Frank Oz Talks Jim Henson, Creating Yoda, Bert and Fozzie, the Recent MUPPET Movie and If He Would Ever Be Involved with THE MUPPETS Again

     July 27, 2012


It’s not too often you meet someone that has truly changed your life.  Having grown up on Sesame Street, Star Wars and The Muppets, getting to meet and speak with Frank Oz at the Saturn Awards last night was the highlight of my evening.  If you’re not aware of Oz’s influence on our planet, he created Yoda, Miss Piggy, Animal, Grover,  Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster and Bert on Sesame Street, among many others.  His influence on generations of kids around the world is immeasurable.

During our interview, I asked him about working with Jim Henson, creating the voices for his iconic characters, if he kept any props from his past projects, if he saw director James Bobin‘s The Muppets and what he thought about the film, and whether he would ever be involved with The Muppets again.   Hit the jump for more.

Frank_Oz_and_PiggyAs someone who helped create so many Muppets, I was very curious what he thought about the recent film.  He said:

“I saw it.  I have not talked about it because—I gotta be careful here because I don’t wanna hurt anybody—the Disney process bothered me.  I felt the movie was really sweet and fun, a little too safe, a little retro; I prefer more cutting edge with The Muppets.  But the main thing is everybody got back to appreciating The Muppets, and what I wish they’d appreciate is the performance underneath The Muppets; those are the key people.  So I thought the movie was…the main thing is it brought people back to The Muppets.  Although they never really left, it’s always been a kind of subculture, it’s always been there in our popular culture a little bit.  So I’m happy that people are happy.”

the-muppets-blu-ray-cover-artWith Disney developing the sequel right now and many fans hoping The Muppets might return to television, I asked if he’d be willing to be involved again.  He said:

“I don’t know, I mean I know I’d probably be asked to direct something.  Now Disney owns them, and that’s entirely up to Disney.”

Here’s my full interview with Frank Oz from last night.  It’s time indexed so you can watch the parts that interest you.

Frank Oz Time Index:

  • :21 What does he remember most about working with Jim Henson? Talks about the fun they had doing Bert and Ernie.
  • :56 Talks about creating the voices for his iconic characters like Yoda, Bert, Fozzie, etc.
  • 2:07 How many people have asked him to do answering machine messages?
  • 2:33 Did he keep any props from his past projects?
  • 3:14 Did he see The Muppets?
  • 4:15 Would he ever be involved with The Muppets again?


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  • Ethan

    Let’s just be honest. He resents it because they turned his script down in favor of Segel’s.

  • Ash Talon

    While the new Muppets film was cute & funny at times, it had a really terrible message. Basically, it condoned segregation. You can’t be happy unless you’re with your own kind. It was a deeply flawed film, thematically. And it wasn’t really about the Muppets as much about Segel and his new brother Muppet.

    • Jeff

      I know what you mean. The movie could be intrepretted that way through cynical eyes. I think it was more of a story about finding your place in the world and standing on your own. In the end Walter and Gary don’t stop being brothers, it’s just that Walter realizes his place in this world is performing with the Muppets.

    • Shaun

      Although I guess I can see your point, I have to admit that never occurred to me and I think that’s really a stretch to say that the movie was segregationist. I mean, look at the Muppets themselves. All different colors, shapes, sizes, animals, and… Whatevers.

      Agreed with Jeff that the movie’s about finding your place in the world, and also being proud of who you are. Walter was razzed for being a Muppets fan, but he never stopped believing in, and loving the Muppets. He stayed true to himself, and he found his place.

      Plus, I loved how Walter and Gary were (obviously) different from one another and yet the movie never really made a point of that. It didn’t matter, they were still brothers and will always be brothers. I think that’s awesome, and so was the movie.

    • Ethan


  • papasteve

    I really admire Frank Oz, but it’s hard to like him from this interview. It’s really great that The Muppets have been passed onto younger artists who love them and aren’t just raping them for money. There aren’t many franchises that get such good service. I guess Frank Oz just couldn’t cope with not being a part of it all. And WHY won’t he make people happy and show off a bit by doing some funny voices – he wouldn’t need the ego room then, he’d just feel the love raining down on him. Arrr Frank, Frank, Frank.

  • Jeff

    I agree with Frank Oz — I found the new Muppets to be very Disney-fied, kind of pandering, not at all the Muppets I grew up with, so personally I applaud him for stepping away. I also think it’s silly to wonder why he won’t “do” the voices; would you ask Kate Winslet to “do” Rose or Sigourney Weaver to “do” Ripley and wonder why she won’t say “Get away from her, you b**ch” every time she walks down a red carpet? Asking Frank Oz to “do” his Miss Piggy or Yoda impression is unprofessional and borderline crass.

    • Shaun

      Not the Muppets you grew up with? Odd, given that the movie was such a love letter to the Muppets, and The Muppet Show itself. When they recreated the opening song to the show so perfectly I (almost embarrasingly) started to choke up just a little bit. The “show” segments (including the stuff with Jack Black, who I usually can’t stand) was very much in the vein of the old show.

      If anything, this was the first Muppets project in ages that I actually enjoyed again. Better than those crappy holiday specials of recent years, not to mention other junk like Muppet Wizard of Oz, or Kermit’s Swamp Years. For me, “The Muppets” harkened back to the more anarchic nature of not just The Muppet Show, but also the first two Muppet movies. Segel and Co. nailed it. I’m sorry you couldn’t bring yourself to enjoy one of the best, most fun movies of the past year.

      I agree with you, however, that asking him to do some voices for the interview was pretty crass.

  • Fred

    Truth be told, Frank Oz retired from Muppet performing back in 2000 so he could focus on directing. In fact, he has stated that he never wanted to be a puppeteer in the first place.

    The principal performer of Oz’s Muppet characters is puppeteer Eric Jacobson, he’s been doing Oz’s characters for years now.

    You can get more info on this subject (including quotes from Oz and sources) from the following page from Muppet Wiki;

  • Fred

    …And lets not forget that Oz participated in “Muppets From Space” the film did poorly and even Oz himself later admitted that it was not up to their standards.

  • Liza

    This interview was great. He’s right…the new muppet movie wasn’t great. It just wasn’t. I wanted to see the muppets…not Jason Segel. And it had the WORST cameos. Donald Glover essentially walks into a room. Sarah Silverman seats them for dinner. Give me an actual SCENE! Like Mel Brooks or Steve Martin in Muppet Movie. I was definitely let down. Hopefully the next one will be better, but my suspicion is that the muppets died with jim henson.

    • Fred

      Donald Glover essentially walks into a room. Sarah Silverman seats them for dinner.

      That is not what happened at all. Sliverman did NOT “seat *them* for *dinner*” and Glover did NOT just “walk into a room” You obviously did not see the whole movie, or you saw it once and just didn’t pay attention. At least know what you are talking about before you complain on the Internet.

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  • Fred

    “I don’t know, I mean I know I’d probably be asked to direct something.”

    Does that sound egotistical to anyone else?

    • Junebug

      Are you really Jason Segal? ‘Cause you seem to be in love with that piece of crap movie.

  • $10799623

    MOST people love the movie. It was a critical and commercial success.

  • Kat

    I think that the movie was indeed a love letter to The Muppets. I enjoyed the movie but I felt there were a lot of moments that were missed. I would be interested in knowing if there was a longer version that developed those moments. As for loving the movie, I didn’t think it was as good as it could have been (using the same script but using those jokes and jabs where they would fit easily and appropriately). and therefore I couldn’t fully enjoy it.