The Great Muppet Caper Minute 2 – A Froggy Day in London

Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo continue to float along in a hot air balloon while commenting on the opening credits… and so do we… without the balloon.

NOTES AND RESEARCH

Gonzo is funny and disturbing here

  • Wishing for lightning
  • Would like to try this without the balloon (Plummeting)
  • Love the ya!
  • Kermit: guess you could try once
  • How far can you plumet before you black out
  • Sure is tempting

Break 4th Wall talking about credits

“The Great Muppet Caper”

  • “Nice Title”

A working title for the project was The Muppet Movie 2

Filming of Hot Air Balloon Scene

On 8 Feb 1981, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Henson and his crew filmed on the outskirts of the city along the West Mesa and Rio Rancho during the first week of Feb 1981.

The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter (vol. 3, no. 2, 1981) had this description of the filming of The Great Muppet Caper:

In Albuquerque, we shot the hot air balloon sequence which comes at the beginning of the film. It wasn’t easy because there were so many variables. Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo went up in a genuine hot air balloon. If the wind blew, the balloon wouldn’t go up. when the balloon did go up, a helicopter, with a cameraman suspended underneath it, followed it around. (We tried to find a bird to work the camera, but the chickens didn’t like the idea and threatened to strike.) Occasionally, the helicopter would go above the balloon, forcing the hot air out and the balloon down, CRASH!

 

Music and Lyrics by: Joe Raposo

Joe Raposo (February 8, 1937 – February 5, 1989) was a composer who wrote songs, score, background cues, and other music for Sesame Street and other Muppet projects. Raposo created some of the best known Muppet songs, notably the “Sesame Street Theme”, “Bein’ Green”, and “C Is for Cookie,” and helped establish the musical sound of Sesame Street.

Raposo first worked with Jim Henson on the special Hey Cinderella! (1969), for which he scored and wrote all of the songs.

Such introspection resulted from Raposo’s songwriting methods, a process he called “psychological dress-up”:

“When you write songs, music and lyrics, you’re always putting on somebody else’s clothes. The degree to which you’re able to dress up and counterfeit yourself as this person, that’s as good as you are as a writer. And I’m pretty good at it, which leaves me tremendous doubts about my own personality.” Canemaker, John. The Animated Raggedy Ann & Andy. Bobbs-Merill, 1977. p. 81-87

Through his work on Sesame Street, Raposo deliberately set out to cross the forced boundaries between pop music and children’s songs.

“Some educators have complained that the music on Sesame Street is too sophisticated for little ears, that we should curb the spontaneity of blues and rock and instead teach the children “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But what most educators don’t realize is that the lamb left the nursery the day they brought the TV set in. Children are now exposed to and learn to love every conceivable style of music… And the beauty of our music is maybe that the child in the Grosse Pointe home is hearing gospel and blues for the first time and the black child in the urban ghetto is hearing the harpsichord and the flute for the first time. Someday, when they grow up, they’ll have one more thing in common.” “Beatles and Beethoven, Move on Over: The Seventies Sound is Sesame Street.” Children’s Television Workshop Newsletter. January 20, 1971. CTW Archives.

Raposo left Sesame Street after 1974 (replaced by Sam Pottle as musical director) contributing only occasional material (such as new songs for Sesame Street Fever) and would not return full-time until Season 15 in 1983, working more often with other lyricists. During that interim, Raposo continued to collaborate with Henson

Raposo scored Robert Altman’s Academy Award-winning drama Nashville (1975, with Lily Tomlin and Cloris Leachman) and composed music (sans lyrics) for the Three’s Company theme song as well as the instrumental theme for its spin-off The Ropers, among other projects.

In 1982, Joe Raposo was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “The First Time It Happens” but lost to “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” by Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, Christopher Cross (sailing) and Peter Allen from Arthur.[7] This was the only one of the first three Muppet films not to be nominated for Best Music, Original Song Score.

Choreographer: Annita Mann

Anita Mann (b. 1947) is a dancer and choreographer who worked on several Muppet projects. Early in her career, she appeared as a dancer in the 1965 film Love and Kisses (starring Ricky Nelson), in three Elvis Presley movies, and as a regular in the first season of the variety series Shindig!. She later choreographed the series Solid Gold and several touring stage shows, as well as music videos for Dolly Parton and Ozzy Osbourne.

Mann began her work with the Muppets in 1979, choreographing the special The Muppets Go Hollywood, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. She subsequently choreographed The Great Muppet Caper and recorded Miss Piggy’s tap dancing for the Dubonnet Club sequence. She again worked with Piggy for the television special The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show.

With the Sesame Street Muppets, Mann choreographed and directed two of the earliest Sesame Street Live shows, A Sesame Street Mystery: The Case of the Missing Rara Avis and Big Bird’s Super Spectacular Totally Amateur Show. She also served as a “staging consultant” for the special Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting.

5/9/1980 – ‘Joe Raposo and Anita Mann come over for meeting on ‘Caper’.’

  • Those two credits being the first, set the tone for the movie: Musical
  • Joe Raposo to write songs for a script that didn’t exist
  • Hired Choreographer Anita Mann for a dance sequences that didn’t exist yet

 

Production Designer: Harry Lange

Harry Hans-Kurt Lange (December 7, 1930 – May 22, 2008) was a German film production designer and art director.

Lange was born in 1930 in Eisenach, Thuringia. After World War II, Thuringia became part of Soviet-controlled East Germany; Lange went across the border to West Germany, where he studied art before moving to the United States in 1951. Upon arriving in the United States, Lange worked in advertising. During the Korean War, Lange worked for the U.S. military, illustrating flying manuals.

Subsequently, he began working at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and then headed the future projects section at NASA, working on spacecraft designs alongside Wernher von Braun. Whilst at NASA, Lange met the author Arthur C. Clarke, who introduced him to the film director Stanley Kubrick.[2] Kubrick offered Lange a job at his production company, using his astronautical design experience to produce authentic prop and set designs for a project Kubrick and Clarke were working on entitled Journey to the Stars. The project was renamed as 2001: A Space Odyssey (released in 1968), and the film’s design team, including Lange, were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. Although 2001lost to Oliver!, Lange and his team did win the BAFTA Award for Best Production Design in that year.

Although best known for 2001, Lange worked on a number of well-known films during his career. He was art director for the James Bond film Moonraker, and an astronautical consultant on Superman II. He worked on the three first Star Wars films, as an art director and set decorator for The Empire Strikes Back (for which he was again nominated for the Art Direction Oscar) and Return of the Jedi respectively; he also worked on the original Star Wars, although his work was uncredited. He worked as a production designer on two films for the Jim Henson Company: The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Dark Crystal (1982). He was also production designer for the last Monty Python film Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

Editor: Ralph Kemplen

Ralph Kemplen (1912 – 2004) was a noted British film editor, whose work spanned the last years of the silent film era and extended to his final two films, The Great Muppet Caper and The Dark Crystal. Kemplen was also a three-time Academy Award nominee, for his work on Moulin Rouge (1952), Oliver! (1968), and The Day of the Jackal (1973)

 

Director of Photography: Oswald Morris, B.S.C.

the musical Oliver!, for which he received his first Academy Award nomination, in 1969. In 1972, he won an Oscar for Fiddler on the Roof, and would receive one more nomination, in 1979, for The Wiz.

Although Morris officially retired in 1979, following the financial failure of The Wiz, he was persuaded to return to Elstree Studios to shoot The Great Muppet Caper and The Dark Crystal back to back. Morris described the decision in his 2006 memoir Huston, We Have a Problem:

“Jim and his talented team laid siege to me for weeks before finally, after a particularly good lunch in a Hampstead restaurant, I said “Yes.” Everyone whooped with such genuine delight that I felt I had taken the right decision even though it meant I had to sign a two-year, two-film contract — a deal that was not only the last one of my career but the most lucrative.”

During the opening of The Great Muppet Caper, when Morris’ credit appears, noting his membership in the British Society of Cinematographers, Fozzie asks, “Kermit, what does B.S.C. mean?” The film was Morris’ first with puppets, and he found that “mixing 3-foot-high puppets and humans proved a fascinating and taxing challenge.” In his own roster of glamorous film stars, included at the end of the book, the cinematographer makes particular mention of “the greatest of them all … Miss Piggy!”

7/15/1980 – ‘Meet Ralph Kemplen – love him.’

Jim spent the start of 1980 assembling the team for The Great Muppet Caper and The Dark Crystal. He identified the cinematographer he wanted to work with on both films, Ossie Morris, right at the beginning of the year. That summer, he met Ralph Kemplen and knew he had found his editor. Kemplen, based in England, was renowned for his editing work on more than fifty films going back to the 1930s. Like Morris, Kemplen was much in demand by American directors, and Kemplen and Morris had worked together previously on the award-winning films The Odessa File, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Oliver! and Moulin Rouge. Given that Jim saw The Dark Crystal as a major breakthrough and knew it would be a complicated shoot, he was eager to have collaborators in place that had already learned to work together. By making two picture deals with both Morris and Kemplen, Jim was able to use Caper as a chance for them to get to know his performers and production people and for the whole group to find a collaborative rhythm.

Executive Producer: Martin Starger

  • Martin Starger executive produced The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Go Hollywood.
  • President of ABC Entertainment (1972-1975)

(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.)