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Film / Tales from Muppetland: The Frog Prince

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The Frog Prince (released on home video as Tales from Muppetland: The Frog Prince) is a 1971 Muppet special produced and directed by Jim Henson. It's a Spiritual Successor to Hey Cinderella!, similarly taking a classic fairy tale (The Frog Prince) and presenting it with a Muppet cast, though this special is a more straightforward retelling than its predecessor.

Kermit the Frog acts as the on-camera narrator and also plays an important role in the story. One day while hanging out with his frog buddies, Kermit meets a tiny frog who says his name is Sir Robin the Brave. He explains that he's really a human prince (with a flashback showing him in his human form, played by Gordon Thomson), but a witch named Taminella Grinderfall turned him into a frog For the Evulz. The only way to break the spell is to be kissed by a princess, and Robin sees an opportunity when he meets Princess Melora (Trudy Young), daughter of dimwitted King Rupert the Second. Melora was also struck by a spell from Taminella, which left her only able to speak in Spoonerisms. But Robin and Kermit will have to tangle with Taminella and her sidekick, a vicious ogre named Sweetums.

After debuting in this special, Robin and Sweetums would go on to become memorable parts of the Muppet ensemble starting with The Muppet Show, with Robin Retconned as Kermit's nephew.

"The Frog Prince" contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Despite being a frog, Robin can't swim, so Kermit teaches him...and while still not getting the knack of swimming, Robin somehow learns how to dog-paddle.
    Kermit: ...a frog does not dog-paddle!
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the original version of the fairy tale, neither the princess nor the frog comes across as very likable - the frog forces the princess (implied to be quite young) to keep him as a friend if he gets her back her ball and the princess abandons him and ultimately throws him against the wall (which breaks the curse, but still). In this version, the princess is a kind young woman who is happy to keep the frog as a pet and is trying to keep the evil witch from taking over the kingdom, while the frog is very polite and kind to her and ultimately defeats the witch.
  • Alcohol Hic: Kermit after he's had too much elderflower wine.
  • Almost Kiss: After Robin and Melora finish singing together, they are about to kiss until Taminella pops in and loudly tells her not to kiss a frog. Taminella again foils a chance at a kiss when Robin asks for a goodbye kiss before lunch by insisting they bring him with them.
  • Animorphism: Man to Frog to Man, and also Witch to Bird.
  • Babies Ever After: In the epilogue, Queen Melora and Prince Robin are happily married with a young son, whom they have named Kermit.
  • Beast and Beauty: A beautiful princess hooks up with a frog.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: The title character, as usual.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: The King.
    Why's a king's wand called a scepter? 'Cuz everyone in the kingdom works and he doesn't!
  • Canon Immigrant: Robin and Sweetums made their debut here, and would go on to be developed more completely in The Muppet Show.
  • Cassandra Truth: Early in the special, the other frogs initially disregard Robin when he tries to tell them about his true identity as a prince, citing his story as a fairy tale. While he plays along, Kermit does not believe Robin is a prince until he overhears Taminella mention it.
  • Character Narrator: Kermit narrates the special in addition to having a prominent role as Robin's ally.
  • Covers Always Lie: The 1994 VHS release has an image of Melora kissing Kermit, as if Kermit is the titular Frog Prince instead of Robin.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Taminella makes it clear that not even she can change Robin back into a prince; for that, he must befriend and kiss a princess. Melora knows that the only way to break the spell she's under is if someone "bakes the hall in the candle of her brain", the only spoonerism that Robin cannot figure out. He must break the ball in the handle of the witch's cane.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Kermit, while still his familiar genial self, serves this role in the story.
    • Taminella does too, as a Smug Snake prone to making sarcastic quips, most memorably her Aside Comment when the king buys her story about being a beautiful maiden in distress.
      If he'll believe that, he'll believe anything!
  • The Ditz: The king somehow believes that Taminella is his "long-lost sister" because she tells him that her father has the same name as his. He accepts this without question. He also seems unable to grasp his daughter's attempts to tell him that her "aunt" is responsible for her curse, despite her clearly pointing at Taminella every time the king asks who cast the spell. Though to be fair, at one point Melora points at Taminella, who quickly moves out of the way so it looks like she's pointing at Featherstone and points this out. Lucky for Featherstone, the King instantly believes him without question when he says he didn't cast the spell.
  • Dramatic Irony: At one point when King Rupert asks who cast the spell, Melora points at Taminella, who quickly moves out of the way so it looks like she pointed at Featherstone and points this out. After Featherstone easily convinces the King that he did not cast the spell, Rupert says to Taminella that Melora must be mistaken because "he wouldn't do it any more than you would, sister dear".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: This special is the first appearance of Robin and Sweetums, but while Robin (despite his role as a cursed human instead of Kermit's nephew) is fairly recognizable, Sweetums is a simple-minded but evil brute who uses Hulk Speak — far from the "tough guy with a heart of gold" he'd come to be known as. He also has a different voice.
  • Evil Aunt: Invoked with Aunt Taminella, though she is not really Melora's aunt.
  • Evil is Petty: Taminella turned Robin into a frog mainly because he irritated her, and continues to antagonize him because he dared to defy her. Of course, once he figures out her plot to become the queen, the stakes get higher.
  • Food Shove Gag: During dinner, Robin tries to warn King Rupert that "Aunt Taminella" is really a witch, but every time he does, Taminella "offers" him a popover and stuffs it into his mouth. When she offers to take the frog away, King Rupert agrees, as "he's eating all the popovers."
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The evil witch has a very large ogre henchman named "Sweetums".
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: In the climax, Kermit calls all of his pals from the swamp in to assault "Aunt Taminella".
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the end, apparently freed from whatever spell Taminella had him under, Sweetums regains consciousness and is seen happily singing with the rest of the crowd.
  • The High Queen: Princess Melora aspires to be this. It seems to be agreed kingdom-wide that her taking over as ruler of the land will be great. Her "Aunt Taminella", on the other hand...
  • "I Am" Song: "They call me Sir Robin the Brave, and history one day will rave..."
  • Intelligible Unintelligible: Thanks to Taminella's spell, Melora can only speak in Spoonerisms that nobody can understand... except for Taminella and Robin, both of whom immediately get what she's trying to say. In Robin's case, the only thing she says that he fails to understand is when she tells him that the way to break Taminella's curse is to "Bake the hall in the candle of her brain." note 
  • Let's Duet: As Robin befriends Melora, they sing a call-and-response version of her "I Want" Song, with Robin translating her spoonerisms.
  • Lyric Dissonance: The lullaby that Robin sings to Sweetums is not very flattering to him, although Sweetums doesn't seem to mind.
    Robin: Sweetums, lay your ugly head / Down upon your wretched bed / Close your eyes and go to sleep / rest you hulking heap / Sweetums is so sweet and cute / go to sleep you stupid brute.
  • Minimalist Cast: Princess Melora, the human Sir Robin and the baby prince at the end are the only non-puppets in the cast.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Zigzagged. When Taminella’s powers are destroyed, Melora regains her ability to speak properly. Robin, however remains a frog because of the stipulation that a princess has to kiss him first. Luckily, for his help, Melora gives him a Smooch of Victory.
  • Odd Name Out: Kermit and the other frogs find Sir Robin the Brave to be an "unusual name for a frog".
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Robin, Melora and Kermit all share this reaction when it's announced just who is going to inherit the kingdom.
      Taminella: Your father and I have been talking, and, uh, it seems to us that a queen who can't be understood is worse than no queen at all.
      Melora: You mean—I don't get to quee the been?
      Taminella: No, you don't get to be the queen.
      Melora: Oh, dear!
      Taminella: (smugly) I DO.
      Robin, Melora and Kermit: Oh, no!
      Kermit: What a disaster!
    • Several between Kermit and Robin during the "trick Sweetums into releasing Robin" scene.
      Kermit: (pretending to be Taminella) Nice old cuddle-kins, get up now.
      Sweetums: Cuddle-kins get up...cuddle-kins wake up!
      Kermit: Oh no-no-no-no-no, don't wake up!
      (a little while later, after a more successful attempt to make Sweetums "stay asleep and let frog go"...)
      Sweetums: (jumps awake) LET FROG GO?!
      Robin: Hoo, boy.
  • Politeness Judo: Kermit convinces a half-asleep Sweetums to "stay asleep and let frog go".
  • Production Foreshadowing:
  • Rearrange the Song: The music pieces in the background of the banquet scene are chamber music arrangements of "Sir Robin the Brave" and "Bein' Green" (which was written by Joe Raposo, who also did the music for this special).
  • Running Gag:
    • "Have a popover, froggy!"
    • Robin's lullaby to put Sweetums to sleep.
  • Spit Take: Kermit, drinking from the punch bowl, has a moment of this when King Rupert mistakes Robin's species.
    Rupert: (about Robin) Why, look at that. It's a toad!
    Kermit: (chokes) A toad?!
  • Spoonerism: The spell on Princess Melora makes her speak exclusively in these, making it hard for her to tell her father that "Tant Aminella" is really a "weevil itch" and "sot your nister!"
  • Theme Naming: Kermit's frog friends are all named after various Knights of the Round Table.
  • Tongue-Tied: The princess is cursed to speak in scrambled sentences so that she can't unmask the witch. The frog prince is the only one able to understand her, perhaps because he was transformed by the same witch...or because he's halfway competent, given that the princess, whenever asked who cursed her, points at her "Aunt Taminella" while shouting "Tant Aminella! Tant Aminella!" Her father, on the other hand ...
    • "Bake the hall in the candle of her brain" is a bit trickier, but manageable ( "Break the ball in the handle of her cane").
  • Took a Level in Badass: The witch, Taminella, originated from a pilot for another Jim Henson-made puppet show that didn't get off the ground, Tales Of The Tinkerdee. In that, she's a witch who tries to steal birthday presents using cheesy disguises. Here, she's become much, much more dangerous and powerful.
  • True Love's Kiss: Like most adaptations of the tale, Sir Robin’s curse is broken by a kiss with a princess.
  • Villain Song: Sweetums' song as he chases after Kermit and Robin in the dungeon.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": In the epilogue, Prince Robin and Queen Melora have a son they named Kermit, after their trusty frog companion.
  • Wicked Witch: "Aunt" Taminella.