Frank Oz Talking ‘The Muppets,’ ‘Sesame Street’ and Dark Crystal Prequel

DMHFan

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There's also the fact that The Muppets Studio is currently part of Disney's Consumer Products & Interactive Media division and not an independent studio like Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, etc.

So it seems that another thing that would make a huge difference is if The Muppets Studio were to break away from the Consumer Products division and become its own fully-independent subsidiary with its own specific management team (including Debbie McClellan as its president) just like Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, etc. That way, they'll be fully free to do things their own way and crank out more product for sure, so let's hope that the Muppets' next projects will become popular and profitable enough so they can be able to fully sustain themselves both creatively and financially and gain that kind of independence.
I also hope more old school Muppet material will be out legally.
 

MrBloogarFoobly

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I wouldn't be surprised if working with the Muppets is simply too painful for him. He's a victim of his own history: how could anything live up to his early years working with the old company? As far as Disney goes, it's no secret that they strong arm their creatives. Oz is not really a corporate guy. He doesn't want to work under such scrutiny.
 

Duke Remington

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I wouldn't be surprised if working with the Muppets is simply too painful for him. He's a victim of his own history: how could anything live up to his early years working with the old company? As far as Disney goes, it's no secret that they strong arm their creatives. Oz is not really a corporate guy. He doesn't want to work under such scrutiny.
Disney doesn’t always strong arm their creatives.

Other than that, very strong points.
 

minor muppetz

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I don't know if this is the right place to post this or if I should have started a different post, but last week I saw Frank Oz in person. He gave a speech at Indiana University Southeast as part of the place's Sanders Speaker Series, which has notable people from around the country speaking. I was told that this one had a better turnout than usual - it was a full house.

I had debated on whether to write an article about it for The Muppet Mindset, MuppetsHenson blog, or For the Halibut Blog (and I guess I could still do it). We were not allowed to record the event, but I did write down plenty of notes.

I wasn't sure if this would be a lecture, a question and answer session, or something else. It was more of an interview, guests were allowed to fill out question cards but I showed up after they were out. The question cards were also put in a drawing to win a signed copy of some Dark Crystal book. Most of the questions they picked were either opinions or things that he doesn't really have any control about (I was thinking about asking something about The Muppets Take Manhattan, or about Hey Cinderella, or to ask him to talk about Follow That Bird).

He did give a lot of good advice and provided a lot of quotes. Nearly all the Muppet talk was stuff I had heard before, but he did provide a lot of interesting stuff on Star Wars and the movies he's directed.

Unfortunately, they didn't do a meet and greet. As I left, I turned around and thought I saw him leaving the doors, way behind me, it was a bit dark for me to get a good look, and I soon decided to just leave and not see if it was him (so I might have missed out on an opportunity). Still, this marks the second Muppet performer I have met in person, having met Steve Whitmire a few months ago at Louisville Supercon. Wow, I've seen two Muppet performers in person within four months, that's a bit of an accomplishment.
 

minor muppetz

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Here's an article about the IUS appearance that Frank Oz made last week:
https://www.newsandtribune.com/news/iconic-puppeteer-and-director-frank-oz-speaks-at-ius/article_981138d0-4ab3-11e9-a168-9f43d2f16d9c.html

(I can spot myself in that picture of the audience - I am near the top of the image (I was in the second to last row), kinda looks like I'm facing downward, must have been taken when I was taking notes)

I wrote down a lot of the best quotes, only most of them are mentioned in the article.

I noticed a few times during the event, Oz said he hasn't performed on Sesame Street in ten years, but it's really been seven. I wondered if he just forgot or was rounding it to the nearest ten (I did mention this in a Twitter comment, Oz responded to that but said that three years off isn't that bad).

He talked about a lot of the usual stuff - how he got his start, how he didn't want to do voices at first, the experience during the first season of SNL, the trouble Jim Henson went through to get The Muppet Show on the air (there was a comparison made between Henson pitching the shows to networks and how the Muppets pitched Manhattan Melodies to producers in MTM - I've thought about that for years but I think this is the first time I saw somebody acknowledge that), who some of his characters are (in terms of background), and the development of Yoda (he said it often takes time to come up with voices but when he first saw the designs for Yoda, the voice clicked right away).

Early on, he asked the audience, "am I the voice of Yoda?" I shouted "No", as did a few others, then he asked "who controls the Yoda puppet?" before he went on to talk about working the puppet and who else did the controls. He had discussed the "voices" misconception, said that he thinks the confusion comes from Internet Movie Database, which denotes "voice" by all the Muppet performers, and also talked about how it took him a few years before he started doing voices (leading to him saying that just because we can't do something now doesn't mean we won't eventually be able to).

One interesting thing he said was that he took acting classes in his 20s because he wanted to be a director. That would have been the 1960s/1970s, he didn't really start directing until the 1980s (and recently I realized most of his acting roles came before he became a director), but I didn't know he wanted to be a director in the '60s/'70s (especially since he was a little hesitant the two times Jim Henson asked him to direct).

I think the event was almost even in terms of Muppets and Yoda talk, while his directing career was discussed less (his acting was also touched upon - the guy doing the interview said that teachers tend to like Spies Like Us). He talked about learning production while directing The Dark Crystal, said he thought he did good with The Muppets Take Manhattan while his fellow performers resented him (as he felt he needed to control them as a director, but later realized that was wrong and shouldn't control actors). He talked about why he changed the ending to Little Shop of Horrors, and talked about the difficulty of directing Marlon Brando in The Score, mentioning that Brando had issues with filming locations on the day before shooting but Oz said it was too late to change, at one point Brando came into the trailer and said he wanted everyone but Oz to leave, something Oz did not want to hear, and during that confrontation Oz slammed the door on Brando, but later came to regret that decision and said that as a director he should have been more nurturing.

And then there are the questions and answers:
  • Who do you relate to? - Oz said that all the characters should reflect his personality, but said he relates most to Grover and maybe Fozzie, then said "not Bert", which got a laugh from the audience (and oz said he's glad he's not Bert).
  • Thoughts on CGI Yoda - he talked about how George Lucas wanted a fight scene with Yoda but couldn't figure out how to do it with the puppet so he had Yoda be CGI.
  • "Tell me your favorite Star Wars character is NOT Jar-Jar Binks" - he said that he is not (which got a big applause from the audience), but did say that he does like the character somewhat. He also talked about how Ahmed Best's life has been since all the hate, saying that Best usually doesn't attend conventions because of it and almost jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, and said something about him planning a one-man show based on the experience (I think Oz said something about being involved with that show).
  • Have you found yourself in a situation you thought wouldn't work but in the end it did? - yes, citing one example being Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which he and the actors thought would get smiles but not laughs from the audience.
  • What he thinks of the current state of the Muppets - pretty much stuff he's said of recent productions recently, that the 2011 movie was too saccarine, that he couldn't get himself to watch the 2015 series. He talked about Jim Henson disliking "cute", mentioned Bean Bunny being created to divert fans from thinking of Muppets as cute and then referred to the 2011 film as being Bean Bunny.
  • Is there a future for the Muppets? - He said that Disney doesn't want his involvement, pointed out that he didn't officially retire and just hasn't been asked, said that the Muppets need purity, pointed out that Disney is a corporation.
  • How have the Muppets and Star Wars accomplished having a universal appeal to audiences? - he doesn't know.
  • As there have been stand-alone Star Wars spin-off movies, Oz was asked if there needs to be a stand-alone Yoda movie - he said he doesn't know.
  • And various people asked questions along the lines of "what advice would you give to people aspiring to work in the creative arts?"- he said "just do it" (which seems to be a common response from people who have worked for The Jim Henson Company, I know Jim Lewis often gives this advice to aspiring writers and I think Steve Whitmire has given this advice somewhere about being a puppeteer), do what excites us.
 

Blue Frackle

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I get that some people miss that Muppeteers entirely perform their characters, but to be fair, they do provide the voices as well.
 
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