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Seven Years Later: Disney buys Muppets and Bear

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by Phillip, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    Seven years ago today February 17, 2004, Disney bought the rights to the Classic Muppet Show characters and Bear in the Big Blue House.

    Look back on one of the biggest days ever in Muppet history and let us know how you think Disney is doing and what they can do better in the months and years to come. With the huge anticipation for November’s theatrical film, this is a great opportunity for us to look back on where the Muppets have been and where they are going.

    Disney buys Jim Henson's Muppets and Bear
    http://www.muppetcentral.com/news/2004/021704.shtml

    Fans respond: Henson sells Muppets to Disney
    http://forum.muppetcentral.com/showthread.php?t=12638

    Henson employees receive e-mail about Disney deal
    http://www.muppetcentral.com/news/2004/021804.shtml

    A New Era: Disney's Muppets
    http://www.muppetcentral.com/articles/editorials/disneys_muppets.shtml

    Coming to Terms with Life after Jim
    http://www.muppetcentral.com/articles/editorials/disneys_muppets2.shtml

    Trapped in the Magic Kingdom
    http://www.muppetcentral.com/articles/editorials/disneys_muppets3.shtml
  2. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Well I think that everyone can agree that at fisrt everyone was very nervious about how Disney was going to handle the Muppets. Now I think they are fianlly trying to do the best job possable and I firmly belive this.
  3. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    I remember it very well. I was in 6th grade at the time, I was on vacation in Orlando the week of the sale. Ironically, I was at Disney-MGM Studios and of course made the compulsory visit to Muppet*Vision 3D on the last day the Jim Henson Company owned the Muppets. I didn't know about the sale until I got back about 5 days after. I couldn't believe it at first. Even at age 12, I knew all about Disney's past with the Hensons and thought it would forecast disaster. This was right at the climax of the Wrath of Eisner. 2D animation was being shut down, direct-to-video sequels were at an all-time high, things were not happy in the Mouse House thus it seemed like the Muppets would fade into obscurity for princesses.

    Fast-forward to 2005. Disney has big plans for the Muppets the first half of the year. The new regime kick started with The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, even though I liked it the first few times I watched it, it's flaws became extensively more apparent and the film became a rushed mess. But things were looking better: we got the first season of The Muppet Show on DVD. Something we thought would never happen. Disney made an effort with a new Christmas special for 2005 and a 50th anniversary special for spring 2006. It seemed like 2006 was going to be the Muppets' big comeback year. The shifting of Eisner to Iger in October 2005 put that to a screeching halt however and left us with DVD re-issues of the Muppet movies Disney owned. While we did get better picture quality releases of The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island in widescreen, all the DVD's were lacking, dropping most, if not all, of the original releases' special features for bland "Pepe's Profiles" featurettes. 6 years later re-re-releases still haven't happened, maybe this year we'll get Blu-ray releases to coincide with the new movie.

    2006 and 2007 were years of extensive silence and understandably so. With John Lasseter coming in during the Pixar merger leaving a lot of aspects of Disney to require extensive JL-approved repairs, much of the focus was more on further expanding live-action franchises and repairing the feature animation division. There was no spot in the plans for the Muppets in those two years.

    2008-2010 things began to shape up. We heard rumblings of Jason Segal writing a new Muppet movie following a pitch meeting with Disney. For a while we thought it was the media pulling our legs. The first wave of YouTube videos, refurbished Muppets.com and the Studio DC specials really seemed to come out of nowhere. But by the time the New York Times wrote an article about Disney's plans and the second Studio DC aired, we knew something big was coming. Letters to Santa aired on NBC that December and despite the mixed response, it's intentions were clear: we're bringing the Muppets back to where they belong. At the first D23 convention, we got tons of new Muppet news and we realized they are going to be a major Disney franchise. The overwhelming popularity of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" video set in stone that the Muppets can be relevant in 2009. And little did we know, Jason Segal stayed true to his word and we were all surprised to find out that the new Muppet movie he was writing was getting a Christmas Day 2011 release, later bumped up a month to Thanksgiving. Now the Muppets are at the same status as Disney franchises that Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and the Pixar films have, they are becoming a dominant force in the Disney company. Let's hope it stays that way, we've been waiting for this comeback for 21 years... it's Kermit's time to shine again. :)
    Duke Remington likes this.
  4. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    For the 15,678th time, I am NOT being negative, I'm being realistic

    Disney has not done the best job handling the Muppets, in fact, I knew that the sellout was a bad move in the first place; I think if Jim saw what was happening to do, he'd do something about it, because this is NOT how things were supposed to work out when he was originally going to form a psuedo-partnership with Disney shortly before his death.

    It's the same "Hollywood Horror Story" that's happened before: the little people sell there work to a big corporation on the basis of "promises", only to have their work taken out from under them, their name basically wiped off the face of the world, and the big corporation claiming the work as their own, and not living up to the promises that had been made.

    That said, I realize that Disney HAS given us some things to look forward to, namely Letters to Santa a couple of years ago, new comic books, various talk show appearances, etc, that's a given, but aside from that, there's still so much Disney said they were going to do that they haven't, which is why despite more evidence surfacing that the new movie is underway, I'm not holding my breath right now, because knowing Disney's hand on the Muppets, there's still the possibility they'll change their minds and we won't get the movie after all. Hey, they shot a pilot for a new show, then shelved it, they could very finish the entire movie, then decide to shelve it too.

    Lastly, I'm still very upset over the fact that the name erasing is becoming more and more evident: I'm seeing less and less of Jim's name above "The Muppets", and more and more of Disney's, which just proves the point that these big corporations are going to take your name away from you, and claim your work as their own.

    Sure, the name "Disney" usually automatically sparks wonderful images in our minds... but when it comes to buying other franchises, it's the same old story, like other big corporations: they buy up smaller work just to have it, then hardly do anything with them.

    My biggest thing is this: I wish that either Disney would better handle and execute the Muppets, or JHC fight to regain control of the franchise and KEEP it.

    And yes, if the new movie DOES indeed hit the theaters, you guys DO have the right to tell me "I told you so," BUT, if the movie gets shelved, then I reserve my right to say to all of you "I told YOU so."
  5. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    Disney was in a transitional phase after purchasing the Muppets and they, along with many other Disney-owned properties, took a few bizarre detours.

    Disney finally got serious about the Muppets and have spent the last two years like they were cramming for an exam. They rushed the last Christmas project and then shelved two subsequent television specials in favor of taking the time to get it right.

    This new Muppet film is a grade A effort. They've taken time and care with the script, the casting, the release date...and now we learn that a spankin' new Pixar Toy Story short will be tagged before the movie. I don't see how anyone could doubt Disney's commitment to the Muppet brand right now. Sure, there have been mistakes in the past, but fans need to move past them and focus on the future.

    Let's face it, no one bungled the Muppet brand more than the Sony and Henson's "Muppets From Space" mismanaged box office flop. That harmed the brand in a way that no other project has ever done. ETV purchased the Muppets and Henson let leak that a new Muppet Show was to be made that never happened. Disney's track record in the last seven years has been far better than the seven before it and things seem to only be getting better. I have a cautious optimism, yet support Disney's ownership of the Muppets 100%. :)
    Duke Remington likes this.
  6. beaker

    beaker Well-Known Member

    "The Muppets" is Disney's main fall tentpole film, like Tangled last year. No reason they'd can it at the last moment, though I realize we as Muppet fans have "fool me once/let down" syndrome.

    Also, of course "Jim Henson's" name would be taken off products.
    That signature belongs to JHC, and can be seen over their current kid's best sellers like Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train.

    It's true, Disney really did much with the property for a number of years. But I feel last year showed that they are now fully committed.

    Trust me, I was one of the major "mouse hands off the Muppets" people for awhile, but I see a big turnaround
    Duke Remington likes this.
  7. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    In my opinion

    Before I say anything I just want to say that everyone has a right to their own opinion / view.

    And I too don't mean to be negative but I am very disappointed in Disney since Day #1.

    There hasn't been a prime time Muppet Show since Muppets Tonight which is now over 10 years ago, and that show was awesome! And I strongly feel there hasn't been a good movie since Muppet Treasure Island and It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.

    To kept my opinion breif and simple and to the point. As Muppet fans we enjoy Jim's art and The Muppets in so many different reasons and views. Some are fans because of the characters, others of positive messages within works, some for the music or the breakthrough of television puppetry.

    As for me, The Muppets captured my interest because of their unique irreverent humor and rock music styles. But mostly the humor and I feel that it has been lacking in both The Muppets and Sesame Street.

    For example there used to be much more risky and Looney Tunes style cartoon violence (Monsters and Explosions).
    Now it's much more gentler and light spirited.

    But some people might prefer the more gentler kinder positive humor but like I said, I'm only speaking for my opinion and mine alone.

    One more thing, I was in shock that the puppets were built by Puppet Heap instead of Henson plus Gonzo hasn't been looking his normal self if you know what I mean. But since The new Muppet Movie is being filmed at the Henson studios in LA, hopefully Disney will have The Jim Henson Company help out more.

    Even though Disney owns The Muppets, why can't The Jim Henson Company still be involved. Look at Sesame Street.
  8. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Yeah, but by that same token, look at Dark Crystal 2 and Fraggle Rock the movie. Neither is going to happen. If nothing else, The Muppets has finished shooting.

    JHC's main tent poles are Puppet Up and Dinosaur Train... they've had more failed promises than Disney has at this point, and anything they did manage to get out there ended abruptly (Tinsletown, Late Night Liars)... They have no leadership and no focus. I would have LOVED to see new S.U.D.S shorts week after week, but all we got was the one. The Henson YT channel is a mess of old stuff and unsold pilots.

    Oz was a terrible idea from the get go. It was of course planned well before the buy out, and I swear it was rushed so Disney had something to show the stockholders. I don't think they had any major hand in it other than zooming it out there... and somehow, it was pretty obvious that this was going to air on Fox if Disney didn't purchase them (the non-stop American Idol commercials in the movie are a dead giveaway). I've said it a trillion times, but this is a sore point for all Muppetdom, because all these great scripts waiting in the wings since VMX were passed up for this one.

    All and all, I've been happy with Disney's handling since 2008 or so. Even though they desperately wanted to pull Boom's license with the Muppets and Pixar to go to Marvel (who mark my words, won't publish a monthly Muppet series), and haven't sent a thing to toy fair that isn't Cars related, I'm still finme with them. Though, quite honestly, they need to film another special or at the very least new virals for either Muppets.com or Youtube, or better yet BOTH.

    That said, anyone who thinks a Muppet show would survive in this TV climate is nuts.
  9. wilmaspuppets

    wilmaspuppets New Member

    Disney and The Muppets should be like peanut butter and jelly but in this case it's more like liver and garbage. Speaking of garbage, Disney has manhandled the Muppet franchise from day one so bad that Oscar the Grouch should allow Disney the use of his trashcan to just throw the Muppets away. When Jim was alive, the Muppets were terrific, inventive and fun to watch. When Jim passed away and Brian Henson took over, it was obvious at that point Brian was in it only for the money. Brian's Muppets had no originality or good story telling or appeal thus to make a fast buck and get out of the criticism of what he was doing to the Muppets, he sold the Muppets to Disney who then destroyed what was left of the Muppets. For example when Disney started Bear In The Big Blue House, it was a great idea but then Disney tweaked a great show and had Bear leave the Big Blue House and do promos for other Disney cartoons and shows that were not doing good in hopes Bear could get viewers to watch. Needless to say that when Bear left his house, he left fame behind and I blame Disney 100% on that. Disney's attempt at the Wizard of Oz was a doomed project from the get go. Everyone who has tried to remake that movie that was made famous by Judy Garland has failed. You can't get better than perfection. Every Christmas it seems Disney has to have another telling of The Christmas Carol. Give me a break. Get some originality and try a different storyline. It's amazing how one person can run a company and run it terrific and when they pass away the company goes right down the tube. Jim Henson had a thriving business. He passes away and The Muppets start on a spiralling crash. Walt Disney had a thriving company. He passes away and the company starts on a spiralling crash. Walt wanted his characters to be solely in his theme parks but after his death, Eisner (don't get me started on him) started with Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Walt would have never allowed that. Any attempt of the Disney corporation to resurrect the Muppets will be if Disney throws out the philosophy and go right back to where it began with Jim Henson's ideas and ways that this one man brought the Muppets to stardom. There are puppet companies right now working on getting their characters on TV and in the movies to replace the dying Disney version of the Muppets. I know because I'm one of them. Jim would be furious over what has happened to his creations and all the great work that he did. As my father used to tell me as an ex sailor, "Shape up or ship out!". Disney needs to do that. And when the Muppets do come out, I've heard that there's going to be CGI in a major part, Jim used CGI sparingly. There is life with the Muppets. I just don't think Disney knew just how big the big shoes were they were getting into. Trust me I like the Muppets and I like Disney but as a pair, it's a disaster.
  10. dented

    dented Member

    I think we (the fans) are getting a mixed bag here. The problem is this, if the Muppets tank, Disney can move on to something else: they have animated movies, princesses, comic book heroes and even pirates to fall back on. When the Henson family had control, the Muppets were the big deal. If they tanked, well, that was not going to happen. So there was great care in cranking out quality product, ensuring that the fans' love of the muppets were going to continue. With the Disney engine in control, it's all about the might dollar. Less care is given to quality, and more is given to profitibility. That is why we often get the shank.

    Like many of you, I have huge hopes for the upcoming film. However, if it tanks, which can be a possibility (remember the fans will think of this as a "must see" but Disney has to persuade the masses, espicially the teen crowd, if it is to be viable for them), then I think it will be the beginning of the end for the franchise.

    Here's to hoping for a good couple of years for the Muppets.
  11. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    Which doesn't have to be the end of the world for the Muppets, if it happens. All successful franchises eventually meet their end, it's inevitable. They stay alive in audience's minds because the work they left behind is still widely available. Both Henson and Disney should have concentrated more on that long ago. I go to iTunes and The Muppet Movie doesn't even show up. Yet somehow Muppets in Space, which was in no way a success, is available. That is insane. (Though it's good to see the Henson's Place documentary!).

    You can't keep trying to reinvent something for newer generations based on no foundation at all. Audiences need to know why they should like these things.
  12. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    Muppets from Space is under different ownership, so Disney doesn't have the rights to release it.
  13. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    That is the general disaster. But let's face it, how much of a leg to stand on DOES Henson even have anymore? They're primary partner needs partners, and sat on a movie for a year so they could add fart jokes and crotch bonk jokes so it would be a success. Other than that, their new projects include a new Scream (yeah, we're ALL routing for that one :rolleyes: That got tired the second time around) and Spy Kids (didn't they say it was OVER like 7 years ago?). Their tent pole isn't even a puppet project. They've had so many failed half produced projects, and the ones that went somewhere died pretty fast.

    So there's the problem right there... if the movie doesn't do well, they'll toss them onto a pile and we'll never see them again. But then again, under Henson, we wouldn't even get to the movie stage. Let's also not forget, various other companies were about to buy them before Henson bought it back... they would have been WORSE! I once heard horror stories about Filmation's back library being owned by a shampoo company!
  14. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    Yeah, just to clear things up with everyone's confusion over who owns what: Sony owns the distribution rights to Muppets from Space and The Muppets Take Manhattan, Universal owns It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and John Denver's estate owns all media related to A Christmas Together (both the special and album). Disney owns everything else. Feel free to continue on with the thread.
  15. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    Right that is true, some of the problem is copyright (which is supposedly to help the artist, ha). So basically a mediocre film that barely made a dent in the public's consciousness gets more publicity than the first Muppet movie. Good job copyright!

    And yet time and again Henson and Disney came to the conclusion that the best solution was to keep putting out new movies with little focus or direction. And then when the public doesn't respond, it's decided the Muppets must just be "too dated." It's nonesense.
  16. ktbear

    ktbear New Member

    Dignity among Chaos

    I am going to try to keep this short. I hope I can. The first time Disney bought the Muppets, it was soon after Jim died and it kind of made a bit of sense. The Henson kids needed time to mourn and financially recollect themselves to see how their dad's legacy would continue. Some good things were produced, but we missed the Muppets cultural presence. Then the Hensons bought it back. It was OK, but don't get me started on Muppets from Space (ouch!). The biggest problem is that we are missing Jim's spirit in things. His artistic eye with The Story Teller and Mother Goose. His global heart in Fraggles, and his gentleness in Emmett Otter.....they are all gone since he passed. All Disney sees is the $ the "Muppets" name brings. Does anyone remember the clear separation between Disney and Muppets in the Muppet Show? There is an inside joke (that seems painfully ironic now) with Mickey Moose and Ronald Duck on an episode of the Muppet Show. Disney's best was Muppets Tonight (With Clifford "Your Homey made of Foamy"). It was good but there were too many characters no one was connected to. We didn't have a real relationship with the new characters. If Disney is going to give the Muppets their due, they need to create a separate division of the company that focuses on the goldmine they are sitting on. They need to bring in Brian or John and ask them what they think Jim would want to happen. The Muppets that evoke sentiment are the ones we are connected to. Jim let them simmer until we cared about them. Disney bangs you over the head with who they think you should like (How many years have Zach and Cody been on?). The success of the Muppets was that Jim let things grow. Muppets Tonight came away with only a couple of favourite characters. Monkeys, Bears and Mobsters (oh my) don't evoke the same sentiment as Beauregard, Scooter and Janice. They just don't. The worst:DC:Almost Live. Abysmal. Hence the reason I am VERY, VERY skeptical about this new movie in November.
    What Disney can do is give us Muppets Tonight on DVD/Bluray and the last two seasons of the Muppet Show. They can research and restudy what Jim wanted for the Muppets as a legacy. They can remember that fart and crotch jokes are not a part of the past Muppets, and they don't belong in any other Muppet project. The Muppets had a sense of dignity, let's keep it that way.:)
  17. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    It is amazing how long it has taken for that to sink in (if it has at all)!
  18. ktbear

    ktbear New Member

    One more thing

    I forgot to add something:
    The Muppet Show and Muppets Tonight had a great premise, to feature artists, past and present, in the Chaos of a show run by Muppets. I think it would be a great idea to revisit that idea (I know the idea is in the works) but revisit what made the original show such a success. Bring back artists who were on the show in the '70's who are still relevant (Steve Martin, John Cleese, Elton John) along with other NON DISNEY artists. It should not be a commercial for Disney's other productions. Also, do not make new characters. Give us back the old ones we love and ditch the ones we don't care about. Make more virals to wet our feet for the show. One thing Jim loved was the helpful with the ridiculous. Jane said in an interview that Captain Vegetable (not the new one) was a perfect example. It taught kids to make healthy eating choices, but through the messenger of a wacky, goofy, silly rabbit. The Bohemian Rapsody, Ode to Joy and other virals are great examples. They keep good music alive by giving it as a gift through Muppets. And when in doubt, make one character eat another or throw penguins in the air.:zany:
  19. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    I think that's a good way of presenting the divide between the Jim-era Muppets and the post-Jim era Muppets. It's two radically different directions and one of them has simply not been successful.
  20. Yorick

    Yorick Active Member

    I too am worried about how much this new movie might be a "modern" take on the Muppets, and make it lose the heart they have. The sincere heart they have, that is, not the usual type of writing that's big today, with an understanding between folks tacked on at the very end just to wrap up the story:rolleyes:

    And now that I just used a Pepe icon, it reminds me that I'm surprised to hear Pepe won't be in the new film much, because if anyone is going to be "edgy" it should be him. I like Pepe, by the way.

    I also agree we should get the rest of The Muppet Show on DVD, and all of Muppets Tonight as well. In the middle of those releases, we should have all the MuppeTelevision episodes too. After all, these were the three main Muppet shows (since we can't get all of Sam & Friends due to not much being left from what I hear, and I won't hold my breath for Little Muppet Monsters). In the meantime, I appreciate all youtube uploaders of all of the above!:sing:


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