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- Posted on Nov 21st 2011 4:10PM by Theo Spielberg
How did writing for the Muppets movie compare to the Dracula musical in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall'?
Well, the Dracula musical I wrote on my own, years before 'Sarah Marshall' happened, which is kind of sad. I really thought that would be a Broadway hit. I didn't write the music for the Muppets, Bret McKenzie did, from 'Flight of the Conchords' and he just absolutely nailed it. [The Conchords are] so Muppety by nature, they're like these wide-eyed innocents making their way through tough New York that I think, for him, writing Muppet music came very easily. [Ed. note: Watch Bret McKenzie and Kermit perform 'Life's a Happy Song']
Do you have any favorite Muppet musical moments from the past?
Well, I certainly had 'Rainbow Connection' in mind; we have a great new version of in this movie. I was really drawn to the idea of 'Singing in the Rain.' It's one of my favorite movies. Our generation, it's funny, I don't really think necessarily gets that movie because to us it just takes place in the past, but it is making fun of 30 years before it. It's a parody in and of itself but to us, it just seems like, "Oh, its a movie of that time." I wanted to take the intentional, wide-eyed making fun of MGM musical numbers and do that in this movie.
When you were writing did you have any specific choreography in mind?
We had an amazing choreographer named Michael Rooney, who is Mickey Rooney's son funnily enough. He nailed it. The big challenge is getting Muppets to dance but we figured it out. It was challenging but it was really fun. Those musical numbers are just out of this world.
Did you find it easier or more challenging to write for any particular Muppets?
No, the hardest part was figuring out how to dole out screen time. We love all the Muppets and they're all so fun and interesting but there's only 90 minutes. I love Janice. I have a secret crush on Janice from Electric Mayhem, so my first draft of the script was super, super Janice heavy. She talked more than Kermit. At one point they were like, "All right, we know you like Janice but you gotta take it easy there, kid."
Where did the character of Walter, the new Muppet, come from?
We invented Walter to sort of be a representation of us. He's the eyes and the ears of the audience. He's a crazy Muppets fan who is not satisfied with the Muppets' current state of fame and wants to bring them back to their former glory.
The New York Times said that Walter was partly inspired by Michael Cera. Is that true?
No, that's not true, but it is hilarious. At one point we wanted Michael Cera potentially to do the reflection of Walter in the mirror, in the big 'Man or Muppet' number. We couldn't have lucked out more than the ['The Big Bang Theory' star] Jim Parsons. I mean what a perfect cameo, huh?
There are a lot of amazing cameos. How did that all get set up?
We didn't have to make many outgoing calls. People love the Muppets. There's an intrinsic love, especially among comedians, for the Muppets. When you're young, they're the gateway to comedy. They lead to 'SNL' and 'Monty Python' for comedians, so when people heard that we were making a Muppet movie, they were calling us to be a part of it. Especially when you have kids, you get that kind of cool factor of being able to say, "Hey kid, I know Kermit."
We didn't want to just fill the movie with current pop-culture icons, because that dates the movie. We tried to film with the most diverse cameos we could think of. For every Selena Gomez that was in there, we also wanted a Judd Hirsch. Part of the point is that the Muppets are timeless, and that's what we were trying to express through the cameos.
Did the enthusiasm from people wanting to play cameo roles reinforce your conviction in the viability of a Muppets movie?
I always knew. The Muppets remind us of who we wanted to be when we were kids. They think you should be nice to everybody. They believe that anything is possible in the world. The Muppets are us before the world gets hold of you and the cynicism creeps in. I knew that viscerally people would respond to the Muppets. They like to be reminded of who they wanted to be.
What's amazing about the Muppets is that they are hilarious without it having to be at anyone else's expense. A lot of humor today comes from just mocking people and everybody gets a kick out of watching someone make fun of somebody else. The Muppets never do that. They make fun of themselves occasionally but they don't do jokes to take the piss out of people and its a very important quality.
Did you have any favorite musical number?
I think think that 'Man or Muppet' should be nominated for an Academy Award. You can put that in print.