The Muppets was first announced in March 2008, with production commencing in September 2010. The film premiered at the 2011 Savannah Film Festival, and was released by Walt Disney Pictures in North America on November 23, 2011. The film was met with commercial success, positive critical consensus and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song "Man or Muppet", written by Bret McKenzie, the first Academy Award presented to a Muppet film. The Muppets is also the highest-grossing film of the franchise to date (not accounting for inflation, otherwise, the highest-grossing Muppet film is The Muppet Movie).
Walter lives with his human brother Gary in Smalltown. They became Muppet fans when they watched The Muppet Show in their youth. Gary plans a vacation to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Mary to celebrate their tenth anniversary, inviting Walter along so he can tour the Muppet Studios. Mary feels that Gary's devotion to Walter is detracting from their relationship.
In Los Angeles, the three visit the abandoned Muppet Studios. During the tour, Walter sneaks into Kermit the Frog's office and discovers Statler and Waldorf selling the theater to an oil magnate named Tex Richman and his henchmen Bobo the Bear and Uncle Deadly. Waldorf explains that if the Muppets can raise $10 million they can repurchase the theater. After Statler and Waldorf leave the office, Walter overhears Richman revealing his plans to destroy the Muppet Theater and drill for oil underneath. Walter later warns Gary and Mary about Tex Richman's intentions.
When Kermit the Frog is informed about the situation at his mansion, he realizes he must organize a show to raise the money, which the Muppets have not done in years. After Walter convinces him to try, Kermit and the three set off to reunite the group, traveling in a car being driven by '80s Robot. Fozzie Bear is performing in Reno, Nevada with the Moopets, a group of uncouth Muppet impersonators which includes a man dressed as Animal. Kermit persuades Fozzie to leave Reno. Meanwhile, Gonzo has become a plumbing magnate. Despite his initial objection, Gonzo decides to destroy his business and join them. Animal is in a celebrity anger-management clinic. He rejoins them (amid a chaotic state in the management class aka a wrestling match), but his sponsor Jack Black warns him to avoid drums. The other primary Muppets are located and rejoin through a montage. In Paris, the group later finds Miss Piggy working as an editor for "plus-sized" fashion at Vogue Paris. Unable to convince Miss Piggy to return, the group replaces her with Moopet counterpart Miss Poogy.
The Muppets pitch their telethon idea to several television networks but are rejected. Due to a popular show's sudden cancellation resulting from a lawsuit, CDE executive Veronica gives the Muppets a two-hour opening in the network's schedule on the condition that they find a celebrity guest. The Muppets repair the theater, but their first rehearsal is terrible and Kermit is unable to find a celebrity guest. Miss Piggy returns and forces Miss Poogy out. Refusing to work with Kermit, Miss Piggy selects Pepe the King Prawn as her partner for a dance routine. Kermit persuades Walter to agree to "find his talent" and perform a number. Meanwhile, Mary goes sight-seeing alone.
When Kermit entreats Richman to return their studio, the oil magnate says "no" and reveals that the Muppets will also lose their trademark name and rights, which he plans to give to the Moopets. Miss Piggy has the Muppets kidnap Jack Black as a celebrity guest. Meanwhile, after Gary forgets his anniversary with Mary, she leaves for Smalltown. When Gary attempts to explain to Walter about Mary's departure, he realizes what he has done. Gary chooses to improve his relationship with Mary, while Walter discovers he was meant to be a Muppet. Gary follows Mary back to Smalltown and reconciles with her, and they decide to return to Los Angeles, while the telethon gradually attracts a large audience and many donations with celebrity support and Black as the unwilling (tied to a chair) but unintentionally hilarious host. With help from Bobo the Bear, Uncle Deadly, and the Moopets, Richman cuts the theater's power supply, but Gary and Mary get back in time for Mary to repair the wiring with help from Gary. Richman then attempts to destroy the transmitter antenna, but Uncle Deadly has a change of heart and stops Richman. Miss Piggy, Kermit and the Muppets perform "Rainbow Connection".
With the telethon running short, Walter finds his talent and performs a whistling act, and the crowd loves him. Richman, refusing to lose, disables the telephone lines and evicts them from the theater, out of time and short of their monetary goal. Walter, Gary, Mary, and the Muppets gather in the lobby and Kermit says that the Muppets tried their best, and despite losing all they've worked for, they'll get their fame back and walk out the theater with pride, like the surrogate family they are. Then he opens the door to lead them away and they find a vast gathering of fans outside the theater. With Gary's encouragement, Walter greets the crowd with the Muppets. Gary proposes to Mary as Richman gives the theater and rights back to the Muppets after suffering a head injury from Gonzo's bowling ball act, and Kermit and Miss Piggy have private time.
- Jason Segel as Gary, Walter's human brother and a fan of the Muppets.
- Amy Adams as Mary, an elementary school teacher and Gary's longtime girlfriend. She is a very capable mechanic.
- Chris Cooper as Tex Richman, an oil magnate who desires to destroy the Muppet Theater. He has issues with the Muppets when he was unable to laugh comically at his 10th birthday. He serves as the main antagonist of the film.
- Rashida Jones as Veronica, a network executive at the CDE network.
- Jack Black as himself, Animal's court-appointed sponsor and unwilling guest star of The Muppet Telethon, but uncredited.
- Alan Arkin as Muppet Studios tour guide
- Bill Cobbs as Grandfather
- Zach Galifianakis as Hobo Joe (Joanna Newsom did his brief singing voice)
- Donald Glover as a junior CDE executive
- Ken Jeong as "Punch Teacher" host
- Jim Parsons as Human Walter
- Kristen Schaal as Anger management group moderator
- Sarah Silverman as a restaurant greeter
- Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo as Univision executive
Cameo guest stars
- Emily Blunt as Miss Piggy's receptionist (spoofing her prior role in The Devil Wears Prada)
- James Carville as himself
- Rob Corddry as Superman impersonator (deleted scenes)
- Billy Crystal as himself (deleted scenes)
- Leslie Feist as Smalltown resident
- Ricky Gervais as himself (deleted scenes)
- Whoopi Goldberg as herself
- Selena Gomez as herself
- Kathy Griffin as herself (deleted scenes)
- Dave Grohl as Animool
- Neil Patrick Harris as himself
- Judd Hirsch as himself
- Sarah Hyland as "Credit Card Club" girl (deleted scenes)
- Sterling Knight as "Credit Card Club" boy (deleted scenes)
- John Krasinski as himself
- Rico Rodriguez as himself
- Mickey Rooney as Smalltown resident
- Wanda Sykes as Officer Ethel (deleted scenes)
- Danny Trejo as Prisoner (deleted scenes)
- Steve Whitmire as Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Statler, Rizzo the Rat
- Eric Jacobson as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Marvin Suggs
- Dave Goelz as Gonzo, Dr. Honeydew, Zoot, Beauregard, Waldorf, Kermit the Frog
- Bill Barretta as The Swedish Chef, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Teeth, Pepe the King Prawn, Bobo the Bear, Fozzie Bear
- David Rudman as Scooter, Janice, Miss Poogy
- Matt Vogel as Floyd Pepper, Camilla the Chicken, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Sweetums, Uncle Deadly, '80s Robot, Rowlf the Dog
- Peter Linz as Walter
Archival recordings of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, and Richard Hunt can be heard in the film via The Muppet Show segments in the opening flashbacks. In his final film role with the Muppets, Jerry Nelson reprised his role from The Muppet Show as the announcer of The Muppet Telethon.
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!!!, and an early leak of the script suggested that it would feature celebrity cameos by Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Christian Bale, Ben Stiller, 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. Another former title of the film was The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made!, after an unused script was 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. In February 2010, additional details about the plot surfaced, indicating that the film would be about a villain that wanted to drill for oil underneath the old Muppet Theater and that the only way to stop him would be to put on a show that draws ten million viewers. Reports from the summer of 2010 revealed that the production team had met with the creative heads at Pixar to fine-tune the script. During the summer of 2010, it was announced that the film would be released on Christmas 2011, but in December 2010, the release date was moved to Thanksgiving 2011.
In October 2010, it was confirmed that Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and Rashida Jones would also be starring in the film. Over the next few months, several guest cameo announcements emerged, including, but not limited to Emily Blunt, Ricky Gervais, Zack Galifianakis, Billy Crystal, Jack Black, 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. In a March 2009 interview on The Late Late Show, Segel revealed that he had asked host Craig Ferguson to appear in the film, and at the time, he (Ferguson) had been the only person that had agreed. Ferguson was ultimately not given a role, for which he chastised Segel in a November 2011 interview. A cameo was written for the Sesame Street Muppet Elmo but was rejected by studio attorneys and representatives from Sesame Workshop.
During the summer of 2010, Flight of the Conchords co-star Bret McKenzie flew to Los Angeles to serve as the music supervisor for The Muppets.
Filming started in late 2010, with the first set photos emerging in December 2010. The November 12, 2010, issue of Entertainment Weekly featured a spread about The Muppets, including a summary of the film's concept, quotes from Segel and Bobin, the first images of Walter, and new photos of the Muppets with Jason Segel.
Hollywood Boulevard was closed for two nights in January 2011 to film a reprise of "Life's a Happy Song", the final musical number for the movie. According to /Film, the shoot involved Amy Adams, Jason Segel, and hundreds of extras performing an elaborate musical number outside the El Capitan Theatre. The Los Angeles Times also noted that other musical numbers would appear in the film, including Kermit singing his signature song, "Rainbow Connection", which he played on the same banjo that he used when he performed the song in The Muppet Movie.
Universal Studios' Soundstage 28, most famous for containing the Paris Opera House set from 1925 Phantom of the Opera film, served as interiors for The Muppet Theater, with the Opera House being used as part of the theater set. Scenes at the fictional "Muppet Studios" were filmed in Hollywood at both the El Capitan Theatre (with a digitally changed marquee), at the Jim Henson Company Lot and at Warner Bros. studios.
Other filming locations included Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, the outside of Wheatland, CA, Pink Palace Mansion in Bel Air, and the former ARCO headquarters building in downtown Los Angeles. Scooter's scene in the Muppet reunion montage was filmed at Google's Zurich headquarters in Switzerland.
Although principal photography was completed on February 11, 2011, on April 26, 2011, a second unit film crew traveled to Reno, Nevada to film some exterior shots, including a scene in the Bonanza Casino parking lot with some Muppet characters, and a small shot looking into the casino.
The film required extensive blue-screen shots and matte backgrounds. In the scene where Walter is dancing atop a dresser, the puppeteers performed Walter's choreography while wearing blue costumes against a blue screen. The end result had the puppeteers completely gone from the final shot. Look Effects were responsible for those visual effects shots.
- Main article: The Muppets (soundtrack)
The film's score was composed by Christophe Beck with songs by Bret McKenzie. An original soundtrack was released on November 22, 2011, followed by a Spanish version of the soundtrack released as Los Muppets: Banda Sonora Original de Walt Disney Records on December 6, 2011. McKenzie won an Academy Award for the song "Man or Muppet" he wrote for The Muppets, beating out "Real in Rio" from Rio. Although it was the fourth Muppet film to receive an Academy Award nomination, this was the first time a Muppet film had won an Academy Award and the first Muppet film nominated for Best Original Song since 1981's The Great Muppet Caper and the first time a Muppet film, in general, had been nominated for any kind of Academy Award since 1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan.
In May 2011, Kermit the Frog attended the world premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at Disneyland to promote the upcoming Muppets release. A spoof romantic comedy trailer for the movie was attached to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and it 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). In November 2011, Brooks Brothers announced that it had designed a custom wardrobe for Kermit the Frog for the movie.
On August 23, 2011, Walt Disney Records released Muppets: The Green Album, a tribute album of popular Muppet songs performed by multiple contemporary artists, as part of the film's promotion. Walt Disney Records also re-released the 2006 Christmas album on November 1, 2011. The Muppets also performed "Life's a Happy Song" on the November 15, 2011, episode of the American version of Dancing with the Stars. In addition, the soundtrack of the film was released on November 21, 2011, two days before the film's release date.
Jason Segal hosted Saturday Night Live on November 19, 2011, with The Muppets as guests. Kermit appeared on the Weekend Update segment, doing a "Really!?!" segment.
The Muppets were guest stars on WWE Monday Night RAW and interacted with several WWE Superstars including Jack Swagger, Hornswoggle, and Sheamus. They also joined Olly Murs on stage during the UK version of The X Factor on November 27, 2011, to perform his new single "Dance With Me Tonight" and promote their new film.
An iPhone app called Tap Tap Muppets was released for iPhone the day prior to the film's release. The app features six new musical numbers and three classic Muppet songs which are "The Muppet Show Theme," "Rainbow Connection," and "Mah Nà Mah Nà."
The Muppets premiered at the 2011 Savannah Film Festival. The film was released in the United States on November 23, 2011, and in the United Kingdom on February 10, 2012. Originally, the film was set to be released in the United States on Christmas 2011, but it was later moved to Thanksgiving 2011. It was also the opening gala at the 2012 Glasgow Youth Film Festival.
Jason Segel and Amy Adams appeared at CinemaCon in March 2011, to promote the project, showcasing several clips from the film. Clips from the film were also shown at Suffolk University in April 2011 during a Q&A with David Hoberman, Muppeteer Steve Whitmire and Kermit the Frog. Although there had been some speculation that the cast will appear at Comic-Con, no official announcement was made.
The world premiere of The Muppets was on November 12, 2011, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Muppets on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on March 20, 2012, the same day The Muppets received a collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The release was produced in four different physical packages: a three-disc combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital copy) with soundtrack download ("The Wocka Wocka Value Pack); a two-disc combo pack (Blu-ray and DVD); a one-disc DVD with soundtrack download; and a one-disc DVD without soundtrack download. The film was released digitally in high definition and standard definition. The two-disc edition's supplementary features include bloopers, deleted and extended scenes, "Muppet Intermission", "Scratching the Surface: A Hasty Examination of the Making of Disney's The Muppets", the fully intact version of "Let's Talk About Me", "A Little Screen Test on the Way to the Read Through," and an audio commentary with Jason Segel, James Bobin, and Nicholas Stoller. The three-disc combo pack also includes the theatrical spoof trailers (including exclusive, unreleased parody trailers of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Fast Five) and a digital download of the soundtrack, while still including the same features as the two-disc combo pack.
The Muppets debuted at No. 1 in Blu-ray and DVD sales in the United States according to Nielsen's sales chart
The Muppets was a box office success, grossing $6.5 million on its opening day and came in at No. 2 behind The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. The following day, Thanksgiving Day, the film grossed $5.8 million for a two-day total of $12.5 million. From Friday to Sunday, The Muppets grossed $29.2 million while holding onto the No. 2 spot. Overall, the film grossed $41.5 million in five days, during which, it out-grossed every previous film in the Muppets series, excluding The Muppet Movie. The film closed on April 5, 2012, having grossed $88,631,237 in North America, along with $69,800,000 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $158,431,237, becoming the highest-grossing film in the Muppets series and the first film in the series to gross over $100 million (unadjusted for inflation).
The Muppets received critical acclaim and became one of the best-reviewed films of 2011. Some have hailed it as the best Muppet film since The Muppets Take Manhattan. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 96% of 200 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.9 out of 10, and is the highest rated film in the Muppets series. Metacritic gave the film a score of 75/100 based on 37 "generally favorable reviews." CinemaScore audiences gave The Muppets a grade A rating on an A+ to F scale.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, praising the revitalized Muppets and their distinctive personalities. Justin Chang of Variety called it "an unexpected treat," noting that the film effortlessly blends "wised-up, self-reflective humor with old-fashioned let's-put-on-a-show pizzazz." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said it was "A mostly winning return for childhood favorites from a prior century [that] looks to accomplish its goal of pleasing old fans and winning new ones." Joshua Tyler of CinimaBlend.com called it "One of the best movies you'll see this year." The Boston Globe gave it three out of four stars and said, "The result is refreshing on every level, a piece of nostalgia so old it's new again, and a breather from Hollywood's 3-D digital onslaught in favor of fur and fuzz." Christopher Kelly of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram stated that the film was "much more than just an affectionate reimagining of familiar Muppets routines, [but it] is rooted in real emotions and characters," and that "they remain as committed as ever to doing what Muppets do best: putting on a grand show."
Prior to the film's release, it was rumored that some Muppet performers were anxious about the film having seen the trailer. Semi-retired Muppet performer Frank Oz has spoken critically of the film, citing his disapproval of the script and thought that the early version disrespected the characters. Another veteran Muppet performer stated, "We wouldn't do [a flatulence joke]; it's too cheap. It may not seem like much in this world of (Judd) Apatow humor, but the characters don't go to that place."
In a July 2012, interview, Oz seemed to soften and clarify his stance, saying "I thought the film was really sweet and fun, a little too safe, a little retro. I prefer more cutting edge in the Muppets. But the main thing is everybody got back to appreciating The Muppets…it brought people back to The Muppets. Although they never really left, it's always been a kind of subculture, it's always been there in our popular culture a little bit. So I'm happy that people are happy". In the statement, he was more critical of the "Disney process" but much less harsh about the film itself than had previously been reported.
|Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards||Best Comedy||Nominated|
|Best Song||"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie||Won|
|"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie||Nominated|
|"Pictures in My Head" – Jeannie Lurie, Aris Archontis, and Chen Neeman|
|The Dorian Awards (Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association)||Campy (Intentional or Not) Film of the Year||Won|
|Georgia Film Critics Association Awards||Best Adapted Screenplay||Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller||Nominated|
|Best Original Song||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie||Won|
|Golden Tomato Awards||Best Reviewed Kids/Family Film|
|Houston Film Critics Society||Best Song||"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie|
|Indiana Film Journalists Association Awards||Best Film||Nominated|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||Best Live Action Family Film||Won|
|Best Original Song||"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie|
|Satellite Awards||Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media||Nominated|
|Original Song||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie|
|"Life's a Happy Song" – Bret McKenzie|
|Sierra Awards||Best Song||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie||Won|
|St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards||Best Comedy||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller|
|Utah Film Critics Association Awards||Best Adapted Screenplay||Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller|
|Women Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Family Film|
|2012||84th Academy Awards||Best Original Song||"Man or Muppet" – Bret McKenzie||Won|
|59th Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing: Music in a Musical Feature Film||Lisa Jaime and Richard Ford|
|Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Movie||Nominated|
|Favorite Movie Actress||Amy Adams|
|38th Saturn Awards||Best Fantasy Film|
|Kerrang! Awards 2012||Best Film|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Comedy|
|2013||55th Annual Grammy Awards||Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media||Original soundtrack|
|Best Song Written for Visual Media||"Man or Muppet" - Bret McKenzie|
- Main article: Muppets Most Wanted
In March 2012, after the critical and commercial success of the film, Walt Disney Pictures secured a deal with James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller to direct and write, respectively, a new installment. On March 4, Jason Segel stated that he would have no involvement in the sequel. On April 24, the Walt Disney Studios officially announced that the sequel, tentatively titled The Muppets 2, is in development. Ty Burrell has reportedly signed on for the sequel, replacing Christoph Waltz after the latter had scheduling conflicts. David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman will return to produce the film, as well as Bret McKenzie returning to write music for the film. On December 18, 2012, Ricky Gervais signed for the sequel. Six days later, Waltz reaffirmed his role in the film, clarifying that it was reduced to a possible cameo instead.
The movie started filming in January 2013 at Pinewood Studios in England, with a release date set for March 21, 2014.
- Before the Telethon, briefly, the outside the soda shop shows the merchandising of Winnie the Pooh.
- Cars 2 is seen as a poster above The Muppets theater.
- This is the first Disney movie to short the name in their 2006 logo (with the exception for the closing logo variation for The Lone Ranger).
- In the beginning, the logo plays normal, but when the text appeared, Walt and Pictures are dropped, and Disney is in the center.
- However, the credits are shown at the beginning as "Walt Disney Pictures".
- In this feature, after the closing credits disappear, the closing logo cuts from and to blank.
- This is the first Muppet film to officially be made by Disney.
- Footage from this film appears in the Muppet Babies episode "Piggy's Time Machine".