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"The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" disappoints - Jim Hill

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by bknatchbull, May 24, 2005.

  1. bknatchbull

    bknatchbull Well-Known Member

    "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" disappoints

    Jim Hill talks about how last Friday's TV movie totally missed the mark. Instead of being the comeback vehicle that Kermit & Co. so desperately needed, the "Muppets' Wizard of Oz" was actually a huge setback for this once-popular collection of characters.
    by Jim Hill

    One of my favorite Bloom County cartoons has Opus reviewing a particularly horrible movie. Seated at his typewriter, the prissy little penguin hammers out:

    "George Phblat's new film, 'Benji Saves the Universe,' has brought the word 'BAD' to new levels of badness. Bad acting. Bad effects. Bad everything. This film just oozed rottenness from every bad scene...Simply bad beyond all infinite dimensions of possible badness."

    Opus pauses for a moment to reconsider what he's written, then types:

    "Well, maybe not that bad. But Lord, it wasn't good."

    And that -- my friends -- pretty much sums up how I feel about "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz." This two hour episode of "The Wonderful World of Disney" may not have been the worst thing that I've ever seen on television. But Lord, it wasn't good.

    Where to begin? I mean, before I begin trashing the thing, I guess I should make an effort to say something nice about the newest movie version of this L. Frank Baum book. Soooo ... Er ... Um ...

    Well, I guess I can say that I admired how the filmmakers at least made an attempt to have the storyline of "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" hew a whole lot closer to the original L. Frank novel. By that I mean: They incorporated genuine Baum touches like Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow all seeing different versions of the Wizard whenever they entered his throne room. Or how about how the Wizard -- in order to finally give the Scarecrow the brains that he so desperately craved -- just poured in a box of bran straight into this character's head. Again, that's another idea that was lifted straight out of L. Frank's book.

    To be honest, "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" did have an awful lot of little moments like that. Things like the Wicked Witch's all seeing eye. Or the hat that controlled the Flying Monkeys. Or all the other creatures (I.E. The wolves, the crows, the bees, etc.) that the evil Piggy wanted to send into battle against Dorothy (But who were all unavailable due to the fact that they were taking a personal day or it was a religious holiday, etc). Those were all direct lifts for the original "Wizard of Oz" novel.

    And as for the look of the characters ... Fozzie made a pretty good looking Cowardly Lion and Gonzo a very impressive Tin ... thing. Sadly, Kermit was just a so-so looking scarecrow, while Miss Piggy ... I don't know if it was because she actually wound up playing five different roles in this picture (I.E. Herself as well as all four witches of Oz). But Piggy didn't really make that much of an impression in this movie.

    As for the show's scenic design ... Well, the Munchkin village looked cute. And there were a few long distance shots of the Emerald City and the Wicked Witch of the West's castle that were rather impressive ...

    But -- beyond that, folks -- "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" was a botch. A complete and utter botch. As a viewer, you just sat there -- hoping against hope that this TV movie would eventually get better. That it somehow engage or entertain you, or at least emotionally involve you. But alas it never did.

    But you wanna know the worst thing about "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz"? This was the first full-length project starring Miss Piggy & pals to be produced since the characters were acquired by the Walt Disney Company. Which meant that -- while this TV movie was in pre-production -- the Muppets had (in theory) the full might of the Mouse's creative team behind them.

    Well, if that were the case (And that the Disney Corporation really does want to turn Kermit & Co. into the company's next Winnie the Pooh. As in: A set of evergreen characters that will make plenty of green for Mickey over the next 40-50 years), then why was the script for "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" so awful? So completely lacking in humor & heart? And why wasn't there at least one song from the "Muppets' Wizard of Oz" score that you could remember two seconds after it was sung?

    I mean, this was the project that was supposed to relaunch the Muppets. The TV movie that was going to remind the world that Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo et al were really something special. That it was a good thing that these characters were now making a comeback.

    Well, instead of a comeback, what Disney got instead was a setback. A TV movie that finished third in the ratings. A project that actually reinforced the idea that the Muppets are all washed up. That Kermit & Co. are yesterday's news.

    And you know really kills me? The people who actually know how to make a decent Muppet movie -- I.E. writer Jerry Juhl & singer/songwriter Paul Williams -- they're still out there. Ready & willing & able to come back to work. But no one at Disney ever thought to pick up a phone and give Jerry & Paul a call. They were too concerned with trying to make Miss Piggy & pals seem "hip," current, with it. Part of today's culture. Which is why they loaded up the script for "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" with napster jokes and "Girls Gone Wild" reference.

    Now some Muppet fans will tell you that they smiled when Kermit asked the Wizard of Oz: "You aren't -- by chance -- related to Frank Oz, are you?" But that reference just made me sad.

    Why For? Because Frank Oz is another guy who actually understands what the Muppets are really about. But nobody at Disney ever thought to ask Oz for his input on the "Oz" project. Or at the very least come have Frank take a look at the script and then listen to his suggestions.

    As for the whole Ashanti thing ... I'm not going to get into that. Other than to say that this poor R&B artist was woefully miscast in the part of Dorothy. But -- to be honest -- there wasn't a single human performer in "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (Not Ashanti. Not Queen Latifah. Not David Alan Grier, Jeffrey Tambor or Quentin Tarantino) who came off looking particularly good in this production.

    But I don't care about those people. What I really care about is the Muppets and how their comeback vehicle wound up going so far off track. On the heels of this botched TV movie, Chris Curtin and the rest of the crew at the Muppets Holding Company LLC (I.E. The arm of the Walt Disney Company that actually controls what's done day-to-day with these characters) are going to have to work that much harder to bring the Muppets back into the mainstream. To make people believe that these characters are once again viable and considered entertaining by today's audiences.

    And it really didn't have to be that way, folks. "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" could have been a truly magical film. The source material was there with the original L. Frank Baum book. And the Muppets are a strong group of characters that many people still have a genuine affection for. If the right team had shepherded this project through the creative process, Disney could have wound up with something truly special.

    But instead we wound up with that disappointment that aired on ABC this past Friday night. Which -- as Opus so eloquently put it at the very start of this article -- "... wasn't good."

    Memo to the Folks who are running the Muppets Holding Company: Stop worrying about how to sell mounds of Muppets plush, DVDs & t-shirts. Instead, start concentrating on what is truly important. Which is figuring out how the Walt Disney Company can start telling entertaining stories with Kermit & Co. again.
  2. Vic Romano

    Vic Romano Well-Known Member

    Well, there you have it! I am a true blue Muppet fan and I didn't care for it either, and while it's great to make some fans happy, this just shows what the rest of the general public may have see MWoO as, a really bad production. I think when Mr. Hill said the following, it echoed my thoughts exactly:

    This is a deep hole the Muppets are going to have a tough time digging themselves out of.
  3. MWoO

    MWoO Well-Known Member

    3rd is not that bad. It could have been last. Family guy got the same ratings on a sunday I think.
  4. Vic Romano

    Vic Romano Well-Known Member

    Maybe so, but Family Guy was a repeat this past season.
  5. pppapazo

    pppapazo Active Member

    How manipulative of Jim Hill. This is what Variety had to say about Oz's ratings:

    "Of note Friday was a solid performance by ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney" original telepic "The Muppets' Wizard of Oz" (prelim 2.2/8 in 18-49, 7.6 million). It placed second from 8 to 10 in 18-49 and led its slot in adults 18-34 (2.0/8), teens (2.6/13) and kids (5.2/19), with the net's best perf in the time period in these younger categories in more than two seasons."

    So, people over 49 watched Dateline or the Daytime Emmys instead. Big surprise.
  6. That Announcer

    That Announcer Well-Known Member

    Let's examine Mr. Hill's errors, shall we?

    Disney did NOT do the script for this film. It was announced and written long before the buyout occurred.

    He couldn't be more wrong if he tried. If the Muppets are indeed "all washed up" and "yesterday's news" as he says, why are there so many users on this forum? Why so many fan sites? And especially, why such a large amount of money changing hands in the buyout?

    Well... Jerry's retired.

    Stop blaming everything on Disney! Frank left of his own will and has no desire to come back. Or do anything with the classic Muppet characters. Or even look at the script and give suggestions. Get over it, Jim- I did a while back there.

    They did in 2002, in 1999, and in 1996. It's the same folks, Jim. They can and will tell entertaining stories with the Muppets. If you listen to me, they did this time too.
  7. GelflingWaldo

    GelflingWaldo Well-Known Member

    Just to dissect some of the lies from this quote:

    1) Jerry and Paul are not the only people who know how to make a decent Muppet Movie. And if the fate of the Muppets depends on these two people doing everything the franchise is doomed to crash and burn in the years to come (especially when they can no longer do work for the Muppets). Yes, Jerry and Paul are great; but the Muppets have done great scripts and songs without them.

    2) Disney has thought of picking up the phone to call Jerry and Paul...In fact they have called them. And Jerry and Paul have done stuff for the Muppets at Disney (like lots of work on TMS season box set DVDs)

    3) Disney did not have the power to pick up the phone and call Jerry and Paul to get them involved in this project. The writers were already lined-up and working on the project before Disney was even involved in the project. If you want to blame someone blame The Jim Henson Company for no including them.

    4) As for making the Muppets "hip", they always have been. The Muppet films in the 70s made references to 70s celebrities, trends, and culture - the films in the 80s were 80s-ish (whenever I see MTM Piggy I just think "whoah the 80s hit that pig hard!") - in the 90's the Muppets were "hip to the 90's" (look at most of Muppets Tonight); and in a film taking place in 2005 the characters will make references to 2005 culture.

    There are so many other flaws in what Jim Hill says. (The film finished 2nd, not 3rd; Frank Oz did give some imput on the project earlier on; many people did enjoy the film, the songs, and the humans; the sucess of this film was not the one and only test to make or break the Muppets' future at Disney; and also Disney should not stop worrying about Muppets plush, DVDs & t-shirts - lord knows, I (and others) love that stuff just as much as seeing a new project).
  8. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Jim Hill said that nobody at Disney thought about asking paul williams to work on the muppets wizard of oz. Although paul willaims has written music for three henson productions (four, if you count his guest appearance on the muppet show, but those songs weren't writtene specially for the muppets), I don't usually think of paul williams when i think of the muppets. it's not like paul willaims wrote songs for sesame street or fraggle rock.

    also, about the comment regarding t-shirts, toys and DVDs: disney hasn't done much with this type of merchandise yet. since buying the muppets, the only muppet toys I know of that have been released (and not part of a contract henson had before selling the muppets) were the macys muppets wizard of oz exclusives. while there have been some t-shirts, I haven't seen any of them in stores. and since buying the muppets, the only DVDs we know of haven't even been released yet: the muppets wizard of oz (the production jim hill reviewed) and the muppet show season 1. I sorta wish it was true that Disney was focusing on DVDs as much as jim hill makes it seem. then we would have the jim henson hour, muppets tonight, the muppets at walt disney world, the play-along videos and little muppet monsters. But we don't :sympathy:
  9. matleo

    matleo Well-Known Member

    Jim Hill is such an overrated hack it isn't even funny!!

    Remember when he was supposed ot write a series of articles for MC?? I wonder why that didn't pan out? oh I remember, cause most of us here HATE him and everything he puts on paper. He never has anything useful to say. He quotes "sources in high places" which is just Jim's way of taunign and saying "I know people on the inside and so I'm cool and you're not" and he talks down to his readers.

    I really wish that guy would find himself a life or at least some real writing talent.

  10. a_Mickey_Muppet

    a_Mickey_Muppet Well-Known Member

    That, or Disney puts a STOP to his A**!!! :attitude: Sorry but I also don't like the man! :halo:
  11. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I think it was said that the jim henson company didn't want the articles to be shown on muppet central untill after the sale of the henson company was finalized. of course, the sale has been finalized for two years and not one chater has been written. shameful. :rolleyes:
  12. HPDJ

    HPDJ Well-Known Member

    Woah! That's sad news... :sympathy:
  13. Cantus Rock

    Cantus Rock Well-Known Member

    Bastardization: complete.
  14. bigbirdfan

    bigbirdfan Well-Known Member

    SHUT UP JIM HILL!!! Sheesh!
  15. mummytomb

    mummytomb Well-Known Member

    I see contradictions in your posts. Some of you say Frank wanted nothing to do with the project, while others say he reviewed it in the beginning.
    My hope is that he would say, "Fozzie doesn't sound like Fozzie."
    None the less, good points have been made in this article. The show was not good. Even those of you who enjoyed it would have to admit the production was not as inventive and exciting as past projects.
    ...And as long as we, the fans, accept this "sub-par" programming, the rest of the entertainment world won't want to tune in.
  16. Craig Crane

    Craig Crane Active Member

    His review hits the nail on the head.
  17. muppetsforlife

    muppetsforlife Well-Known Member

    His review sounds as if he has been dropped right on his head.
  18. Man of Muppets

    Man of Muppets Active Member

    I don't care what they think, i thought it was good. Tons of people do!
  19. Gorgon Heap

    Gorgon Heap Well-Known Member

    I haven't seen MWoO, so someone give me their honest opinion: is it better than, worse than, or on par with KSY?

    David "Gorgon Heap" Ebersole
  20. a_Mickey_Muppet

    a_Mickey_Muppet Well-Known Member

    hey gang,

    yeah MWoO has become one of my fav Muppet films.

    it goes:

    Muppet Movie
    Great Muppet Caper
    Muppet Christmas Carol
    Muppets Wizard of Oz
    Muppet Treasure Island
    Its a Very Merry Muppets Christmas movie
    Muppets Take Manhattan
    MUppets from Space
    and Swamp Years

    yeah Ashanti is .....well....okay, cute but i would have picked some one else. and who know's she must LOVE the muppets too if she chose to act with em!? right? ;)
    Queen, I also LOVE love love her, she sooo funny and sweet! :)

    like i sayed before I give MWoO B+ :zany:

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