More Than a Rainbow Connection: The Muppet Movie Revisited
The Muppet Movie will return to theaters for two days in July for its 40th anniversary.
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“More entertaining than humanly possible!”
Those words, emblazoned atop the poster for The Muppet Movie, were a tongue-in-cheek reminder of how the film would be unlike anything audiences had seen before. And indeed it was. In many ways, the Muppets’ first cinematic outing was the culmination of Jim Henson’s desire to bring the art of puppetry to audiences on a scale that had never been previously attempted.
By the time of the film’s release in summer 1979, the Muppets were already stars in their own right thanks to frequent television appearances (including on Sesame Street, Saturday Night Live and, of course, The Muppet Show). Yet the prospect of their own feature still seemed like a dicey one. Concerns ranging from the practical to the technical reared their ugly heads. Then there was the issue of whether audiences would be willing to pay to see Kermit the Frog and company on the big screen when they were used to getting them for free on TV. But in the end, creativity prevailed: The Muppet Movie was a critical and financial triumph.
Forty years after its initial release, The Muppet Movie remains the definitive cinematic outing for these characters because it manages to accomplish so much in its brief 95-minute runtime. It’s an origin story, a road movie, a romance, a comedic romp, a Western, and a musical – narratively skipping through each genre as gracefully as Kermit rides his Schwinn. Achieving all of this would be a remarkable feat in and of itself, but Henson, Frank Oz, and director James Frawley weren’t content to stop there. They wanted the film to be nothing short of a call to arms for viewers to embrace their own creative spirit.
The songs of The Muppet Movie (written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher) share a corresponding mindset. Much has been written about how “The Rainbow Connection” has the Pavlovian ability to bring members of Generation X to tears instantly. While it is no doubt a powerful song–and a rightful contemporary standard–there are two other tracks on the film’s soundtrack that feel more urgent when viewed from a 2019 point of view: “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” and “Finale: The Magic Store.”
further reading – SDCC 2019: Dates, Schedule, Panels, Tickets, and News
The former is sung by Gonzo, as it appears that he and his friends’ dreams of getting to Hollywood to make the big time have come to an end. Looking up at the stars and yearning to be among them, he belts out the film’s most sincere lyrics. “There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met. Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?” he plaintively asks. At this point, the movie reveals what it is truly about: the importance of finding one’s tribe. These oddball characters have all been brought together by Kermit’s desire to entertain, one that becomes a shared ideal and unifier. The message here is simply that no matter your background, you can find your chosen family.
In “Finale: The Magic Store,” the Muppets’ dreams have come true and yet there is still much work to be done. “Keep believing, keep pretending, we’ve done just what we’ve set out to do,” Kermit states. There’s still truth to this declaration, especially in a time where negativity reigns. With The Muppet Movie, Henson and his colleagues aimed to encourage others to pursue their passions. Four decades on, the film’s fans have taken its message to heart and done just that, as will generations of lovers and dreamers to come.
The Muppet Movie will screen in more than 700 movie theaters nationwide on Thursday, July 25, and Tuesday, July 30 at 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. (local time) each day. Visit fathomevents.com for more info.