Top 10 Things We Learned During The “Muppets Most Wanted” Press Day

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Muppets Most Wanted is the sequel to the hit reboot that was released in 2011. Both Director James Bobin and music and songwriter Bret McKenzie return to continue to make childhood memories or make us reminisce our own memories of the Muppets. But which ever side you sit on, the Muppets are back, and are continuing to put smiles on our faces through comedy and song. MovieViral was invited to one of the press junkets for the film, where we sat down with fellow journalists to talk to director James Bobin, music supervisor Bret McKenzie, and producer Todd Lieberman.

The three talked about the process of making the film, creating the music in a hole in the hole store, filming on stage vs filming on location, and much more. Hit the jump to read the top 10 things we learned about what it was like to make the film.

10. Keeping the spirit of the Muppets alive
With both Jane and John Henson passing before the release of the film, it was important for James Bobin to keep the spirit of the Muppets alive, and be sure that the Henson family linage be happy with the final result. “Yeah, well I know that Lisa and Brian have seen the movie and love it which is always very important to me ‘cause I want to see if Jim’s, his legacy to us. And certainly in the first movie when we’re filming in Los Angeles Brian came on set twice and he and I talked about making Muppet movies and in fact he and I are now the only people who’ve ever done two Muppet movies so I share that with him,” said Bobin, “so his opinion to me is obviously very important. On this one it was harder because we were in London so I didn’t see him this time but I know he’s a fan of the movies, so I’m thrilled by that.”

9. What’s This Movie Called Again?
For those who have heard the Muppets Most Wanted opening number, the Sequel Song, you may have noticed that one of the lyrics reads “It’s the Muppets Again,” this was was actually the original title for the film. “So the first song we’re doing a sequel ends with the Muppets all singing ‘it’s the Muppets again,’ because we’d thought it be great to, you know, the song to have the title of the movie in it but then well after we’d filmed it all. Then marketing decided to change the name of the movie, and, and so, we tried going ‘it’s the Muppets Most Wanted,’ and, it really didn’t sit very well on the mouths of the Muppets, so we did okay.

8. Muppets Aren’t Easy To Travel With.

While many of us know that the Muppets are not actual living breathing thing (or are they?) the puppeters that bring them to life continues the illusion that everyone wants to believe in, especially those who are fans of the Muppets. Bobin addresses some of the concerns and logistics of filming with the Muppets and their puppeters.

Bobin Said:

Muppet films are never easy to film ‘cause the Muppets have no legs. You may not notice this but they have no legs so things get very complicated wherever you go. So it’s easier indoors. So you’ll notice that a lot of work now is on stage but what I love about Muppets in the real world is they live in the real world and you create a sense there’s a—there’s a real world out there whereby Muppets and humans happy co-exist. Which is my favorite thing. I think it’s an illusion we all want to believe in. So on location we always have to, you know, they—they—the puppeteers perform on the ground. We have to raise things like your door handles and various things like that to help us out. So it’s all quite technically complex but on stage it’s very straightforward because we then just raise the entire set five feet up, four feet up in the air and the cameras come up four feet in the air and the puppeteers themselves can then stand up. ‘Cause that means they can kind of group together as closely as possible. That means you have nice group shots rather than being all far apart,” he added. “So there’s lots of challenges when you’re filming Muppets but you know, and the days can be very long. But at the end of the day you look around and you see these incredible characters behind you as a whole, it’s just really fun.

7. Cameos, cameos, and even more cameos.

Apparently getting a cameo role in the film isn’t as easy as it sounds. There is an entire process to getting the right people to board the project. W”e have a list of people who want to be in the movie and then as we kinda go through, as these guys go through writing the movie, we gather other intel of fans and people we like and people that like us and then we kinda do this grid,” Lieberman said. “Intel meaning, just Google them,” McKenzie chimed. “There’s so many people who love the Muppets and it’s kind of, it’s an interesting matrix to put together to figure out where people go correctly and how to fit all the people that love in the movie which, you know, hopefully we’ve accomplished.” Liberman added.

6. Creating music with nothing but a piano in a dusty room.
When McKenize moved back to LA to work on the music for Muppets Most Wanted, he had to find the right space to work in. “I moved to LA to work on the songs and we hired a space in—on Hollywood Boulevard, an old—an old shop and I put a piano in there,” said McKenzie, “it was like this sorta dusty old shop to hide away and work on these songs and these guys came and visited, to listen to the demos and it was quite a funny scene because people would be walking by hearing this, me hitting on, you know, playing the piano and occasionally—occasionally they’d walk in and they’d say, ‘is there music lessons going on here?’ Or what is this? Is this some sort of art installation?”

Click here to learn more about the making of Muppets Most Wanted.

5. Making the Muppets Most Wanted work for both kids and adults.

There is an art to making a film like Muppets Most Wanted to work for both kids and adults. I remember watching the Muppet show in the 70’s and it was the thing I watched when I was, you know, six or seven and my dad watched it with me and my grandparents watched it with me,” said Bobin, “and we’re all laughing throughout but I think we’re probably laughing at different things.” I love making a movie you can watch again, again and again ‘cause kids watch things a lot. You know, my—my kids wear out movies they love. They watch them again and they’re no kinda limit to how many times they can watch it, and I love the idea that if you build something with enough depth and texture you can watch it again and again and see new things every time and that’s very important.

4. The Muppets place in history while they teach us film history.

The Muppet films are known to reference or parody great songs or moments in history. In Muppets Most Wanted, there are plenty of aspects of the film that are nods the the glory days of musical numbers like Kelly’s Heroes, the Pink Panther, the the MGM opening numbers,” Bobin said, “I love the idea of making a movie with huge number of references and, you know, just movie tropes of course, just things that you may remember from other movies. It fills, it plays so well for them that when we put this together, this lovely idea you—you have this leeway to do that and it’s very rare to have a chance to do that and make reference for the movies you love and—and that’s what I want to do with this film and throughout—throughout the whole thing.”

McKenzie added that those were the “golden age of musicals.” “Those years are so influential on us now because what they did with the videos and the films for the—for the musical numbers, you know, I’m jealous of those that time and it seemed like the actors spent most of their times doing dancing and singing lessons and then they come on set and know all their moves and they could do, they could all sing as well,” said McKenzie.

3. Finding The Test Audience.

Bobin and Lieberman’s kids were the test audience for Muppets Most Wanted. Bobin said:

I’d take home the dailies and show them what we’ve been filming that day. Hence, in the last movie there’s a lot of chickens. They love chickens. The chickens clearly, the theater was literally my daughter’s sort of thing and this time she loves the Henson Babies.

Lieberman added:

I knew we had something good too with the interrogation song that Bret wrote when I brought home the demo and both my kids had commandeered my computer. Figured out my password, got into it were listening to the songs and were jumping around and jumping on the couches and quoting that exact song and so, uh, yeah, I think the children of Hollywood are more influential than the—the parents.

2. Muppet Cameos.

Muppet fans may know that not every Muppet made it into the last film. In fact, Rizzo the Rat, who had a small role in the 2011 film, had to beg to be in Muppets Most Wanted. To keep this from being too spoilery, Rizzo does sing about a certain Muppet character that wasn’t seen in the 2011 film. But if these Muppets want to be in any of the future films, assuming Bobin returns to direct the next one, all they have to do is send him a video.

1. James Bobin and Bret McKenzie Working Together Again.

Bobin and McKenzie have worked together on various projects for almost ten years now, and for Muppets Most Wanted, they worked especially close. Bobin said:

It’s such a job working with Bret because I have an idea and he’s kinda ahead of me on it all the time and it’s pretty much a back and forth. Whereby, often it’ll start with a title or a funny idea we have for a song and it—and it plays out in the script and that’s all it is. It’s like a title and a kinda brief description and then from that paragraph we’ll give it to Bret and he will come back with an amazing song. We go, yeah that’s it. Perfect. Thank you very much, let’s do something else now, you know, it’s like that—it’s that good and it’s very rear that he delivers something I don’t like, you know it doesn’t happen that often.

McKenzie added:

“There’s a bit of back and forth so James and Nick (Stoller) would come up with the idea usually or the, you know, the moment in the film that needs a song and then, yeah they’d throw it to me like so the opening was we’re doing a sequel was the idea and they had some ideas of, had some good lines like they—they often suggests lines that don’t rhyme which they are no help”

Bonus three

3. Royal Baby Cameo?

Since the film takes place in London, there was an attempt to get the Royal Family involved, especially the Royal baby since the Babies are turning to the scene. “We tried to get the young prince to be one of the babies. But, they never responded,” said Bobin.

2. Intimidated By A Gold Statue Named Oscar
McKenzie is intimidated by the Oscar that sits on top of his piano back at home, and says that, “It sits on my piano and so occasionally I’ll be working around looking at, oh, that’s not good enough,” said McKenzie.

1. You Don’t Call Kermit. He Calls You.
Once you’ve worked on a Muppets film, you are given a special phone that is a direct line to Kermit himself, or at least that is what Bret McKenize says. “And, I had having worked on the first film, Kermit sent me a—a Kermit phone which is a direct line to him, said McKenzie, “it’s like the bat phone.” He added that he cannot call Kermit, Kermit calls him.

Muppets Most Wanted stars Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, Fozzy Bear, Scooter, Walter, and more. Tina Fey, Ty Burrell, and Ricky Gervais play as the principle human cast. The film opens in theaters this Friday, March 21.

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