The Muppets (2011)

The Muppets are no strangers to historic preservation related themes. If you think back to the original Muppet Movie (1979), you’ll recall the idea of rehabilitation of a church into the Electric Mayhem’s Coffee House. Kermit and friends travel across America seeing all sorts of roadside Americana (e.g. the giant literal fork in the road). Doc Hopper is attempting to create a chain of frog legs. The Muppets convene in a ghost town. The movie is full of preservation tangents.

As for the new Muppet movie, The Muppets: preservation abounds again. First off, if you are a Muppet fan, it will delight you with its classic Muppet humor (except for a song or two – some are strange). I saw the movie with 10 diehard Muppet fans and everyone loved it. It felt much more Muppet like than the previous few movies (A Very Merry Muppet Christmas or Muppet Wizard of Oz to name a couple). If you are not a Muppet fan (insanity!), perhaps you should give it a try.

I’d been looking forward to this movie for years (my family and my in-laws all adore the Muppets), with an added flair of anticipation because there was news that it featured preservation themes. You can read a synopsis of The Muppets, but if I were you – I’d see it for yourself. Rather than tell you the story, perhaps you would like to know what a flamingo obsessed preservationist thinks about while watching The Muppets? I guarantee that I’m not the only one. (Warning: possible spoilers here!)

• The rehabilitation of the old Muppet Theater and studio lot is strikingly preservation related. It’s dilapidated and sad and left for ruin when the movie begins, mostly because the Muppets are no longer together. An oil baron claims to have plans to turn it into a museum, however, Walter (the newest Muppet) hears him say that the plan is to buy it, tear it down and drill for oil. The Muppets can only have the theater back if they raise $10 million dollars.

• Walter shows the audience that everyone can make a difference; he is the Muppets’ biggest fan and wanted nothing more than to visit the studio and to meet Kermit the Frog. Upon learning of the fate of the Muppet Theater he set out to search for Kermit. He inspired everyone to save the theater. It makes me think of the Margaret Mead quote, “”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

• In order to get ready for the fundraising telethon, the Muppets work together to clean up the theater and to make it look as good as new.

• The community is needed to make preservation work. The Muppets pooled their resources and believed in themselves. While skeptical at first, the audience started coming in to watch. The Muppets wouldn’t have survived with financial support and then overwhelming, surprising crowds of fans after the telethon.

• As always the Muppets have an awesome road trip adventure. While they didn’t pull out the classic, “We picked up a weirdo,” line, one of my new favorites is “Travel by map.” Can I do that too?

• Bridges! The Muppets travel over a beautiful open spandrel concrete arch bridge and a truss bridge. Lovely.

• And there is some demolition, as Gonzo blew up his plumbing business. It’s a funny plot point, however. And although the age of the building is uncertain, I did like the sign.

What can we learn from the Muppets and their preservation endeavors? There is nothing wrong with using the pull of nostalgia to get you going. Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams. Have a sense of humor. Don’t let go of what you love.

The Muppets (2011). Excellent. We’ve missed you, Muppets!