Just because someone was associated with and worked on a franchise from the very beginning doesn’t mean they will have a job for life with the group. That is what one iconic puppeteer is finding out with the Muppets franchise. Frank Oz is claiming that Disney wants nothing to do with him in future projects and he believes that the studio thinks his personality and what he brings to the characters aren’t in line with the current version of The Muppets.
In an interview with The Guardian, Frank Oz didn’t pull any punches in what he sees to be the problem between him and Disney when it comes to the Muppets. And he also didn’t hold back in terms of what he thought the studio did to the late Jim Henson. Oz had some interesting quotes for sure, starting out by saying that, “They (Disney) don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the Muppets they believe in.” He went on to say regarding the current iteration of the Muppets that the “soul is not there.”
If he was interested in ever going back to work with Disney or the Muppets franchise ever again, this of course isn’t the way to go about it. But it doesn’t appear that is what Frank Oz wants anyway. He didn’t elaborate on what he meant about which orders he wasn’t following, but from the tone of the interview, it very much appeared that he had no interest in kowtowing to studio directives in this sense.
Later in the interview, which is wide-ranging, detailed, and honest about his career, the conversation went back to Jim Henson quite a bit as well. Much of the discussion was about their working relationship and just how close they were throughout the years. In one section though, Oz does blame Disney for Henson’s health problems saying, in reference to a deal between the studio and Henson for ownership of the Muppets’ brand, “The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick…” Maybe an overstatement, though Henson did die in 1990 during that deal in question. It is rather obvious, at least in this interview where Oz stands with Disney and likely points to why the studio would be reluctant to work with him on current projects.
Frank Oz is an iconic creator and puppeteer who was instrumental in the creation of The Muppets. He voiced and acted characters like Miss Piggy, Fonzie Bear, Animal, and others for the franchise. He also voiced the character of Yoda for the Star Wars franchise in the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But he has been an accomplished director as well, helming movies like Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob? and later The Score and The Stepford Wives.
But Frank Oz hasn’t worked on any Muppets projects since 2007 and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. It is a shame considering what a legend he is and how his voice and talent helped shape the franchise as we know it today. The current Muppets’ show is Muppets Now which was released this summer and airs on Disney+. As for Frank Oz, he was last seen on screen in Knives Out and reprised the voice of Yoda for the sequel trilogy of Star Wars films. Apparently, that’s a franchise that still wants him around.