One of the things we were most excited about seeing at this year’s Disney presentation at CinemaCon was the first footage from their holiday release, The Muppets, because for so many people, the Muppets have come to represent everything good in the world–childhood, fun, humor–and the idea of them being brought back to the big screen after such a long time has made a lot of adults feel like kids again.
The footage shown during the presentation was a quick montage of scenes that weren’t quite in shape to be considered a “teaser trailer,” more of a sizzle reel that mostly focused on the video campaign that Disney and the Jim Henson Company have been doing to get the Muppets back into the public eye, especially for younger audiences who wouldn’t be familiar with “The Muppet Show” or some of the earlier movies.
Jason Segel, the brainchild behind reviving the Muppets, being a lifelong fan, and his leading lady Amy Adams were on-hand to talk about their love for the Muppets and what went into making the movie, which follows Segel’s character Gary and his puppet roommate Walter, both of whom are giant Muppets fans who set out to find them after they’ve split up in hopes of reuniting them in order to save the studio, finding Fozzie Bear performing in Reno and Miss Piggy in Paris and others in locations they were hesitant to reveal.
Never afraid to be in a movie that breaks out into song, Adams mentioned there are also four musical numbers by Bret McKenzie from “Flight of the Conchords” – the movie is directed by James Bobin who also directed both seasons of the Conchords HBO series, so he’s infinitely familiar with doing musical numbers, but there will also be a number of Muppets classics in there.
After the presentation, ComingSoon.net sat down with Segel and Adams to talk about their Muppets experiences. (And before you ask, we did ask Adams about recently being awarded the role of Lois Lane in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Superman movie and she graciously brushed us off.)
ComingSoon.net: You’ve been doing Muppets stuff for so long and I know this has been a lifelong dream for you to do this.
Jason Segel: Yeah, yeah.
CS: What was it like the first day you guys were on set with the Muppets? I now you had these table reads, but was it really hard to focus on your acting when you had all these Muppets you’ve known for so long there with you?
Amy Adams: For me, I have to say the most surreal thing was, it wasn’t necessarily working with them, because you accept them so quickly as co-stars – it’s like watching and loving Jason’s work and then getting to work with him, but it’s true. Then you accept him as the character he’s playing, so that was part of it. But to see them when they’re not animated was really upsetting.
Segel: Yeah, yeah.
CS: You mean, between takes, all the puppeteers were all smoking and drinking?
Segel: When they’re not being used, they’re in a cupboard on hooks.
Adams: That, I didn’t like that and I still don’t like that.
Segel: They’re very, very protective of that state of the Muppets that they will not allow it to be photographed. If a child is on the set, they’re not allowed to go anywhere near it because they don’t want to spoil the illusion, but even as an adult it breaks your heart a little bit.
Adams: That was the thing. That was the only thing about working with them that was weird, was not seeing them animated because I’ve so come to love them.
CS: I’m not sure I could deal with that either. It seems really creepy.
Segel: Yeah, it’s very, very sad and weird.
Adams: Yeah, it’s a crazy thing.
Segel: Yeah, they would put Walter on his stand and yeah, it’s very peculiar.
Adams: I did not like it. I did not like it at all.
CS: Walter is a new character. Was that something you designed yourself?
Segel: Yeah, Walter was born in my brain.
Adams: I did not like robotic Walter either.
Segel: (Laughs) Yeah, Yeah, Nick Stoller and I created Walter. He kind of represents the audience in a lot of ways, the new young audience. He is naïve and young and just has a wide-eyed love of the Muppets.
Adams: Very earnest.
Segel: Yeah, very earnest and would never say a bad thing about anybody, so he in a lotta ways is the naïve narrator. He’s the eyes of the audience.
CS: I know you’ve done some puppeteering yourself, so are you actually doing Walter?
Segel: No, I didn’t do Walter. Walter is being operated by a guy called Peter Linz, not only operated, operated and acted by Peter Linz who just did an absolutely amazing job.
Adams: He did.
Segel: He’s a fantastic actor and an amazing puppeteer.
CS: You actually wrote this. I assume it’s going to be PG, so how hard is it to turn down the R-rated sensibilities you’ve done so well in order to do something that will be good for kids but still fun for your fans?
Segel: It wasn’t hard for me at all. I have a huge part of my mind that is irrevocably stuck there. I was telling her, the last book I read was “Winnie the Pooh.”
CS: Did you see the footage earlier? It killed!
Segel: I did, yeah. I love kids’ stuff. I have since I was a kid, but I’ve never grew out of it.
CS: One thing really exciting you mentioned was the musical numbers, and you have Bret from “Flight of the Conchords” and James directing. I’m curious, what kind of musical numbers are those compared to the Muppet classics, which are so memorable and cheerful?
Adams: Well, there’s a couple like that. I can’t give too much away, but there are a couple of full-scale production numbers. That’s really tricky working with Muppets, doing the production numbers, but you also have the very heartfelt completely sincere numbers. Yeah, they’re really fun.
Segel: It’s lovely.
Adams: They’re really fun. Then we bring back some of the classics… without naming them.
CS: I know you did a lot of green screen stuff on stages. Did you do stuff on locations as well? Do you have a lot of people going, “Oh my god, it’s the Muppets,” and freaking out?
Segel: We actually shot more locations than anyone expected.
Segel: It would’ve been much easier to shoot everything on set because you can elevate the stages and all that.
Adams: You know what’s hard, too? I did not like that paparazzi was getting pictures of the Muppets being puppeted because I feel like part of the fun is for kids not to ever see that.
Adams: So it bothered me. It was like when parents tell their kids I’m Giselle when I have no makeup in the elevator of the hotel. I’m like, “No, no, please let them have the fantasy” so I didn’t like that. That’s something I didn’t like about working on locations.
Segel: People got a glimpse behind the curtain.
Segel: I think one of the reasons we did it is a lot of the way “The Muppets Take Manhattan” captured New York, we wanted this to capture LA. It was a very LA kinda story and LA is one of the characters for sure.
CS: I’m bummed you didn’t bring any Muppets here with you today.
Segel: Well, yeah.
Adams: We’re not the bosses of them.
CS: Congratulations on the gig as Lois Lane.
Adams: Oh, thank you so much. Thank you.
CS: Do you have a favorite Lois Lane?
Adams: Me? (Laughs) No, I actually will have more to say about that in a year and a half.
CS: A year and a half? Maybe they’ll bring you to Comic-Con.
Adams: Oh my gosh, I haven’t even thought about that, Comic-Con.
Segel: Yeah, you’ll get to do Comic-Con for the Muppets.
Adams: Oh, we’re going to do that?
CS: There you go. Awesome.
Adams: I’ve never been. I’ve always wanted to go.
You heard it here first, the Muppets are taking Comic-Con!
The Muppets opens everywhere on November 23, Thanksgiving weekend.