The Muppets | Interview with Director James Bobin
I never considered that making a film using puppets would actually take longer to film than a movie using solely humans, until we met with James Bobin, the director of The Muppets. “The moment you start using puppets and you don’t have legs, then the world gets a lot harder for you…you occasionally get it right,” he said, in regards to working with puppets.
However, Bobin said there is no difference in the difficulty level of directing puppets versus humans. “None. I say none because you are directing them to act in a certain way and humans deal with their emotional things with their face…puppeteers is with their hands. But the direction you give is the same. It’s how they interpret those notes in terms of their physicality that makes the difference… Muppets, the performers themselves are the same guys and the voices doing the mouth, so it’s like working with anyone. So no difference.”
When asked what Bobin did to make The Muppets appealing to a new generation, he said, “I think that the movie has to work for people who know The Muppets, and people…who have no idea who they are. So I couldn’t just go, ‘I know they’re great. I’ve seen them before’…I have to show them doing their thing, being, you know, who they were… each character would then have their own moment to show the thing they do, so it could make sense if you had no idea who they are.”
Bobin is the father of 2 children, whom he describes as the perfect target age for The Muppets. “My daughter came on set and…she met Kermit and…Steve’s operating kind of like this and Steve’s talking here and she looks at Kermit and she never once looked at Steve, ever. Ever, ever, ever. And just, she just thinks Kermit is this frog that walks around and lives in Steve’s arms. It’s amazing! And it’s so lovely to see that. It’s a great testament to the character of Steve’s work that she just buys it. And, and for me, the movie is about that.”
Bobin himself grew up watching The Muppets in England. “It was written by Americans and performed by Americans, but the director and the technical staff were all English…the actual Muppet Theater itself is an old musical theater, which is, like, a London thing rather than a New York thing. So it felt very English in a weird way. But also I think the tone of it, the sense of the, sense of humor is really quite English.”
On working with actor/writer Jason Segel, Bobin said, “We both are Muppet fans, we’re coming from the same place. And it was very clear, very quickly we wanted to make the same movie. We had the same idea about what it should be, what should happen in the movie. And, you know, he’s basically a six foot three Muppet, so it’s a delight to have him on set because he’s a very useful; he’s a burst of great energy all the time. And he’s really funny and he gets it…he was very pleased and proud of what we’re doing and all that stuff is great; he has a real emotional investment in the project…as a director I couldn’t ask for more.”
Like previous Muppets movies, The Muppets will feature cameos from very recognizable stars. “It’s very much like the old movies…some people will just play themselves…luckily for us pretty much everyone we asked said yes,” Bobin said in regards to the cameos we can expect to see in The Muppets. “We benefited a great deal from the fact that people love the Muppets…so the cameos went really well.”
The Muppets is in theatres everywhere beginning November 23rd, 2011.
*Disney/DreamWorks provided me with an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to view select footage from The Muppets and to meet with the cast and talent of the film. All opinions expressed are my own.*