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Why did MFS and EIG bomb so bad?

Discussion in 'Classic Muppets' started by BobThePizzaBoy, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Can I just pipe in to say that it usually doesn't matter about the quality of a film, and good films can tank while terrible ones become hits? Look at Transformers 2.... really... I don't wanna watch that one, I heard nothing but outlandishly bad things. And that one did pretty good for itself, right? I even remember hearing about last year's European film Asterix at the Olympics was a massive success, and it earned the European equivalent of the Razzie...

    I think that Robin Hood doesn't (understandably) get a lot of love... and frankly, I could see the movie version having Some B-List actor as Robin Hood and one as Prince John, and just having the Muppets play smaller roles... like the Merry men or something. I really hope that someone would consider making a Muppet Movie sort of like that, and the humans would be the guest stars or the villains or something.
  2. Fozzie Bear Moderator

    A truly timeless cameo would need to be folks who don't show up in People, US, Entertainment Weekly, Weekly World News or Enquirer. Pop Culture references will only put a time-line on a film. If you look at how The Muppet Movie was done, even Great Muppet Caper, you'll see how good cameos work.

    (This is related to a thread above).

    FTB worked superbly with the mix of all the characters and people as opposed to EIG, which sorely missed the mix of all people and characters. As a matter of fact, anything with Elmo in it will usually nix the use of the SS people and other characters.
  3. Drtooth Well-Known Member

    We already had this thread, and this was an old one at that.

    MFS, the studio didn't care, the director wasn't a fan, and everything just suffered from there. I actually liked MFS, but the hack director held everything Muppety back because, well, he had no idea what he's doing and he really wanted to become the most mediocre kiddy film director of all time.

    Now, I'd challenge that Elmo movie for teenagers theory. A LOT of teens wear T-Shirts of characters they have little or no interest in because it's hot to wear them at the time. Look at the girly Tweety Bird shirts they wore in the 90's... Tweety isn't EVEN a girl, and any Looney Tunes fan knows that. Also, we tend to look past his cuteness to see his extreme survival instincts, bordering on diabolic.

    The problem with EIG WAS that it was a no-miss concept that completely failed. The audience and demographic was one that shouldn't be taken to see movies in the first place... 3 year olds! The problem is, much like He-Man and the like, the toy was incredibly popular that the movie sounded like a no-brainer... but then again, they screw up the movie.

    Now, substance wise, the reason the movie doesn't work is the same reason Elmo's World doesn't work. He spends most of the movie alone talking to the audience. Now, had Oscar or ANY of the other Grouches besides the bug went along with him, and he spent the movie interacting with an actual character, rather than the audience, the film would have had a better flow. I liked that they explored his character early and late in the film (something the show refuses to do :rolleyes: ) but in the middle, he basically turned the movie into a mock interactive film, and kept asking the audience for help. Now... I know that most of the Muppet movies have a "No fourth wall at all" policy and Kermit and everyone talks to the audience the whole time... but unlike EIG, they just make comments and asides on the action ("I wish I were you in the audience watching this for the first time").

    When Maria, Gordon, Big Bird and Telly went to rescue him, they spent most of the movie in Grouchland jail... a cute concept, but again, Elmo spent most of the movie alone. Unlike FTB, where Big Bird, while on the run, kept in constant contact with everyone in the scene... and we switched off with the other characters a bit more.

    Probably should have been a DTV project. I guess it may have done better on DVD.
  4. Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Elmo's great when he plays off other characters.

    Elmo's grating when he stands there, devoid of character, and tells kids to count flash animations on the screen.

    A little more former and a lot less latter, and the film would have worked better. Conceptually, it should have been good. Actually, I liken it to what I said about MFS, where it had a big opening and everything turned into DTV quality after that... only it seems that came a little further into the movie in EIG... more like Elmo in Baron nothing land at one point.
  5. frogboy4 Inactive Member

    "Elmo in Grouchland" tanked at the Box Office simply because it was a bad movie. It was uneven from beginning to end and the otherwise good actors were encouraged to pull faces and ham-it-up rather than play it like they would on the real Sesame Street program.

    Elmo In Grouchland cost $26 million to make yet took in $11.5 million domestically. That's $18.5 million in today's dollars. It debut at number 9 and took in less than $4 million it's opening weekend. It should have at least been a modest hit. Elmo had no clear competition. "Drive Me Crazy", "Mystery, Alaska" and "Three Kings" were not biting at the same Elmo apple here.

    There was no shortage of advertising. The fuzzy red creature made the talk show rounds and ads were clearly everywhere. They were riding the success of the Tickle Me Elmo doll and all seemed bright. Producers needed to give young adults more to connect with and that was sorely missing.

    They kind of forgot that once people see Elmo you've got to offer them more. Sesame is an ensemble cast and little of it was seen here. It marked a time when the producers allowed Elmo's popularity to eclipse everything else that made Sesame a success. They also forgot that kids see this stuff piped into their homes for free. They don't care about a bigger budget.

    There's no one clear reason why Elmo fared so poorly. It's really all of them. The film was bungled from the start and I was particularly annoyed that there was very little Oscar in Grouchland at all! Pairing those two characters up more often could have been comedy gold. However, the one stand-alone funny moment was Dave Goelz' giant chicken. That was funny!
  6. Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Exactly what I was saying. Conceptually, a movie based on something THAT popular should do well, even if the movie wasn't all that good to begin with. But then again, when they made that abomination of an American Idol movie, no one wanted to see that either.

    Overall, I still feel the root problem IS that somewhere, somehow, they feel Elmo needs to be isolated from the rest of the series and have alone time with celebs or something. That's why classic fans disliked SS... not so much Elmo or his presence, the way he's used.

    plus, a movie for 3 year olds? BAAAAAAAD idea. At least FTB tried to make itself an all ages movie. But that's back when SS was for kids 3-6.
  7. Daffney New Member

    I believe Columbia's the culprit to blame.

    I remember watching a preview on one Columbia-TriStar VHS from late 1998, which gave teasers for both Muppets from Space and Elmo in Grouchland. From there, I suspected that the studio was wanting these two films to be big hits, but that didn't happen.

    In MFS case, not only was that film hastily rushed to meet a summer release date, which at that time was not a wise choice, but it also had less advertising for it. Even those ads had no idea how to promote such a film like that. In fact, if you saw the trailer, you will noticed that it seemed lost and was struggling to make it spaced themed.

    For EIG, it had a higher ad campaign, but those ads suffered from the same MFS issue. The film had to face competition by the more mature films at that time and it may have been seen by many as a "little kiddie" film.

    The blame should be placed on Columbia. The trilogy of flops JHP released with them might have been the reason why the division was short-lived.
  8. Drtooth Well-Known Member

    That's because it was, and it's because SS's demographic changed dramatically. They made the film to speak specifically to Elmo fans, and added too much Elmo's world to the picture. Even if the movie were done well, the fact that it caters to a group of very young kids who can't sit still for a 90 minute film. It didn't have that family film vibe FTB had... but then again, FTB was made when kids as old as 6 watched the show.

    Then again, I'm wondering if the other factor comes into play... The American public adamantly refuses to watch something on the big screen they can see at home. Sure, crappy remakes of TV shows they want, but not the original TV shows themselves during the run of the show. I've said this a million times now, but Japan has theatrical releases of its cartoon shows (and I think sentai hero shows) all the time... of course, sometimes in double or triple bills.. but there's 17 Dragonball movies (4 Dragonball, 13 DBZ), and Doraemon gets an annual film. Here, cartoon movies are hit or miss... Simpsons, South Park, Spongebob, and Rugrats did well... PPG, Hey Arnold, and countless others not so much. And Rugrats was the only time we've seen multiple films. Same with regular TV shows as movies... they tend to do only so so. The first Sex and the City did alright, second didn't. I remember both X-Files movies not going so well, the 1966 Batman film was basically for foreign markets, but thank frog they made it... it's the only 60's Bats we'll ever see on DVD. Star Trek was the only thing to break into the film franchise market.

    And even if they do get made, they have to offer something special to keep from being a 90 minute episode of the show. Somehow, I could see the SAME plot used in an episode or 2 of SS, broken up by letters and numbers and stuff... FTB could have as well, but it managed to grow with the big screen.

    Maybe if EIG was filmed on location and didn't look so dead...
  9. minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    A number of people said that EIG was promoted better than MFS... But I remember it being the other way around. While I didn't see commercials for either movie often, I recall seeing MFS commercials just a little more than EIG commercials. I saw the EIG trailer in theaters, but not the MFS trailer, but I also saw previews (both the teaser and the theatrical trailer) on a number of Jim Henson Home Entertainment VHS releases, but with the exception of some DVDs the same can't be said for EIG (though I saw a commercial for the movie on the Stuart Little VHS).

    Speaking of promos on video, I found this promo on YouTube: It advertised both movies back-to-back, but for some reason the Muppets From Space one didn't show any clips from the movie, just a shot of a planet and the title logo. Would that count as a teaser trailer?

    It's a shame more movies didn't get more merchandise, though Elmo in Grouchland was one of the few Henson movies to get a video game tie-in (Labyrinth being the other). It would have been cool if they made a deal to release a Muppets From Space action figure or PVC collection; It could have featured Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie, Pepe, Rizzo, Animal, Pepe, and Bobo (maybe also Bunsen, Beaker, Dr. Phil van Neuter, Ubergonzo, alien gonzos, and Clifford). I know that Zowie planned on relasing a playset for the movie, featuring figures of Kermit, Gonzo, and Rizzo plus Muppet Labs, Covnet, the boarding house, and a spaceship, but that didn't get past the production stages.

    When Space Jam came out there was a collection of Looney Tunes VHS releases called "The Stars of Space Jam". A few years ago I thought it would have been cool if MFS and EIG got similar video treatment. Basically, each volume would focus on a main character, with new footage of the character being interviewed, a clip or two from the movie, and clips from past productions. Of course at the time the only Pepe footage out there was from Muppets Tonight and the Muppetisms.

    I pointed this out in the other thread relating to the box office failure of MFS, but I think I should point it out here as well. I noticed a little similarity in the two movies. In MFS, when Miss Piggy finds out that Gonzo was being taken to a government building, she told her friends at the boarding house, and pretty much everybody who was there at the time got together to go rescue Gonzo. In EIG, when Oscar finds out Elmo is going to Grouchland, he tells Telly, who panics and tells everyone who was on the street at the time, before Oscar confirms it, and then almost everyone present at the time got together to rescue Elmo (though in Elmo's case they only knew of him going after his blanket, not knowing of any certain trouble Elmo was in; Oscar had no idea he was headed towards Huxley's castle until closer to the end). And in both movies only a small number of characters went searching. I think it was drtooth who said they should have split the groups up, and I agree (and feel more characters should have been involved as well). Drtooth stated in the other thread how it felt odd having three Frank Oz characters in that group, and to me in the case of EIG it seems the inclusion Cookie Monster in the main group was a bit pointless. I wonder if Oz looped most of his characters dialogue in that one as well.
  10. Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I saw that one too... and it's CLEARLY evident that there were some down to the wire production problems for MFS for EIG to have at least an entire scene finished a year in advance for a trailer (unless EIG was rushed out and completed first). Granted, the Muppets 2011 didn't start filming until less than a year before the film was scheduled to come out, but it didn't have production problems (we can thank the symbiotic relationship between the director and writers for that one), and I'd say the script approval stage would hardly make the project rushed...

    Though, the least we could have had with this upcoming film was a teaser that had nothing to do with the plot, much like MFS did. Just an announcement.

    Merchandise does not a successful movie make. I've seen several movies that actually got more merchandise the second film around (Madagascar for example). I've seen dozens of movies with shelves of merchandise that could NEVER EVER be cleared out no matter how low they put the price, both movies that did respectably well and movies that flopped completely. I remember the Disney Store had to clear out Treasure Planet stuff at deep discounts and there were no takers. Some companies are overly cautious, some companies are far too sure of themselves.

    And really, in a summer dominated by Star Wars and to a lesser extent Tarzan merchandise (soon to make way for Toy Story 2 stuff), there was probably hardly any room or call for MFS toys... (besides... I wish Disney merchandised Inspector Gadget a little more... though I do have all 3 bean bags, the complete Mathew Broaderick looking McD's toy, and the 2 push pops) did any of the other movies have anything? Other than MTI and MCC, I haven't seen much movie related merchandise... maybe the GMC McD's glasses and posters and the MTM Marvel comics adaption and book and record and the beginnings of Muppet Babies merchandise... other than soundtracks, of course... and Palisades figures. But back then, they just had regular Muppet stuff, right?

    I just hope we get a lot of great regular Muppet stuff by the time this new movie rolls around.
  11. GonzoLeaper Active Member

    I liked both "Muppets From Space" and "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland". But I will say "Follow That Bird" is still my favorite of the two Sesame Street movies- probably because I grew up with that one. But on the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised with "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland" when I finally saw it because it wasn't nearly as bad or necessarily Elmo-centric as I thought it might have been. I loved Ernie and Bert's interjections and it was neat to see such an exploration of the inside of Oscar the Grouch's trash can and the world of Grouchland. It kind of makes you wonder why he chooses to live on Sesame Street rather than join the rest of the grouches in Grouchland. Is he an ambassador for them? Or does he just like to be grouchy and make everything miserable for the rest of the Sesame Street denizens? Or could it be- somewhere way deep down- Oscar really does like and love the Sesame Street gang- and they are his family, whether he admits it or not.:grouchy::wisdom::)
    But "Muppets From Space" was great too- I saw that in theaters and loved it. I particularly enjoyed the musical numbers- "Brickhouse" and "Celebration"- two great funky songs from the late '70s and early '80s. It so happened that those two are some of my favorite songs and it was fun to see the Muppets singing them. It would have been nice to have some original songs (like I really would have loved to have Gonzo do his reprisal of "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" like was released on CD) but I really loved the Noah's Ark scene- that was very fitting. And I love that Gonzo found his alien family but even after finding them finally and realizing the thing he'd been longing for for so long- he came to realize that he had already found belonging and acceptance and a family- with the Muppets. That was a great lesson in itself- something that Sesame Street also teaches quite well. I like that.

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