Disney has proven itself more than capable of milking its properties for every bit of profit that they can. Since acquiring first Marvel and then LucasFilms, there has been a steady stream of buzz over a variety of spinoff projects centered on the various characters that were acquired… from Iron Man to Boba Fett.
Oddly, the Mouse has not done the same with one of its other properties, the Muppets. Sure, there have been some synergistic TV appearances by Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy and the gang, and the feature film The Muppets did enough at the box office to spawn this spring’s Muppets Most Wanted. But, as with Star Wars and Marvel comics, the Muppets have their own universe that could be mined for additional projects. These secondary felt performers have enough juice to take a turn at center stage.
The Great Gonzo
Some Muppets observers would argue that 1999’s Muppets from Space was Gonzo’s vehicle, since he was, after all, the Muppet from space. Be that as it may, if the Incredible Hulk can keep being revamped and re-launched, then so can Gonzo. The weird looking blue guy even has his own established posse with Rizzo the Rat and Camilla the Chicken ready to join in. Take Gonzo and his pals, drop them in some well-known destination like Paris or Las Vegas, and set them loose to wreak havoc. It practically writes itself.
Like all great drummers from Keith Moon on, Animal has always been on the restless side. Does anyone really think that the crazy guy manning the skins for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem doesn’t have a side project or two? We saw him hanging with Jack Black at an anger management retreat in The Muppets, so just borrow a page from the Judd Apatow/Jason Segel playbook and assign Jonah Hill or Michael Cera to get Animal to the big show at the Greek or wherever. Russell Brand will seem innocent — and less hairy — by comparison.
The fuzzy lipped Swede has always been a fan favorite and has even done commercial work on his own, like taking over cooking duties at the ESPN commissary in one of the network’s “This is SportsCenter” promos. When a network tried to build a sitcom around superstar chef Emeril Lagasse, it was an epic fail, mostly because he wasn’t funny and couldn’t act. Swedish Chef doesn’t have those same limitations. Install him in a sitcom where he’s the new chef at a five-star restaurant in Manhattan, give him a strong ensemble, and voila! Or, you know, whatever the equivalent expression is in Swedish.
Rowan Atkinson spent years starring in Mr. Bean projects without talking, so the precedent is already established for Beaker’s brand of comedy. Get the inept lab assistant separated from his boss, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and have him be mistaken for a spy or international art thief or an astronaut. Even with just his “meep-meep,” he can still save the day and get the girl.
Rowlf the Dog
How many people know that Rowlf was actually Jim Henson’s first nationally known Muppet, appearing on The Jimmy Dean Show starting in 1963? Everyone just assumes that it was Kermit, who was still relegated to local TV at the time. In the grand tradition of Ray and Walk the Line, Rowlf really needs a biopic. From his early television success in the 1960s through his transition to ensemble player in the ’70s and ’80s to largely being forgotten now, his story could be the stuff of little gold statues.