Minute 69 – Weeki Wachee – The Great Muppet Caper

The Piggy’s Fantasy scene begins with Miss Piggy swimming in and under the water with a team of synchronized swimmers.

NOTES AND RESEARCH

“Miss Piggy’s Fantasy”

written by Joe Raposo

A vision of loveliness

A universe of charms

We’ll never rest until

You’re in our arms

Nicky:

Daffodils…Miss Piggy

Whipporwills…Miss Piggy

Everything that’s lovely and warm and,

Spring…Miss Piggy

Fantasy…Miss Piggy

Ecstasy…Miss Piggy

All that’s fair or fine or wonderful or anything

Miss Piggy

Nicky with Chorus:

When does the rapture begin and grow

Where does devotion and passion go

 

Piggy in water

Production notes

The Muppet Show Fan Club newsletter had this description of the filming of the scene:

“Miss Piggy’s underwater musical number was the most difficult scene to shoot, mostly because of communication problems. Lights, cameramen, cameras, speakers, monitors and Miss Piggy were all underwater. There were also 18 professional swimmers who had to dive into the pool at the right moment. We tried to get a dolphin to direct this part, but only one goldfish answered the ad.

So, the heat was on — literally. We kept the water at 90 degrees Fahrenheit which made the air temperature a moist 95 degrees. The conditions were tropical! We then tried to get a director who also happened to be a monkey or a crocodile. One monkey applied, but he didn’t like our terms (3 bananas/hour), and the crocodile ate his agent on the way to the studio.”[1]

Miss Piggy’s fantasy sequence began shooting on January 8, 1981; it was extremely complicated and required extensive preparation. The Muppet Workshop tested puppets in water to see if the flocking stayed on when wet, if the foam retained its shape, and if the wet puppets would actually stay afloat. Various adjustments were made until the right combination of glue, packing bubbles and flocking came together to ensure Miss Piggy would retain her grace and poise under water. Designer Calista Hendrickson created a stylish bathing costume for the star. Technicians rigged a system so that puppeteer Frank Oz (wearing scuba equipment) could operate Miss Piggy underwater without leaving a trail of bubbles. A full size pig costume was constructed for a child actor/swimmer for the long shot of Miss Piggy diving into the pool. Charkie Phillips, a water choreographer, and twelve swimmers were flown in from Los Angeles to work with the film’s choreographer Anita Mann and the six swimmers already on the scene.

One of the last scenes to be shot, this amazing aqua ballet took place in a specially built 50 x 80 x 8 foot pool on Stage 1 of EMI Elstree Studios outside London. In a memo to his staff in New York, Jim Henson wrote about the scene, “It’s safe to say that no one has ever done a sequence like this in any other film. At least not with a pig.”

 

From Jim Henson Red Book

“There’ll be spectacle, there’ll be fantasy, there’ll be derring do and stuff like you would never see…Hey! A movie! Yeah! We’re gonna be a movie starring ev’rybody — and me!”

And so began The Great Muppet Caper, the 1981 film conceived and directed by Jim Henson as the Muppets’ tribute to the fabulous Hollywood film extravaganzas of the 1930s and ‘40s. A classic jewel heist story combined with lavish production numbers, the film was the perfect showcase for Miss Piggy’s extraordinary talents. She sang, she danced, she rode a bike, and in her most spectacular scene, she performed a monumental water ballet in the spirit of Esther Williams.

Miss Piggy’s fantasy sequence began shooting on January 8, 1981; it was extremely complicated and required extensive preparation. The Muppet Workshop tested puppets in water to see if the flocking stayed on when wet, if the foam retained its shape, and if the wet puppets would actually stay afloat. Various adjustments were made until the right combination of glue, packing bubbles and flocking came together to ensure Miss Piggy would retain her grace and poise under water. Designer Calista Hendrickson created a stylish bathing costume for the star. Technicians rigged a system so that puppeteer Frank Oz (wearing scuba equipment) could operate Miss Piggy underwater without leaving a trail of bubbles. A full size pig costume was constructed for a child actor/swimmer for the long shot of Miss Piggy diving into the pool. Charkie Phillips, a water choreographer, and twelve swimmers were flown in from Los Angeles to work with the film’s choreographer Anita Mann and the six swimmers already on the scene.

One of the last scenes to be shot, this amazing aqua ballet took place in a specially built 50 x 80 x 8 foot pool on Stage 1 of EMI Elstree Studios outside London. In a memo to his staff in New York, Jim Henson wrote about the scene, “It’s safe to say that no one has ever done a sequence like this in any other film. At least not with a pig.”

https://www.henson.com/jimsredbook/2014/01/181981/

 

Body Double swimming (seen through harp) – Kiran Shah

Mermaids in Weeki Wachee

(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.)