Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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What Went Wrong?: Vol. 45 – Muppets Most Un-Wanted Edition

Wow! Zack’s done 45 of these? Anyway, It’s Nick, and  I’m hijacking this column today!

This past weekend, the eighth theatrically released Muppets movie, Muppets Most Wanted, was released (look for my review soon). I went to an 8pm showing on Saturday and was amazed to see the theatre was over half-empty. I was talking to someone the following day to discover that the showing she went to only had one other couple in it.

Surprised, I went online and discovered Muppets Most Wanted came in a distant second place by earning a lackluster $16.5 million dollars (the pervious installment nearly doubled that during its opening weekend). This was a huge disappointment especially after the massive success (both critically and financially) of 2011’s The Muppets which effectively restarted the mostly dead Muppet film franchise. I am sure Disney was expecting Muppets Most Wanted to be a similar success, so what exactly went wrong?


Well, for starters, it was dominated and crushed by the latest young adult novel-turned-movie Divergent. Am I the only one who never heard of this series until the movie was coming out? Looking very much in the same vein of The Hunger Games, it feeds into that massive fan base. Clearly these young female-led action flicks meet all those specific demographs much more than the Muppets do. Though not making nearly as much, released the same weekend as The Hunger Games was two years previously, Divergent had the perfect storm going for it.

But, okay, there was the Divergent competition. Surely the Muppets can be designed for families and adults who loved the Muppets when they were younger? After all the last film was released during the winter movie season and it did gang-busters!

Well, yes and no.

While the first film played heavily on the nostalgia that audiences had for the Muppets, that’s really only a trick you can use once. Reminiscent adults got their fix. Now, they may not care. Kids who went to the previous film likely came with their families and even though they might have enjoyed the movie, Kermit and friends just don’t have that “must-see” appeal. Plus, I bet those families still went to see Divergent as that was something fresh.

Not helping matters, I am sure, is that Muppets Most Wanted didn’t keep the previous film’s human co-stars of Jason Segel and Amy Adams. While replacing human characters isn’t such a new thing with Muppet movies, the previous movie was largely anchored by them. I can see that by not including them, the film put off potential audiences.

However, all the above is minimal. Here is the real reason why I think this film faltered. Remember how completely awesome the The Muppets marketing campaign was back in 2011? With all the fake trailers and movie posters? Each new one got more and more ridiculous and the film got a lot of buzz and good will. Muppets Most Wanted’s marketing was horrible by comparison. Disney’s team did nothing eye-catching or original. True, they eventually released some parody posters, but those didn’t come out until two weeks before the film’s release. The marketing was extremely pedestrian and it did not do a good job of selling the flick by highlighting a plot that seemed sort of “eh” and maybe more kiddie that it actually is. While the marketing did the job, there nothing stood out about it. And the numbers show that it didn’t engage audiences.


One of the parody posters. Nicely done, but it was too little too late.


I can see Muppets Most Wanted being successful in the video release market, so I am sure the film will churn a profit. I am really surprised that Disney dropped the ball on this. This is a series that is still fairly strong creatively, but without people going to the movies to see it, it is going to flounder. If another movie is made any time in the near future, I really hope the mistakes made with this will be corrected, so the Muppets can have that 2011-styled success again.

7 responses to “What Went Wrong?: Vol. 45 – Muppets Most Un-Wanted Edition

  1. Pingback: The Weekend Box-Office Ongoing Discussion Thread - Page 22

  2. McSpazzatron March 31, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Look, Disney probably felt that all the parody trailers and so on that were done for the first film did the job of interesting audiences in the Muppets again. Supposedly, the franchise had been rejuvenated, right? What with all the movie critics’ slobberingly positive reviews and the Oscar-winning song and The Green Album etc. So it’s perfectly understandable if Disney felt there was no need to go through all of the gimmickry yet again. Besides, there WERE trailers for Muppets Most Wanted all over the place for months – remember the Twitter parodies? – and the puppets made TV appearances freaking everywhere! You couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing a Muppet in a commercial or doing interviews. In point of fact, Disney did a great job of promoting “Muppets Most Wanted”. Everyone knew about it. Stop blaming Disney for the film’s failure. It can’t hold a gun to audiences’ heads and force them to buy tickets for a movie they don’t want to see!

    Your first two reasons are the correct ones. The Muppets can’t compete well with YA movies and most animation and…well, most anything, because they’re old and played out. And as you stated, nostalgia will only work for so long. And it’s the 21st century and not all the things people grew up with age well. Bottom line, the Muppets were just not a good buy for Disney. It can’t keep propping up a franchise that can’t earn its keep. Eight movies built around a 1970’s fad is a pretty good run. But maybe it’s time Kermit retired to the sock drawer.

    • Nick! March 31, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Whoa…what’s with the hostility and defensiveness? I never said that Disney didn’t market the film, nor am I solely putting blame on them. As I wrote above, there were many reasons why this film wasn’t the success that it could have been. One of them was that their marketing was poorly executed and average at best. Having something marketed in your face only works if it has some sort of X-factor to get you interested in the film. The twitter thing was clever, but wasn’t enough.

      • CultureCast-Z March 31, 2014 at 9:49 pm

        “What’s with the hostility and defensiveness?”

        Nick, it just wouldn’t be the internet without self-righteous hostility and defensiveness! Stuff like the shit this guy posted are the reason why the internet sucks now.

    • CultureCast-Z March 31, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      “Remember the Twitter parodies?”

      No, I don’t. And to be honest, I’m glad that I’m entirely unaware of them.

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