Robin:Uncle Kermit, is this how the Muppets really got started? Kermit:Well, it's sort of approximately how it happened.
In the summer of 1979, Jim Henson brought his beloved characters from The Muppet Show to the big screen to tell their story. After a very meta Cold Opening where we see the Muppets attending a private screening of their own film, we see how Kermit was inspired to leave his home in the swamp and head to Hollywood.Along the way, he picks up a familiar assortment of friends: Fozzie Bear, a struggling ursine comedian; The Great Gonzo, "prince of plumbing" turned would-be actor; Miss Piggy, self-proclaimed "actress/model"; Rowlf the piano-playing dog; the eccentric inventors Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker; and the psychedelic Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and their road manager Scooter. Unfortunately, Kermit also attracts the attention of Doc Hopper, an unscrupulous restaurateur who's dead set on getting Kermit as a spokes-frog for his fried frog-legs stands. Throw in some catchy musical numbers by Paul Williams and an assortment of celebrity cameos, and you've got the makings of a much-loved movie.To date, The Muppet Movie remains the most profitable and highest grossing (accounting for inflation) live-action children's film in history.Not to be confused with the 2011 movie The Muppets (though that one's technically a sequel of sorts).
Dr. Teeth almost pushes it by referring to the incoming motorcycle cop (actually Max in disguise) as a "P, I...", but luckily Miss Piggy manages to cut him off successfully before he can get to the "G" by snarling, "DON'T... YOU... DARE."
All right, let's see... Steve Martin is serving wine, Elliot Gould is a beauty contest emcee, Richard Pryor is selling balloons, Milton Berle is a used car salesman, Carol Kane keeps showing up when someone says "Myth", Mel Brooks is a mad scientist, Dom De Luise is chased by an alligator, Madeline Kahn is a patron at The El Sleezo Cafe with Telly Savalas as her boyfriend (and where James Coburn is the owner), Bob Hope sells ice cream cones, and Cloris Leachman is secretary to Orson Welles, who gives The Muppets the standard 'Rich & Famous' contract. Plus Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy as themselves. Tada!
On the non-human side, the final shot features many of the puppets used in Henson's previous projects.
Callback: The scene where Kermit over-enunciates "Al-li-gat-ors" to Dom DeLuise is a callback to a scene in The Muppet Show, said by Piggy.
Comically Small Bribe: Doc Hopper initially tries to get Kermit to perform in his ads by telling him he could earn five hundred dollars "every year."note due to inflation, it becomes more comically small over time, but even when the movie was made, that was not a lot; roughly the equivalent of $1300 per year in the 2010s. Fozzie is tempted.
Cool Car: Fozzie's 1951 Studebaker, which is now in the Studebaker National Museum collection.
Also the 1946 Ford "woodie" station wagon that they buy from Mad Man Mooney.
For that matter, the Electric Mayhem's tour bus.
Creator Cameo: James Frawley, the director, is the waiter at the El Sleezo Cafe.
Paul Williams, who wrote "The Rainbow Connection" and all the other songs, is El Sleezo's piano player.
The tough guy that tosses Fozzie at the El Sleezo bartender was played by Fozzie's own puppeteer, Frank Oz.
Other Henson performers and employees who make cameos also include Steve Whitmire, standing behind Kermit in the audience during the Bogen County Beauty Pageant, and Lisa Henson, who is one of the contestants.
Foreshadowing: Gonzo mentions that he wants to move to Bombay, India to become a movie star. He'll follow up on this in Season Four of The Muppet Show, which aired after the film's release.
While the other Muppets try to explain to Gonzo that one goes to Hollywood to become a movie star, Bombay (now Mumbai) was then and is now the center of the massive Bollywood industry, meaning that Gonzo may not have been entirely random.
Gonzo: Sure, if you want to do it the easy way.
Also, be honest, how many of you already guessed Gonzo's origins (He's an alien) just by listening to him sing '''this''' song?
Heel-Face Turn: Max, Doc Hopper's nerdy right hand man. When Hopper hires the deadly professional frog killer to take Kermit down, Max realizes just what kind of guy he's been working for, and dresses as a cop in order to pull over the Muppet bus and warn them.
Hilarious Outtakes: While technically not outtakes as such (as they were never intended to be part of the finished film), the footage shot by director James Frawley to test the cameras while setting up at exterior locations includes some wonderful ad-lib work by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Watch it here and here.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Krassman gets stuck in the mind-melting machine and starts blurting, "Ribbit! Ribbit! Ribbit!"
Just a Stupid Accent: Seriously, what do you expect in a movie when Mel Brooks shows up? In fact, when Miss Piggy freaks out and starts beating the crap out of the thugs, Krassman briefly drops the accent and speaks in Brooks' normal voice for a couple of lines.
Kitschy Local Commercial: Doc Hopper shows Kermit the current advertisement for his restaurants when he first tries to talk him into becoming a spokesfrog — it features Hopper in a goofy frog suit performing a song about the varieties of french-fried frog legs available.
Let's Meet the Meat: Doc Hopper's proposal for Kermit to advertise for "Hopper's French-Fried Frog Legs". Kermit is fully aware of the inherent horror of this trope, however. ("All I can see are millions of frogs with tiny crutches.")
The Messiah: Kermit. He not only wants to make people happy (a goal shared by his friends), but he also had this to say to Doc Hopper:
Kermit: I don't think you're a bad man, Doc. But I think if you look in your heart, you'll find you really want to let me and my friends go... to follow our dream. But, if that's not the kind of man you are, and what I'm saying doesn't make any sense to you... well, then, go ahead and kill me.
Subverted to a point, in that Doc Hopper's response is to give the kill order.
Metallicar Syndrome: Fozzie's Studebaker is painted in psychedelic colors by the Electric Mayhem to help Kermit elude Doc Hopper. The paint job doesn't fool Hopper, but it does hide it surprisingly well when they stop in front of a similarly-painted billboard.
Minion with an F in Evil: Max. He works for Doc Hopper but immediately takes a moral stand against him the moment Kermit mentions frogs on tiny crutches. While he then continues to work for him when offered a hefty raise, when Doc hires the frog killer he goes out of his way to warn the Muppets. When Doc and his men are scared away, he can't get the grin off his face.
No Fourth Wall: Perhaps the best example is Kermit and Fozzie explaining their story to the Electric Mayhem by giving them a copy of the movie script. The band later saves Kermit and company from the desert, having found them by referring to the script they left behind.
Dr. Teeth: See, "Exterior, desert, night". We knew right where you were!
Reality Subtext: Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy made their last appearance in the film - Henson was inspired to make the Muppets because of him. Bergen died not long after his scene was shot, and the film is dedicated to him.
Redemption Rejection: Hopper appears affected by Kermit's Patrick Stewart Speech, but then orders his men to kill them all. Henson actually wanted him to be redeemed at first, but Frank Oz talked him out of it.
Retcon: Scooter and the band had different and unconnected origin stories in the first seasons of the series, but are now shown as being a single unit before the show got together. (Handwaved by Kermit to Robin in the opening. "Well, it's sort of approximately how it happened.")
Stock Animal Diet: At the County Fair, Fozzie goes to Bob Hope to get ice cream. He orders a cone of honey flavor for himself, and a cone of "Dragonfly Ripple" for Kermit.
Talking to Himself: One of the benefits of this and the other feature films was the opportunity it afforded for characters like Jim Henson's Kermit and Rowlf, Frank Oz's Piggy and Fozzie, etc., to interact in a way that wasn't always technically feasible on television.
Talking to Themself: Kermit literally talks with another version of himself in the desert scene.
There Is Another: In this case, many others. For the finale, two hundred and fifty Muppets, all preexisting, appear. As mentioned above, a whole bunch of extra people (including Tim Burton and John Landis) had to be called in to operate all of them.
This Billboard Needs Some Salt: One for Aunt Amy's Custard Pies has an actual, giant custard pie on it, and it inadvertently brings both Gonzo's Balloonacy escapade and Doc Hopper's latest attempt to get Kermit to an end: Fozzie's car hits the billboard, and this sends the pie flying onto Hopper's car. Hopper accidentally fires his shotgun into the air when that happens, which bursts the balloons and causes Gonzo to come back down to Earth. As Hopper rants over his latest defeat, Max enjoys some pie.
You Are Worth Hell: When Kermit and Miss Piggy are being held captive by Doc Hopper's minions and the mad scientist who is preparing to give him what amounts to a new form of lobotomy, Miss Piggy plays this straight then Kermit subverts it:
Miss Piggy: Whatever happens next, I wouldn't trade this night for anything. Would you?