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Film / The Muppet Musicians of Bremen

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The Muppet Musicians of Bremen is a 1972 Muppet special from Jim Henson, the last in a handful of Tales from Muppetland specials (after Hey Cinderella! and Tales from Muppetland: The Frog Prince).
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Narrated by Kermit the Frog, first aired in broadcast syndication and later rerun on HBO during the '80s, this special is a retelling of The Bremen Town Musicians, moving the location from a city to a southern town in Louisiana. It involves four runaway barn animals—Leroy the Donkey, T.R. the Rooster, Rover Joe the Dog, and Catgut the Cat—whose mean-spirited owners have either thrown them out or were set to kill them. With Leroy hauling a wagon of instruments (which his owner, Mordecai Sledge, had stolen), Leroy decides to become a traveling musician, in hopes that families will give him food and shelter, and after finding the other animals, they all join together to become traveling musicians.

This special was a little different from Jim Henson's past productions, in that very few of the Muppet performers lent their voices. Aside from Henson and Jerry Nelson, all of the voices were provided by outside talent. This special also featured impressive puppetry effects, particularly with the villains, who switch from being hand puppets in close-ups to full-bodied costumed characters in wide shots.

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The Muppet Musicians of Bremen contains examples of

  • Adaptational Skill: The original Bremen Town Musicians were implied to be horrible singers. Here, the four animals are actually pretty skilled with their instruments and make a snazzy Louisiana jazz band.
  • Animal Talk: Inferred. The animals often talk with humans in earshot, but the humans don’t respond or seem to understand them. The closest to them understanding the animals would be when Caleb Siles tells Catgut she's sung her last song.
  • Aside Comment: The animals occasionally direct comments to the audience, such as Leroy clarifying things Mordecai says.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Mordecai makes one to Leroy after the loot stolen from a boxcar turns out to be musical instruments instead of jewels or money.
    Mordecai: It's time for you to retire.
    Leroy: Retire? I'd love to retire.
    Mordecai: I'm gonna get me my gun and retire you proper! [Goes in to get it.]
    Leroy: But not that way!

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  • Big Eater: Lardpork.
  • Butt Biter: Rover Joe bites Mean Floyd on the backside after Floyd steps on him thinking he’s a ghost. He later bites Lardpork on the butt during the climax.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Lardpork blatantly intends to eat T.R. for forgetting to wake him up. Granted, it’s not clear if the humans know the animals are sentient, but the audience knows, which results in this.
  • Composite Character: Unlike in the original story, the robbers based in the cottage are the animals' former owners.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Every character has moments of this, but T.R. gets the most quips.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: What leads to Leroy, T.R., Rover Joe, and Catgut's departures from their homes. Mordecai blames Leroy for the fact that the loot turned out to be musical instruments and decides to "retire" him by shooting him. Lardpork misses breakfast (for the second time in one week) because T.R. overslept and didn’t crow, so he decides to eat him. When Mean Floyd finds out that the ghost sounds were actually Rover Joe's snores, he throws him out the window (straight through the glass). Similarly, when Caleb Siles finds Catgut singing to and befriending the rats, he immediately throws her out the window and into a barrel of water.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: The animals sneak up to the window of the robbers' hideout, which Leroy thinks is the house of a lovely family. All they can see is the silhouettes of their former owners, and they can't hear any of the action. This leads to such mistakes as thinking that, when the robbers are bending their heads over their money to count it, the family is saying grace before supper.
  • Establishing Character Moment: At the beginning, Kermit says that the animals used to be sad because of the people who owned them, leading to a montage showing each owner expressing his main character trait—Mordecai getting angry, Lardpork eating, Mean Floyd looking scared, and Caleb Siles counting money.
  • Fat Bastard: Lardpork.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Mordecai used a lot of made-up swear words that sound close to Angrish.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Mordecai.
  • Imagine Spot: When the animals sing about the "family," with each of their former owners dressed to resemble a different person in a family—Mordecai as the father, Lardpork as the mother, Mean Floyd as the son, and Caleb Siles as the daughter.
  • Interactive Narrator: Kermit, who ends up being the one who convinces Leroy to become a travelling musician.
  • Just Following Orders: Leroy does not approve of his master's robberies but has no choice but to haul them off (until he runs away). Similarly, when Catgut makes friends with rats, she tells them it was all because of Caleb Siles, who would be mean to her if she missed a rat.
  • Meaningful Name: Lardpork.
    • Subverted with Mean Floyd. Despite his name, he is a lot more cowardly and childlike, the least mean of the bunch. The only really mean thing he does is throw Rover Joe out for not coming when he thinks there is a ghost.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Mordecai blames Leroy for the fact that they only had time to steal one bag of goods before the guard interfered and that it turned out to be musical instruments. When Mordecai trips over the wagon, he blames Leroy for that as well.
  • No Honour Among Thieves: The four crooks/owners clearly don’t trust each other even though they work together.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: For the most part, Mean Floyd doesn't exactly live up to his name, being more of a childlike coward (though the others have their fears as well). However, when Rover Joe wouldn't attack when Floyd thinks there is a ghost (Rover Joe is sleeping and his snoring sounds like ghost sounds to him), and finds out that it had been Rover Joe the whole time, he throws him out.
  • Oh, Crap!: T.R., when Lardpork interrupts his song by slamming his axe onto a log right beside him.
    • Catgut, when Caleb catches her singing to the rats.
    • Mean Floyd, when he realizes it's midnight in the swamp where he and the other robbers are meeting, as it's rumored that swamp demons are stirring at midnight. The others tell him not to be a coward but get scared as well when they hear Leroy and the others walking around outside.
  • Setting Update: The story is moved from Germany in the original tale to somewhere in Louisiana, although it’s not clear what time period.
  • Similar Item Confusion: When Leroy and T.R. invite Rover Joe to join them...
    Leroy: Uh, by the by, how are you with a trombone?
    Rover Joe: I'm very good with a ham bone!
    T.R.: Uh... yeah... well, if you practice a little bit, I think you'll see the difference between the two of 'em.

  • Something Blues: T.R., when saying goodbye to the other chickens, sings "Cock a Doodle Blues."
  • Unknown Rival: While maybe not rivals, during the final confrontation, the animals do not realize their former owners are the "family" or even the people they think scared off the family (Leroy later commenting, "Now, I wonder who they were?"), and as they attack, in the dark, their former owners think the animals are the very things they are afraid of.
  • The Unintelligible: While Mordecai can be understood for the most part, he frequently lapses into Angrish cursing that’s hard to follow. As Kermit notes, "It's hard to understand what Mordecai is saying sometimes, and I think that's a good thing."
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Why each animal departs from their owners. In the case of Leroy and T.R., their owners want to kill them over it (while T.R.'s owner, Lardpork, pretty much quotes this trope, he decides that he might still be good enough to eat), while Rover Joe and Catgut pretty much just get thrown out by their owners.

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