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Muppet make-over: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy reintroduced this fall

It may not be easy being green like Muppet favorite Kermit the Frog, but sometimes it's even harder to be hip.

By Staff writer / October 25, 2011

Human actors Amy Adams and Jason Segel join the familiar gang of Muppets as they try to save their beloved old theater in ‘The Muppets,’ a movie being billed for children and adults. It will arrive in theaters around Thanksgiving.

Disney Enterprises

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While Kermit the Frog still may not find it easy being green, his movie company is anxious about more pressing matters: being relevant.

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That's why Jim Henson's star amphibian is being reintroduced this fall in a new film that aims to please not just children but parents who still cherish the frog's folksy, banjo-strumming ways and frequent body slams by his longtime paramour, Miss Piggy.

The Muppets, those felt-padded anarchists known for vaudevillian high jinks, ruled 1970s television and launched a short-lived Hollywood franchise. They faded soon after, unable to find their place among animated fare that was faster ("Toy Story"), darker ("Transformers"), and more irreverent (SpongeBob Squarepants). In other words, children's entertainment entered a Bart Simpson world, which meant winking social commentary and snarky jabs were now just as requisite as live-action pratfalls and pie fights.

So when Disney bought the Muppets from Henson's heirs in 2004 for $68 million, the long slog to bring Kermit and the gang back meant testing the waters to determine if the Muppets still have cultural relevance.

The result: viral videos of the Muppets parodying R-rated movies, such as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Hangover Part II," and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" music video; some of the Muppets stepping into the ring on WWE's "Monday Night Raw"; and a compilation CD featuring classic Muppet songs covered by bands like My Morning Jacket and Andrew Bird.

"Sesame Street," Henson's flagship creation, which is launching its 42nd season this fall, is also expanding its appeal beyond its target preschool demographic: Last year Cookie Monster guest-hosted "Saturday Night Live" with Jeff Bridges; this spring Elmo sang a controversial duet with Katy Perry; and the show launched a YouTube channel geared for adult nostalgia featuring classic clips and celebrity cameos.

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