Frank Oz Says Disney Does Not Get The Muppets

Disney owns a massive portfolio of characters and intellectual property, but few are as beloved and unique as The Muppets. The quirky group of puppets saw a resurgence in recent years, but have petered out after a lackluster sitcom failed to resonate with fans.

Legendary director and Jim Henson collaborator Frank Oz recently spoke with KCRW's The Business about Disney's use of the property, which they purchased in 2004, and criticized their direction.

"As much as Disney loves The Muppets and wants the best for The Muppets — and they truly believe they can do it — they don't get it," said Oz "They don't get the true rebellion and true affection underneath those characters."

Oz was on the show to promote a new documentary being released online, called Muppet Guys Talking.

"By the way, I don't mean to knock Disney, they really want to do a good job. They've never asked me, and they have not asked the performers how to do it," Oz said. "If they just did that — the performers are so brilliant — instead of an outside person, let the performers lead. Then it would be a whole different deal. The audience would appreciate the purity of that."

Disney struck gold with their first attempt at a feature film in 2011's The Muppets, which featured the Forgetting Sarah Marshall team of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, with music from Flight of the Conchords' Bret McKenzie. That movie spawned a sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, which wasn't as successful and prompted Disney to return to the drawing board.

The characters' last onscreen appearance was in the short-lived series The Muppets, which employed the documentary-style format seen in sitcoms like The Office and Modern Family. The show failed to find an audience and was not renewed for a second season.

Longtime Kermit the Frog performer Steve Whitmire spoke about his issues with the series and how the producers would not accept input from the performers, as Oz himself states in the interview.

Whitmire was dismissed from the Muppets Studio last year and Matt Vogel replaced him as the performer of Kermit the Frog. The performer, Disney, and the Henson family have all spoke about the change, which boil down to disagreements over conduct and the character.

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While the Muppets will not be out of the spotlight for long, it remains to be seen when and where they will pop up next.

A reboot of The Muppet Babies is set to premiere on Disney Junior this Friday, March 23rd.