So, my good friend Kyle lent me a copy of an early draft of The Muppetsscript a while back, and I finally got around to reading it for a second time today. The script is dated 10-30-09 and entitled The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time (credit still given to both Jason and Nicholas for writing it). So I thought I’d share all my thoughts about the script and the changes that were made!
For those of you interested in reading this script, I’m sorry, but I can’t share the actual thing with you guys. It’s not mine to share, plus I don’t have a scanner (and, no offense, scanning 100+ pages onto my computer sounds awful). If you ever get your hands on the script, wonderful, but for the time being the best I can do is share all my thoughts about it with you guys.
I guess this contains “spoilers” … but… not really? I mean, you’ve all seen the final product by now, I’d hope. I basically touch on a lot of things that were cut from the film.
First and foremost, the dialogue in the script is really stiff. This is to be expected, since it’s such an early draft (there are also a lot of typos, such as “Rolph” and “The Electric Karma”), so I’m glad they were able to work with the lines and make the dialogue flow better. The new characters are also really rough in this draft. Mary doesn’t have much of a personality and Walter’s ridiculously oblivious to everything and kind of, well, annoying. Let’s just say both characters came a long way in the end. Walter also had this strange quirk where he’d say “peanut” whenever he got nervous. It was never explained and it’s a good thing it was cut. There’s no opening number either. It’s pretty much a “Hey guys, let’s all go to LA!” and they do sort of deal. Very underwhelming.
In this draft, the Muppets had to gain 10 million viewers, not dollars, which is kind of a strange concept. Instead of going around the country and gathering the Muppets through a series of scenes and montages, Kermit just presses a Batman like button and the Muppets all flock back to his mansion. I think through some finessing this scene probably could’ve worked really well, but I like the sentimentality of hunting down each Muppet separately, so I’m glad it was changed. Plus, the scene where they’re in jail (which ended up as a deleted scene on the DVD) is in this draft of the script as well, but it doesn’t say why they’re in jail. In the deleted scene, it’s explained that they’re arrested for hosting a fake awards ceremony, but in this Gary gets a phone call about them being in jail and… yeah, that’s kind of it. It’s really weird.
Instead of Gary and Mary having issues about their anniversary, the tension between them comes from the fact that Piggy keeps flirting with Gary to make Kermit jealous. This definitely had potential to be a funny plot point, but it ended up getting scratched all together. Plus Gary and Mary’s anniversary is super random. There’s no mention leading up to it, and then suddenly they are out at their anniversary dinner and Mary mentions that “this was supposed to be our anniversary vacation” but, yeah, NO lead up or mention of an anniversary before that moment. Overall, Gary and Mary don’t have much of a personal crisis. Mary gets jealous of Piggy and goes back to Smalltown, and Gary… well, Gary doesn’t do much of anything after that, really. Instead of following Mary back home, he goes and becomes more supportive of Walter freaking out finding a talent. Miss Piggy is actually the one who convinces Mary to come back.
There’s no moving ‘Rainbow Connection’ number in this script, folks. Instead, Kermit and Piggy sing some schmultzy love song on stage. Call me crazy, but I’d rather have a number with Muppets holding hands and questioning why there are so many songs about rainbows. And Walter’s big act is him singing a duet with Gary about their friendship. It would’ve been… all right? I’m glad they gave Walter a talent of his own though.
Bobo is Tex’s sidekick, with no sign of Deadly. The script references that Bobo has “cohorts” but none of them are named, so they probably woudl’ve ended up being Whatnots or Frackles. Because there is a lack of Deadly, Bobo is the one who turns against Richman in the end, but it’s done in the same style as Deadly which really just does not work at all. Besides all of that, the ending is pretty much the same, but it does contain them making Tex Richman laugh, instead of having to sum that plot point up in the credits, which I’ll admit was nice to read.
Overall there’s just really no flow to the plot. The most irksome thing about the script is that the Muppets all spend waaaaaaaaay too much time fighting with one another. I mean, don’t get me wrong, arguments between them occasionally are just fine and no way out of the norm, but after I was 3/4th through the screenplay I found myself going, “I get it. They’re mad at each other. Shut up and continue the story.” There was also a really strange, random courtroom scene where everyone was blaming Kermit for hogging all the glory in their hay day, and it seems like it would’ve been a perfect sketch for, say, The Muppet Show, but not for this film. Not to mention the heart rending opening montage of Walter feeling alone in the world and discovering the Muppets is basically crushed down to a single monologue halfway through the script. Boo.
Another annoying fact: there is SO much more Gonzo in this script, not to mention multiple appearances by Rizzo and Pepe. What the what? This should’ve been kept in. Come on, guys.
I will say this though: there were some great cameo appearances planned in this original draft. Jack Black was the guest star for their performance even all the way back in 2009 (which makes me think that Jason Segel probably asked Jack if he was interested when he first started writing the script). There was definitely a Batman/Christian Bale scene with Gonzo, as well as a chase scene between Gonzo and Matt Damon in the style of the Jason Bourne films (both of which would’ve been awesome). They also write in a Charles Grodin cameo in the jail scene, where he would’ve made a reference to Great Muppet Caper. And I would’ve loved the multiple George Clooney cameos they wrote in (“Wait a minute. You’re not with Telemundo”).
And there actually were jokes in this script that were cut I truly did like. I audibly giggled at one part in Paris that contained a well timed joke about frogs legs. There was a joke about Bruce Springsteen falling into a shark tank that I liked (“Ohmigod! Bruce is literally riding a shark! He can do anything!”). They also show a lot more acts in the telethon; some very briefly, but that still would’ve been awesome to see more than just the few in the final product.
Most of all, there’s a nice moment where it’s been revealed through a series of brief (yet oddly comedic) flashbacks why the Muppets all broke up, and Walter breaks the tension by starting up a rendition of ‘Together Again’ and all the Muppets join in. I know we get Bobo and Deadly singing it in the final film, but watching all the core Muppets sing it would’ve been just magical.
One of my favorite things about this script though, there’s an action between dialouge that reads: “In our one or maybe two CGI shots in the entire film…” and that made me smile. It’s good to know, even early on, Nick and Jason didn’t want to include too much CGI. They wanted to stay true to the previous Muppet films, and that’s something I greatly admire about them.
In short, was this script perfect? Hell no. But it’s a first draft, and as someone who is working on the first draft of her own screenplay, I know just how rough first drafts are. The bones of the final product are clearly in it and it’s obvious that the two of them were on to something way back then. It made for a fun read and an interesting examination, so I really don’t have anything to complain about. I’m thankful for all the progress it made and the final film that came out of it in the end.