Pulling the Strings on Disney’s The Muppets

It’s been 12 years since the last big screen adventure that stared The Muppets. And there was a good reason for that, the films were creative and box office disappointments. Disney’s challenge, since taking over the brand, has been to find a way to recapture the old magic and bring the art form and unique brand of humor that is The Muppets to a new generation.

Here are two great pieces on exactly how The Muppets have been rejuvenated.

NPR focuses on the performers beneath the stage. Puppeteering combines a number of the performance arts, you have to be able to act, to sing, to convincingly operate a puppet, and squeeze yourself into impossible shapes while doing it:

But hand puppets can’t see the stars — can’t see anybody or anything, for that matter. So Barretta and his colleagues rely on strategically placed monitors, “so puppeteers can see what they’re doing, and at the same time see what the other person is doing, and at the same time, moment-to-moment react as an actor would do. So all these things come together at once.”

The puppeteers have to pretzel themselves in the small balcony to keep out of camera range. They sit, they squat, they belly-down under tables and ledges, sometimes using knee padding for comfort. Some sets are raised a few feet off the ground for easier Muppet maneuvering.

A great article and no spoilers about the movie either. If you don’t mind a few spoilers, then be sure to read Brooks Barnes piece in the NY Times as well.

I’m definitely bringing the family out to see the film later this week. How about you?

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