Most people probably don’t associate fuzzy, googly-eyed puppets with some of the greatest literary works of yore, but The Muppets have always been about breaking down barriers. And sometimes doors. But mostly barriers.
One of my favorite Muppet films of all time is The Muppets Christmas Carol. It is a timeless classic narrated by “Charles Dickens” based on a timeless classic actually written by Charles Dickens.
And just recently, Estelle and I watched The Muppets Treasure Island, which is a passable film based on a classic book that I remember as being only passably good, although Jim Henson was probably still alive the last time I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
Despite the fact that The Muppets Treasure Island didn’t quite live up to the relatively low standards I have in my head for Treasure Island the novel, it got me thinking: what other literary properties could The Muppets
ruin interpret in the future?
The Muppets Moby Dick
This one is a no-brainer, right? The Muppets may have sunk in their last nautical expedition but surely they can redeem themselves by tackling Herman Melville’s literary leviathan about…well….a real leviathan.
Picture the opening scene, where the camera pans down on a 19th-century Nantucket harbor, as Muppet scalawags and actual scalawags go about their business on the docks. Ships are loaded and unloaded, a Muppet whale tells the whalers that they could just let him go and say he attacked the ship, and maybe everyone breaks out into a cheerful song. Then, we cut to Gonzo strolling along the pier, who looks rights into the camera and says, “Call me Gonzo…..I mean, ISHMAEL. Call me Ishmael. I knew I would mess that up!”
It only gets better from there, folks. Picture Animal as Queequeg, the mysterious and tattooed harpooner who befriends Ishmael and stars in one of the funniest scenes in classic literature, spearing food at the breakfast table at the inn with his harpoon while the fellow whalers look on in horror.
Then there’s Starbuck, the first mate on the Pequod, who is a seriously stuffy Quaker but still a good man. Of course, that is a role Sam Eagle was born to play.
Stubb and Flask, the second and third mates on the Pequod, respectively, could be played to perfection by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his trusty assistant, Beaker.
Captain Ahab, ostensibly the star of the book aside from Ishmael the narrator, would obviously have to be Kermit’s role. Maybe that big blue Muppet (Thog) could play Moby Dick, although I guess they couldn’t call him the White Whale, could they?
And of course, since this is a Muppet movie, we’d have to take some creative liberties and, you know, change the ending so that everyone does NOT die. (If you haven’t read Moby Dick by now, sorry I spoiled the ending but what’s wrong with you?)
Maybe instead of destroying the Pequod and killing everyone, Moby Dick and the crew can all sing a song about getting along and then dance/swim off into the sunset. Or, right before Moby/Thog is about to smash the Pequod asunder, everyone is saved at the last minute by an impassioned, heartwarming, feel-good speech by Captain Kermit Ahab. In any event, it would be a thrilling spectacle.
The Great Muppets Gatsby….or The Muppets Great Gatsby…or The Great Kermit
Hi there, ho there, old sport!
Jay Kermit Gatsby has remained completely smitten by Miss Piggy Buchanan for years, despite her seemingly loveless marriage to Bobo “The Bear” Buchanan. Jay Kermit pines for Miss Piggy by throwing lavish parties at his Muppet Studios Mansion in West Egg on Your West Face, attended by the likes of well-to-do folk like Fozzie Bear, Rizzo the Rat, and rich old geezers Statler and Waldorf. Of course, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem play rousing big band tunes throughout the night and the Swedish Chef cooks up a never-ending smorgasbord of food, bork bork bork.
One of Jay Kermit’s best friends is the new “whatever” in town, Gonzo Carraway, who has just arrived in West Egg on Your West Face and is fascinated by the fabulously wealthy Gatsby. No one knows where Jay Kermit got his wealth, but it’s rumored he engaged in some shady business deals with Meyer “Uncle Deadly” Wolfsheim.
Again, since this a Muppet movie we can’t have anyone actually die. So when Myrtle “Janet” Wilson gets run over by Miss Piggy Buchanan, she just has a few tread marks on her face and says something slightly spacey and burnt-out.
And obviously, Jay Kermit and Miss Piggy get together in the end (while Bobo “The Bear’ Buchanan gets distracted by something across the street) and no one dies. It’s the happiest retelling of Fitzgerald’s classic you’ll ever see, old sport!
Maybe (not) surprisingly, it was pretty hard to think of any other great literary works to be, ahem, adapted for Muppetational uses. Here are a few other possibles.
Maybe it’s too similar to Muppets From Space, but how about The Muppet’s Guide to the Galaxy? Can you imagine a three-armed Kermit as Zaphod Beeblebrox? Miss Piggy as Trillian and a robotic Fozzie as Marvin who makes bad jokes instead of trying to kill himself all the time? I bet that nobody under 24 would understand three-quarters of the plot, which would make it the Muppet equivalent of most Saturday morning cartoons.
Moving on, I truly thought that A Muppet Farewell to Arms would work well because it’s a great love story, which would let Kermit (Frederic) and Miss Piggy (Catherine) really shine…but then I forgot about how it’s an insane Debbie Downer at the end. Creative license, here we go! Everyone lives, Hemingway be damned!
One of my other favorite literary works is As I Lay Dying, but somehow I don’t think The Muppets As I Lay Dying would work too well, especially considering how the entire book is centered around a family of questionable mental stability trundling a putrid, rotting corpse throughout Mississippi.
Come to think of it, most classic literary works are pretty damn grim and depressing. Lots of people die, violence and heartbreak abound, and happy endings are very few and far between. Maybe creative license isn’t such a bad idea.
However, let me leave you with this dismaying adaptation: 50 Shades of The Muppets!