spent a lot of time thinking about the original 'Muppet Show'... and we tried to figure out, what would the medium be today?" It was a natural leap from there. "The Muppets did a variety show-- [they were] popular in the '70s. And we started to think, what would they be doing today and realized, you know, the Internet is a lot like a variety show."
The timeline extends back into 2008, well before "Bohemian" arrived. "[In 2008] we started with about seven viral videos. 'Ode to Joy' [featuring Beaker] won a Webby last year and it was kind of our first foray. We'd always wanted to do 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and it just took awhile to get all the parties together and all the rights together."
So the variety show continues in a sense, only it's not a scripted half-hour of weekly television, but rather a semi-frequent web appearance. Really though, when you think about it, these viral videos are just the Muppets doing what they've always done: commenting on pop culture in their own uniquely entertaining way. And there's more to come.
"'American Woman' is next, and it's going to come out over Memorial Day," Breier revealed, stopping short of running through the key players to be featured. "I think you'll see a bunch of Muppets. It won't have 79; 'Bohemian,' it just lent itself to have the most." These viral video don't operate under a set schedule, which frees the Studio team up to really put thought into delivering quality content for the fans. "Our hope is that we can keep giving new, fresh content out there on a regular basis, which we've done pretty much for the past two years. It's not set."
Those who don't want to wait until the end of the month won't have to. "Lost" fans will get a taste of the Muppets this week. Not during tomorrow's episode but rather the next day, in a new promo with series creators Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. "The writers of 'Lost' are big Muppet fans, and so on May 5 the first viral video with the Muppets and the writers of 'Lost' will be out."
Talking to Breier, it almost sounds as if there's more than enough to work with. In addition to Segel's upcoming movie, there's also "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made," an idea dating back to Henson's days that never came to fruition. It was announced last year at Disney's yearly D23 Expo. With Segel's "Greatest Muppet Movie" incoming, "Cheapest" has been set aside. For the time being.
"It's an old and wonderful idea," Breier said. "It's in the coffers with a lot of other fantastic things that we've got going on. ['The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made'] is such a great opportunity for us that we couldn't pass it up. Jason Segel is so smart and such a Muppet fan, and it kind of all came together so beautifully that it felt like the right thing to do."
There's not much to report on the movie yet, not that Disney is revealing anyway. Breier confirmed that no one's been cast other than Segel, but fans can -- of course -- expect "a ton of celebrity cameos. You can count on that."
No names were named, but it's more a question of fitting people that you want to see into the story than getting someone to agree. "In everything we've ever done, we've never gone to a celebrity where they haven't wanted to do it," Breier said. "If they haven't been able to do something it's been scheduling. But they've never not wanted to do it. Really, it's an amazing franchise to work on, an amazing group of characters that are just truly beloved."