Frank Oz on a Return to the Muppets and 'Sesame Street': "Disney Doesn't Want Me"
"They don't want me because I won't follow orders and I won't do the kind of Muppets they believe in...the soul's not there"
Published Aug 31, 2021Alongside the late Jim Henson, Frank Oz is recognized for bringing a host of iconic puppets to life on The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, but in a new interview, he has shared that his limited involvement in working with these casts of characters hasn't entirely been by choice.
Speaking with The Guardian, Oz revealed that Disney and Sesame Workshop, who control the Muppets and Sesame Street, respectively, have not come calling to have him continue performing.
"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," he shared.
The publication notes that Oz "can't bear to watch" either group of puppets today, as he feels, "The soul's not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them." Oz has not worked with the Muppets since 2007, three years after Disney closed a deal with the Jim Henson Company to acquire the rights to the intellectual property.
Oz shared that in his mind, there is a "demarcation line between the Jim Henson Muppets and the Disney Muppets," offering, "There's an inability for corporate America to understand the value of something they bought. They never understood, with us, it's not just about the puppets, it's about the performers who love each other and have worked together for many years."
"The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick," Oz added of his late friend and collaborator's 1990 passing. "[Then-head of Disney Michael Eisner] was trying to get Sesame Street, too, which Jim wouldn't allow. But Jim was not a dealer, he was an artist, and it was destroying him, it really was."
This is not the first time Oz has criticized the current iterations of the Muppets and Sesame Street. Previously, he turned down the opportunity to reprise his characters in Disney's 2011 film, The Muppets, due to concerns about the screenplay from Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller.
In a 2017 interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, Oz noted that he felt Sesame Street was becoming "a little kids' show" that was no longer "written on two levels where it's hip for adults." In that same conversation, Oz shared his view of how Disney could breathe new life into the Muppets.
"I don't think the answer is to do something new. I think the answer is to go back and be true to who they are," he explained. "There's nothing new to do except to dig deeper into their purity and innocence; that is what speaks to the audience. The problem was, in my opinion, that they were trying to do something new. And trying to do something new is an intellectual attempt, not an emotional attempt. It's purely intellectual. And that doesn't work with us, with the Muppets. What works is what's emotional, what touches people, what feels right, what has fun, how we can screw around — that's what people love about the Muppets, and not the attempt to do new Muppets."