Parental discretion advised: two of the videos in this post feature naughty language, and one of them is just plain disturbing.
Despite the relative box office failure of The Muppet Christmas Carol, four years later enough money had been taken, and good will accrued, that another Muppet movie could be considered. But after two original Muppet movies which stuck very closely to a formula, then one which sort of meandered around it, TMCC was a complete break from that formula. Just to remind you, the formula established in those original Muppet movies was:
- Have lots of songs
- Muppets acting in only the way that Muppets do
- More celebrities in lead human roles
- More famous celebrities in cameo roles
- The bits with Muppets in are the best bits of the film
It was a formula that TMCC resolutely ignored – it had lots of songs, but it revolved around the human more than the Muppets, had only one main human actor, and many of the best bits were the interaction between the human and the Muppets, rather than being purely Muppet based.
So which is better? The modern day Muppet formula, or the literary reinvention? There’s only one way to find out. As it turns out, that’s to watch Muppet Treasure Island, for this is almost the best of both worlds. What Treasure Island does demonstrate is the difficulty to get the balance between the two, with only a couple of excellent Muppet based sequences (the ship-based roll call and Miss Piggy’s introduction being the standouts) and some otherwise middling Muppet activity, but also human sequences which somehow don’t serve the humans involved as well as they could, with the likes of Tim Curry’s Long John Silver never living up to their full potential. While TMCC was very faithful to its source material, a decision that worked in its favour, MTI is also faithful to its literary forebear, almost to a fault, being forced into making narrative decisions that lead the storytelling down blind alleys and cul-de-sacs.
Apart from Curry, the main human star of the film is the role of Jim Hawkins. A whiny, irritating brat with a weak singing voice, it would have been no surprise if Kevin Bishop had disappeared without trace, a single child acting role to his name. So here’s the first episode of the second season of The Kevin Bishop Show from 2009.
And yes, that was Karen Gillan off Doctor Who dressed up as Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
This got me to thinking, though: if Bishop could be such a success, with two series of his own show following Star Stories (and don’t think he’s disappeared since 2009; he’s popping up in Keith Lemon: The Movie later this year, for example), then what had become of the rest of the talent involved with Muppet Treasure Island?
Following a long career in stage, screen and voice work, Curry has had to reduce his workload in recent years due to ill health, but his voiceover work last year included this:
and also the voice of the titular character in this, Gingerclown 3D. (This is the disturbing one I warned you about earlier.)
Billy Connolly is still touring as a stand-up comedian, but in the last two weeks has short shows in Blackpool and Scarborough after people heckled and went to the bar during his set. Billy Connolly is also still acting; he will have a tiny role (no pun intended) as a dwarf in The Hobbit this Christmas.
Jennifer Saunders is still making Absolutely Fabulous. She has been doing this for so long that no one can even be bothered to update this on her Wikipedia page anymore.
Brian directed Muppet Treasure Island, as well as The Muppet Christmas Carol, and later went on to direct Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. Brian is currently attempting to get sequels to The Dark Crystal and Fraggle Rock made, without much success as of yet.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson continues to see yet another version made of Treasure Island around every three years; in between, someone else makes a different version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Mr Stevenson is still very dead.
So arguably, the guy who’s about to be in the Keith Lemon movie who was the whiny, irritating brat in this film is at least the second most successful person, twenty years on. And the one person probably more successful is currently dead. Who saw that coming?
Current ranking of the Muppet movies
1. The Great Muppet Caper
2. The Muppet Christmas Carol
3. The Muppet Movie
4. The Muppet Treasure Island
5. The Muppets Take Manhattan
Next time: Muppets From Space. I’ve never seen it…