Frank Oz

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Posted by pompos 04/03/2009 @ 12:19

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Frank Oz

Frank Oz (born May 25, 1944) is a British-born American film director, actor and puppeteer.

Oz was born Richard Frank Oznowicz in Hereford, England, the son of Frances and Isidore Oznowicz, both of whom were puppeteers. His parents were refugees from the Holocaust who moved to England after fighting the Nazis with the Dutch Brigades. Oz's Dutch/Polish father was Jewish and his Flemish mother was a lapsed Catholic. Oz moved to California, United States with his parents when he was five years old. He attended Oakland City College.

Oz is known for his work as a puppeteer (including voices), performing with Jim Henson's Muppets. His characters have included Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam the Eagle on The Muppet Show, and Grover, Cookie Monster and Bert on Sesame Street, among many others. The Muppet character Fozzie Bear is actually not named after Frank Oz, as is widely believed. In addition to performing a variety of characters, Oz has been one of the primary collaborators responsible for the development of the Muppets over the last 30 years. Oz has performed as a Muppeteer in over 75 movies, video releases, and TV specials, as well as countless other public appearances, episodes of Sesame Street, and other Jim Henson series. His puppetry work spans from 1963 to the present, though he has retired from the Muppets. His muppets were taken over by Eric Jacobson, though Oz still performs his characters on occasion. He also worked with the puppets on the movie Labyrinth, starring David Bowie.

Oz is also well known as the performer of Jedi Master Yoda from George Lucas' Star Wars series. Oz performed the voice and puppet for Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace, and provided the voice of the CGI Yoda in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The conversion to CGI was met with some criticism among fans but Oz himself said that was "exactly what should have done." Oz had a great deal of creative input on the character, and was himself responsible for creating the character's trademark style of using OSV (object-subject-verb) word order instead of normal English SVO. George Lucas was so impressed by Oz's performance as Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back that he tried to get him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

As an actor, Oz appeared in 1980 as a Prison Storeroom Keeper in The Blues Brothers movie, directed by John Landis. He also appeared in later Landis movies An American Werewolf in London, Spies Like Us, Trading Places and Innocent Blood. In 1998, Oz portrayed a Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. And while it wasn't for Landis, in 2001 he had a minor part in the Pixar film Monsters, Inc. as Randall's scare assistant Fungus.

Other cameos have included playing a surgeon in scenes cut from the theatrical release of Superman III, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan and several other Jim Henson-related films that didn't involve just his puppeteering.

Oz began his behind-the-camera work when he co-directed the fantasy film The Dark Crystal with long-time collaborator Jim Henson. The film featured the most advanced puppets ever created for a movie. Oz further employed those skills in directing 1986's Little Shop Of Horrors. The musical film starred Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene, as well as Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and a 15-foot-tall talking plant (voiced by Levi Stubbs) which at times required up to 40 puppeteers to operate.

Usually helming comedies, Oz went on to direct Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in 1988, starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine, What About Bob? in 1991, starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss, and HouseSitter in 1992 (all of which were scored by Miles Goodman). Later films include The Indian in the Cupboard (1995), In & Out (1997), Bowfinger (1999), The Score (2001), the 2004 re-make of The Stepford Wives, and Death at a Funeral (2007).

It was rumored that during the filming of The Score, Marlon Brando refused to take direction from Oz, causing Robert De Niro to act as an intermediary to relay instructions. Brando is reported to have called Oz "Miss Piggy", and to have once said to Oz, "I bet you wish I was a puppet so you could stick your hand up my ass and make me do whatever you want". Oz has, however, said that such claims are exaggerations.

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Jim Henson

Henson's 1989 television series The Jim Henson Hour mixed familiar Muppets such as Kermit with darker, more realistic creatures and stories.

James Maury "Jim" Henson (September 24, 1936, Greenville, Mississippi – May 16, 1990, New York, New York), was one of the most widely known puppeteers in American television history. He was the creator of The Muppets, and the leading force behind their long run in the television series Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and films such as The Muppet Movie(1979) and creator of advanced puppets for projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Return Of The Jedi. He was also an Oscar-nominated film director, Emmy Award-winning television producer, and the founder of The Jim Henson Company, the Jim Henson Foundation, and Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

Henson's sudden death on May 16, 1990, of Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS, not to be confused with TSS), resulted in an outpouring of public and professional affection. There have since been numerous tributes and dedications in his memory. Henson’s companies, which are now run by his children, continue to produce films and television shows.

Jim Henson was the younger of two boys. His parents were Paul Henson, agronomist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Elizabeth Marcella Henson. After spending his early childhood in Leland, Mississippi, he moved with his family to Hyattsville, Maryland, near Washington, DC, in the late 1940s. Henson was raised as a Christian Scientist; he later remembered the arrival of the family's first television as "the biggest event of his adolescence," being heavily influenced by radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the early television puppets of Burr Tillstrom (on Kukla, Fran and Ollie) and Bil and Cora Baird.

In 1954, while attending Northwestern High School, he began working for WTOP-TV creating puppets for a Saturday morning children's show. After graduating from high school, Henson enrolled at University of Maryland, College Park as a studio arts major, thinking he might become a commercial artist. A puppetry class offered in the applied arts department introduced him to the craft and textiles courses in the College of Home Economics, and he graduated with a B.S. in home economics in 1960. As a freshman, he was asked to create Sam and Friends, a five-minute puppet show for WRC-TV. The characters on Sam and Friends were already recognizable Muppets, and the show included a primitive version of what would become Henson's most famous character, Kermit the Frog.

In the show, he began experimenting with techniques that would change the way puppetry was used on television, including using the frame defined by the camera shot to allow the puppeteer to work from off-camera. Henson believed that television puppets needed to have "life and sensitivity," and so, at a time when many puppets were made out of carved wood, Henson began making characters from flexible, fabric-covered foam rubber, allowing them to express a wider array of emotions. In contrast to a marionette, whose arms are manipulated by strings, Henson used rods to move his muppets' arms, allowing for greater control of expression. Additionally, Henson wanted the muppet characters to "speak" more creatively than previous puppets, which had seemed to have random mouth movements; he used, and directed his muppeteers to use, precision mouth movements to match the dialogue.

When Henson began work on Sam and Friends, he asked fellow University of Maryland freshman, Jane Nebel, to assist him. The show was a financial success, but after graduating from college, Jim began to have doubts about going into a career as a puppeteer. He wandered off to Europe for several months, where he was inspired by European puppeteers who looked on their work as a form of art. Henson returned to the United States and he and Jane began dating. They were married in 1959 and had five children: Lisa (b. 1960), Cheryl (b. 1962), Brian (b. 1963), John (b. 1965) and Heather (b. 1970).

Despite the success of Sam and Friends, which ran for six years, Henson spent much of the next two decades working in commercials, talk shows, and children's projects before being able to realize his dream of the Muppets as "entertainment for everybody". The popularity of his work on Sam and Friends in the late fifties led to a series of guest appearances on network talk and variety shows. Henson himself appeared as a guest on many shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show. This greatly increased exposure led to hundreds of commercial appearances by Henson characters through the sixties.

Among the most popular of Henson's commercials was a series for the local Wilkins Coffee company in Washington, D.C., in which his Muppets were able to get away with a greater level of slapstick violence than might have been acceptable with human actors. In the first Wilkins ad, a Muppet named Wilkins is poised behind a cannon seen in profile. Another Muppet named Wontkins is in front of its barrel. Wilkins asks, "What do you think of Wilkins Coffee?" to which Wontkins responds gruffly, "Never tasted it!" Wilkins fires the cannon and blows Wontkins away, then turns the cannon directly toward the viewer and ends the ad with, "Now, what do you think of Wilkins?" Henson later explained, "Till then, agencies believed that the hard sell was the only way to get their message over on television. We took a very different approach. We tried to sell things by making people laugh." The first seven-second commercial for Wilkins was an immediate hit and was syndicated and reshot by Henson for local coffee companies across the United States; he ultimately produced more than 300 coffee ads. The same setup was used to pitch Kraml Milk in the Chicago, Il., area.

In 1963, Henson and his wife moved to New York City, where the newly formed Muppets, Inc. would reside for some time. When Jane quit muppeteering to raise their children, Henson hired writer Jerry Juhl in 1961 and puppeteer Frank Oz in 1963 to replace her; Henson later credited both with developing much of the humor and character of his Muppets. Henson and Oz, particularly, developed a close friendship and a performing partnership that lasted 27 years; their teamwork is particularly evident in their portrayals of the characters of Bert and Ernie and Kermit and Fozzie Bear.

Henson's sixties talk show appearances culminated when he devised Rowlf, a piano-playing anthropomorphic dog. Rowlf became the first Muppet to make regular appearances on a network show, The Jimmy Dean Show. From 1964 to 1968, Henson began exploring film-making and produced a series of experimental films. His nine-minute Time Piece was nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for an Oscar for Short Film in 1966. Jim Henson also produced another experimental film, The NBC-TV movie The Cube, in 1969.

In 1969, Joan Ganz Cooney and the team at the Children's Television Workshop asked Henson to work on Sesame Street, a visionary children's program for public television. Part of the show was set aside for a series of funny, colorful puppet characters living on the titular street. These included Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird. Henson performed the characters of Ernie, game-show host Guy Smiley, and Kermit, who appeared as a roving television news reporter. It was around this time that a frill was added around Kermit's neck to make him more frog-like. The collar was also used to cover the joint where the neck met the body of the Muppet.

Concurrently with the first years of Sesame Street, Henson directed Tales From Muppetland, a short series of TV movie specials aimed at a young audience and hosted by Kermit the Frog. The series included Hey, Cinderella!, The Frog Prince, and The Muppet Musicians of Bremen. These specials were comedic tellings of classic fairy-tale stories.

Three years after the start of The Muppet Show, the Muppets appeared in their first theatrical feature film, 1979's The Muppet Movie. The film was both a critical and financial success; it made US$65.2 million domestically and (at the time) was the 61st highest-grossing film ever made. A song from the film, "The Rainbow Connection," sung by Henson as Kermit, hit #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1981, a Henson-directed sequel, The Great Muppet Caper, followed, and Henson decided to end the still-popular Muppet Show to concentrate on making films. From time to time, the Muppet characters continued to appear in made-for-TV-movies and television specials.

In addition to his own puppetry projects, Henson also aided others in their work. In 1979, he was asked by the producers of the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back to aid make-up artist Stuart Freeborn in the creation and articulation of enigmatic Jedi Master Yoda. Henson suggested to Star Wars creator George Lucas that he use Frank Oz as the puppeteer and voice of Yoda. Oz voiced Yoda in Empire and each of the four subsequent Star Wars films, and the naturalistic, lifelike Yoda became one of the most popular characters in the Star Wars films.

In 1982, Henson founded the Jim Henson Foundation to promote and develop the art of puppetry in the United States. Around that time, he also began creating darker and more realistic fantasy films that did not feature the Muppets and displayed "a growing, brooding interest in mortality." With 1982's The Dark Crystal, which he co-directed with Frank Oz and also co-wrote, Henson said he was "trying to go toward a sense of realism—toward a reality of creatures that are actually alive it's not so much a symbol of the thing, but you're trying to the thing itself." To provide a visual style distinct from the Muppets, the puppets in The Dark Crystal were based on conceptual artwork by Brian Froud.

Though he was still engaged in creating children's programming, such as the successful eighties shows Fraggle Rock and the animated Muppet Babies, Henson continued to explore darker, mature themes with the folk tale and mythology oriented show The Storyteller (1988). The Storyteller won an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program but was cancelled after nine episodes. The next year, Henson returned to television with The Jim Henson Hour, which mixed lighthearted Muppet fare with riskier material. The show was critically well-received and won Henson another Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Variety or Music Program, but was cancelled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. Henson blamed its failure on NBC's constant rescheduling.

In late 1989, Henson entered into negotiations to sell his company to The Walt Disney Company for almost $150 million, hoping that, with Disney handling business matters he would "be able to spend a lot more of my time on the creative side of things." By 1990, he had completed production on a television special, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and a Disney World (Later Disney's California Adventure as well) attraction, Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3D, and was developing film ideas and a television series titled Muppet High.

While busy with these later projects, Henson began to experience flu-like symptoms.

On May 4, 1990, Henson made an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. At the time, he mentioned to his publicist that he was tired and had a sore throat, but felt that it would go away.

On May 12, 1990, Henson traveled to Ahoskie, North Carolina, with his daughter Cheryl to visit his father and stepmother. The next day, feeling tired and sick, he consulted a physician in North Carolina, who could find no evidence of pneumonia by physical examination and prescribed no treatment except aspirin. Henson returned to New York on an earlier flight and canceled a Muppet recording session scheduled for May 14.

Henson's wife Jane, from whom he was separated, came to visit and sat with him talking throughout the evening. By 2 a.m. on May 15, 1990 he was having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He suggested to Jane that he might be dying, but did not want to bother going to the hospital. She later told People Magazine that it was likely due to his desire not to be a bother to people.

At 4 a.m., he finally agreed to go to New York Hospital, at which point his body was rapidly shutting down. By the time he was admitted at 4:58 a.m., he could no longer breathe on his own and had abscesses in his lungs. He was placed on a mechanical ventilator to help him breathe, but his condition deteriorated rapidly into septic shock despite aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics. Only twenty hours later, on Wednesday May 16, 1990, at 1:21 a.m., Henson died from organ failure at the age of 53 at New York Hospital.

The cause of death was first reported as streptococcus pneumonia, a bacterial infection. Bacterial pneumonia is usually caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, an alpha-hemolytic species of Streptococcus. Henson, however, died of organ failure due to infection by Streptococcus pyogenes, a severe Group A streptococcal infection, that engulfed his body. S. pyogenes is the bacterial species that causes scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and, in Henson's case, Toxic Shock Syndrome.

In the final minutes of the two-and-a-half hour service, six of the core Muppet performers sang, in their characters' voices, a medley of Jim Henson's favorite songs, culminating in a performance of "Just One Person" that began with Richard Hunt singing alone, as Scooter. "As each verse progressed," Henson employee Chris Barry recalled, "each Muppeteer joined in with their own Muppets until the stage was filled with all the Muppet performers and their beloved characters." The funeral was later described by LIFE as "an epic and almost unbearably moving event." The image of a growing number of performers singing "Just One Person" was recreated for the 1990 television special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson and inspired screenwriter Richard Curtis, who attended the London service, to write the growing-orchestra wedding scene of his 2003 film Love Actually.

Jim was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery. His ashes were scattered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at his ranch.

The Jim Henson Company and the Jim Henson Foundation continued after his death, producing new series and specials. Jim Henson's Creature Shop, founded by Henson, also continues to build creatures for a large number of other films and series (most recently the science fiction production Farscape, the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the movie MirrorMask) and is considered one of the most advanced and well respected creators of film creatures. His son Brian and daughter Lisa are currently the co-chairs and co-CEOs of the Company; his daughter Cheryl is the president of the Foundation. Steve Whitmire, a veteran member of the Muppet puppeteering crew, has assumed the roles of Kermit the Frog and Ernie, the most famous characters formerly played by Jim Henson.

On February 17, 2004, it was announced that the Muppets (excluding the Sesame Street characters, which are separately owned by Sesame Workshop) and the Bear in the Big Blue House properties had been sold by Henson's heirs to The Walt Disney Company. The Jim Henson Company retains the Creature Shop, as well as the rest of its film and television library including Fraggle Rock, Farscape, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth.

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (film)

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Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a 1988 American comedy film directed by Frank Oz. The screenplay by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro, and Paul Henning focuses on two con artists who ply their trade on the French Riviera. Although it is not officially credited as a remake of Bedtime Story, it closely follows the plot of the 1964 film starring David Niven and Marlon Brando.

The film ranks as #85 on Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies .

Lawrence Jamieson is a cultivated, suave master con artist who operates in the deluxe hotels along the French Riviera under the watchful - and approving - eye of Inspector Andre, the resident chief of police who receives a cut of his take. When small-time American hustler Freddy Benson decides to search for easy marks in Beaumont-sur-Mer, Lawrence's home base, Lawrence agrees to Freddy’s request to take him in as a pupil in order to school him in the art of the con. Unbeknownst to Freddy, however, Lawrence only does this as a way to get rid of Freddy since Lawrence does not want a lowly competitor infringing on his territory.

When Freddy decides that he's had enough of Lawrence's humiliating tutelage and wants to go out on his own, Lawrence offers Freddy a challenge to see who will remain in Beaumont-sur-Mer, since there isn't enough room for the two of them in the same small town. The first one to con $50,000 out of a selected mark will be allowed to stay, while the other must leave.

The two select Janet Colgate, a seemingly wealthy American socialite, as their target and embark on their separate strategies while at the same time ruthlessly sabotaging each other. Freddy poses as a crippled soldier who needs to borrow $50,000 for treatment by a celebrated Swiss psychiatrist, and when Lawrence discovers his scheme he pretends to be the doctor, insisting Freddy's condition is a psychosomatic rather than neurological disorder, one he can cure with the stipulation that Janet pay his $50,000 fee directly to him.

Lawrence then discovers that Janet is on vacation as a contest winner, and she plans to sell the remainder of her prizes and combine the proceeds with her father's savings to finance Freddy's phony treatment. Lawrence has always taken advantage of the wealthy and corrupt members of society he will not "take advantage of the poor or virtuous." Impressed by Janet's innate goodness, Lawrence wants to call off the bet, but Freddy suggests they change the challenge and make Janet rather than her money the quest, with the first to bed her declared the winner. Lawrence refuses to attempt it, and plays only to bet that Freddy fails to do so.

Janet later goes to Lawrence in tears. She tells him that Freddy robbed her of the money her father sent her. Lawrence compensates her with $50,000 of his own and takes her to the airport. As the plane leaves Freddy appears claiming that Janet has robbed him and that she is actually an infamous con artist herself.

Freddy stays with Lawrence for a while in order that they can overcome their loss. He is about to actually leave when Janet suddenly arrives at Lawrence's villa with a yacht filled with wealthy people. While the guests refresh themselves, Janet takes the two man aside and announces that over the past year she has made "$3 million dollars, but your 50,000 was the most fun". Joining arms, both figuratively and literally, they set out to get more victims.

Filming locations included Antibes, Cannes, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Nice, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild was visited by the leading characters in a scene. The estate belonging to Lawrence is a private villa located at the tip of the Cap d'Antibes, and the hotel hosting a number of dining and casino scenes is the Grand Hotel de Cap Ferrat.

The soundtrack includes "Puttin' On the Ritz" by Irving Berlin, "Pick Yourself Up" by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and "We're in the Money" by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. They all feature the violinist Jerry Goodman.

The film opened on 1,466 screens in the US and earned $3,840,498 on its opening weekend. It eventually grossed $42,039,085 in the US .

In a DVD extra providing a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, Frank Oz discusses a teaser trailer he created for the studio, which wanted to begin promoting the film before there was enough actual footage to assemble a trailer. An entire day was spent filming a scene in which Freddy and Lawrence stroll along the promenade, politely moving out of the way of other people, until Freddy casually pushes an elderly woman into the water and Lawrence nonchalantly shoves a little boy's face into his cotton candy. Oz says audiences were surprised to discover the scene was not part of the released film.

Michael Caine was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy but lost to Tom Hanks in Big. Glenne Headley was named Most Promising New Actress by the Chicago Film Critics Association.

The film served as the basis of a successful stage musical of the same name that opened on Broadway in early 2005. It starred John Lithgow as Lawrence and Norbert Leo Butz as Freddy.

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The Stepford Wives (2004 film)

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The Stepford Wives is a 2004 black comedy/science fiction film. The film is a remake of the 1975 film of the same name; both films are based on the Ira Levin novel The Stepford Wives. While the original film and book had tremendous cultural impact, the remake was marked by behind-the-scenes infighting and was dismissed by critics.

The film was directed by Frank Oz with a screenplay by Paul Rudnick and stars Nicole Kidman, Glenn Close, Matthew Broderick, Christopher Walken, Roger Bart, Faith Hill, Bette Midler and Jon Lovitz.

After successful television executive Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is attacked and nearly killed by a disgruntled reality television show contestant, she's immediately fired by her work and experiences a nervous breakdown. With her loving husband and work colleague Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their two children, they move from Manhattan to Stepford, a quiet Connecticut suburb for a change of scenery. Eberhart becomes friends with Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler), a writer and recovering alcoholic, and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart), who is homosexual and has moved to town with his longtime partner. The three of them are suspicious of the other women in the town, who are all placid and blissful and spend their days exclusively on domestic tasks. After witnessing a quickly covered-up incident in which one of the Stepford wives, Sarah Sunderson (Faith Hill), violently malfunctions, and later, the increasingly bizarre behavior of their own spouses, Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger are moved to investigate the strange going-ons in Stepford. In the process, Roger and Bobbie are transformed into bland, unnatural, domestic versions of themselves. The inhuman nature of these new Stepford spouses is revealed to Joanna when she attempts to confront the newly-transformed Bobbie, who unknowingly places her hand on a lit stove, but does not react to the flame. Joanna attempts to flee, only to discover that her children have been taken hostage by the men of Stepford. She storms the Stepford Men's Club, angrily demanding her children to be returned, and is entrapped by the men who have been lying in wait for her. She is forced into the transformation room with her husband.

Next, we see her calmly purchasing groceries alongside the rest of the Stepford wives, having apparently become one of them.

Soon after, Stepford hosts a formal ball to celebrate the full assimilation of the town, with Eberhart and her husband Walter as guests of honor. During the festivities, Joanna distracts Mike Wellington (Christopher Walken), the apparent leader of Stepford, and entices him into the garden while Walter slips away. Walter returns to the transformation room where it is revealed that the Stepford Wives are not robots after all, but cyborgs: the original human beings remained, but were put under the control of brain-implanted microchips. Walter destroys the software that controls the microchips, whereupon all the Stepford Wives revert to their original personalities. When Walter returns to the ball, a crisis has broken out between the baffled husbands and their vengeful wives.

Joanna and Walter reveal that Joanna had never been transformed but had instead pretended to be in order to assist in the destruction of Stepford. Mike threatens Walter, but before he can attack him, Joanna strikes him with a candlestick, decapitating him, and revealing that he is indeed the only real and complete robot. Distraught over the loss of her Stepford husband, Mike's wife, Claire Wellington (Glenn Close), reveals that she was the one who had created Stepford as a refuge from the evils of the world in a fit of despair after discovering the real Mike had been having an affair. Claire electrocutes herself using the remains of her Stepford husband, and the irate wives take over Stepford and force their husbands to atone for their crimes by becoming completely subject to the women's wills, placing them under house arrest, and making them complete many of the same banal domestic tasks they had forced the women to do previously.

One contributor at has posited that the bodies are, in fact, robot bodies with the cyborg-brains transplanted into them. He explains the fact that this contradicts the movie's own explanation by stating that the movie characters are lying.

This film is notorious for the numerous production problems that occurred throughout its shooting schedule. The tension started when both John Cusack and Joan Cusack, originally slated to star in supporting roles, pulled out of the project and were replaced by Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler, respectively. After filming was initially completed, several changes were made to the new script, which created a number of plot holes, and the cast was called back for reshoots. Reports of problems onset between director Frank Oz and stars Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler were rampant in the press. Kidman was reportedly so dissatisfied with the new screenplay that she considered pulling out of the project. In recent interviews, Kidman, Matthew Broderick and producer Scott Rudin have all expressed regret for participating in this project.

The majority of the film was shot in Darien, Connecticut and New Canaan, Connecticut.

Also, the film's teaser won several Golden Trailer Awards, in the categories of "Summer 2004 Blockbuster" and "Most Original", as well as "Best of Show".

The film was a commercial flop as well. The US opening weekend's gross was a respectible $21,406,781; however, sales fell off quickly and that one weekend would ultimately represent well over a third of the film's domestic gross of $59,484,742. The film grossed $42,428,452 internationally; its budget was an estimated $90,000,000.

For the year, the film barely cracked the top 50 grossing movies, finishing well behind such inglorious company as Barbershop 2, Christmas with the Kranks, and The Garfield Movie, and grossing just over one-tenth as much as the year's luminaries such as Shrek II and The Passion of the Christ.

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The Muppet Movie

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The Muppet Movie is the first of a series of live-action musical feature films starring Jim Henson's Muppets. Released in 1979, the film was produced by The Jim Henson Company under their second name and ITC Entertainment.

The film is a film-within-a-film, as we see Kermit the Frog and the rest of the Muppets creating havoc in a screening room, where they are about to watch The Muppet Movie. When asked by Robin if the film depicts how the Muppets began, Kermit responds that the movie is a somewhat fictionalized account.

As the story opens, Kermit is enjoying a relaxing afternoon in a Florida swamp, singing a tune (the Oscar-nominated "Rainbow Connection") and strumming his banjo, when he is approached by an agent named Bernie (Dom DeLuise) who recognizes his talents and encourages Kermit to pursue a career in Hollywood. Inspired by the idea of making millions of people happy, Kermit sets off on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, initially via bicycle but eventually via Studebaker after teaming with Fozzie Bear, who had been working as a hapless stand-up comedian in a sleazy restaurant. During their journey, they are pursued by the villainous Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), owner of a struggling French-fried frog legs restaurant franchise, and his assistant Max (Austin Pendleton). Doc Hopper (who speaks with a southern accent and wears an outfit similar to Colonel Sanders) wants Kermit to be the new spokesman for his restaurants, but when Kermit refuses, Hopper resorts to increasingly threatening means of persuasion.

Kermit and Fozzie's journey also includes misadventures which introduce them to a variety of eccentric characters, some played by human guest stars, others played by Muppets; some of these Muppets, such as Gonzo (who had been working as a plumber) and Miss Piggy (introduced as a beauty contestant) join Kermit and Fozzie as they continue traveling to Hollywood. Along the way, they meet Sweetums (who wanted to go with them to Hollywood but missed the ride), The Electric Mayhem and their manager Scooter (who planned to turn an abandoned church into a coffee house), Rowlf (who worked as a pianist at a lounge), and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker (who owned a laboratory in a ghost town).

Meanwhile, Doc Hopper continues to try a variety of schemes to coerce Kermit into accepting the spokesman position, including kidnapping Miss Piggy, teaming up with a mad scientist (played by Mel Brooks, doing a fair impression of Ludwig Von Drake) in an attempt to brainwash Kermit, and even hiring an assassin named Snake (Scott Walker) who kills frogs for a living. Before the climax, Max appears to Kermit disguised as a motorcycle policeman to warn Kermit. Their conflict comes to a climax when Hopper and Kermit attempt a Western-style showdown in a ghost town; Kermit breaks tradition by trying to talk Hopper into backing off, but Hopper orders his henchmen to kill him; Kermit is saved only when one of Dr. Bunsen's inventions, the "insta-growth" pills temporarily turns Animal into a giant who is able to permanently scare off Hopper and his men (he is later shrunken back down to his normal size in the next scene since the effect of the pills is temporary). The Muppets proceed to Hollywood, where they finally meet the imposing producer and studio executive Lew Lord (Orson Welles) (a reference to Lord Lew Grade who in real life gave The Muppet Show the green light), who hires them on the spot after an idealistic speech from Kermit.

The film ends with Kermit and the gang attempting to make their first movie, which turns out to be a surreal pastiche of their experiences, hinting that the movie they're making is the same one the audience has been watching all along. As the movie ends, Sweetums tears through the screen, finally catching up with the others. After the credits finish rolling, Animal tells the viewers to go home, then he says goodbye and falls asleep.

The first time a Muppet project is NOT set in Muppetland, instead the plot is based on the real world.

To perform Kermit static in a log, Jim Henson squeezed into a specially designed metal container complete with an air hose (to breathe), a rubber sleeve which came out of the top to perform Kermit and a monitor to see his performance, and placed himself under the water, log and the Kermit puppet. This scene took 5 days to film.

It was shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Lake Sherwood, California .

Note: This movie is dedicated to Edgar Bergen.

Several classic cars were specially selected by Henson for appearances in the film. The most famous was a pair of psychedelic painted 1951 Studebaker Commander Coupes. In the film Fozzie states that the car belongs to his uncle. When asked by Kermit if his uncle is dead Fozzie replies "no, just hibernating". One car was painted but unmodified and driven by a person in the front seat. It was used for long, traveling shots. The second car was driven by a person in the trunk, who viewed the road through a TV set. The TV received its image from a camera located in the center nose of the car's front grill. This made it possible for Frank Oz to sit in the front seat and portray Fozzie driving the car in close up shots. This car is now on display at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana. Doc Hopper is chauffeured throughout the movie by Max in a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine. The 1959 is distinctive for its enormous fins. The final car driven by the Muppets is a 1948 Chrysler Town & Country Wagon. The Town & Country is famous for its wood panel siding and is a valuable collectible.

In a particularly meta-fictional plot twist, Kermit and Fozzie actually give the screenplay to Dr. Teeth, who later uses it to find and rescue them after they've been stranded in the desert.

The Muppet Movie was both a critical and commercial success. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 89% of critics gave positive reviews based on 35 reviews. The film sold over 25 million tickets and grossed $65,200,000 domestically (adjusted for inflation, this would roughly equal over $200 million), making it the highest-grossing Muppet film. The success of the film gave the Jim Henson Company an advantage to release more Muppet productions theatrically, all of which were successful until the commercial failure, Muppets from Space.

The soundtrack for the movie was released on CD in March 1993. As of September, 2008, it still commands a high price on on-line auction sites due to its out-of-print status. The song Rainbow Connection is available on "The Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem, and More - The 25th Anniversary Collection" released in 2002 and selling for considerably less. On the soundtrack the second verse of the song "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along", a duet between Rowlf and Kermit, was edited for the movie's release. It contained references that the studio considered too mature for children.

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Cookie Monster

Cookie Monster merchandise

Cookie Monster is a fictional Muppet character on the children's television show Sesame Street. He is best known for his voracious appetite and his famous eating phrases: "Me want cookie!", "Me eat cookie!", and "Om Nom nom nom" (said through a mouthful of food). He often eats anything and everything, including danishes, donuts, lettuce, apples, bananas, as well as normally inedible objects such as salt and pepper shakers, signs, napkins, pencils, typewriters, telephones, motorcycles, Peabody Awards, trucks, a safe, and the Letter of the Day. However, as his name suggests, his preferred food is cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are his favorite kind; oatmeal cookies are his second favorite. In a song in 2004, Cookie Monster revealed that, before he ate his first cookie, he believes his name was Sid. Showing awareness of healthy eating habits for children, since 2006 he has said that cookies are "a sometimes food" and that he also likes fruits and eggplant.

He is known to have a mother, a younger sister, and an identically-designed cousin, who all share his characteristic blue fur and "googly eyes". He also has a father, who appeared in a Monsterpiece Theater sketch promoting energy conservation, water conservation and environmentalism. Both Cookie Monster's mother and father have his enormous appetite. He and his Sesame Street friends are popular motifs on t-shirts, and he has also appeared as a guest star on The Martha Stewart Show. Naturally, he was overjoyed at the fact they were making cookies. He also appeared in a 2008 episode of The Colbert Report.

The book Jim Henson's Designs and Doodles explains Cookie Monster's origin as follows: "In 1966, Henson drew three monsters that ate cookies and appeared in a General Foods commercial that featured three crunchy snack foods: Wheels, Crowns and Flutes. Each snack was represented by a different monster. The Wheel-Stealer was a short, fuzzy monster with wonky eyes and sharply pointed teeth. The Flute-Snatcher was a speed demon with a long, sharp nose and windblown hair. The Crown-Grabber was a hulk of a monster with a Boris Karloff accent and teeth that resembled giant knitting needles.

As it turns out, these commercials were never aired — but all three monsters had a future in the Muppet cast. The "Crown-Grabber" was used in a sketch on The Ed Sullivan Show, in which he ruins a girl's beautiful day. Known from then on as the Beautiful Day Monster, he made a number of appearances on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. The "Flute-Snatcher" turned into Snake Frackle, a background monster from The Great Santa Claus Switch and The Muppet Show.

In 1967, Henson used the "Wheel-Stealer" puppet for an IBM training film called Coffee Break Machine. In the sketch, called "The Computer Dinner" the monster (with frightening eyes and fangs) devours a complex machine as the machine describes its purpose and construction. At the end of the sketch, the talking machine explains that its primary purpose is to produce the greatest explosion known to man. The monster promptly explodes. This sketch was also performed in October, 1967 on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was also later performed on the George Burns episode of The Muppet Show using the Luncheon Counter Monster.

Two years later, Henson pulled the puppet out of the box again for three commercials selling Munchos, a Frito-Lay potato chip. This time, the puppet was called Arnold, the Munching Monster. After the three ads were produced, Henson had the opportunity to renew the contract. He chose not to, because at that point he was working on Sesame Street — and that monster puppet was moving on to the next stage in his career.

Cookie Monster, still unnamed, made his Sesame Street debut in the first episode, interfering with Kermit the Frog's "famous W lecture" by eating a model "W" bit by bit. He turns it into an "N", a "V", and finally an "I", to Kermit's frustration. He then tries to eat Kermit.

In his early appearances on the show, Cookie Monster seemed somewhat scary to younger viewers, as he personified the childhood fear of "being eaten by a monster". However, this fearsome image did not last long, and Cookie Monster quickly became one of the most popular and beloved characters on the show. Cookie Monster's theme song, "C is for Cookie", is one of the most famous songs from Sesame Street.

In 2006, in response to growing concerns about record levels of childhood obesity in the U.S.A., Sesame Street began airing segments entitled Healthy Habits for Life. In these segments, the Muppet characters of Sesame Street talk about healthy habits, such as eating properly and exercising. The Healthy Habits for Life segments spawned false Internet rumors that Cookie Monster's name had been changed to Veggie Monster or would be taken off the show entirely.

On February 10, 2008, NPR host Elizabeth Blair interviewed Cookie Monster for the All Things Considered segment In Character. He answered the Proust Questionnaire, as well as revealing some of his favorite and non-favorite things.

In a June 19, 2008, appearance on The Colbert Report, Cookie Monster again explained that "Cookies are a sometimes food." He also attempted to eat Stephen Colbert's Peabody Award. Colbert had asked agitatedly why Cookie Monster had "abandoned the pro-cookie agenda" and thus caused fruit to become the favorite snack of American children, according to a study Colbert had heard. Colbert criticized Cookie Monster for not wearing a cookie lapel pin. Cookie Monster also claimed to have "crazy times" during the '70s and '80s. He also referred to himself as "the Robert Downey Jr. of cookies." After eating a cookie to prove he still likes cookies, Cookie Monster asked if the Peabody Award, a round medallion on a small pedestal, was a cookie. When Colbert returned to speak to Cookie Monster at the end of the show, the award had disappeared and Cookie Monster was wiping his mouth with a napkin.

David Rudman officially became Cookie Monster in Sesame Street's 2002 season (taped 2001), but the year before that, Rudman shared the part with Eric Jacobson. Once Jacobson was cast as Grover and Bert, Sesame Workshop chose Rudman as Cookie Monster to allow for more interaction between Cookie Monster and Bert/Grover. Frank Oz still performs Cookie Monster and his other Sesame Street characters a couple of times per year.

Various toys and other icons of the Cookie Monster have been produced over the years. The most obvious is a cookie jar, of which several types have been offered.

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Grover is a Muppet character on the television show Sesame Street. Self-described as lovable and furry, he is a monster who almost never uses contractions when he speaks and sings (except on rare occasions).

In his earliest appearances, Grover was depicted as having dark green fur and an orange nose. By the second season of Sesame Street, this was changed to the more familiar puppet with blue fur and a pink nose (although the original puppet was used for the initial appearance of Grover's mother).

In one series of segments on Sesame Street, Grover changes into his alter-identity "Super Grover". A parody of Superman, this monster superhero goes out to fix things, but doesn't always prove helpful. He wears a medieval knight's helmet and a cape emblazoned with the letter G tied around his neck.

Grover also has an instructional persona who wears a cap and gown to provide educational context for simple, everyday things. His lessons are often wrong, leaving himself open to correction by a group of kids or Muppets. This, combined with the failings of the Super Grover character, means that Grover is very self-conscious and timid. He is often a source of slapstick humor and often accidentally injures himself.

Early in the series, Grover would often greet Kermit the Frog by running up to him and yelling, "Hey, froggy babeee!" and then giving him a hard slap on the back, which knocked him over.

In skits set at Charlie's Restaurant, Grover is a waiter who often serves the same customer, who has repeatedly been the victim of Grover's bad service.

Global Grover is a more recent series of segments in which Grover hosts a trip to a foreign country to learn about their culture and customs.

While Grover's mom is a regular character in Sesame books, his father is almost entirely absent. There is only one reference to Grover's Daddy in the Sesame canon, and it's spoken in passing, with Daddy offscreen.

Her earliest known appearance as a Muppet is a 1970s sketch in which Grover speaks to the audience about being afraid of the dark. At the end of the sketch, his mom (Frank Oz) enters his room to kiss him goodnight. Another early appearance (circa 1981) involves his mother (Kathy Mullen) coming into the bathroom while Grover is telling the audience about how to take a bath.

She has recently appeared (performed by Stephanie D'Abruzzo) in a brief Elmo's World sequence (from the "Families" episode), with her son as his alter-ego Super Grover, as her own alter-ego, "Super-Mommy". Grover crashlands, screaming "Moooommy!" and his mom follows yelling "Soooonny!" crashing on top of him. They recover, acknowledge each other, and both faint.

In A Celebration of Me, Grover (performed by Eric Jacobson), Mrs. Monster attends a benefit dinner in her son's honour.

In her first appearance in puppet form, she was gray-green in color. In later appearances, she was blue.

In the 1971 children's book The Monster at the End of This Book, Grover goes to great effort to keep the reader from turning the pages of the book, because there is a monster on the final page. Despite Grover nailing pages together and building a brick wall to block access, eventually the reader does reach the end, where it is discovered that Grover is the monster at the end of the book.

In 1974, Grover went on a learning expedition in Grover and The Everything In The Whole Wide World Museum. He tours rooms such as "The Long Thin Things You Can Write With Room", as well as "The Things That Make So Much Noise You Can't Think Room". Grover wanders through "The Things That are Light Room", returns a rock to "The Things That are Heavy Room", and just when he wonders whether it is possible to have a museum that holds everything in the whole wide world, he comes upon a door labeled "Everything Else", which opens to take him out into the world.

Sesame Street is modified for different national markets, and Grover is often renamed.

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Source : Wikipedia