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The Love We Found: Frank Oz and Victoria Labalme on “Muppet Guys Talking”

“Together again
Gee, it’s good to be together again
I just can’t imagine that you’ve ever been gone
It’s not starting over, it’s just going on”

These lyrics, written by Jeff Moss, are also the first words sung in “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” the endearing 1984 musical comedy that marked the solo feature directorial debut of Frank Oz. There’s no question that the same words could’ve easily opened Oz’s latest solo feature-directing effort, “Muppet Guys Talking,” a documentary that plays like a burst of pure euphoria. No admirer of Jim Henson and his collaborators can afford to miss the conversation that unfolds in this picture between Oz (Miss Piggy, Grover, Fozzie Bear) and four of his fellow Muppeteers: Dave Goelz (The Great Gonzo), Fran Brill (Prairie Dawn), Bill Barretta (Pepé the King Prawn) and the late Jerry Nelson (Count von Count). With a running time clocking in just over an hour, the picture delves deep into the process of puppeteering and the painstaking effort that must be expended in order to achieve the most fleeting yet crucial nuance. It’s fascinating to watch the performers break down the origins of their iconic characters, and how they were inspired by aspects of their own lives. Goelz reveals that Gonzo was spawned from a flaw he discovered in himself, which he proceeded to amplify and make lovable, a process that he found to be resoundingly therapeutic.

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Yet what makes “Muppet Guys Talking” the first great film I’ve seen in 2018 is the way in which Oz and his wife, executive producer Victoria Labalme, resurrect the humanistic spirit of Henson, enabling his worldview to transcend the barriers of show business and resonate on a level that is utterly universal. Acknowledging that the Muppets’ signature style is less than polished, Oz keeps the picture loose and alive, refusing to conceal the handheld cameramen scrambling to capture the unscripted banter of their subjects. It’s clear from the veteran collaborators’ reflections that Henson never had to throw his weight around in order to affirm his role as the boss. He simply worked harder than anyone else, and found fulfillment in every moment of it, all the way up until his sudden death in 1990 at age 53. His genius lay not only in his visionary craft, but in his ability to be, as his colleagues dubbed him, a “harvester of people.” The first big screen outing for Kermit and the gang, 1979’s “The Muppet Movie,” is Jim’s own story in how it illustrates that one frog’s dream can attract a group of fellow dreamers who become a family. The performers and audiences that Henson brought together through his artistry are his everlasting symphony, and the quintet onscreen in this new movie is enduring proof of that. 

For fans who have missed the inimitable puppeteering of Frank Oz ever since he retired from the Muppets in 2000, this film is nothing less than a dream come true. In the very first scene, Oz talks to the camera as if addressing an old friend. He directs our attention to a wall of pipes which Henson had convinced him to help decorate with cheerfully exuberant designs one night after a gig. They did it just for fun, and the pipes would later be put on display as part of the Rockefeller Center’s NBC Studio tour. Oz’s decision to share stories like these is a gift to the world, and it’s a gift he intends on sharing with as many viewers as possible when his movie, “Muppet Guys Talking,” debuts this Friday, March 16th, exclusively on its official site, MuppetGuysTalking.com.

Earlier this week, Oz and Labalme spoke with RogerEbert.com about the reasons behind their distribution plan, the message behind the film’s merriment and why being open to ideas shouldn’t be considered a sign of weakness. The wide-ranging conversation also includes Oz’s insights about the true essence of Kermit, the aspects that set his Muppet movie apart from the others and his experience of returning as Yoda in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

What inspired you to open up about your experiences of working with Jim, not just in this documentary but on Twitter as well?

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Frank Oz (FO): Part of it was Victoria. I never think what I have to say is all that important, and she tells me that it is. I don’t like social media but I got on Twitter because I was advised that it could help MuppetGuysTalking.com. In the past, people have asked me to write books, and I’ve said, “No,” because I’m too lazy. But all of a sudden, Twitter has been a wonderful outlet for spewing out what I feel and talking to fans. I haven’t mentioned MuppetGuysTalking.com hardly at all, because I’m enjoying myself so much. [laughs] So that’s the reason I’ve been opening up. The reason that the film was made is all about Victoria. She is the one who conceived of this film. 

Victoria Labalme (VL): What had happened, really, was that over a decade of traveling around the world and working with different companies and individuals and artists and entrepreneurs, I had never witnessed the kind of culture that I saw among these performers. Because I was with Frank, I had the opportunity to be around these Muppet originators, and I got to witness this unique collaboration and playfulness, as well as the respect and camaraderie that they shared. I felt that I shouldn’t be the only one watching them and hearing these stories, and I knew that millions of people would love to be where I happened to be sitting. So I said, “This should be recorded.”

FO: And I said, “No.” [laughs] I had joined Jim when I was 19, and so my experience of going to do all those shows with him was just a daily occurrence for me, and I thought it’d be boring to people. Victoria kept at me for about a year until I finally said, “Yes.” I agreed to it because people know Jim all around the world, a couple of people on the street know me, and then the other four brilliant performers in the film are not known by people. I wanted to give them their due. Then we all switched over to Victoria’s reason for making the film, which is to show this working culture that is so unique. 

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Did the individual interviews with the performers conducted by Victoria in any way inform the subsequent group discussion?

FO: It’s interesting, they actually didn’t—until we got to editing. Those interviews were done by themselves and I didn’t want any of the other performers around, although, as you see in the behind-the-scenes footage on the site, there was some silliness that occurred. Other than that, I just wanted to leave the guys alone without any influence from the others. We didn’t really watch each other’s interviews, so they didn’t inform us. We just sat down and we had no idea what we were going to talk about at all.

VL: And the interviews were done on the same day, while the production crew was setting up the cameras and the lights. I interviewed them separately, and I always thought we could use the footage in some way to communicate each person’s insights.

Were there certain things that you wanted to get at during these interviews, or were you open to whatever they wanted to share?

FO: Well, Victoria’s really, really good at getting things out of people, so go ahead, honey. And by the way, Victoria’s my wife. I don’t say “honey” to most producers. [laughs]

VL: Because I didn’t grow up watching the Muppets, I didn’t want to ask questions that were specifically fan-based. I wanted to ask questions that spoke to the larger themes around culture, around leadership, around creativity, around what I call “noble intent”—what the real noble intent was behind the Muppets for each of them. Having been around Frank and the other performers, I knew what questions might bring out the best answers. I already knew the misconception that the Muppeteers only “do the voices” of their characters, but I asked them about it so they had the opportunity to share in their own words and have the world at large understand how complex what they do really is. I really wanted to get at these larger themes, and have each person be seen and have their world be seen for something much more than just the Muppets. The film is really for all types of people—leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, anyone trying to do great work and innovate and create.

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Frank Oz in “Muppet Guys Talking.”

The idea to incorporate sketches of how the Muppeteers achieved certain feats, such as the climb up the drain pipe in “The Great Muppet Caper,” make the illusions all the more astonishing. 

FO: The sketches came about organically. Zuzana Bochar, who edited with me on this, was trying to help me figure out how to let people visualize what the Muppet performers had to do to accomplish certain scenes. She told me that her boyfriend—now husband—Joe draws, and I said, “Oh really? That’s terrific.” So Joe just drew the sketches for us. All these people who made the film with us worked for free. 

Was there a particular sequence of comparable difficulty in the film you directed, “The Muppets Take Manhattan”?

FO: Nothing as complex as that. Jim always wanted to do the impossible, whereas my focus was usually on relationships and characters and story. For me, one of the hardest parts of the film was to have all the Muppet characters at the wedding. But I told Jim that we were going to need a little section where the rats are making breakfast and having fun in the kitchen. I had nothing to do with that sequence. Jim shot that section, and when you go back and look at it, you realize that nothing about it was easy. He loved doing that sort of stuff. I can’t remember anything being as insane as that scene in “Caper” because Jim wasn’t directing, I was.

You’ve said in the past that you consider yourself an entertainer rather than an artist, but especially after seeing this film, I can’t view your puppeteering as anything other than artistry of the highest order. 

FO: Puppeteering is an art, although I’m not really a puppeteer. Puppets don’t mean much to me. There are brilliant people who perform lots of puppets—the king and the queen and the roller-skating bear—and I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in characters, which is why the Muppets are so singular. There are no real characters in the world of puppets like the Muppets.

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In the documentary, you talk about how Miss Piggy is funny because “she covers up her pain.” How did the depths of that character evolve over time?

FO: Well, I think what you just said is really the key thing: “evolved over time.” We had the opportunity to do 120 shows with 120 guest stars, and then we had the movies and such. I had the opportunity to have her character grow as opposed to, for instance, doing Yoda. In that case, I had to come in and do it, and I had only two weeks to prepare. There was no time. With Piggy, I had time, and also, I had the writers, I had Jim Henson guiding us, and I had all my fellow performers to play off of. I don’t work in a vacuum. What you do is you play, you improvise, and then as you’re playing and acting silly, there is an editorial part of you that’s like, “Wait a second, 98 percent of this is stupid, but this other two percent might be pretty cool.” That’s how it goes with your fellow performers.

VL: I think that’s also the clear message of the film, that playfulness and professionalism aren’t mutually exclusive. These guys worked so hard and the type of performances they did was so demanding, yet they always kept this atmosphere of playfulness and of what Frank called “joyous competition,” and from that, produced such legendary work.

FO: That all came from Jim, that whole attitude. Everything came from him.

Has your belief that “by trying anything, you get the good stuff” played a crucial role in how you approach directing?

FO: Yeah, I try anything that the actors want to try because they might have a better idea. I also try different ideas that I have, because when you are actually in the pit, on the floor, with the cables and the pressure and everything, what’s written on the page does not necessarily always work on the floor. Therefore, I don’t always go word-for-word, except on “Little Shop of Horrors.” That was the only one I’ve done word-for-word, because Howard Ashman did such a brilliant job. But I allow for play, and that’s another thing I learned from Jim.

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VL: I also want to speak to Frank’s comment and your’s about being open to other ideas. It’s something about Frank that’s been extraordinary to witness, and I know he learned it from Jim, which is the ability to be open to listening to people’s input while embracing a spirit of inclusivity. A lot of people, whether they are a leader or a director, feel that if they listen and ask for other people’s input, it is a sign of weakness. But Frank really believes that it’s a sign of strength, and then ultimately, as a decision-maker, you choose what to keep and what you let go. That spirit of inclusivity, of listening, of tolerance, of acceptance is very powerful and personally, I think we need a strong voice for those values in the world right now. 

FO: And Jim is exactly the person that we got that from.

Jerry Nelson and Bill Barretta in “Muppet Guys Talking.”

Jerry Nelson’s observation that “the disenfranchised in life feel accepted in the Muppet world” made me think of Kermit and Piggy in a new way. People ridicule a frog and a pig for being together, but to the frog and pig, love is love. 

FO: Absolutely, there’s affection throughout every character, even though they are bizarre, [laughs] and even though each of them has their own tremendous flaws—just like us. They are different species, like we have different races, and they’re all good people, basically. They’re interesting, they’re funny and they all get along.

How large was writer Jerry Juhl’s contribution to forming these characters, considering that he was working with Jim since “Sam and Friends”?

FO: Huge. Jerry was the one person involved as a writer who really knew the characters and worked on their relationships. Without these relationships—without Piggy and Kermit or Fozzie and Kermit or Gonzo and Camilla the Chicken or Animal and Floyd—they would just each be individual characters, and they wouldn’t be as strong. Jerry is the one who created these relationships and really made that richness work. He was vital.

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VL: And it is clear in the film that a lot of those relationships are built below the stage. On MuppetGuysTalking.com, there’s this concept of the “below the stage experience” and what that was among these men. They were friends, they adored each other, they had a good time together and that was reflected in the character performances above the playboard.

FO: That’s true. Some of us have been together for so long. Bill Barretta, who is freaking brilliant, really is a new kid, and he’s been with us for 26 years. [laughs] Having worked together for so long, we know each other’s rhythms. If we didn’t, the Muppets wouldn’t either. It starts with us, first of all, and then that translates into the Muppets. If you hire somebody brand new, it wouldn’t work because they won’t know our rhythms. They won’t know the depths of the characters.

Jim loved the variety of dimension that you gave him to play as Kermit in “Muppets Take Manhattan.” It’s one example of how being a Muppeteer can make you a better actor.

FO: That’s true, you have the opportunity to do anything you want as far as the workshop allows. It’s fantastic, and with Kermit, I had a great time writing that role for Jim. Kermit getting hit by the car was a huge step. No one had ever thought to do anything like that before, and I thought, “Why not?” I don’t believe comedies should be funny all the time. I don’t believe comedies should be lit brightly, which is why you see shadows in my comedies. I believe comedies need areas that are not funny, and that helps the story. So that was kind of cool writing Kermit being hit, and then it was cool that it gives him amnesia and he doesn’t know who he is anymore. That caused the gang to try and get him back in the show, and it was fun to write that story. Jim really appreciated it because you’ve never seen Kermit like that before.

There’s a current misperception that Kermit is a happy-go-lucky Mickey Mouse-type, but if you look back at “The Muppet Show,” you realize that isn’t at all the case. Kermit has always reminded me of George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He’s a good soul prone to frustration who is saved by the community he built.  

FO: That is the first time I have ever heard that observation, and it is so perceptive. You are exactly right. Kermit is so connected to these people, and as crazy as these people make him, he can’t leave them. He can’t leave this whole community he has, like George Bailey. That’s a wonderful parallel. There is tremendous depth in Kermit when he sings “Bein’ Green,” or when he’s out in the desert, talking about his inner feelings in “The Muppet Movie.”

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Have you seen James Bobin’s 2011 film, “The Muppets”? I felt that there were glimmers of Jim’s original vision of Kermit in that picture. 

FO: I have to be careful, because I don’t want to sound like sour grapes. I personally felt that the film was too soft and too smarmy, and I felt that the characters weren’t pure in the way that they were before. As much as Disney loves them and wants them to be popular, I just think that they don’t quite get it. I don’t think they rely on the puppet performers enough, because the performers really get it. To me, the film didn’t work because it wasn’t rebellious or anarchic, and that’s who the Muppets are. We are rebellious and anarchic, and I didn’t see it in that film at all. The Muppets also have true affection for one another. I’m not blaming Disney. They’re trying their best, but if they just relied on the puppeteers who know so much, I think they’d get much more. 

One of my favorite instances of that anarchic spirit is the scene from “Muppets Take Manhattan” where Miss Piggy and Joan Rivers are selling makeup. It wonderfully satirized societal standards of femininity.

FO: We were shooting next to the Plaza Hotel in New York at Bergdorf Goodman’s department store. I was rehearsing with Joan, and it just was not going well. So I sent my first AD to get Joan two gin and tonics and to get me two gin and tonics. We drank the gin and tonics, loosened up and then we kind of went with it. [laughs]

In my colleague Robert K. Elder’s book, The Film That Changed My Life, you discuss your admiration of Orson Welles, and his ability to create tight, medium and wide shots in a master. You did the same thing in “Muppets Take Manhattan,” during the uproarious sequence with Kermit, Piggy and Gregory Hines, and the technique allows you to savor their interaction by never cutting away for over two minutes of screen time. 

FO: It’s not a technique that I use consciously, but contrasts are very important in life and in art and in entertainment. When you light something, contrast is very important. When you shoot something, contrast is very important. If you love somebody, contrast is important because if they’re exactly like you, then you might as well start loving yourself. You need that contrast, so it comes as an overall feeling I have. I’m sure that I stole from Orson many times without knowing it because I love his work so much. Jim and I had the delightful pleasure to work with Orson and have dinner with him, so I had the chance to talk with him. And the more I talked to him, the more I realized that he is an absolute genius and an amazing director. 

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What’s interesting about “Muppets Take Manhattan” is there’s less fourth wall-breaking and no “standard rich and famous contracts.” In order for Kermit and his friends to succeed on Broadway, they have to pound the pavement with their own feet, literally.

FO: It wasn’t my intention, it is organically where I come from. Jim was so incredibly funny and he often went in the larger joke direction. I’m not able to do that, and actually, after I rewrote and shot “Muppets Take Manhattan,” I thought that maybe I did a disservice with my film, since it wasn’t as jokey as “The Muppet Movie” or “Caper,” which I love. I felt kind of badly that my film wasn’t like those others, but it just came from who I am. That’s how I approach things. 

I think one of the film’s great strengths is its emotional depth, and there was so much depth to Jim’s belief in “the oneness of the human race,” which Fran Brill so beautifully articulates in your documentary. Yoda would certainly share that belief.

FO: That came out of Victoria’s question about the “noble intent.” Jim’s noble intent wasn’t message-driven or didactic. Inside of him, there was the desire to make the world better and goddammit, he actually did. And I think you’re right that Yoda is involved there too. He was the last Jedi for many years, and he feels a responsibility in a similar way.

VL: It’s also why we decided to release the film through the internet on our own, to keep in line with the oneness of the human race. We didn’t want to exclude people. You don’t need to go to a local theater. You don’t need to be a member of a specific group. Anyone who is able to access the internet can watch our film on our website, MuppetGuysTalking.com. It is a totally democratic way to get this film out, and Frank’s intent is really to reach as many people around the planet as possible. If we’d opened it in just a few places or certain cities, that would’ve been limited. We wanted to embrace the whole community. 

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FO: We’re fortunate to have had so many fans around the world for so long. It’s almost like the Muppets are a Trojan horse in the way that we want everyone to have fun with them, but inside, there’s something deeper. Without being didactic or saying some message, Victoria wants the film to champion the feeling of inclusion, of collaboration, of empathy and all those things that are hard to come by these days. The other reason we wanted to release MuppetGuysTalking.com on our own site is—as much as I love Netflix—I didn’t want a big company between us and our fans. I wanted direct contact. Also, the Muppets are rebellious. That’s why I shot the film the way that I did, because it’s a rebellious way to shoot, and we also want to be rebellious in how we distributed the film. The only place that people can see the film is on MuppetGuysTalking.com. I want to make sure people know that, so they don’t think, “Aw, I’ll see it later on Netflix,” and they can’t.

VL: Right. We are also going to have some special offers and packages that are for people who want more, but that’s for a limited time on our site.

Prior to “Muppet Guys Talking,” the greatest cinematic tribute to Jim, in my mind, was Brian Henson’s 1992 film, “The Muppet Christmas Carol.” When the characters come together to sing “The Love We Found” at the end, it really feels like they’re singing about Jim. Was that at all in your mind while shooting?

FO: No. Brian did a beautiful job directing the film, and the DP and production designer were incredible. But we can’t think of things like that while we’re performing. We have to be part of the story and everything else. Paul Williams wrote such amazing, beautiful music and lyrics, just like he did for “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” and “The Muppet Movie.” He gets that feeling, and that feeling also comes from Jim, because they were very simpatico. So when we’re performing a Paul Williams song, especially like that one, it’s almost as if Paul is speaking with Jim’s spirit. It’s not that we have to think about it, it’s just there.

Fran Brill, Frank Oz and Bill Barretta in “Muppet Guys Talking.”

It was a tremendous thrill to see you return to puppeteer Yoda in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” What was that experience like?

FO: It was a joy. I first met Rian Johnson a few years ago and he asked me if I’d do Yoda, and I said, “Sure,” because I thought it would be CGI. Then I found out from Kathy Kennedy that they meant to do it live and I thought, “Holy cow.” The craftsmen in London, who hadn’t worked as much with CGI, had the opportunity to craft not only Yoda but also the other characters in the movie for real, and that was wonderful. Being able to work with high specificity, along with my three other guys who work with me on Yoda, was a huge challenge and I love that. I also love his character. If Yoda has a line of dialogue, we have to rehearse that for a week—actually, I take it back, it’s more like three or four days. I was trying to be melodramatic. [laughs] But every line needs at least three or four days because it’s highly specific work.

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I think Yoda’s belief that the archaic Jedi texts aren’t as important as the spiritual bond that connects all living things is synonymous with Jim’s own worldview. 

FO: I never thought about that! Jim is exactly that. I didn’t see it in there, but you would’ve seen it, because you’re right. That is so much his spirit. Absolutely. 

It’s so great to have “Muppet Guys Talking” being released at the same time there’s a resurgence of interest in Fred Rogers. I’m now 31, and I can honestly say that I can’t imagine my childhood without the nurturing programming of “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

FO: Jim had met Fred Rogers. I never did, but I think there is a parallel between them, in that they could do good work for people beyond the work they were doing for their shows. They both did good work as humanists. 

I found it appropriate that you and Dave Golez made cameo appearances as guards of the subconscious in Pete Docter’s 2015 Pixar film, “Inside Out,” since one could argue that each Muppet character represents a different part of the human psyche.

FO: Pete Docter, who directed “Monsters, Inc.” and “Up,” is a very close friend of Victoria’s and mine, and also of Dave’s. When Dave and I get together, we have a bizarre chemistry where we get totally wacky with each other, and Pete was aware of that because he saw us many times at dinners. So he asked us to play these characters in his film and we just did the dialogue. Then he asked us to ad lib and it was hysterical. We had such a great time and Pete was actually the one who decided to call Dave’s character “Frank” and my character “Dave.” I don’t know the Pixar company well enough to know if it has a family atmosphere, though the people that I know there are very close-knit. But Henson’s company was a family, at the end of the day, because of how open Jim was with people and again, that’s the reason why we wanted to show this documentary online on MuppetGuysTalking.com.

You and Jim formed one of the greatest duos in screen history, whether you were performing as Kermit and Piggy or Ernie and Bert or Kermit and Fozzie. Had the “joyous competition” you enjoyed with Jim inspired your approach to directing the comic duos in “What About Bob?” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”?

FO: I learned so much from working with Jim but I never consciously applied it to my own films. If the learning is true and pure, it comes through osmosis. I can’t make my actors have that sort of competition. People are who they are and I don’t control them. Richard [Dreyfuss] and Billy [Murray] did not like each other while making “What About Bob?”, so it was not joyous at all. [laughs] For the director, that was perfect for those characters. With Michael [Caine] and Steve [Martin], I knew that those two were having fun making “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” and it had nothing to do with me except that I had fun with them, that’s all. You can’t really control an atmosphere. People can smell it a mile away. It either is there or it isn’t.

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In that sense, the job of a director is really to empower people to create on the spot and allow their creativity to flow freely.

FO: Right, exactly, and shut the hell up as a director. Jim didn’t give constant directions. He didn’t tell us what to do, he left things open and we talk about that in “Muppet Guys Talking.” As you know, the atmosphere that Jim created was safe, and in the bonus features we’re providing for people in that special offer at MuppetGuysTalking.com, we are including outtakes that we haven’t used that touch upon that very subject you’re talking about. We had nine hours of footage, and I cut it down to 65 minutes simply because it felt right. Sometimes a movie is three hours like “The Godfather” and it feels right. I don’t like long movies unless they’re like “The Godfather” and they deserve to be long. In any case, we have a lot of footage that we couldn’t put in the final cut, and it contains many great stories. We haven’t even scratched the surface on the dangerous stunts we’ve performed. Jim would do anything for a shot. Anything.

Last summer, I got the chance to view a gorgeous 35mm print of “The Great Muppet Caper” at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre, and I was struck by just how sensational those Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers are, especially on the big screen. What is it like performing a dance scene as a Muppeteer?

FO: Well, I’m on a rolling chair on the floor, and in each shot, I have to push myself around with my feet while I’m looking at television monitors in between people’s legs. It takes a lot of rehearsal time to do that. The very opening of “Muppet Caper,” you may recall, shows Gonzo, Fozzie and Kermit in a hot air balloon. In the extra footage available in that special package on the site, Dave tells a whole story about filming that scene. How we got that shot is insane.

This is your first feature directorial effort in a decade, and you have a hugely acclaimed stage show, “In & Of Itself,” currently on Broadway. Where do you see yourself going from here?

FO: I love theatre, I love movies and I love breaking barriers with my work. I’m working with some people on a project for a new format, like an iPhone, which is interesting. But the truth is, Matt, I don’t want to be like every other movie director and say, “I’ve got a development deal or a script with such and such.” I think that Hollywood currency is all nonsense and I don’t believe anything is real until I’m stepping on cables on the floor. I feel like I’m playing the Hollywood game if I start talking about things, but just know that, yes, there’s a movie out there that I’m wanting to do and there’s some TV stuff too. I probably won’t do a documentary again because it’s so hard. I’m used to doing major money pictures, but I can handle those because the story is set in the beginning and then we shoot it and edit it. 

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In documentaries, I learned the hard way that you just shoot and then you find the story later. That was a shocker. [laughs] Though I probably won’t be doing more documentaries, my great love is to show people the performers underneath the puppets and how rare and brilliant they are, and also to show the way that Jim worked. I can’t even express to you how different it was to work with Jim. It was the only job I had ever known, which is why I initially didn’t want to make this film because I thought that everybody worked like this. In the extra footage, you’ll see even more about how open, trusting and collaborative Jim was. But he was also extremely strong. When he made a decision, we followed him.

VL: And what I feel, Matt, is that while none of us will be able to work with Jim, I think this film has the power to share that message. If we can each improve our community—whether it’s our family or our work culture—by even a small percentage as a result of what we experience in this film, I believe we can all make the world a better place. 

FO: And that’s what I mean by a Trojan horse. Victoria had this wonderful message, and if we just presented it as a message, you’d turn it off and go take a walk in the park because it’s boring, as a message. But by not saying it and just doing it, all the while having a lot of fun in the documentary, it is Victoria’s and my hope that it doesn’t come off as a message but as something organic.  

“Muppet Guys Talking” will be available to view tomorrow, March 16th, exclusively on MuppetGuysTalking.com, for a minimal fee ($9.97 for streaming and download). Trust me, you’ll want to see this one.

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