The Muppets: A Case Study


Variants of the Muppets have been on Television since 1955 when Jim Henson created Sam and Friends.

The Muppets moved into guest stars on The Jimmy Dean Show, Saturday Night Live and The Johnny Carson Show, before Jim Henson got Lord Lew Grade to commit to THE MUPPET SHOW.

From 1976-1981, the Muppets ruled television and have been a part of my life since childhood.

Then came the movies.  The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Muppets take Manhattan.  The world knew who the Muppets were.

Kids loved the Muppets.

Henson moved on.  He had other worlds to make and other achievements to pursue.

Other than The Muppets celebration of 30 years (1986)  The Muppet Family Christmas (1987) and The Muppets at Walt Disney World (1990) , a few video shorts and the Cartoon Muppet Babies (1984-1991).

That was all the world had to remember the franchise other than lots of repeats and videos.

After Jim Henson passed away, there was a revival of the franchise

A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Muppet Break Out (1993)

Muppet Classic Theatre (1994)

It’s not easy being green (1994)

Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Muppets Tonight (1997-1998)

Muppets from Space (1999)

The Muppets were bought for $680m in 2000 by the German media company EM.TV

EM TV sold them back to Henson’s family for $89m in 2003.

These were produced during this time.

Kermit’s Swamp Years (2002)

It’s a very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)

The Walt Disney Company bought The Muppets in 2004.  Under Disney there has been:

The Muppets Wizard of Oz (2005)

Statler and Waldorf from the Balcony (2005)

A Muppets Christmas letters to Santa 2008

After four long years, The Muppets came back in a movie simply titled “The Muppets”.

At first I was a little skeptical.  The storyline sounded a lot like “It’s a very Merry Muppet Christmas movie”, which I must say was terrible.  It was worse than terrible it was without soul.  It was a nasty little movie

But nevertheless I was curious.  This time there have been viral campaigns being muppet videos like Bohemian rhapsody since 2009, which have been crazy and designed to create awareness to the adult audience, a reminder that the Muppets had not left the building and to attract the same crowd that they did on Sam and Friends all those years ago.

Here is a link to a very good article with some of the videos

http://socialtimes.com/how-the-muppets-made-a-comeback-on-youtube_b17820

When we went to the cinema yesterday, I saw giant muppets in vending machines and muppet movie deals with drink holders and Kermit keychain clips.  All sold out.  We kept the popcorn holder…

As the lights went down we saw that there were lots of children in the audience and secretly hoped that a new generation would be interested in the muppets.

The movie was perfect.  It was very cleverly designed.

The Muppets are a faded old brand.  They knew it and pointed this out a lot in the film visually (Dilapidated theatre, characters separated for years, dissention, and a chart from a TV network showing how off the chart they were in terms of relevance/pop culture)

However what separates this old brand from others is their message.  The Muppets brand message is strong.  Family, Hope, Togetherness, Friendship.

Then finally the Muppets were being Muppets and their unique craziness and violence reigned supreme from the Swedish Chef to Gonzo and Marvin and the Muppetones.  There were many scenes paying homage to The Muppet Movie including Rainbow Connection and even Sweetums at the same used car lot!

There were lots of songs including a flock of Chickens singing Forget You (Cee Lo)

There was also star alignment from Whoopi Goldberg (A stalwart supporter) to Jack Black, Selena Gomez, Emily Blunt, Neil Patrick Harris , Judd Hirsch, David  Grohl,  and Rico Rodriguez.

Having Stars on the Muppets and brand association is a part of their original success

Kids loved it.

This movie was a lot stronger than anything the Muppets have done since Muppets from Space.  It has brought the brand back into the public eye.

The reason that I have taken the time to write this is that we are facing a similar challenge with Spellsinger. And the Muppet case study gave us quite a valuable insight into rebranding and reconnecting with our audience.

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About spellsingerthemovie

I am a huge fan of Fantasy books. My favourite without question is the Spellsinger series by prolific author Alan Dean Foster and we are going to do everything it takes to put this amazing book series onto the Big Screen! View all posts by spellsingerthemovie

One response to “The Muppets: A Case Study

  • Carrigan Chantz

    Indeed, for the Muppet franchise, the battle plan for “re-generation” has been sheer genius, and I laud your case study as worthy, helpful information. I also believe that Spellsinger is a completely different case, and herein lies the unfortunate misconception of the execs in financial power positions. The Spellsinger brand does not necessarily demand a “re-generation” in the same fashion, as, even though it was a huge success as a book series years ago with those readers/followers/fans now being 40/50 somethings, the vast majority of the world is completely unaware of it. Regardless of its time of writing, it is new to that world. Couple that with the fact that Foster wrote a series that was before it’s time (in areas of motion picture production and worldwide mass appeal), and Spellsinger finds itself more closely resembling the “re-generation” of LOTR. Many people, fans of old and new critics, might not like the association, but it’s there nonetheless.

    My challenge would be for any of these execs to actually read the first book. When introduced to the magnificent color in all its nuances of Spellsinger, there will be no doubt of its timeliness, timelessness and potential greatness on the big screen. (One small case in point: a local area school system has just recently added the Spellsinger series to its middle school AR reading list for students, and I’ve seen two teenagers engrossed in the first book so far.)

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