The Muppets | Interview with Producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman
We had the pleasure of speaking with The Muppets producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman during our visit to Jim Henson Studios. They spent their time with us talking about a G vs. PG rating, their personal stories with the Muppets, bringing the Muppets to a new generation of movie-goers, and future plans for the franchise.
“I think “PG” is probably where you wanna be with this kinda film because you’d like to get early teens and…you’d wanna get everybody…or…you’re gonna…get little kids and only their parents,” Hoberman said in regards to the PG rating of The Muppets.
Lieberman shared with us his hopes for how audiences would respond to the film. “When we put this movie in front of an audience, thankfully kids are enjoying it, parents are enjoying it, but also the general audience is really responding to it. So hopefully it goes beyond kids and parents and into general, but we want all.”
Lieberman, a lifelong Muppets fan, was pleased when the opportunity arose to work on the film. “I’ve been a fan my whole life and grew up with them and saw all the movies, watched the show. So when the opportunity arose to be involved in the brand it was really exciting. And I have 2 young children. I have a 6½ year old boy and a 2½ year old boy. So getting them and showing them the movie and getting them…invested in the brand and Kermit and the gang is really fun. And watching the love that my kids had mirroring the love that I had when I was a kid is really special.”
Hoberman said that he was too old to have grown up with the Muppets, but that he grew attached to them after working on one of the films. “I think I’m too old actually to have grown up with them. I was older…and sort of passive, but I was at the studio as an executive when we did Treasure Island and…one of the other ones…so I loved it going back from that time.”
A theatrical film for the Muppets has not been done in over a decade, though Disney has owned the brand for several years. “Sometimes the timing of things just works out and there was a script being developed that Jason Segel and Nick Stoller wrote. And Jason kind of jump started the whole thing by taking a general meeting at Disney and pitched the idea as a life long fan of saying, ‘I wanna do this as a movie,’” Lieberman said of how the project came into existence.
Getting the approval to make the film was actually less challenging than making the film. “There were a lot of technical challenges that we weren’t necessarily aware of, having never produced a Muppets movie before…that’s where the real lessons came in…how do you fit 10 people in a small space? How you choreograph a scene where you just have to show from here to here? How you build a set that enables Puppeteers to go there and actually show the puppets? How do you put a group of people in the real world and not show the humans and just show the puppets?” Lieberman said of the challenges that they faced.
As far as the future of the brand, Hoberman said, “We’re all kind of waiting to see how the movie does and how that ignites interest in the various divisions of the company to move forward…there’s a lot of potential out there. It just depends on the success of the film.”
*Disney/DreamWorks provided me with an all expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to view select footage from The Muppets, and to meet with some of the talent and crew of the movie. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.*