Frank Oz Says He Would Return to the Muppets, But Disney Doesn't Want Him

Frank Oz says he's too opinionated about The Muppets for their new ownership's taste.

Frank Oz, Jim Henson's longtime creative partner and the puppeteer who originated the roles of Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy, says he would love to return to The Muppets -- but Disney isn't interest in working with him, because he has strong opinions about the characters. Oz, who directed Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppet*Vision 3-D, says he doesn't like watching modern Muppets, saying that they lack soul, but that "I miss them and love them." So while he still works with Disney on various Star Wars projects, it's pretty clear he isn't happy with Disney's handling of the characters with whom he's most closely associated.

Fans would certainly love to see Oz back with the Muppets, but it doesn't seem like Disney is especially interested in exploring the history of the characters. When Disney+ first launched, Josh Gad had developed a series called Muppets Live Another Day, which would have been a direct sequel to Muppets Take Manhattan, but the project fell apart in 2019.

"I'd love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn't want me, and Sesame Street hasn't asked me for 10 years," Oz told The Guardian. "They don't want me because I won't follow orders and I won't do the kind of Muppets they believe in." 

Oz also vocalized a belief that's fairly common among hardcore Muppets fans and Henson's inner circle: that, indirectly, it was Disney that was responsible for Henson's sudden death in 1990. Henson, who wanted to focus less on business and more on creation, had come to a deal in principle to sell the Muppets to Disney. But then, Disney executives kept trying to push the boundaries of the deal, making it an enormous stress on Henson. After Henson passed away, Disney abandoned the deal, and didn't end up acquiring the Muppets for more than 10 years. 

"The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick," Oz said. "Eisner was trying to get Sesame Street, too, which Jim wouldn't allow. But Jim was not a dealer, he was an artist, and it was destroying him, it really was,"

When Henson was negotiating with Disney, he owned a share in the Sesame Street Muppets, and according to Brian Jay Jones's Jim Henson: The Biography, the first thing he told Disney was that those characters were completely off the table. Disney agreed, but after months of negotiating, kept trying to bring them back into the conversation. Henson's stake in the Sesame Street Muppets was sold to Sesame Workshop in 2001.