The Muppet Movie Minute 5: The Outlaw Biker Film

We learn about the duo behind the beloved movie soundtrack, the man who gave voice to the Muppets and the guy who directed them. But we also learn about the guy who edited Dumb and Dumber and the DP on a really, really, really strange genre mash-up film.

 

NOTES AND RESEARCH

Nominated for Best Music, Original Song: Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher (for The Rainbow Connection)

  • Lost to Norma Rae, David Shire (music), Norman Gimbel (lyrics) for the song It Goes Like It Goes

Nominated for Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score: Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher

  • Lost to All that Jazz, Ralph Burns.
Kenny Ascher, Jim Henson and Paul Williams recording for The Muppet Movie (posted by Paul Williams Twitter @IMPaulWilliams)
A scan of The Muppet Movie Soundtrack vinyl

 

Music and Lyrics: Paul Williams

  • He is perhaps best known for writing popular songs performed by a number of acts in the 1970s
  • “Evergreen”, the love theme from A Star Is Born, starring Barbra Streisand, for which he won a Grammy for Song of the Year and an Academy Award for Best Original Song
  • “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie.
  • He also wrote the lyrics to the opening theme for The Love Boat
  • Williams appeared in the 2017 film Baby Driver as the Butcher, an arms dealer.
  • The biographical documentary Paul Williams Still Alive includes clips of his appearance on The Muppet Show.
Paul Williams with the Muppets (From Jim Henson’s Red Book)
Paul Williams and Barbara Streisand (Getty Images)
Paul Williams and Barbara Streisand (from http://www.paulwilliamsofficial.com)
Evergreen CD Cover
Evergreen sheet music
Paul Williams (from http://www.paulwilliamsofficial.com)
Paul Williams (from http://www.paulwilliamsofficial.com)
Paul Williams and David Letterman (from http://www.paulwilliamsofficial.com)
Still Alive Poster
Paul Williams in “Baby Driver”
Director James Frawley from a 2014 USA Today article
Paul Williams and Aerosmith (from http://www.paulwilliamsofficial.com)

 

Music and Lyrics: Kenny Ascher

  • jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who is active in jazz, rock, classical, and musical theater genres — in live venues, recording studios, and cinema production.
  • He is widely known for co-writing, with Paul Williams, “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie.
  • Ascher’s own rendition of The Rainbow Connection was featured in the closing credits of The Break-Up (starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston)
Kenny Ascher (2015) (Getty Images)

 

Film Editor: Chris Greenbury

  • won the BAFTA Award for Best Editing for American Beauty (1999), which he was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.
  • in general Greenbury edited comedy films, including six directed by the Farrelly brothers commencing with 1994’s Dumb and Dumber.

Production Designer: Joel Schiller

Director of Photography: Isidore Mankofsky

  • 1985: Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
  • 1971: Werewolves on Wheels
    • Werewolves on Wheels is a 1971 American exploitation film that blends two genres: the outlaw biker film and the traditional horror movie.
Isidore Mankofsky – Director of Photography (Getty Images)
The amazing Werewolves on Wheels movie poster

Executive Producer: Martin Starger

Producer: Jim Henson

Written by: Jerry Juhl

  • head writer for the Muppets and Fraggle Rock for nearly four decades.
  • he wrote or co-wrote five of the six Muppet theatrical movies: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets from Space.
  • I did it for self protection… Frank Oz joined us around 1963. He was, and he is, a magnificent puppeteer… absolutely A-1! I never rated much better than B-2… so I figured I’d better save my job by doing something else and besides, my arm was sore!
  • “He was — in many ways — the real voice of the Muppets and of every project from the Jim Henson Co.” – Lisa Henson
  • “He was the person responsible really for the heart of the Muppets,” – Frank Oz
  • Jerry Juhl Day is September 26, the anniversary of Jerry Juhl’s passing in 2005. Fans have decided that this should be a day to do silly things rather than mourn Jerry’s death.
Jerry Juhl (From Jim Henson’s Red Book)
Jerry Juhl and Jim Henson
A Jim Henson sketch of Jerry Juhl (From Jim Henson’s Red Book)
Jerry Juhl in Berlin (1962) (From Jim Henson’s Red Book)

3/24/1978 – ‘Begin Jerry Juhl on Muppet Movie’

(Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist)

By the time Jerry Juhl started working on the script of The Muppet Movie, he had been collaborating with Jim for almost 17 years and was trusted to give voice to the essence of the Muppets.

Jerry once wrote, “When comedy is written well, the writer first writes characters who have attitudes, passions, obsessions, derangements, faults, nobility, and, in short, humanity. These things should be funny in and of themselves. Then, when everything else is done, he tries to find some jokes to sprinkle in – like raisins in the cake.”

(Jack Burns first) He jumped in and reworked the structure and the script.

Jack Burns

  • Burns was the head writer for the first season of Hee Haw and The Muppet Show. Schreiber appeared on an episode with The Muppet Show during that first season.
  • 10/8/1977 “Working with Jack Burns – story outline – The Muppet Movie”
  • Jack Burns, head writer for the first season of The Muppet Show, wrote the first two drafts of The Muppet Movie script based on an outline he developed with Jim in 1977.
  • The combination of Jack Burns’ comedy, Jerry Juhl’s sense for the characters and their relationships, and Jim’s overall vision made for a compelling screenplay.
Jack Burns (1971)

Directed by: James Frawley

  • The Monkees
  • Columbo
  • Magnum, P.I.
  • Cagney and Lacey
  • Law and Order
  • Picket Fences
  • Ghost Whisperer
  • Smallville
  • Grey’s Anatomy
Director James Frawley and his look-a-like Muppet
Director James Frawley on the set of The Muppet Movie

A 2014 USA Today interview with James Frawley https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2014/03/21/first-muppets-director-jim-frawley/6715775/

Frawley on Getting the Job Done:

  • “The question was, since the Muppets had only been photographed on tape inside the studio, would they be accepted in a real location?”
  • Henson, Frawley, puppeteer Frank Oz and some Muppets went out into the English countryside for a screen test.
  • “We shot them in and among cows — real locations though — trees, farmland and cars to see if you accepted their reality mixed in with real reality,” said Frawley.
  • “It was also way for Jim to see how I worked with them and if I understood the process, which I didn’t at the beginning.”
  • Every scene was shot through the camera, he said, and no effects were added later.
  • “So what you have to do is frame things in the foreground, sofas and chairs, so you didn’t see below the frame.”
Still shot from the Muppet Movie Camera Test
Still shot from the Muppet Movie Camera Test

 

Seem to be flying forward but never getting closer to the rainbow

Cut shot through clouds: Island in the swamp

Lens flare!

Beautiful transition

Banjo strumming fits the visuals

 

Rainbow Connection

Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?

(These are mostly my thoughts and observations. I have occasionally added some of Annie’s thoughts after the recording. I have done my best to attribute info where needed. Many of the more common facts about the film and The Muppets are not directly attributed to any one source. It is not my intention to claim all of the above information as my own. If you find a place that needs attribution, please contact me with the source and I will be happy to add it.)