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MUPPETS MOST WANTED

"Muppet Most Wanted" Goes Global
Production Designer Eve Stewart Makes Muppets Magic

With the international locale and the unique requirements of the Muppets, production designer Eve Stewart had her work cut out for her. But she says she approached the project like any other. "My job is to bring the script to life by creating a world for these characters."

The film was shot in part at London's Pinewood Studios, where Stewart constructed sets that met the unique requirements of the Muppets. According to Stewart, there is a wide range of sizes for the characters in a film like "Muppets Most Wanted"-Kermit is a little over 2-feet tall, while Sweetums is almost 7-feet tall. "It's certainly an endeavor to get the two to marry completely. Certain things, like doorknobs, have to be placed strategically to accommodate human characters and Muppets. We were constantly playing with scale."

But Stewart says her greatest objective was to ensure that the Muppets looked good. "We were constantly thinking of how we could make them-particularly Miss Piggy-look their absolute best," she says. "We had to be very careful with colors and textures and avoid anything that would clash or make them disappear-Kermit's not a chameleon, so we avoid green completely, for example."

The production also went on location, pursuing tricky sites and braving England's weather. "It seems Mother Nature is a fan of the Muppets," says producer David Hoberman. "There were a few exterior shots that called for sunshine-a bit of a rarity in that part of the world. But when we needed sunny weather, England obliged."

The team captured the essence of its European backdrop by shooting in locales like a Dublin train station. "It's not easy finding an abandoned steam train that's rotting," says Stewart. "We were diligent. We had to persuade them to drag the trains out and let us paint them."

England's Upper Heyford's bleak airfield was transformed into the Russian Gulag. The weather proved Siberian, too, reaching minus eight degrees Celsius during the three-day shoot. "We wanted to represent someplace daunting and somewhat fearful to a frog," says Stewart. "We looked at old films and tried to create something that looked run down with an institutional color."

For the film's finale, filmmakers ventured into a locale that few productions are allowed to access-the Tower of London. Says producer Todd Lieberman, "I was told that this was the first time ever a proper film crew has been let inside the way we were allowed to film inside the walls, which I think is pretty special."

"We weren't allowed to touch a brick, understandably," adds Stewart. "They're usually really strict, but luckily the woman who runs it likes the Muppets even more than James Bond, so they opened the doors and said 'Come on in.'"

Stewart and the filmmakers tied the studio and location scenes together with a nod to crime stories of the past. "Both James [Bobin] and I really love the '60s and '70s crime capers-so a lot of that is figured into the look of the film," she says. "We tried to give the Muppets a framework in which they could perform that's realistic, but heightened. You've got to believe that they are in peril, but able to break into a massive song-and-dance number. The experience has been brilliant."

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