Actions taken only to benefit oneself without due objectivity will never be what is best for the Muppets, in my opinion. But, if we practice using empathy in giving consideration to how our actions effect the larger reality, though our own personal interests may sometimes be served in the process, the actions we take are for the benefit of as many involved parties as possible.
Rather than speak up for Jim Henson‘s living Muppet legacy, the Muppets themselves, it would have been far easier over the years for me to have taken a passive stance by just doing the job, collecting my check, and going home. That is, in fact, what many have done.
Being detached saves the hard work of having to orient oneself to a big picture view of why things are going poorly right before your eyes, while profiting as much as possible until it all goes away. That, in my opinion, is exploitation without responsibility.
But in the face of recognizing real issues that are life or death for the Muppets, themselves, and how they impact everyone in the long term, I can never be that indifferent. Taking a position of neutrality versus actively working to understand what is endangered is the difference between being self-serving or being all-serving.
In the big picture, the recasting of Kermit, Rizzo, Lips, and all the other established characters I performed is about far more than my job, or opportunities for other puppeteers. It‘s about much more than Disney’s executives or the profitability of a franchise, or even the fans. This is about all of those things collectively, about people having a complete understanding of what’s best for the Muppets, themselves, and why. It’s about what will give the family of characters we all love their best advantage in maintaining the kind of longevity they have managed for the last sixty years by protecting and nurturing them in the most conscientious manner.
After the last few weeks I find myself disillusioned. As I look around at the ‘hard core’ fan sites where I have always believed the Muppet’s most discriminating and discerning fans hang out, I read the gist being ‘Last week was a bad week, but it’s all over now, so let’s forget it all, move on and support the Muppets…’.
What does that mean? What I believe fans need to understand is that to think it is supportive of the Muppets – the individual entities, not the franchise – to be neutral over nonessential recasting is to take no position of support for them at all.
The strength of the ensemble of Muppet Performers at the end of the ABC series was at the highest point I have witnessed in decades. While I believe there is still work to be done to faithfully be on track with certain core characters in the hands of the newer performers, every performer across the board was sharp, competent, and on point despite the dictates of the show.
This newly achieved balance of diversity in performances which has been missing for so many years is now in jeopardy as too many characters are interpreted by too few performers. If rumors are true and characters are being tossed in the air to land on the arms of others just so Matt can be in Kermit, every principle of keeping the Muppets consistent (including Jerry Nelson‘s wishes for his characters) is being thrown out the window by the very people who claim to take the responsibility of protecting the integrity of the characters seriously.
This is precisely the same mentality that we were met with back in 2004. It marks the end of an era, a change that puts to an end what is perhaps the most essential of Jim‘s work methods and ethics, an ongoing singular performer as the soul of each of the Muppets so that the character, in turn, remains an ever evolving individual. What is at stake here is continuity, and once gone it is irreplaceable.
None of you should ever have to even think about this stuff. You should just be able to enjoy watching the Muppets. All this other detail is the responsibility of the Muppet Performers, not yours, but at this point there is no one left who will put everything on the line to stand up for who the Muppets are.
Again, it is not being unsupportive of any single person or entity involved to support doing what is best for the Muppets, themselves. In my second post I posed the question, “Do the Muppets matter?“. Neutrality indicates that for many they don‘t, because it says consistency is not worth defending.
I have in my hands a definitive project that I am certain will turn the Muppets around. It was born in the minds of those who know the Muppets best, and was to be pitched to The Muppets Studio the next time I was in Los Angeles. But, as things presently stand because of my dismissal it will never be produced.
So I challenge The Walt Disney Company to restore the ensemble and give me an unencumbered shot with all the financial backing given to all the others over the years to see if my vision for the Muppets is viable.
It‘s the one course that has never been allowed an opportunity, to try to involve as many of the Jim-era creatives and performers who have been left out over the years in order to recreate the atmosphere in which I was mentored. This would not only serve the Muppets, it would be invaluable to the post-Jim performers. No one has tried a performer led initiative and I am confident I can make a difference.
The worst case scenario is that it does not revitalize the franchise any more than the many initiatives already tried by others, but in my opinion, it would give the Muppets their best chance to remain faithful to who they are. Best case, it is the Muppets again, and we can continue forward to instill the spirit of the legacy in future generations of performers, while giving the fans works that are meaningful to them because they represent the heart of the Muppets. That can only serve the interests of Disney, as well.
And while it could be viewed as a purely self-centered perspective, I think my choosing my replacements is in the best interest of the Muppets, themselves, especially for those characters I originated. So far, I have not met this person (or persons) yet. I always liked to imagine somewhere out there is a 10-year old kid inspired by the Muppets, our paths would cross, and the dream would continue.