Welcome back to 80s Bits, the weekly column in which we explore the best and worst of the Decade of Shame. With guest writers, hidden gems and more, it’s truly, truly, truly outrageous. With The Muppets Take Manhattan, the gang is all “together again”.
Following the release of The Muppets what better time to revisit some Muppet classic cinematic moments. Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) is another creation of renowned Muppeteer Jim Henson, this being the third of nine Muppet movies that span from 1979 until today. This film brings us “Together Again” with a frog, a bear, a pig, a chicken and a…whatever.
The tone of the movie if perfectly set during the credits as we hear Kermit the Frog whistling and scatting with footage panning from the Big Apple to a small country town where Danhurst College is located. It is here that the movie begins in true Muppet fashion with the full fuzzy cast performing their senior variety show “Manhattan Melodies” receiving an uproarious, standing ovation. Having just graduated from college with no future plans, the line-up excitedly decide to take the show to Broadway. Once in New York their ambition soon turns to disillusionment. The song “You Can’t Take No For An Answer” sung by Dr. Teeth is the soundtrack to the gang walking the streets of New York and sleeping in travel lockers.
Everyone goes their separate ways finding jobs to make it on their own. Kermit pays the bills by working at a local cafe joint alongside a pack of rats while still driven to sell the show and get the gang back together under the limelight. In an effort to get a producer for the show Kermit becomes the master of disguise. From storming into an office flamboyantly wearing a pink coat, scarf and afro to staging a scene posing as a famous, rich producer in a restaurant his costumes are seen right through. Kermit possibly reaches a new low point when his forged success come face to face with a hungry Liz Minnelli (and replaced caricature) at her favourite dining table. Going from bad to worse Kermit suffers from amnesia having been hit by a taxi and takes on a new identity as frog off the street Fill Up working alongside fellow frogs Bill, Gill and Jill at Mad Ave Advertising.
The other Muppets take on equally exciting adventures. Miss Piggy takes her Dolly Parton image to a department store as perfume saleswoman only to be fired after having a makeover session with queen of youth Joan Rivers. Following this failed career path she dedicates herself to stalking Kermit full time. Fozzie decides to make like a real bear and hibernates for the winter snuggling with the pack only to discover that he can’t sleep. Rowlf finds himself managing a kennel as hotel manager.
Gonzo and Camilla join a travelling aquacade. The incredible Gonzo attempts a death-defying water-ski act through the flaming circle of doom accompanied by a flock of good looking chickens doing an impression of Tony Bennett singing the “William Tell Overture”. Scooter finds himself working at a movie house meeting interesting people including Swedish Chef who is bemused by the 3D popcorn of which he is making. Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem land “a wailing and cooking gig in a hip city” playing Oom-Pah-Pah music for an eastern European festival and bingo hall.
This film saw the birth of the Muppet Babies during a dream sequence where Piggy, Kermie, Fozzie, Scooter and Gonzo sing “I’m Gonna Always Love You” sixties DooWop style, accompanied by Rowlf on toy piano. The Muppet Babies (1984-1991) became an animated series that took the babes on many adventures drawn from popular movies and Hollywood shorts.
Other notable cameos include Brook Shields, and the cast of Sesame Street who join fellow marionette puppets in connubial celebrations that conclude the flick.
It’s time for Muppet domination.