An open letter to Jason Segel re: The Muppets

Dear Jason,

How are things over in Hollywood? Right about now you’re probably knee-deep in felt as your dream project, The Muppets, slowly comes to fruition. I’ve been reading the various casting rumours and potential plotlines that seem to leak from every corner of the internet, and it all seems to be shaping up nicely.

Knowing your love for the characters of Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo and the rest of the gang – is it true you’ve always had Muppet pictures and figurines in your house? You’re a fanboy like the rest of us (except for the fangirls)! – you must be in your element and I’ve got high hopes that this won’t be another Muppets from Space.

There’s just one thing that’s worrying me. Well, me and the rest of the population of the United Kingdom. That’s the fact that while the film is being released in the USA on 23 November 2011 (happy Thanksgiving in advance), we won’t be seeing it on these shores until Friday 17 February 2012.

Now, I know that you know your Muppet history. You know that back in the mid-70s Jim Henson was having trouble getting his Muppets into a regular, weekly, TV slot on a US network. You also know that Henson ended up pitching the idea of The Muppet Show to UK TV impresario, Lew Grade, who agreed to produce the programme at Elstree Studios, just north of London, for worldwide distribution.

For five years, Henson’s gloriously bonkers world of talking frogs, bears, pigs and whatever Gonzo was, took the world by storm, with the second Muppet movie, The Great Muppet Caper, also filmed in the UK.

According to the brief blurb on IMDB, your film sees the Muppets team up to save their old theatre. The same one which was first built on a soundstage at Elstree back in the day. The one which was crafted by workers fuelled by British bacon butties and cups of tea as they stood proud for the national anthem and saluted the Queen every lunchtime. Maybe.

Since then the Muppets have left Blighty behind as their careers have peaked and troughed (that’s not a slight on Miss Piggy, by the way), TV specials, movies and online videos appearing sporadically as fans wait patiently for someone to recapture the magic of the Henson years and return them to their former glory.

With Walt Disney Pictures now the owners of the Muppets, we’re likely to get a big budget, well promoted picture with enough spin-off merchandise to fill each Disney Store a few times over. You’ll know all about that, and I’m sure children everywhere will be demanding Jason Segel action figures this Christmas.

Exciting times then. Well, exciting if you’re going to be in America on 23 November. As I mentioned above, here in the UK we have to wait for three months, as highlighted today by Muppet fansite, The Muppet Mindset. Even Germany, the Netherlands and France will see it before us and we all know where Doc Hopper got his ideas from…

Clearly something has gone wrong somewhere along the line. Does it really take three months to ship a print or digital copy of the film to the UK? Staggered release dates across different territories may be common practice, but sometimes there need to be exceptions.

As an example, the most recent Harry Potter film was released in the UK and the US on the same day, 19 November 2010, meaning it can be done if the property is seen to have value, and those pesky illegal downloaders are considered a problem.

You know that the Muppets aren’t just another brand name to be exploited by multinational organisations. OK, so Rowlf the Dog may have been created to promote dog food in the 1960s, but things have changed since then. Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo and the gang aren’t just bundles of felt. They’re bundles of felt with personalities and a global fan base waiting to welcome them back.

I’m not saying that just because The Muppet Show started here we have the right to watch the film on the same day as you. I’m not even saying that if it wasn’t for Lew Grade and a bundle of British bacon butties, you might not even be making your pet project right now.

However, I’ve read that your take on the Muppets will be “hilarious, fantastic, heart-wrenching, beautiful, nostalgic and remarkable”, and that’s admirable. So why wait so long to let the rest of us see that vision? We all suffered the bad times together (cough…Studio DC…cough) so why not let us share the good stuff as well?

If it makes a difference to your bosses, we’ll each go to our nearest burger chain and buy the relevant meal deal with free Animal glass on the day of release. Twice.

So, to wrap things up and let you get back to the set, can you perhaps have a word with those Disney execs who make the decisions? You managed to get a multi-million dollar movie into production starring a bunch of hand-operated puppets, so you’ve experience in achieving the unexpected. Ask them nicely to release your film around the world on the same date, or as near as possible to it.

Do this and you’ll make a nation proud of you. We’ll even make you a round of bacon rolls and a cup of tea when you come over to do the promotional work. The Queen may even salute you this time around.

Do it for Britain. Do it for yourself. Above all, do it for furry blue weirdos, talking vegetables and the next fan who buys all the merchandise and decides that in 20 years time he or she will bring back the Muppets in a movie, with a cameo from some old actor called Jason Segel.

Thanks,

Jonathan Melville

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