Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Gaspar Noé's List of 10 Favorite Films Makes Perfect, Terrifying Sense Gaspar Noé's List of 10 Favorite Films Makes Perfect, Terrifying Sense Jon Hamm Wants You to Know There's Hope for Don Draper After 'Mad Men' Jon Hamm Wants You to Know There's Hope for Don Draper After 'Mad Men' Women Fight Back at Cannes, From Megan Ellison to Emily Blunt Women Fight Back at Cannes, From Megan Ellison to Emily Blunt Of Time & Life: How 'Mad Men' Remade Television Of Time & Life: How 'Mad Men' Remade Television Nikki Finke Returns Nikki Finke Returns Cannes Goes Crazy for Jeremy Saulnier's Gruesome Neo-Nazis vs. Punks Horror 'Green Room' Cannes Goes Crazy for Jeremy Saulnier's Gruesome Neo-Nazis vs. Punks Horror 'Green Room' Cannes Festival Is Dominated by Two Hollywood Masters Cannes Festival Is Dominated by Two Hollywood Masters Top Ten Takeaways: Sequels Rule as Women Boost 'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Also Strong Top Ten Takeaways: Sequels Rule as Women Boost 'Pitch Perfect 2,' 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Also Strong Cannes: Directors from Fincher to Scorsese Revisit Truffaut's Famous Interview with Hitchcock Cannes: Directors from Fincher to Scorsese Revisit Truffaut's Famous Interview with Hitchcock 'Pitch Perfect 2' Outperforms 'Mad Max: Fury Road'; 'Ultron' Is Now Top 2015 Release 'Pitch Perfect 2' Outperforms 'Mad Max: Fury Road'; 'Ultron' Is Now Top 2015 Release Kristen Stewart Re-Teams with Her 'Sils Maria' Director for Ghost Story Set in Fashion World Kristen Stewart Re-Teams with Her 'Sils Maria' Director for Ghost Story Set in Fashion World Watch: Netflix's Ted Sarandos Heckled at Cannes, Gets Weinstein on His Feet During Heated Debate (VIDEO) Watch: Netflix's Ted Sarandos Heckled at Cannes, Gets Weinstein on His Feet During Heated Debate (VIDEO) George Miller and DP John Seale Go Inside 'Mad Max: Fury Road': "It Was Like Being in a Video Game" George Miller and DP John Seale Go Inside 'Mad Max: Fury Road': "It Was Like Being in a Video Game" Natalie Portman's Passion Project 'Tale of Love and Darkness' Splits Cannes Critics Natalie Portman's Passion Project 'Tale of Love and Darkness' Splits Cannes Critics Cannes: 'Dogtooth' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Scores with Surreal, Macabre 'The Lobster' (Review and Roundup) Cannes: 'Dogtooth' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Scores with Surreal, Macabre 'The Lobster' (Review and Roundup) Weinstein Co. Offers Strong Slate at Cannes Weinstein Co. Offers Strong Slate at Cannes 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Auteur George Miller Does It His Way, No Matter How Long It Takes 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Auteur George Miller Does It His Way, No Matter How Long It Takes The Top 20 Episodes of 'Mad Men' The Top 20 Episodes of 'Mad Men' How the 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Score Paid Homage to Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' How the 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Score Paid Homage to Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A)

Muppets Movie Makes Comeback, Happy Feet 2 Stumbles

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 9, 2011 at 4:25PM

When Coca Cola owned Columbia Pictures during the 80s, the beverage giant did research into how to reduce risk in producing and releasing motion pictures. The answer: sequels. Truth is, making movies is more challenging than figuring out how to market products on supermarket shelves. Films involve creative alchemy, huge expense and risk, and can die on their opening weekend. So Hollywood figured out the sequels answer a long time ago, from the days of Andy Hardy, Ma and Pa Kettle and Rin Tin Tin movies.
0
The Muppets
Disney The Muppets

When Coca Cola owned Columbia Pictures during the 80s, the beverage giant did research into how to reduce risk in producing and releasing motion pictures. The answer: sequels. Truth is, making movies is more challenging than figuring out how to market products on supermarket shelves. Films involve creative alchemy, huge expense and risk, and can die on their opening weekend. So Hollywood figured out the sequels answer a long time ago, from the days of Andy Hardy, Ma and Pa Kettle and Rin Tin Tin movies.

But even sequels are a risk if you make a movie that doesn't offer something new. This fall, Disney took the chance on greenlighting a Muppet Movie without the blessing of Frank Oz (who was miffed that his own sequel project, developed under old management, was overlooked). So the studio gave veteran in-house producers Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman ("The Fighter"), exec producer and co-writer Nick Stoller and Muppet-obsessed writer-actor Jason Segal ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall") a modest budget with which to shoot a live-action puppet musical: $45 million.

Well, lo and behold Disney will get a much better return on its investment with the family hit "The Muppets" than Warner Bros., which is reeling from the flop sequel "Happy Feet 2." First, with so many family films battling for audiences at the same time ("Puss in Boots,""Arthur Christmas," "Hugo"), something had to give.

Happy Feet Two
Warner Bros. Happy Feet Two

You'd think that "Happy Feet 2" would be an obvious candidate for a sequel, as George Miller delivered a winning toe-tapping hit with the first $85 million film, which grossed $198 million domestic ($385 million worldwide). But this sequel was expensive, more than its official pricetag of $135 million. And with only $53 million domestic in the can so far--compared to "The Muppets" $59 million--Warners is looking at a big write-off when you add in marketing costs as well. With DVD sales down and theaters returning less than half of a film's theatrical gross, this is not good news. It was tough for Warners marketing to promo the film to make it look new and improved. Clearly, a return to Antartica's peguin population, musically inclined or no, was not enough to pull moviegoers into theaters.

For "The Muppets," Lieberman and Hoberman and writer-producers Stoller and Segal met with fifteen directors before hiring James Bobin of "Da Ali G Show" and "Flight of the Conchords" fame, who in turn brought in half of the "Conchords" duo, 35-year-old  Bret McKenzie, to write three original songs, including "Life's a Happy Song," a strong candidate for an Oscar nomination.

"It was not the same old, same old," says Hoberman. "We were appealing to adults and kids, as Jim Henson would do, with great musical numbers. But we were respectful of Muppet culture and history." While Miss Piggy was not handled by disgruntled Frank Oz (Eric Jacobson did the honors), the rest of the Muppet puppeteers were thrilled to be back in action; some of the more ambitious set pieces feature as many as fifty.

In the end, even if Oz dissed the film (sight unseen), Brian and Lisa Henson gave the final result their blessing. And more important, so did audiences, who will keep on coming through the Christmas holidays.

This article is related to: Box Office, Animation, Musical


E-Mail Updates






Festivals on TOH