The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

G | 94 mins | Children's works, Musical comedy | 13 July 1984

Director:

Frank Oz

Producer:

David Lazer

Cinematographer:

Robert Paynter

Editor:

Evan Lottman

Production Designer:

Stephen Hendrickson

Production Company:

Henson Associates
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HISTORY

       The Muppets Take Manhattan is the third feature in the Muppet series, following The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Great Muppet Caper (1981, see entries).
       In a 20 Jul 1984 LAHExam interview, executive producer and Muppet founder-performer Jim Henson attributed the initial idea of setting the Muppets in Manhattan to his daughter Lisa Henson, who saw a 1950s film about a playwright arriving in the big city with ambitions to mount a Broadway show and thought the scenario would be an interesting vehicle for “Kermit the frog.” The story is credited onscreen to writers Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett, while screenplay credit is shared by Tarses, Patchett, and director Frank Oz.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the film represented the “solo directorial debut” for Frank Oz, who, by that time, had been a close collaborator with Henson and the Muppets for over twenty years.
       As reported in a 28 May 1983 Screen International article, the picture was one of the first projects developed for the newly launched studio, Tri-Star Pictures, a partnership of Columbia Pictures, CBS-TV, and Home Box Office (HBO). An 11 Jul 1984 LAT article noted that the budget was $13 million, while an Aug/Sep 1984 Theatre Crafts article mentioned the cost as $10 million.
       Principal photography began 27 May 1983 and was based in and around New York City. During the approximately fifteen to seventeen weeks of production, forty location and studio sets were filmed, and the majority were used for only one or two days each. According to production designer Stephen Hendrickson in ... More Less

       The Muppets Take Manhattan is the third feature in the Muppet series, following The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Great Muppet Caper (1981, see entries).
       In a 20 Jul 1984 LAHExam interview, executive producer and Muppet founder-performer Jim Henson attributed the initial idea of setting the Muppets in Manhattan to his daughter Lisa Henson, who saw a 1950s film about a playwright arriving in the big city with ambitions to mount a Broadway show and thought the scenario would be an interesting vehicle for “Kermit the frog.” The story is credited onscreen to writers Jay Tarses and Tom Patchett, while screenplay credit is shared by Tarses, Patchett, and director Frank Oz.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the film represented the “solo directorial debut” for Frank Oz, who, by that time, had been a close collaborator with Henson and the Muppets for over twenty years.
       As reported in a 28 May 1983 Screen International article, the picture was one of the first projects developed for the newly launched studio, Tri-Star Pictures, a partnership of Columbia Pictures, CBS-TV, and Home Box Office (HBO). An 11 Jul 1984 LAT article noted that the budget was $13 million, while an Aug/Sep 1984 Theatre Crafts article mentioned the cost as $10 million.
       Principal photography began 27 May 1983 and was based in and around New York City. During the approximately fifteen to seventeen weeks of production, forty location and studio sets were filmed, and the majority were used for only one or two days each. According to production designer Stephen Hendrickson in Theatre Crafts, the rapid turnaround was a challenge for the art department because every set required special rigging to accommodate the Muppets and their hidden puppeteers. At the Empire Stages in Long Island City, New York, where most of the interiors were built, sets were constructed on a false floor, elevated four feet from the actual studio floor. If a puppeteer needed to stand, sections of the false floor could be removed. On location, the puppeteers often had to recline or position themselves on a moving platform attached to the camera dolly. The Lyceum Theatre on West 45th Street provided the inspiration for the interior Broadway theater set. Hendrickson made use of the Empire State Building as a recurring “visual motif” to emphasize a classic, art deco New York and avoided the image of modern skyscrapers, such as the World Trade Center. Additional New York locations included Central Park, the Pulitzer Foundation near The Plaza Hotel, and an empty wing of a hospital, which was one of the few interiors filmed on location. As reported in a 3 Oct 1983 People magazine brief, the production also shot in the famous Theater District restaurant, Sardi’s, on West 44th Street, and Kermit’s portrait remained on the wall as part of the establishment’s permanent collection of caricatures. Hendrickson also noted that the brightly colored Muppets blended well with blue and pink pastels, so he incorporated various shades of those colors throughout the film, particularly in the scenes of the Muppets’ show, Manhattan Melodies.
       In the LAHExam interview, Henson mentioned that the film marked the debut of the “Muppet Babies,” which was later developed as a Saturday morning television program on CBS.
       The Muppets Take Manhattan received an Academy Award nomination for Music (Original Song Score).
      End credits include the following statements: "Filmed at Empire Stages of New York, Long Island City, New York" and "Special thanks to: Robert Greenhut; Michael Peyser; and Children's Television Workshop; New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting; Christopher Cerf; Dave Connor; Robin Garsen Oz."
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 1984
p. 4.
LAHExam
20 Jul 1984
p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jul 1984
Section VI, p. 1, 4.
Los Angeles Times
13 Jul 1984
p. 1, 6.
New York Times
13 Jul 1984
p. 10.
People
3 Oct 1983.
---
Screen International
28 May 1983.
---
Theatre Crafts
Aug/Sep 1984
p. 14, 111.
Variety
1 Jun 1983.
---
Variety
11 Jul 1984
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Featuring:
Cameo Guest Stars:
And Muppet Performers:
Additional Muppet Performers:
Cast of characters (in order of appearance):
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Jim Henson presents
A Frank Oz Film
From Tri-Star-Delphi II Productions
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr
Story
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Supv video eng
Video cable man
2d unit photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Storyboards
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
SET DECORATORS
Muppet prop coord, Muppet staff
Chief set dresser
Const coord
Const grip
Master scenic artist
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Muppet cost const
Muppet cost const
Muppet cost const
Muppet cost const
Asst cost des
Ward supv
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus and lyrics by
Mus score
Mus ed
Mus rec eng
Mus rec eng
Mus contractor
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom man
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR rec
Sd ed
Looping ed
Looping ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Muppet spec eff
Muppet spec eff
Muppet spec eff
Muppet spec eff
Muppet spec eff
Muppet spec eff
Spec eff
Opticals by
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Miss Piggy's hairstyles, Muppet staff
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Addl casting by
Spec consultant
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Muppet des and const
Rats kitchen number staged by
Studio coord, Muppet staff
Muppet rigging coord, Muppet staff
Des consultant, Muppet staff
Workshop coord, Muppet staff
Asst to Miss Piggy, Muppet staff
Scr supv
Prod office coord
Asst prod office coord
Asst to the dir
Asst to the prod
Loc coord
Studio mgr
Accounting services
Accounting services
Prod auditor
Extras casting
Asst extras casting
Pilot
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Unit pub
Pub and promotion coord
Asst prod auditor
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Post prod services
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt driver
Stunt driver
Miss Piggy stunt double
Miss Piggy stunt double
Miss Piggy stunt double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
13 July 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 July 1984
Production Date:
began 27 May 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Tri-Star Pictures
Copyright Date:
15 August 1984
Copyright Number:
PA227977
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex® Cameras by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Metrocolor®
Duration(in mins):
94
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27285
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Before graduating from Danhurst College, a group of friends, known as the Muppets, perform their original stage musical, Manhattan Melodies, at the senior class variety show. During the curtain call, fellow students applaud enthusiastically and someone shouts out that the musical should be on Broadway. The show’s lead actor and playwright, Kermit the Frog, thanks the audience for their support. Backstage, the Muppets embrace the idea of being on Broadway, but Kermit is worried the script is not good enough. The ambitious Miss Piggy, Kermit’s girl friend and leading lady, argues that being on Broadway would give them enough money to get married, while the rest of the troupe reminds Kermit they have no other plans after graduation. Arriving at the bus terminal in New York City, the Muppets sleep in the station lockers. They are confident the arrangement is only temporary as they anticipate being Broadway sensations very soon. However, the first producer they approach, Martin Price, is revealed to be a wanted con man named Murray Plotsky, who wants $300 from each of them before booking the show. Undeterred, the Muppets continue to knock on doors of other theatrical producers, but are repeatedly sent away. After several months of rejection, the friends have run out of money. As leader, Kermit feels responsible for the group, but the others express guilt for being a burden to him. At a luncheonette, Kermit explains their financial predicament to the owner, Pete, and offers to work for food. Both Pete and his daughter, Jenny, are sympathetic and prepare soup for the ... +


Before graduating from Danhurst College, a group of friends, known as the Muppets, perform their original stage musical, Manhattan Melodies, at the senior class variety show. During the curtain call, fellow students applaud enthusiastically and someone shouts out that the musical should be on Broadway. The show’s lead actor and playwright, Kermit the Frog, thanks the audience for their support. Backstage, the Muppets embrace the idea of being on Broadway, but Kermit is worried the script is not good enough. The ambitious Miss Piggy, Kermit’s girl friend and leading lady, argues that being on Broadway would give them enough money to get married, while the rest of the troupe reminds Kermit they have no other plans after graduation. Arriving at the bus terminal in New York City, the Muppets sleep in the station lockers. They are confident the arrangement is only temporary as they anticipate being Broadway sensations very soon. However, the first producer they approach, Martin Price, is revealed to be a wanted con man named Murray Plotsky, who wants $300 from each of them before booking the show. Undeterred, the Muppets continue to knock on doors of other theatrical producers, but are repeatedly sent away. After several months of rejection, the friends have run out of money. As leader, Kermit feels responsible for the group, but the others express guilt for being a burden to him. At a luncheonette, Kermit explains their financial predicament to the owner, Pete, and offers to work for food. Both Pete and his daughter, Jenny, are sympathetic and prepare soup for the starving artists. However, the rest of the Muppets tell Kermit they are leaving town and go their separate ways to pursue other interests. After saying goodbye to Miss Piggy at the train station, Kermit is alone in Manhattan, but remains optimistic that he can sell the musical and bring his friends back. He persuades Pete to give him a job at the diner, and asks Jenny, an aspiring fashion designer, to create a costume that will help him pass as an experienced theatrical agent. However, the wig, gold chain, and fast-talking performance fails to convince anyone. Meanwhile, Miss Piggy has secretly returned to Manhattan and spies on Kermit. Watching him in the company of Jenny, Miss Piggy can barely control her jealous rage. Back at the diner, Kermit reads letters from his Muppet friends, such as Fozzie the Bear and Scooter, and dreams of reuniting the troupe. For the next phase of his plan, called the “whispering campaign,” Kermit dresses as a rich Broadway impresario and arrives at Sardi’s, the famous restaurant in the Theater District known for the caricatures of show-business personalities on its walls. Kermit replaces entertainer Liza Minnelli’s caricature with his own and enlists the Rats, his colleagues from the diner, to hide underneath the tables and whisper among the patrons about “the hottest show coming to Broadway, Manhattan Melodies, produced by Kermit.” However, the scheme backfires when the Rats make their presence known, causing patrons to scream and panic. Kermit and his colleagues are thrown out of the restaurant. In Central Park, Kermit confides to Jenny that he is baffled about how to proceed. While Miss Piggy peers at them through bushes, Jenny comforts Kermit and takes him jogging to help him feel better. Miss Piggy struggles to keep pace, until a thief snatches her purse. Enraged, she borrows a pair of roller skates to pursue the criminal and assaults him, which alerts Kermit to her presence. After the incident, Kermit and Miss Piggy argue as he tries to convince her that Jenny is just a friend who has been helping him sell the show. The two reconcile when Kermit takes Miss Piggy on a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the park. Back at Pete’s Luncheonette, Kermit receives a letter from theatrical producer Bernard Crawford requesting a meeting. Arriving at Crawford’s office, Kermit encounters Ronnie Crawford, Bernard’s son, who confesses that he sent the letter. The young man loves Manhattan Melodies and wants to produce it as his first Broadway production. He introduces Kermit to his father, who is ambivalent about putting the Muppets on stage, but Bernard once promised to support his son’s first show and agrees to the project. Rushing to a payphone, Kermit calls the diner to announce the show is going to be on Broadway. After hanging up, he saunters across the street singing and is hit by a taxicab. Back at the diner, Miss Piggy becomes worried when he does not return. Ronnie arrives with news that the show must open in two weeks. While Jenny, Miss Piggy, and Ronnie search for the missing frog, Pete sends telegrams to Kermit’s friends asking them to return to New York City. Meanwhile, Kermit is in the hospital with amnesia. Upon release, he is given a set of clothes, but still does not know who he is. He wanders into an advertising agency run by frogs, and is hired after impressing the staff with a catchy slogan. As Kermit becomes part of the corporate world of Madison Avenue, the Muppets reunite at the diner. With one week until the show opens, Ronnie tells them they will have to rehearse around the clock while continuing to search for Kermit. On the day the show is set to premiere, Kermit walks into the luncheonette with his advertising colleagues for lunch, but his Muppet friends, sitting in another booth, do not see him. The frog begins tapping on glasses, inadvertently playing a melody that is very familiar to the troupe. Walking over to the sound, they embrace their missing friend, and rush him to the theater, despite the fact that he has no recollection of the Muppets or their show. Backstage at the Biltmore Theater, the Muppets are unable to jog Kermit’s memory and are faced with performing the show without him. Frustrated, the hotheaded Miss Piggy hurls Kermit across the room. The knock to his head causes Kermit to regain his memory, and he takes the stage with the rest of the troupe. The audience applauds as Kermit and Miss Piggy play a young couple getting married. Although Gonzo usually performs the role of the minister, Miss Piggy arranges for a real one to step in so she can finally wed Kermit. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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