Jesse Blaze Snider, the writer of the BOOM! Studios comic book Muppet Snow White and host of the Coolest Geek Alive podcast, recently explained how the current crop of Disney creators working on the characters do not understand them.
Snider appeared on the WDW Pro YouTube channel, where he was asked, “You talked about working for the Muppets. Now, that is intriguing to me because that is a highly dysfunctional segment of The Walt Disney Company; beleaguered. They have massive turnover as of late. They seem to have eliminated almost all of their institutional knowledge, wisdom, etc… Talk to us about what that was like. What kind of parameters were put in place on you? Did you feel like that was a division or a group that had it together or did you feel like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is nuts working for this little crew!’?”
Snider, who is also the son of Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider, responded, “There’s a lot of things I have to say about that so I’ll try and sum it all up. But Muppets is my first love. I really believe that — especially for creative people — the Muppets are the medicine we all need. Most creative people are very insecure. We make things for other people, but we aren’t the other people so we’re not sure if necessarily everybody’s gonna like it and see it the same way that we are.”
“The Muppets represent creative people failing spectacularly,” he explained. “No one will ever be as bad at their chosen pursuit as the Muppets are. That’s why the saying of, ‘Ah you f***ing muppet’ means you can’t get it right. The Muppets can’t get it right. The Swedish Chef can’t cook. The Electric Mayhem can’t finish a song without destroying the stage. Fozzy can’t tell a joke. Kermit is a frog running a variety show. … It just keeps going down. Every single character essentially functions in this way.”
He then specifically pointed to Miss Piggy, “Miss Piggy is one of the biggest ones. She’s a pig and she’s pig-headed. They’ve been too focused on the fact that, ‘Oh she’s a beautiful [woman].’ No, no, she’s a bad person. That’s the comedy. She is selfish and self-centered.”
“The idea that they gave her a talk show and had a whole Muppet Show about rewarding Piggy with her own talk show was the complete opposite, tone deaf thing from what we want from the Muppets,” he asserted. “We want to see the Muppets struggle in that wonderful way that they struggle because it makes the audience feel better about their own struggles in their own lives. It is such a beautiful, healing tool for creative people and I think just people in general.”
Snider then declared, “They don’t exactly get that and they keep coming up with ideas for the Muppets that are rather tone deaf.”
He then explained how he attempted to get a job with the Muppets, “The problem too is– Because I courted Bill Barretta for five years. Bill Barretta is the current Muppet captain over there. He was Bobo the Dancing Bear. He’s Pepe the King Prawn. And now he’s a lot of the mainstream characters in the cast from people who moved on. But he is brilliant. Bill is really brilliant and I was a fan of his, I was a fan of Muppets Tonight. By the second season Muppets Tonight got better, but the first season wasn’t so great and they lost their audience, but it could have went on. It was the right idea.”
Snider continued, “I finally sat down with him and I gave him my pitch and Bill got me. Bill was like, ‘Wow! Jesse gets the Muppets and I’m gonna try to get him in on that Muppets Show that they were doing.’ When the Modern Family guy came in he brought in all his own writers. So this is problem number one: they’re not bringing in people who are fans of the source material. They’re not bringing in somebody like me who will passionately kirk, cut, and hurt myself in order to do great. I will give my blood to make the Muppets great because I feel that I owe them a debt of gratitude for the part that they’ve played in my life and my own creative development.
“And all I want to do is give back to my hero Jim Henson by writing some great Muppet stuff because I see what they’re making and it’s not great even though that Muppets Mayhem show I’ve been enjoying. So that’s the first thing,” he said.
From there Snider reiterated this point noting that Disney is not hiring or promoting people who care about the Muppets, “So when they say, ‘Hey, does anybody want this promotion at Disney for the Muppets?’ Everybody raises their hand. They don’t say, ‘Hey, who really likes the Muppets and knows a lot about the Muppets?’ They say, ‘Who wants this job?’ Everybody wants a job.”
Snider then detailed that the brand is also bogged down in bureaucracy, “When you get into licensed material for something like the Muppets there are layers of approval. With Pixar there were like two layers of approval. There was the Pixar people who had to approve of what we were doing and there was the Disney people who had to approve of what we were doing.
He then shared an example, “By the third issue of our awesome, first arc of Return of Buzz Lightyear for the Toy Story comics we got into some legal trouble because we had Mr. Potato Head appear as Buzz Lightyear. And the lawyers went, ‘Oh, you can’t do that because now Hasbro can go make a spud lightyear toy because you put it into a comic book. So, we got in all this trouble. And all of a sudden too many eyes on your book, big problem.
He also indicated this was the case for The Muppets, “So the Muppets were a real big problem doing the comic because not only did we have Muppets approval and the Disney approval, there was a third wave of approval process.”
Snider’s comments are not unheard of. Back in 2021, Frank Oz, known for his work as Yoda, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Sam Eagle, Animal, and others blasted Disney for their handling of the Muppets.
He told The Guardian, “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 added, “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.”
He then asserted, “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.
Back in 2019 on Twitter he also asserted, “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.”
Interestingly, Oz did dispute the idea that Disney wasn’t hiring people who cared for Muppets. On the contrary, he noted they did indeed do that.
He wrote on Twitter, “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.”
Oz also noted “that the purity of The Muppets has been so damaged by Disney.”
What do you make of Snider’s diagnosis of Disney’s management of the Muppets?