Any Muppets fan knows that uneasy feeling of watching recent Muppet works — like the short-lived 2016 mockumentary series, the recent attempts at theme-park integration, or the Disney+ efforts — and getting overcome with major Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibes. If it walks like a frog and it talks like a frog, that still doesn’t make it Kermit. They scrunch their faces up all different now. Their rapport is less shaggy and anarchic. You might have convinced yourself that this is simply because the old guard of original Muppet performers have either passed away, like creator Jim Henson in 1990, or retired. But director and performer Frank Oz — who originated the characters of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Yoda, Cookie Monster, Grover, and Bert — would like to work with the Muppets and Sesame Street again, he just hasn’t been asked by their current corporate owners.
In a profile in the Guardian on Monday, Oz said, “I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years. They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in.” Speaking about recent Muppets and Sesame Street works, he added, “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.” HBO acquired the rights to first-run episodes of Sesame Street in 2015, and Disney acquired The Muppets IP in 2004, after well over a decade of negotiations. In the Guardian interview, Oz says, “The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick,” speaking of Henson’s death from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome at the age of 53, amid negotiations with Disney. “Jim was not a dealer, he was an artist, and it was destroying him, it really was.” The message is clear: Disney needs to let Muppets be weird again. How could they say no to Miss Piggy himself?