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Film / The Muppets Take Manhattan

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Together Again. Oh it's good to be together again!. ♫

"I'm staying! You hear that, New York? The frog is staying!"
Kermit the Frog

The Muppets Take Manhattan is the last of the original trilogy of Muppet feature films made by Jim Henson, released in 1984 and directed by Frank Oz.

Another take on the origins of the Muppets, this has them having all known each other during college and making a musical together (Manhattan Melodies); upon graduation, they decide to go to New York City and try to put the show on Broadway rather than just split apart. But after countless failures in trying to sell the show, they do split up, going to different parts of the country to make ends meet. Kermit gets a job at a diner and continues pursuing the dream of getting the show produced. Just as he succeeds and calls all the others back, he is hit by a car; now amnesiac, he winds up getting a job in the advertising industry. With the show one week away, the Muppets have to try and find him or, failing that, press on without him.

One of the musical numbers, featuring baby versions of some of the characters, turned out to be the debut of the Muppet Babies; their subsequent Saturday-Morning Cartoon kicked off the Spinoff Babies craze.

Followed by The Muppet Christmas Carol.

This film provides examples of:

  • 419 Scam: In-person example. The first "producer" the Muppets pitch their show to is actually a con artist who fraudulently promises they can start working on the show the next day if they give him $300 each upfront. He is arrested soon after, identified by a previous victim.
  • Accidental Marriage: At least if you consider the original script, or the comic book adaptation. The movie itself never actually confirms this. Post-film, Kermit argued in interviews it wasn't real. Piggy insists it was real.
  • The Ace: Baby Piggy's song has her planning to be a movie star/veterinarian/brain surgeon/pilot/mountain climber/model/lawyer/scuba diver/singer. Oh, and a stay-at-home mom when the kids are born.
  • An Aesop: Achieving your dreams may be a long and difficult process, but it doesn’t hurt to keep trying.
  • All Part of the Show: It is made intentionally vague whether or not Kermit and Piggy's wedding was this or something that happened for real and took place after the show they were putting on. "Interviews" of Kermit and Piggy after the movie was released had Kermit stating it was all part of the show, while Piggy insisted it was real, and Joan Lunden of Good Morning America even gave them a toaster.
  • Alternate Continuity: Played with. The Muppets met in college instead of on a road trip to Hollywood, and many established Muppets such as Rizzo and Bunsen are given new “introductions”. Later productions treat this film as part of the official timeline.
  • Amnesiac Resonance: Kermit remembers the melody he wrote, even though he's amnesiac.
  • And Introducing: Rizzo the Rat became a regular with this film. He didn't find his role as Gonzo's sidekick yet, however.
  • Angrish: After Piggy spies on Kermit and Jenny hugging (again) while they are at Pete's, she's heard trashing whatever room she's in while screaming what can only be described as this.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The frog advertisers all have human ears.
  • Author Avatar: As with The Muppet Movie, this can be read as an allegory of Jim Henson's career. Like his creator, Kermit gains local popularity performing during his college years, decides to try his luck in New York, struggles, takes an unlikely detour into the world of advertising, then gets his big break.
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Linda Lavin's character, who abuses Kermit by twisting his arm, feeling his legs and forcing his mouth open.
    Doctor: No doubt about it — you have amnesia.
  • Big Applesauce: The Muppets go to New York City to try and get their show on Broadway.
  • Bindle Stick: Fozzie during his part in the "Saying Goodbye" number.
  • Bland-Name Product: During his Phil amnesia phase, Kermit is briefly shown reading The New York Financial Journal, which looks exactly like The Wall Street Journal.
  • Boring, but Practical: During the scene of the rats working in the kitchen, some of the special effects were made using the most obvious solutions.
    • When one of the rats is greasing the grill by skating on it with pats of butter on his feet, the effects crew tried several ways to get the proper sizzling effect. In the end, actual butter on a hot surface worked just fine.
    • When another rat is mixing batter by using an eggbeater as an exercise bike, the effects crew mixed several chemicals together to resemble batter. They somehow created a corrosive substance that was eating right through the mixing bowls and they feared was toxic. Finally one member of the crew made some actual pancake batter, which they used for the final scene.
  • Bottle Episode: Because Jim Henson was juggling a bunch of other projects at the same time, he didn't want to go on location for a film shoot, so he came up with the idea of setting a film in New York, allowing him to stay close by the Muppet offices.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Surprisingly, subverted. This is the only major Muppet movie where nobody breaks the fourth wall, even once.
  • Buy or Get Lost: Rizzo works at Pete's diner for no pay, living entirely on tips. So when the main cast sympathise with him by saying they don't have money either, his reaction is "Sorry, not my table."
  • The Cameo: Not as many as the first two movies, but still.
    • Art Carney plays Ronnie Crawford's father, Bernard Crawford.
    • James Coco leaves his dog "Snookie-ookums" with Rowlf at his doggie day care.
    • Miss Piggy borrows Gregory Hines' roller-skates to chase the purse snatcher.
    • Linda Lavin gives Mr. X (Kermit after amnesia) his checkup.
    • Joan Rivers works alongside Miss Piggy as a perfume saleswoman.
    • Elliott Gould, who had previously appeared in the first movie, portrays a cop.
    • Liza Minnelli is confused why her caricature at Sardi's was replaced by that of a disguised Kermit, and questions Vincent Sardi (also playing himself) about it.
    • Brooke Shields gets questioned by Masterson about Interspecies Romance.
    • Mayor Ed Koch is asked by Gonzo if he's seen a frog who can sing and dance, and jokingly replies, "If he can also balance the budget, I'll hire him."
    • John Landis plays the producer who is approached by a disguised Kermit trying desperately to be hip, even wearing an afro.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • In a "Blink And You'll Miss It" moment, Ronnie Crawford can be seen during the Travelling Salesman Montage.
    • One of the cops who comes to arrest the con artists also reappears, when Piggy borrows his skates.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Piggy; somewhat understandable since she and Kermit are supposed to be getting married soon.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: A 68-page comic adaptation of this movie was featured in the 32nd issue of Marvel Super Special, which was subsequently reprinted as a three-issue miniseries by Marvel Comics' now defunct subsidiary Star Comics.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Jim Henson is the hansom cab driver who takes Kermit and Piggy on a ride through Central Park.
    • Producer David Lazer is seen escorting Liza Minelli to her table at Sardi's.
    • One of the board members that Kermit pitches Ocean Breeze to is Frank Oz.
  • Darker and Edgier: It's still a comedy, but compared to the two previous Muppet movies, The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, this is more subdued and naturalistic, with much less over-the-top silliness and even a few darker undertones. This was, apparently, because The Great Muppet Caper, by far the craziest and least serious Muppet movie, hadn't done particularly well in the box office, so they toned the wackiness down for this one.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Rizzo the Rat, here in his first major film role and seriously starting his career as the resident cynical wiseguy.
    • Also, Floyd Pepper, as usual. Upon learning his waiter is a rat:
    Rizzo: Okay, what'll you have?
    Floyd: The number for the board of health.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: For The Muppet Movie. In both films, the Muppets come to the big city expecting to become stars. Only this time, they find out it's not so simple as just showing up and asking, especially for a bunch of nobodies fresh out of college. Instead of giving them a contract, producer after producer rejects them, thinking It Will Never Catch On, until the Muppets run out of money and end up taking less-than-stellar jobs. Afterwards, the movie shows that even though it's not easy, you can still make your dreams come true if you keep trying and find the right opening. The Empire State Building scene is basically Kermit's resolve to find the second half of this trope.
  • Demoted to Extra: Sam Eagle, Crazy Harry, The Newsman, Pops, Bert, Ernie, and Cookie Monster who appear nowhere else in the movie until the wedding of Miss Piggy and Kermit. Unlike the other Muppets present however, they are the only few out of many to have lines of dialogue.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: A jealous Miss Piggy accuses Kermit of doing things with a "girl of the opposite gender."
  • Determinator: Kermit.
    (from atop the Empire State Building) I'm gonna sell that show, and we're all gonna be on Broadway! You hear me, New York?! We're gonna be on Broadway! Because... because...I'm not giving up! I'm still here and I'm staying! YOU HEAR THAT, NEW YORK?! I'M STAYING HERE! THE FROG IS STAYING!
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Kermit has finally managed to successfully sell Manhattan Melodies and is ready to tell his friends, only to be hit by a car and left with amnesia.
  • Digital Destruction: Of all the original Muppet movies, this one probably is the worst victim of it. The current version of the movie has far too much contrast, making the movie look incredibly dark (it's also odd in a scene where Kermit is at the top of the Empire State Building at night, and his tongue appears to be glowing), there are a number of cropping inconsistencies from widescreen to 4:3 from previous versions, slight music alterations, among others.
    • The scene where Martin Price is exposed as Murray Plotski, there are two current edits, both of which remove almost all of Animals, "BAD MAN!" chants. Current TV broadcasts of the movie omit all of Animal's, "BAD MAN! BAD MAN!" chants, while the current DVD release (specifically, the one included with the Blu-ray) leaves at least Animal's first two, "Bad man!" as Martin/Murray tries to slip away from the cops.
  • Dissimile: "Ocean Breeze Soap: It's just like taking an ocean cruise, only there's no boat and you don't actually go anywhere."
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In the scene where Kermit tells the assorted characters that they can all be in the show, check out the bear standing in the back of the group. That's Bobo Bear, although he wouldn't actually be Bobo for 12 more years.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: For the Muppet Babies in Piggy's fantasy sequence compared to their portrayal in Muppet Babies (1984). Apart from singing an elaborate doo-wop song, they're more baby-like here: they sometimes crawl instead of walking, the song's backup scatting includes the words "Mama, gaga..", Rowlf has Elmuh Fudd Syndwome, Piggy sucks her thumb, and the nursery includes a diaper changing table. In the cartoon series, except for Animal, they're all fully verbal and ambulant, seeming more like preschoolers than babies despite the title. Nor do Animal or Skeeter appear in Piggy's fantasy.
  • Easy Amnesia: Happens to Kermit. After getting hit by a taxi, he remembers nothing. His reaction to news of his relationship with Miss Piggy is priceless. Ironically this is what gets his memory back.
    Kermit: With you? In love with a pig? Oh, wait 'til I tell the guys in marketing! Ha ha! Maybe you expect me to go HOG-wild? Maybe, perhaps you could bring home the BACON! Ahhh... the sounds of love, SU-EEEEE! Oink, oink!
    Miss Piggy: Cancel the show! Hi-yah!
  • '80s Hair: Miss Piggy's perm, as seen in the page image.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Phillip's" big success in advertising is creating mottos like this: "Ocean Breeze Soap will get you clean."
  • Gallows Humor: Right before they walk into Pete's, knowing they have no money to pay and will have to beg:
    Kermit: Well, we've got to eat.
    Gonzo: Why start now?
  • Genre Throwback: Not the movie as a whole, but the song in the Muppet Babies number. As with a number of productions at the time, the song is a throwback to 1950s doo-wop.
  • Get the Sensation
  • Greasy Spoon: Pete's Luncheonette.
  • Hash House Lingo: "Two zeros on a trampoline with a side of Joan of Arc", which means 2 fried eggs on toast with steak fries.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Pete is always ready to give people advice and reassurance in troubling times, but nothing he says makes any sense.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: The cast of Sesame Street show up in the audience of the Frog-Piggy wedding in Manhattan Melodies. In addition, Baby Rowlf has a Big Bird doll.
    • If you look closely, you can see Uncle Travelling Matt in the audience (in the chapel) during the wedding scene.
  • Interspecies Romance: Pig and frog, of course, plus chicken and... whatever. Also, at one point:
    Masterson Rat: Do you believe in interspecies dating?
    Brooke Shields: Well, I've gone out with some rats before if that's what you mean. [Masterson faints]
    • An amnesiac Kermit even lampshades the absurdity of a romance between a frog and a pig.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: The final moment of the bridal couple kissing is concealed by Miss Piggy's head.
  • Lap Pillow: At the end of the Muppet Babies fantasy sequence, Baby Piggy lies with her head in Baby Kermit's lap, sucking her thumb. Cutting Back to Reality, the adult Piggy is revealed to be Acting Out a Daydream with her head in Kermit's lap during their carriage ride, also sucking her thumb.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Kermit does this, going by the name of "Phillip Phil" after an ad that says "Fill 'er up" because he doesn't know his real name when asked by the frogs in marketing.
  • Metaphorically True: When Ronnie Crawford sees Kermit at the door to Bernard Crawford's office and Kermit asks for Mr. Crawford, Ronnie, not yet ready to reveal that he wrote the letter and signed his father's name, responds by saying that he is Mr. Crawford. Of course, he admits the truth a few seconds later.
  • Minsky Pickup: Janice plucks one out before the opening number as the gang shops around their show.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: During Kermit’s whisper campaign plan, things look like they were going to work. Unfortunately, Rizzo and the other rats blew their own cover when they tried to sneak some of the food due to hunger. They get caught and wind up starting a panic in the restaurant.
  • No Antagonist: This is the only Muppet movie not to have any sort of central antagonist (the closest that comes along to any sort of villain is the con artist Dabney Coleman plays early on in the film, and even then he's mainly for a throwaway gag more than anything else), with the problem instead being all the trouble Kermit has to go through trying to sell his show. Disregarding Dabney, you've got the producers who all immediately reject the musical pitch, though they're under the belief that "Manhattan Melodies" just won't work out rather than deliberately trying to cause trouble for the gang.
  • Noodle Implements: Some of the contents of Piggy's purse are... interesting.
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: Kermit gets an Advertising job by cutting through the overly long and kinda-gross taglines of the soap the Advertising department is trying to use by simply stating what it does. The advertising agency declares it brilliant and original - no one in advertising has done that before!
  • Out of Focus: With the exception of Kermit and Piggy, most of the Muppets are Put on a Bus (literally, in some cases) fairly early and aside from some brief scenes devoted to them where Kermit's reading their mail they don't return until the last 25 minutes.
  • Pet the Dog: For someone as self-centered as she is, Miss Piggy has a rare early-movie moment of compassion when she asks Gonzo if Camilla's alright after the incident with the alleged producer.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The rats, most notably Rizzo.
  • Quirky Girl, Quirky Tux: Janice wears a tux to Kermit and Piggy's wedding. While Janice has some feminine habits (the color pink, make-up, hats with flowers and peacock feathers) she's not as "froofy" as Piggy and expresses her offbeat nature by wearing a tux.
  • Rage Breaking Point: After one too many failed attempts to sell their show, the gang as one start asking Kermit how they should improve their act, causing the frog to snap:
  • Real Fake Wedding: At the end of the movie, Piggy and Kermit are supposed to get "married" at the climax of the big musical. Gonzo was supposed to play the minister, but Piggy replaces him with a real minister.
    • The comic book adaptation has a scene where Miss Piggy asked Gonzo if he'd found a doctor to look at Kermit's amnesia, but Gonzo replies that he found a minister, with no hint that Miss Piggy asked for one.
  • Retail Therapy: Miss Piggy is given a cheer-up makeover.
  • Sanity Slippage: Joan Rivers and Piggy suffer one during the aforementioned Retail Therapy.
  • Saw "Star Wars" Twenty-Seven Times: Lew Zealand has seen the In-Universe 3D film Attack Of The Killer Fish ninety-seven times. His favorite part is when the fish attack, at which point he tosses boomerang fish around the movie theater to add to the excitement (the other moviegoers think it's All Part of the Show).
  • Seven Minute Lull: When Miss Piggy gets everyone's attention after getting everyone back, reprising a joke from The Great Muppet Caper, Janice uses the lull to once again talk about her stance on nudity.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The Swedish Chef, Lew Zealand, Bunsen, Beaker, Beauregard, various bears, and Beth Bear who accompany Scooter, Dr. Teeth, and Fozzie respectively to New York.
  • The Song Remains the Same: In both of the Japanese dubs of the film, the songs remain in their original English versions with subtitles on screen.
  • Stealth Pun: Rizzo the rat starts singing scat.
    • One of the rats Rizzo brings is named "Masterson".note  Another one is named "Tattooey".note 
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: When the Muppets come to New York fresh out of college to pitch their musical for Broadway, they expect the producers to jump at the chance. But since they have no professional experience, and no one has heard of them, everyone turns them down. It takes months before Kermit even gets an offer, and even then, he just got lucky because the producer just happened to be looking for that kind of show.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    Kermit: Piggy? I thought Gonzo was going to play the minister.
    (Piggy's only response: a guilty, nervous chuckle.)
  • Take Me Instead: Gonzo's plea when a villain has grabbed Camilla. And he takes them both instead.
  • Tempting Fate: Pete does this in the scene where Kermit and the rats are applying for jobs.
    Pete: Rats want job. Frog want job. What next, penguins?
    (A group of penguins enters the room.)
    Penguin: Do you have any jobs available?
    Pete, Kermit and the rats: NO!
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Piggy has one with Kermit when she leaves.
  • Travelling Salesman Montage: It's really no surprise that it fails, however. You can't have twenty pairs of eyes staring through a cafeteria window watching someone take a bite out of a sandwich and expect that you're going to endear yourself to that person.
  • Understatement
    Rowlf: [Getting the show on Broadway] is turning out to be tougher than we thought.
    • Said after a whole montage of the Muppets' Broadway musical being rejected by producer after producer after producer (slamming door after door after door in their faces)!
  • The Unintelligible: Pete, sort of. His analogy that the city is not a single entity, but a sum of its components: the people living and working in it. It could be considered profound if he were a bit more clear.
    Pete: Hey, I tell you what is. Big city, hmm? Live, work, huh? But, not city open. Only peoples. Peoples is peoples. No is buildings. Is tomatoes, huh? Is peoples, is dancing, is music, is potatoes. So, peoples is peoples. Okay?
    Kermit: (blankly) Uh, yeah.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Kermit's nurse points out it was unusual that Kermit was found wearing no clothing, seemingly unable to notice that Kermit is a frog. And while she seems to find it odd that he wasn't wearing any clothing, she doesn't seems to see it as a serious problem.
  • Wedding Finale: The film ends with Kermit and Miss Piggy walking down the aisle together. Kermit had assumed it was just a fake staged for the film, but Piggy swapped Gonzo for a real minister behind his back. Word of God has it that the subsequent argument over whether or not the ceremony counted was why frog and pig are estranged at the start of The Muppets (2011).
  • What Could Have Been: In-universe: Miss Piggy wonders what it would be like if they've known each other since they were babies. Cue Poorly-Disguised Pilot for Muppet Babies (1984).
  • Who's Watching the Store?: They must have closed Pete's for the musical, because everyone is there.
  • Yandere: Miss Piggy more than ever. She reacts violently to Jenny hugging Kermit while she spies on him, not knowing Kermit and Jenny are Just Friends.