The Muppet Babies made a Gonzo remake of Star Wars
“A far time ago, in a galaxy long, long away”, the Muppet Babies put their stamp on Star Wars.
Disney have just announced a revival of Muppet Babies, set to premiere on Disney Junior in 2018.
The original show ran for eight seasons, from 1984 to 1991, and featured animated versions of Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Animal, Rawlf, Scooter and Skeeter, living together in a nursery under the care of a woman named Nanny, whose face was never shown.
Donald Glover – Lando Calrissian himself – described the show best in his 2011 comedy special, Weirdo.
“As a kid, we watched the weirdest stuff and nobody cared,” he said. “Do you guys remember Muppet Babies? Let me refresh your memory what Muppet Babies is about.
“Muppet Babies is a show about a lady with no face who takes care of a frog, a pig, a dog that plays the piano, and an alien named Gonzo that f**ks chickens. And adults were like, ‘Yeah, watch it, I don’t give a f**k, I’ve got things to do’. No one cared!”
The show was produced by The Jim Henson Company and Marvel Productions, and sometimes incorporated footage from live-action films, as the animated characters imagined themselves taking part in adventures based on their favourite movies.
Star Wars was one of those films – which probably won’t come as a surprise, given that Lucasfilm already had a long history with The Muppets at that point.
George Lucas famously wanted Muppets creator Jim Henson to bring Yoda to life in The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 – Henson didn’t have the time, but recommended his Muppets collaborator Frank Oz in his place.
In the same year Empire was released, C-3PO and R2-D2 appeared on Sesame Street, where Artoo fell in love with a fire hydrant…
… And Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Chewbacca appeared on an episode of The Muppet Show, all played by the original performers.
Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back producer Gary Kurtz also produced 1982’s The Dark Crystal, which was directed by Henson and Oz, and George Lucas himself was the executive producer of 1986’s Labyrinth, also directed by Henson.
Star Wars was referenced frequently in Muppet Babies (there’s literally footage from Star Wars in the show’s opening credits), but the most interesting episode for Star Wars fans has to be Gonzo’s Video Show from Season One, in which the gang borrow Nanny’s camcorder and make their own movies.
When Kermit says they need to make a movie that has parts for each of them, Miss Piggy suggests Star Wars.
Kermit plays Kermit Skyhopper, Miss Piggy plays Princess Piggy, Fozzie Bear plays Wubacca The Cookie, Scooter plays Scooter-D2, Skeeter plays Skeeter 3PO, Rawlf plays Obi-Rawlf Kenobi, Animal plays Animal Vader and Gonzo is Gonzolo.
‘Behind the scenes’, Gonzo directs, Kermit works on matte paintings, Fozzie is in charge of the props and Animal provides sound effects.
Actual footage from Star Wars is spliced throughout their home movie, and Gonzo marvels at his finished product.
“Gosh,” he says, “do you think George Lucas would let me direct his next movie, Star Weirdos?”
The most unusual creative decision in the episode is probably the choice to play Kermit Skyhopper and Princess Piggy’s relationship as a romance, despite the fact that Return of the Jedi had revealed Luke and Leia to be siblings the year before.
The episode can’t help but bring to mind Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, the home movie remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark made by three Mississippi teenagers between 1982 and 1989.
That fan film would eventually become the subject of Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, released earlier this year on Netflix.
Of course, the Muppet Babies had their own take on Indiana Jones in another Season One episode, Raiders of the Lost Muppet.
Despite the popularity of the show in its day, Muppet Babies has never gotten an official DVD release, and is currently viewable only through low-quality YouTube clips.
That probably has something to do with the challenge of clearing the sheer amount of footage it incorporated from other TV shows and movies.
But now that Disney owns The Muppets and Lucasfilm (and Marvel, for that matter), it should be a lot easier to sign off on the show’s release.
It’s almost like all these billion-dollar deals have just been part of an elaborate plan to finally get Muppet Babies on Blu-Ray…