Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented numbers of people are staying home in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That means that, for many, turning to streaming entertainment has become an important way to pass the time and help with morale, but for fans of the Muppets looking for a bit of cheer from Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the rest of the gang on Disney+ have been disappointed. While Disney+ does have some quality Muppet content, there's quite a bit that's simply not there and, according to a report from Vanity Fair, outgoing Disney CEO Bob Iger is the likely reason why.
As the report notes, Iger inherited the Muppet property from Michael Eisner. Eisner had purchased the Muppets in 2004, but left Disney less than a year later. For Eisner, acquisition of the Muppets was something he'd worked on for a long time. For Iger, however, the property wasn't really a focus, not the way bigger things like Pixar, Marvel and more were. The result? Much smaller focus on the property which ultimately netted in terms of content little beyond 2011's The Muppets, including a 2015 television series and 2014's Muppets Most Wanted, the latter of which failed to perform as expected, something that Jim Henson biographer Brian Jay Jones attributed to Iger's lack of interest in the Muppets brand.
"I think that you have to have a vested interest from the top," he said. "He's also interested in Marvel and Star Wars because these are the kids he brought to the table. The Muppets came in under somebody else's watch."
Iger's disinterest may not be the only thing keeping Muppet content off of Disney+, though, especially when it comes to things such as the original Muppet Babies and The Muppet Show. A part of the issue could be various rights issues as streaming can be somewhat complicated, though Jones ultimately isn’t sure what the real reason Muppet content is so limited on Disney+ actually is.
"I would think that the cost of clearing the music for The Muppet Show, at this point when you're the Disney conglomerate, would be the equivalent of a rounding error," Jones said. "I'm not sure what the real problem is. That seems like an easy crutch and that could have been true 15 years ago. I don't know why clearing songs would be a problem."
As for the future of Muppets programming on Disney+, that's a little up in the air as well. Frozen star Josh Gad's Muppets Live Another Day was passed on by Disney, though Muppets Now appears to still be a possibility. Ultimately, time will tell when it comes to Disney's future plans for the Muppets. The Walt Disney Company's new CEO Bob Chapek could take a different approach with the Muppets, fans will just have to wait and see. For now, though, fans can still enjoy the Muppet content on Disney+ during these trying times, including The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Muppet Treasure Island, and more.