Muppets' Frank Oz on Returning to the Franchise: 'Disney Doesn't Want Me'
Frank Oz, the original voice of Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Grover and Cookie Monster, among other beloved Muppet characters, would love to return to The Muppets and Sesame Street -- but Disney and Sesame Workshop don't want him back.
Speaking with The Guardian, Oz said, "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." Lamenting the current state of the Muppets, he added, "The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them."
Oz had some particularly harsh words about how Disney has treated the Muppets, blaming Michael Eisner's initial attempt to purchase the characters for Jim Henson's death. "The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick," Oz explained. "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." Disney ultimately finalized its purchase of the non-Sesame Street Muppets in 2004, a point at which Oz considers the property to have gone downhill: "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."
This is not the first time Oz has criticized the state of The Muppets and Sesame Street since he left both series. The last Muppets project Oz was involved with, a movie script titled The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made, was passed on by Disney in favor of Jason Segel's pitch, which eventually became a movie released in 2011. Oz was vocal in finding Segel's initial script to be too mean-spirited while also finding the final released version to have the opposite problem of being too Disneyfied and safe. Like many, he was disappointed with the 2015 Muppets sitcom, and has said that Disney's current writers "don't know how to write for The Muppets." As for Sesame Street, he's said that the show "is only a shadow of what it was because now they’re just aiming it to little kids."
Oz has continued to voice Yoda in Disney Star Wars projects, puppeteering the beloved character in The Last Jedi. His most recent directorial project is Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself on Hulu, a filmed version of a stage performance he directed.