says Fraggle film will rock
theatrical film will will feature old favorites like the main Fraggles,
Traveling Matt, The Trash Heap and celebrity cameos and acclaimed
Zappa remembers the time before Paris Hilton and Kevin Federline,
when celebrities earned their fame by creating something artistic
— and then used their influence to make the world a better place.
He remembers John Lennon singing about peace; his father, Frank Zappa,
promoting independent thought; and Muppet-master Jim Henson shaping
the impressionable young minds of a generation. And now he's got a
new job, because Ahmet Zappa also remembers the Fraggles.
always come up to me and talk about my father," the 32-year-old
actor/writer recently said. "My father was very political,
outspoken, an amazing musician and a great dad. Jim Henson, to me,
is such an icon. What [Henson] did for kids — entertainment,
education, storytelling and inspiring creativity — he was
just such an important person. It feels nice to be involved in another
Six weeks ago, Zappa won the high-profile assignment
of developing the full-length rebirth of "Fraggle Rock,"
the vibrant 1980s TV program Henson pitched to networks as the children's
show that would end wars. Looking back now, the "Sesame Street"
imaginer packed his program with messages about racial tolerance,
creature codependence and even the importance of recycling. But,
as Henson knew then and Zappa knows now, all that stuff often takes
a back seat to the reason why people really care about the Fraggles:
"I grew up having the Fraggles on television,
singing songs that I thought were really catchy and fun," Zappa
remembered, professing his love for the colorful 22-inch characters
and the Gorgs, Doozers and talking trash heap that surrounded them
for five seasons on HBO. "There are a lot of messages in 'Fraggle
Rock' that fans have kept close to their hearts, so we have to be
respectful of the television show and very respectful of Jim Henson's
Fraggle message. As far as the movie's concerned, that's what we
are focusing on now: how to maintain Fraggledom."
Zappa is hard at work squeezing 96 episodes into a movie that will
properly reflect that same "Fraggledom" for old fans,
as well as their children. Told in a contemporary context using
far more human interaction, new characters and plenty of music,
the movie will be produced by Henson's daughter, Lisa, and directed
by his son, Brian. Barely able to contain his enthusiasm for the
project, big-kid Zappa gave us a first look at what we can expect
from the "Fraggle" flick.
"If you take the landscape of kids' music now,
I don't personally enjoy it," said Zappa, whose debut children's
Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless," displayed an
unrestrained imagination that impressed the Henson clan, along with
a taste that seemed to connect with today's kids. "'Fraggle
Rock' is good music, good instrumentation, catchy little jingles
and stories that are all very sweet."
Part of that sweetness is in the nonjudgmental dependency
between the different races and colors of Fraggles, and the creatures
that surround them. "It's a complete ecosystem," Zappa
said of Henson's idea to show children how living creatures need
each other. Zappa's script will pick up with level-headed Gobo,
artistic Mokey, athletic Red, nervous Wembley and chronically depressed
Boober in the same underground tunnels where we left them 20 years
ago, and follow the crew as they journey for the first time into
"Outer Space" — or as we like to call it, the real
Matt is in the movie," Zappa confirmed, referring to Gobo's
adventurous uncle whose naive reports from Outer Space are indicative
of the fish-out-of-water humor Zappa will embrace. "The funny
part about Traveling Matt and Outer Space is he'd see a fire hydrant
and assume it was a person. He thought cars were animals, that they
were living organisms, and he thought elevators were people changers,
because the doors would close and then open, and there'd be new
people in there all the time."
For the currently untitled movie, that mentality
will be applied to some of the strange things we currently take
for granted. "Back when that show was made, there weren't cell
phones, so imagine a Fraggle finding a cell phone," Zappa said,
citing one early idea. "It's been a lot of fun putting myself
in that head space. It's not every day that you wake up and imagine
yourself Fraggle height and take it seriously — being that
tall, what would the world look like to you?"
Zappa said the film will also reflect larger changes
in the world. "A lot of things have become disposable, and
there are certainly a lot of environmental changes," he observed.
Invoking the name of the wise, old talking compost-heap character,
he added, "A lot of bad stuff has happened since the original
'Fraggle Rock,' and Trash Heap is all-knowing. She was always my
favorite character on the show, so we're going to do her some justice."
talk turned to the monstrous neighbors that tormented Gobo's gang,
however, Zappa got suspiciously tight-lipped. "I can't say too
much about the Gorgs right now," he smiled cryptically. "That
stuff is top secret."
Keeping the CGI to a minimum, Zappa and the Hensons
plan to return to the magic of the original Muppet movies that made
millions forget they were watching puppets. "There's going
to be human interaction with Fraggles," he said, adding that
the film will feature plenty of celebrity cameos. "If you have
an actor acting opposite a puppet, they can react off the mannerisms,
the maneuvers, the facial expressions; it's a character. That puppet
is an actor, as well — versus CGI, which happens after the
Such human-puppet interactions will also help the
"Fraggle" filmmakers entice big-name bands to perform
new songs with the fun-loving characters. "'Fraggle Rock' is
such a music-based movie, and the show had new songs every episode
— we can safely say we'll have a lot of recognizable bands,"
said Zappa, who has established friendships with some of the biggest
names in music. "I've been inundated with calls from famous
bands, songwriters, different actors, who are just huge fans of
'Fraggle Rock' that they're just like, 'I'll do anything.' There's
a certain religious fervor with Fraggles."
The most coveted assignment, however, will go to
the group that reinterprets one of the most infectiously catchy
theme songs in TV history. "[We won't be] changing it lyrically,
but that was such a recognizable song, a new version will probably
be made," Zappa said.
for the film's plot, Zappa said his script will tap into many of
the same themes he tried to work into his book. "I'm writing
about relationships that seem very similar to the experiences I've
had in my own life," he said. "Which aren't necessarily
normal — the things I experienced growing up, my sense of
humor. I would think some people may assume I'm a little odd, but
I think the characters in 'Fraggle Rock' will have some larger-than-life
human characters. There will also be some new puppets. Puppeteered
characters that are sarcastic, silly, irreverent and don't talk
down to kids."
If those sound like the kind of words that would
have once come from the mouth of Jim Henson, then Ahmet Zappa is
remembering everything just right. "We are moving as fast as
humanly possible — and Fraggily as possible," he added,
saying that some major "Fraggle" details should develop
after the holidays, as the filmmakers continue to eyeball a late-'08
or early-'09 release date. "The Fraggles need to be here sooner,
rather than later."
• Fraggles return
for Ben Folds Five video
• Fraggle Rock returns to US TV on The Hub beginning October 10
Rock "Scared Silly" DVD debuts September 14
• "Wembley's Egg Surprise" arrives
on DVD February 9
• Fraggle Season 4 and more Fraggles coming to DVD
• "The Doozers" preschool
series under development
• HIT announces Fraggle Rock Complete Series DVD Collection
• Red Fraggle live at Comic Con 2008