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THE MUPPETS

Muppet Fans Unite
Ranging in age from 8 to 80, Muppet fans span the globe. So it makes sense that Disney's "The Muppets” was ignited by a Muppet fan. "It started when I was a kid,” says Jason Segel. "The Muppets were my first comic influence and I was in love with puppetry. I just thought it was an amazing art form.”

"All comedy writers are Muppet fans,” adds Nicholas Stoller. "It's the gateway to comedy. It's like the first thing you try and then you slowly fall down the rabbit hole of comedy.”

A film Segel and Stoller previously collaborated on actually set things in motion, says Segel. "We ended ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall' with a lavish puppet musical, and The Jim Henson Company designed the puppets. Something started growing in my belly, and Nick and I came up with this idea and pitched it to Disney. Disney liked the idea so we wrote the script.”

Enter producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman—each with their own affinity to all things Muppets. "I think there's always been a timeless quality to the Muppets,” says Hoberman, who cites the Muppets' recent online smash viral video "Bohemian Rhapsody.” "These characters are as contemporary today as they were when Henson first brought them to life. I think people of all ages will respond to them on the big screen.”

While president of the motion picture group at The Walt Disney Studios, Hoberman was behind releases like "The Muppet Christmas Carol” and "Muppet Treasure Island.” Meanwhile, Lieberman's appreciation for the franchise grew from personal experience. "I have always been a big Muppet fan,” says Lieberman. "There's clearly a nostalgic love. The characters are just inherently lovable and I'm thrilled that we're bringing them together again in this movie. It's been beautiful introducing them to my own children.”

And that's a good thing, says director James Bobin. Disney's "The Muppets” will welcome a whole new generation into the world of the Muppets, and Bobin can attest to the positive influence these characters can have on young audiences. "I watched the Muppets at a very early age in England, and they have significantly influenced my sense of humor and what I find funny.”

Segel says it's the Muppets' sense of humor that differentiates them. "Modern comedy makes jokes at other people's expense,” says the actor, writer and executive producer. "The Muppets never make fun of anybody. They're all about being good and nice and trying to make the world a better place. It's easy to get a laugh out of making fun of somebody, but the Muppets never relied on that.”

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