Legendary puppeteer Frank Oz, known for his work as Yoda, Fozzie Bear, Missy Piggy, Sam Eagle, Animal, and more blasted Disney’s handling of the Muppets.
Oz spoke with The Guardian where he detailed that the selling of The Muppets was what killed Jim Henson. Henson, the creator of the Muppets died in 1990 of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome when he was 53. At the time of his death he was in negotiations with Disney and its then CEO Michael Eisner to sell the Muppets.
Oz explained, “The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick.”
“Eisner was trying to get Sesame Street, too, which Jim wouldn’t allow. But Jim was not a dealer, he was an artist, and it was destroying him, it really was,” Oz elaborated.
Not only did Oz claim that the Disney deal killed Jim Henson, but he also notes there is a definite difference between the Jim Henson Muppets and the Disney Muppets.
He said, “There’s an inability for corporate America to understand the value of something they bought. They never understood, with us, it’s not just about the puppets, it’s about the performers who love each other and have worked together for many years.”
Oz would then go on to reveal that Disney doesn’t want him to do the Muppets. He stated, “I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years. They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in.”
In fact, The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman notes that Oz “can’t bear to watch the Muppets or Sesame Street today.”
Oz told her, “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.”
Oz has expressed his frustration towards Disney in the past. Back in 2019, he engaged in a Twitter thread started by Twitter user HistoryMuppet who shared James Frawley’s camera test for the Muppet Movie.
James Frawley’s camera test for The Muppet Movie is some of the funniest muppet material, showing the true comedic genius between Jim Henson and @TheFrankOzJam
I’m so glad we’re able to watch this pic.twitter.com/wnPHv7ci8H
— Muppet History (@HistoryMuppet) January 24, 2019
Super_Shanko would praise Oz’s work stating, “Wow, this was a delight. Who knew you could make an exchange of puppets hilarious and… dare I saw mature without sex, drug or dick jokes.”
Oz responded, “Thank you for recognizing that. I only wish the writers whom Disney hired for their ABC Muppet series had recognized the same; that ‘adult’, ‘hip’, ‘sophisticated’ humor comes from purity of character, not “adult humor” imposed on the characters.”
DreamingBaseball would chime in tweeting, “This is so true, thanks for saying it. I was so naively excited about the show, but as soon as I read the early reviews, I couldn’t bear to watch it. How can Disney not understand what makes the Muppets so unique and wonderful?”
Oz responded, “It comes from hiring writers & directors who believe, because they love the Muppets, they are able to write & direct for them. It’s like a Formula One super-fan who, because he’s loved watching the sport, is confident he can jump in the car and enter the race. Foolish & damaging.”
HistoryMuppet then added, “Can I just say, Mr. Oz. Thank you for not being angry about all of these notifications.”
Oz replied, “No reason to be angry. Just hurting and frustrated that the purity of The Muppets has been so damaged by Disney.”
Oz, who also created Sesame Street’s Bert, made headlines back in 2018, when he declared that Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie are not gay.
Oz’s declaration about Bert and Ernie came in response to Mark Saltzman, who previously worked on Sesame Street scripts who told Queerty, “without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [gay].”
Saltzman added, “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as ‘Bert & Ernie.'”
Arnie is film editor Arnold Glassman, and Saltzman detailed how his relationship with the film editor influenced his writing of Bert and Ernie, “That’s what I had in my life, a Bert & Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not? I will say that I would never have said to the head writer, “oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.”
Oz responded to Saltzman on Twitter writing, “It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”
What do you make of Oz’s comments regarding Disney?