Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
A fuzzy renaissance.

The New York Times published a great profile of Disney's attempt to revive the Muppets this week. The piece profiles both the company's mismanagement of Kermit and company over the last couple of decades and its new plan of attack to bring these old friends back into the public consciousness.

There are bits and pieces in here about the failed "America's Next Muppet" (man, I'm glad that never made it to air), about the upcoming build-your-own-Muppet workshop at FAO Schwartz (which I'd feel better about if those stores weren't so astonishingly rare) and about the distribution of new Muppet shorts as viral videos on YouTube (which seems like solid idea). Still, at the end of the day the reporter nails one solid aspect of the Muppets that Disney all too often seems to forget: the Muppets were designed primarily for adults, and pulled no punches. I'm particularly miffed by the way in which Disney seems to be forcibly tying the Muppets to "hot" issues, including having Kermit shill for 'green' lifestyles. Yes, he's green, and we're all supposed to be green, we get it, but what happened to the Kermit we could all identify with? The Kermit running the Muppet Theater by sheer luck and determination and stressed-out good faith? If nothing else represents the state of the American dream in this current recessionary economy, it's the bloody Muppet Theater. So why not simply bring back the Muppet Show, the same old formula with new stars and new Muppets? The last incarnation of the Muppet Show faltered a little because it tried too hard to imitate late-night TV – remember Clifford, the dreadlocked purple host? No? I don't blame you – he was no Kermit, and why would anyone in their right mind try to replace Kermit?

Seriously, Disney – you want to reintroduce the Muppets? Stop trying to reinvent a formula that worked. Stop trying to give us the "New Coke" version of the Muppets and give us more of the stuff we loved so much back in their heyday. It's still not easy being green, but remind us of what that meant before "green" had all these ecological connotations nailed onto it. It's not easy being an American, given our current troubled times, and that's what Kermit was all about – it's not easy just being. That's the kind of reconnection the public needs right now, it needs non-corporate, non-homogenized individual struggling and hope and joy.

We need Kermit again. Old school, honest, heartfelt Kermit. Can Disney give that to us, minus all the requisite weight and obligation and responsibility and PC-ness of Disney?

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