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by emira » Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:45 pm

A few interviews.

Interview: Director James Bobin, Oscar Winner Bret McKenzie Talk ' Muppets Most Wanted'
Posted by Damon Houx on March 20th, 2014

With the challenges of resurrecting The Muppets behind them, the challenge for director James Bobin, songwriter Bret McKenzie and producer Todd Lieberman was then figuring out what was next. And as Muppets Most Wanted reminds the audiences, sequels generally aren’t as good. But they were more than up for the challenge as this interview suggests.

In the past year there were two Hensons that died sadly, Jane and John. I’m wondering if there are any Hensons still involved in the Muppets and how you’re able to connect with the original vibe?

James Bobin: I know that Lisa and Brian have seen the movie and love it, which is always very important to me ‘cause I want to see if Jim’s, his legacy to us. And certainly in the first movie when we’re filming in Los Angeles Brian came on set twice and he and I talked about making Muppet movies and in fact he and I are now the only people who’ve ever done two Muppet movies so I share that with him. So his opinion to me is obviously very important. On this one it was harder because we were in London so I didn’t see him this time but I know he’s a fan of the movies, so I’m thrilled by that.

What was it like going out there and doing it a second time considering that you know what to do this time around?

James Bobin: I thought let’s make it harder. That’s what I did. Let’s make an action comedy musical movie, you know.

What is it like dealing with just working with the Muppets the second time around especially Miss Piggy? I know she’s rather demanding.

James Bobin: She gets no easier I’ll tell you that. It was great. It’s so fun that if you know people it’s so much more fun working with them. Because it’s like your family back together again. It’s really lovely and so it’s so pleasing to see them all. It’s like being here again today. I haven’t seen you for a while so it’s nice to see everybody again, it’s lovely. But no, it was just, you know it was fun to see everyone again and I—I was very clear in my head as to what we’d like to do next. And it’s why the movie starts seconds after the last one ended. Because I felt the Muppets could just kind of address the problem that Nick (Stoller) and I had. “what is the film gonna be about and what’s next?” And I thought well, let’s just address that and do it in the movie itself so you have this thing where they go what should we do next? And then they sing a song called “We’re Doing a Sequel,” which Bret so brilliantly wrote and it addresses that issue up front.

I had a question for you about the music. Coming up with the songs, I notice one of the songs was “We’re Doing it Again and Again.” Was the original title for the film gonna be the Muppets Again? Or was it always gonna be Muppets Most Wanted and did you think about putting Most Wanted in?

Bret McKenzie: The film was originally called The Muppets Again. And, so the first song “We’re Doing a Sequel” ends with the Muppets all singing “it’s the Muppets again,” because we’d thought it be great to have the title of the movie in it but then well after we’d filmed it all marketing decided to change the name of the movie and so we tried going “it’s the Muppets Most Wanted,” and, it really didn’t sit very well on the mouths of the Muppets, so we did okay.

Could you talk about the logistics of filming in different locations, and for Bret, about the music and trying to incorporate it with Spain and Berlin sound?

Bret McKenzie: Muppet films are never easy to film ‘cause the Muppets have no legs. You may not notice this but they have no legs so things get very complicated wherever you go. So it’s easier indoors. A lot of work now is on stage, but what I love about Muppets in the real world is they live in the real world and you create a world where Muppets and humans happily co-exist. Which is my favorite thing. I think it’s an illusion we all want to believe in.

So on location the puppeteers perform on the ground. We have to raise things like your door handles and various things like that to help us out. So it’s all quite technically complex but on stage it’s very straightforward because we then just raise the entire set five feet up, four feet up in the air and the cameras come up four feet in the air and the puppeteers themselves can then stand up. ‘Cause that means they can group together as closely as possible. That means you have nice group shots. So there’s lots of challenges when you’re filming Muppets but you know, and the days can be very long. But at the end of the day you look around and you see these incredible characters behind you as a whole, it’s just really fun. It’s a fun place to be and it’s kind of why it’s so. So for the cameos they come on set and they meet these puppets who they’ve loved all their lives and it’s just a lovely moment for them and so it’s a very, it’s a very pleasurable experience for everybody. It really is.

James Bobin: It’d be fun to see a Muppet film where you saw all the guys crawling around on the floor. If the movie screen could blow it down and you could see underneath the shot it would be great.

It was great to see Jermaine in the movie. Were there people that you specifically went out to get in the film? Were people coming to you? …

James Bobin: When Nick and I write the script we’re writing people’s names in often and obviously certain people have to be that person like you can’t do the Christoph Waltz joke with anybody else because it is about a waltz so that’s impossible.

Todd Lieberman: That one was reverse engineered in a way. Because a lot of a lot of the cameos, we have a list of people who want to be in the movie and then as we go through, as these guys go through writing the movie, we gather other intel of fans and people we like and people that like us and then we this grid.

Bret McKenzie: Intel meaning Googling them. Google celebrity and Muppet.

Todd Lieberman: We do a full on background check. And Christoph Waltz specifically was one where he was a massive fan of the first movie and really wanted to be a part of this one and so that joke was reverse engineered, but there’s so many people who love the Muppets and it’s an interesting matrix to put together to figure out where people go correctly and how to fit all the people that love in the movie which, you know, hopefully we’ve accomplished.

James Bobin: A lot of people approach me just on the streets and asked if they could be in the movie and more often than not I got them. One of them was Lady Gaga.

One of the really impressive elements of this film are all of the touchstones you have to classic old Hollywood classic film, Busby Berkeley and Arthur Freed are jumping up and down somewhere right now. How did you go about developing those aspects of the film?

James Bobin: Well, I always believed the Muppets have a great place in entertainment history. They live in that world. The Muppet show was filmed in an old theater and it works for them. So generally, I love the idea of making a movie with huge number of references and, movie tropes, things that you may remember from other movies. It plays so well for them that when we put this together, this lovely idea you have this leeway to do that and it’s very rare to have a chance to do that and make reference for the movies you love and—and that’s what I want to do with this film. But it’s very much a conscious choice. Also, because the Muppets lives in that history when you do a musical number it kinda has to be Busby Berkeley and why not?

Bret McKenzie: It was such a golden age for musicals as well. Those years are so influential on us now and I’m jealous of that time. It seemed like the actors spent most of their times doing dancing and singing lessons and then they come on set and know all their moves. Whereas now you’re dealing with actors who can’t dance or sing but think they can.

James Bobin: But we love them.

What was a criticism, hopefully a constructive criticism from the first film that each of you really took to heart and wanted to apply this time around?

Todd Lieberman: We—we had an amazing time on the first film obviously and I think with the idea of being able to set up and reset a little bit that this movie for us was the ability to just kind of go a little wilder and so it’s not a criticism anything that we’ve learned necessarily other than the ability to have more fun.

James Bobin: In the last movie we had to try to put the gang back together again. This time you have everybody from the very beginning. So it feels a bit more Muppets now.

Todd Lieberman: That’s another good point because the first movie the emotional story was centered around a human being and a Muppet that we created, whereas this movie the emotional story centers around the Muppets.

I was at the screening a couple of nights ago a lot of the parents were laughing just as hard if not harder than the kids. How was it to balance adult references with jokes that kids would get too?

James Bobin: It’s one of the challenges of this film is it has to be for everybody. I remember watching the Muppet show in the 70’s. I was six or seven and my dad and my grandparents watched it with me. And we’re all laughing throughout but I think we’re probably laughing at different things. And it’s what we do in this film too whereby I have children of my own and so I watch with my daughter. And she laughs her head off and I laugh my head off. But again, probably at different things. And so it’s that thing where we’re trying to do both things at the same time throughout and so for me it’s about multi layering the story and multi layering the jokes on top of visuals and creating something which bears repeat viewing. That’s another huge thing about it. I love making a movie you can watch again, again and again ‘cause kids watch things a lot. My kids wear out movies they love. I love the idea that if you build something with enough depth and texture you can watch it again and again and see new things every time and that’s very important.

Todd Lieberman: But the idea is and from the beginning we—we always set out to not make a movie for kids but make a movie for everybody that kids also loved and so if we laughed we knew it would—it would appeal to us and then we also have kids so we could kind of use them as a test audience.

James Bobin: In fact, I did my kids always my test audience. I’d take home the dailies and show them what we’ve been filming that day. Hence, in the last movie there’s a lot of chickens. They love chickens. The chickens clearly, the theater was literally my daughter’s sort of thing and this time she loves the Henson Babies, she was obsessed with them. So I kept saying “keep the babies they’re amazing. Keep the babies, people are gonna love the babies.”

You have a great self referential joke with Robin the frog. . I’m wondering even now two movies in are you still struggling to figure out how to squeeze in different character?

James Bobin: There’s a lot of people here. A lot of people in the room you know. It’s hard. We have such a huge family of fantastic people to involve and this time we brought people back like Annie Sue and Mildred Huxtetter and Pop, so Robin was just one of those I’ve always liked but I don’t know where you’re gonna put him and so I thought that was a good joke ‘cause obviously Rizzo wasn’t in the last movie very much. If Rizzo talks about it Robin should also talk about it.

I was wondering what were some of your inspirations when creating this story?

James Bobin: I’ve always liked movies about big diamonds, you know, Pink Panther and, you know, the Thomas Crowne Affair and …

Bret McKenzie: You just like diamonds …

James Bobin: I’ve always found those films really interesting and they have a good energy about them. But also the idea that in the last movie I really loved were where we did bits in the Muppet show, so I thought why not do a world tour and keep putting the Muppet show out again and again and again. And so you can combine the Muppet show elements with the caper-style story and that’s our film and that’s where we are. The doppleganger, I think it’s a classic old movie troupe, because Kermit is the most beloved frog in the world so the simple thought was “what if there was a bad version of this guy?” And then Matt created his brilliant character and the rest is history as they say.

I was wondering how closely you guys worked together on the songs and sort of finding the right tone and finding the right sort of fit for the storyline?

James Bobin: Very closely. We’ve worked together for maybe ten years now. It’s such a job working with Bret because I have an idea and he’s ahead of me on it all the time and it’s a back and forth. Often it’ll start with a title or a funny idea we have for a song and it plays out in the script and that’s all it is. It’s like a title and a brief description and then from that paragraph we’ll give it to Bret and he will come back with an amazing song.

Bret McKenzie: There’s a bit of back and forth so James and Nick (Stoller) would come up with the idea usually or the moment in the film that needs a song and then they’d throw it to me like, so the opening was “we’re doing a sequel” was the idea and they had some good lines, though they often suggests lines that don’t rhyme.

James Bobin: We’re doing a sequel. It cost twice as much but it’s half as good.

Bret McKenzie: So I’m usually just on piano, with me singing doing my now quite quite extensive catalog of Muppet impressions. I can do Miss Piggy. I can do Miss Piggy quite well.

James Bobin: On the new soundtrack cd there are the demo versions of Bret himself singing.

Bret McKenzie: Oh, there are yes.

James Bobin: And they’re really great.

Bret McKenzie: I play a rough version then we get together and work out the best. James often has an idea that’s visual that he needs to change the lyric to suit the visual and then we record it with the Muppets. So there’s lots of back and forth, so I might suggest a visual idea like the ballads which Piggy sings with Celine and I was working on that and I had this idea “what if we had this flashback this sort of dreamy moment where Piggy is thinking about her future and she sees her with Kermit growing old?” I thought it’d be fun to have a little pink frog and a little green pig and it was an idea that was around from the last film that I hadn’t got in. And I love those moments where about the song idea and then the video comes back ‘cause I’m not on stage I don’t see them doing it. And James manages to make this lift the song higher, you know, with the video.

Muppets Most Wanted opens March 21.

Screen Crave: Interview: Director James Bobin, Oscar Winner Bret McKenzie Talk ' Muppets Most Wanted'

Bret McKenzie Reveals His Secrets Behind Making the Muppets Sing

Bret McKenzie won an Oscar for his songwriting in the first Muppet movie, and now he's back for the second. We spoke to the Flight of the Conchords co-founder, and he spilled all his secrets on finding the melody for a new generation of Muppet films. Plus his animated NASA series, and his next fantasy musical.

The first Muppets movie you worked on was a huge success, you won an Oscar and the public totally embraced these classic characters all over again. How did the Muppets' success change Hollywood? Are people more open to doing musicals now?

Bret McKenzie: I think Hollywood is more excited about making films with singing puppets. The one difference, following the first film, was that a lot of people wanted to be in the next film. And it was much easier to get cameos. Whereas the last film, people were kind of suspicious about what we were doing. Obviously because the Muppets hadn't been around for a while. But after the success of the last film, we were able to get so many great cameos. And I love that, because it felt a little bit more like the original films, full of cameo features.

Do you have a number? Do you know how many cameos are in this film?

There must be 50 cameos. Maybe 1,000 cameos, if you include the extras. It was great, because we got people like Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett [and] Celine Dion. Unbelievable.

What do you have to remember, when you're writing music for the Muppets? How is it different for writing for yourself or Flight of the Conchords? How do you find your inner Muppet voice?

I have a green felt suit that I put on. [Laughs] One of the challenges was, the songs have to relate to story and character. But they also need to have a heart to them. So, that's a challenge. Playing with the character but also making them feel sincere and honest at the same time. I think songs work well when they have something genuine within them. Obviously that's quite tricky when you're doing a song like "We're Doing A Sequel." But I think we pulled it off.

That's one of the great things about the Muppets, their complete sincerity. I feel like your character had a lot of those sensibilities, do you relate to the muppets? Are you much more honest than normal humans are?

I love comedy that is sincere. I find it funny when a character is being honest in what they're doing. I love comedy songs [to be] sincere, and as real as possible. So it plays against the ridiculousness of a silly song. Whether I'm like a Muppet, I'm not sure. Having worked on the Muppets for a few years now, I'm starting to think most people are like Muppets, actually.

The Muppets Most Wanted is missing a huge voice with Jason Segel. "Man or Muppet" and "Life's a Happy Song" really leaned on him and Walter a lot. How did you prepare for a sequel that doesn't have that voice? How does that change the music in Muppet Most Wanted?

I definitely missed Jason on this film. He brought so much love and his Meatloaf playful performance. But the new film, I think the characters share the load more. Ricky Gervais really came through. He's got a bit of a rock voice underneath it all. I don't know if you are familiar with his 80s music career, but he has a great voice. We spread the songs over: Kermit gets a song, Piggy gets a song. Actually the bad frog, Constantine, gets a lot of songs. I don't know if you noticed there's probably too many songs sung with bad Russian accents. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. I think we were trying to go for a Cold War comedy [feel].

That's weird thing about doing a bad accent is you start in one place and then you slowly drift into another accent and the next thing you know you're in an Irish gulag.

Yeah my accents often end up Irish — no matter what, they are they always end up Irish. I would be curious to see what the Russian audience thinks of the performance. They did have a Russian dialect coach on set, which was pretty ridiculous because I think it was a bit of a waste of time trying to make the frog sound genuinely Russian.

[The dialect coach] is just drinking in the back on set... Do you know the actors you're going to be working with before you write the songs? Like would you have written the "Number 2" song different if Ricky Gervais hadn't been cast?

You know, what I'd already written the song before it had been cast. Ricky Gervais came on quite late. Yeah no, I wrote that song… I usually just write them for myself and make the person sing how I would sing it.

He really goes to town on that song.

He goes for it. He does make it his own… He's a very confident man. He came into the studio and acted like he was Frank Sinatra. And did a couple of takes and got out of there. But luckily, he has the goods.

What was it like being in the studio with Celine Dion?

It was incredibly to work with Celine Dion. But I use the words "worked with" loosely because we never met each other. She recorded all of her part in Vegas. I didn't get to work with her, but it was awesome having her in the song because she's absolutely a powerhouse. Obviously she's no Miss Piggy, when it comes to singing, but she's pretty good. I'm hoping that Miss Piggy and Celine Dion join forces for a Vegas Diva off.

I'm so excited that you're passionate about making fantasy-ish musicals. We freaked out when we found out that you were working on a fairy tale musical with [Muppets director] James Bobin — how is that going?

It's going great, we've almost finished the script and I've started to write the songs.

Is this going to fill the Princess Bride hole in this generation? We have nothing like it.

I would be very happy if it was that good.

What is it about live action fairy tales that were SO easy to get made in the 80s but not right now? Everything has to be so gritty and dark, besides the Muppets. There's a void.

I agree everyone is obsessed with making the world dark. Taking quite joyful stories and then giving them a dark twist. TV's like that as well. Maybe life's… everyone… I don't know it doesn't make sense... That wasn't a very good answer to that. I know what you mean but I can't articulate it.

What's going on with your NASA show? Are you going to voice it?

I'm doing character designs at the moment. And it turns out my drawings are very stick-like. Might need to get some help with those. It looks like a seven-year-old drew the show.

io9: Bret McKenzie Reveals His Secrets Behind Making the Muppets Sing
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by emira » Thu Mar 20, 2014 5:45 pm

You can't break this heart...
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by emira » Thu Mar 20, 2014 6:08 pm

You can't break this heart...
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by blondesnotbombs » Sat Mar 22, 2014 8:28 pm

emira wrote:Pierce?! Where did they get this name from? #fit#

I saw the movie tonight and I have an answer to this question now! Brett Pierce is the name of the Music Editor. #haha# Somebody got the Music Supervisor and the Music Editor confused.

The movie was really good! The boy has started watching Flight of the Conchords recently, so I was excited to see his reaction to Jemaine. He didn't recognize him. #lol# So I pointed him out during his next scene and he was like, "I don't think that's Jemaine." #fingerwave# He's still got a long way to go. He did recognize his voice in the Rio 2 trailer though, so it's not hopeless.

Spoiler: show
I have to admit, I was disappointed by the number of edits to the songs this time around. I don't remember that many in the first movie (only Let's Talk About Me comes to mind).

There are a few small parts missing from We're Doing a Sequel.
A large chunk of I'll Get You What You Want was cut.
The Gonzo and Swedish Chef parts of Interrogation song were cut. #sadd#
I think Working in the Coal Mine was a little shorter than it was on the soundtrack. I was distracted because Jemaine was being adorable, you see. I had the same problem during The Big House.

Moves Like Jagger and Macarena are (mercifully) much shorter in the movie. So silver lining and all of that. There are a couple of songs in the movie that aren't on the soundtrack. I wish those two (one a mega hit pop song the other a showtune - I won't say what they are because those moments are pretty great) had been on the soundtrack instead to be honest.

Something So Right is my favorite and I don't think there were any cuts to it (I didn't notice any), so I was very relieved by that.

I liked I'm Number One a lot more after seeing it performed in the movie. It's a really fun number.

Non-music thoughts:
I loooooooooove Constantine. #love3#
Miss Piggy looked beautiful in this movie. #heart# During the Something So Right sequence and in her wedding gown especially.
I didn't find any of the cameos that exciting to be honest. Like, I love that Jemaine's in it, but I don't think he's really a cameo and we've known he was in it for a while. I don't think I was really surprised to see anybody. Most of the cameos were shown in trailers, etc. before the movie even came out.
Danny Trejo's character is called Danny Trejo. I laughed so hard at that.
I loved the end titles with the fireworks. I couldn't wait to see what Bret's fireworks were going to look like. I was very happy with what they chose. #inlove#
Did I mention that I loved Jemaine in this? Because I did. A lot.
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by emira » Sun Mar 23, 2014 2:19 am

I read the spoilers and I really can't wait to see it myself, specially because of Jemaine, because we already know how great the songs are. #aziz#
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by blondesnotbombs » Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:46 am

It was so much fun seeing him! #excited2# He looked like he was having a blast during those musical numbers. #love3#
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by blondesnotbombs » Sat Mar 29, 2014 1:07 pm

#loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes# #loveeyes#
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by emira » Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:18 pm

Wow! #loveeyes#
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by emira » Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:10 pm

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by blondesnotbombs » Wed Apr 02, 2014 4:37 pm

Finally. I've been waiting for them to add it for weeks now. Whoever updates Carson Daly's website sucks even harder than he does. 8-)
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by emira » Fri Apr 04, 2014 1:11 am

Conchord’s tunes strike right note for sequel

The new Muppet movie has Bret McKenzie songs – and a role for partner-in-comedy Jemaine Clement.

By Leena Tailor
3rd April, 2014

Bret McKenzie is a wanted man – wanted by Muppets and Hollywood heavyweights. After winning an Oscar for his Man or Muppet song in 2011’s The Muppet Movie, the New Zealander – who made his name as one half of the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords – has written the songs for the latest film. And there was no shortage of talent lining up to work alongside him and on the movie. Modern Family’s Ty Burrell, who plays a Clouseau-esque character in the new film, Muppets Most Wanted, says he’s a fan of the 37-year-old Kiwi and he had to contain his excitement when he turned up for the first day of filming. “He’s amazing … I think he’s a genius,” says Burrell, adding that he still regularly watches episodes of the Flight of the Conchords TV series. He says just before shooting for the new movie started in London, he was called in to record one of the musical numbers Interrogation Song.

“It was super-intricate, super-fast … I don’t know how he does it. He has such a knack for it. His wit is amazing – but the musical side of it is equally impressive.”

With the bar raised after his Oscar win, McKenzie was under pressure to come up with the goods, but the film’s producer Todd Lieberman never doubted he would deliver.

“The songs were obviously a big part of the first movie and we were lucky with that Oscar for Bret,” he says. “Similarly in this movie, we’ve got a wide range of songs and each one of them, in its own genre, is really special and fun. I knew we had something good with the Interrogation Song when I brought home the demo and both my kids had commandeered my computer, figured out my password and were ­jumping around on the couches quoting the song.”


Following the success of the first film the sequel’s makers were inundated with stars wanting to appear. “People love the Muppets and want to be a part of the Muppets,” says Lieberman. “We have stars who have children of their own and want to make a movie they can show their kids.”

Burrell plays French Interpol agent Inspector Jean-Pierre Napoleon in the new adventure, which follows the gang as they embark on a sell-out theatre tour through Europe. They become embroiled in an international crime caper led by Kermit the Frog’s evil doppelgänger Constantine and his sidekick Dominic, played by The Office’s Ricky Gervais.

Enter Burrell’s character, who teams up with American special agent Sam Eagle to investigate.

Burrell says having to sing was nerve-­racking but his fellow performers “held my hand through the whole thing”.

He would have liked to have had more musical numbers so he could have worked more with McKenzie.

Describing Jean-Pierre as an amalgam of French inspectors, he says it was impossible not to take from the most famous of them all – The Pink Panther’s Jacques Clouseau. “I drew on my innate silliness more than anything, but there’s no way to not draw a little bit on Clouseau. If you’re doing a goofy inspector, some of it’s going to seep in. But it’s a bunch of others, too.

“In a larger way, I’m basically playing Europe and I’m in a battle of wills with Sam Eagle, who is basically America.”


Burrell and Gervais were joined by 30 Rock’s Tina Fey and a string of celebrities making cameo appearances, including R&B crooner Usher as a wedding usher and actor Christoph Waltz breaking into, yes, a waltz, with hairy ogre Sweetums.

McKenzie’s FOTC partner Jemaine Clement – who turned down working on the first film’s music with McKenzie – gets significant screen time as a gulag prisoner. Director James Bobin, who co-created FOTC with the pair, asked Clement to take on the role, and the Kiwi spent a month working on the movie.

Although he worked with McKenzie only briefly on the film’s closing sequence, Clement did get lots of time with Ray Liotta – who had no idea who FOTC were – and Fey, who plays feisty Russian prison guard Nadya.

It wasn’t only actors and singers who wanted a piece of the Muppet action. British designer Vivienne Westwood embraced the all-important task of designing a gown for Miss Piggy’s wedding to Kermit the Frog.

Although Muppets fans will have to hit theatres to find out if the long-awaited nuptials go ahead, Lieberman says the dress will impress.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED, released April 10.

Kiwi skills, Hollywood thrills

Being a jack-of-all-trades works a treat for the Muppet movies songwriter.

He has a Grammy and an Oscar, is creating his own animated series for American television and has just wrapped writing for Lady Gaga and Celine Dion – and Bret McKenzie credits his Kiwi background for his Hollywood achievements.

The Flight of the Conchords star, who has been musical supervisor and original songwriter for the last two Muppet movies, says: “The amazing thing about New Zealanders is that we are often skilled at a multitude of different things out of necessity. Doing theatre and music in New Zealand, you often have to do other jobs as well, so that really helps.

“On the Muppets [films], for example, I’m doing a job where I’m writing songs, directing the talent and producing the songs – and I’m not too fazed by the different roles. I’m weirdly skilled for quite a strange job.”

In the sequel, McKenzie wrote for some of the music industry’s biggest talents, such as Tony Bennett, Celine Dion and Lady Gaga – who didn’t need any arm-twisting.

“A lot of people approached me on the street and asked if they could be in the movie and more often than not I got them in – one of them was Lady Gaga,” says McKenzie.

“Because of the last film’s success, it was easier to get cameos this time. People really wanted to be involved. James McAvoy ducks in and delivers a badge, and then [having] Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett in the opening song is pretty amazing.”

He says he was living the dream writing a duet for Dion and Miss Piggy, but was also in his element with the film’s classic Hollywood feel. The opening number, We’re Doing a Sequel, salutes legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley. “That was such a golden age for musicals. Those years are so influential on us now because of what they did with the videos and films for the musical numbers.

“I’m jealous of that time because it seemed like the actors spent most of their time doing dancing and singing lessons and they’d come on set knowing all their moves. They could all sing, whereas now you’re dealing with actors who can’t dance or sing … but they’re great in other ways.”

While New ­Zealand remains home and he’s thankful his two children – with wife Hannah Clarke – still have Kiwi accents, the US is set to keep McKenzie busy in the coming months.

As well as the animated series, which is set on a Nasa space station, he has started writing tracks for a fairy-tale musical.

He hopes to work on more projects at home. “Everyone knows there are a lot of great people there, but the main challenge is getting the funding.

“I’d quite like to do something that’s a New Zealand story, but I’d also love to take an American production there.”

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by emira » Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:33 pm

The Sing-Along with Bret during the NYICFF back in March. Poor quality and the person who was filming was singing as well, so it's up to you if you want to watch it. ;)


At the NY International Children's Film Festival, a sing-along with The Muppets (2011) took place, with the film's Oscar-winning songwriter and musical supervisor, Bret McKenzie, as well as the new addition to the Muppets, Walter (joined by Peter Linz), in attendance. It was a lot of fun, with them leading the way, encouraging audience participation with cue cards for interaction, as well as props relevant to different scenes.

I tried to film as much as I could, to share with those who could not attend, but unfortunately, though I charged it and had plenty of space on it, the battery didn't have enough power to include the finale. I also apologize, in advance, if my singing drowns anything else out, due to my proximity to the camera's microphone. At the same time, I wasn't going to NOT sing along at this sing-along.

Thanks to my mother for coming along and enjoying it all with me. I hope you viewers will enjoy this, as well.
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by emira » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:23 pm

Flight of the Conchords star swaps Business Time for G-rated fun

April 11, 2014

He may be one half of the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, but Bret McKenzie has been scoring considerable success with another zany bunch.

Mayhem follows the Muppets overseas, as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper.

Obscene riches. Gorgeous could-be paramours falling at your feet. Collaborations with Scorsese or Spielberg - heck, why not both?

Mere mortals can only imagine the doors that winning an Oscar must open. For Bret McKenzie, the reality of winning the 2012 Academy Award for best original song - for Man or Muppet, one of several he contributed to movie reboot The Muppets - was not quite so impressive.

''The Oscar opened the door … to a door that was probably already open,'' says the man best known as the wide-eyed space cadet from Kiwi comedy-rock duo Flight of the Conchords, with flawless comic delivery. ''Disney were very excited to get me back on board, but I think they probably would have got me back on board if I'd won an award or not.

''I do actually keep my Oscar on top of my piano at home. Sometimes I would be working away on a song and I'd glance up at the Oscar and then check myself - 'Is this one good enough? No, it's not good enough, I'll write another one.' It's a critical eye, looking down on me.''

The pressure isn't really on McKenzie to win more awards for this year's sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, but everyone involved knew they had their work cut out for them for one glaring reason … and so they address it immediately in the film with a big opening number titled We're Doing a Sequel.

No pressure: Bret McKenzie. Photo: Patrick Wymore

''I love that [screenwriters] James Bobin and Nick Stoller, when they gave me an early draft of the script, had this idea for a song that was about doing a sequel, and how sequels aren't that good,'' McKenzie says. ''It's like a difficult second album, I guess is the musical equivalent. That was one of my favourite parts of it - the fact that we admit it as we're going into it, and also the fact that the Muppets are one of the few sort of movie worlds where they have that beautiful ability to turn to camera and just wink at the audience.''

As fans of his work with Jemaine Clement in Flight of the Conchords and their eponymous TV show will know, McKenzie is a dab hand at musical pastiche - although he faced a new challenge with the strictly G-rated content of a Muppets movie.

''I guess, yeah, it's slightly different, isn't it?'' he says. ''I guess the themes are more family-friendly, but, y'know, it doesn't feel that different to working on Conchords. There's far less sexual references. You can't have sexual references in The Muppets!

''I think when I write the songs for a film like this they're so story-dependent that the story kind of sends me off in [the necessary] direction … The story's not about a sexual relationship, y'know, it's about a Russian frog, ha ha ha! There are the same kinda story elements pushing me around - y'know, it needs to relate to the character or the plot - so it doesn't feel that different.

''And then, yeah, in Flight of the Conchords we sorta genre-jumped, and that was one of the fun parts about the job. In this film I kinda knew we'd have a few Broadway Muppet show numbers - and then I started filling the gaps. I thought a doo-wop song might be good, and then I'm always a sucker for a kind of Michael McDonald/Lionel Richie [pop-soul] sound.''

Like just about everyone who had a TV in the late '70s and early '80s, McKenzie was a fan of the Muppets the first time around. ''To be fair, there were only two channels at home [in Wellington], so everyone grew up watching the Muppets,'' the 37-year-old says, noting that its competition on the other channel on a Sunday night was ''A Dog's Show, a competition of sheepdogs herding sheep''.

''I didn't grow up thinking, 'I want to do musical comedy', or I didn't grow up wanting to be a puppeteer, but it was kind of, I think, a subconscious backdrop. Definitely, even making Flight of the Conchords, we acknowledged the Muppets as an influence on us. It is one of the few shows that plays with music and comedy, and Conchords, although it deals with some adult ideas, it was a very family-friendly show, very G-rated.''

McKenzie regrets not being able to collaborate with Muppets creator Jim Henson, who died at only 53 in 1990, ''because now it's a little bit like working with a covers band'', but says he has still enjoyed his Muppets experiences - even with one particular diva.

''Ironically, the guy that does [the voice and puppeteering for] Miss Piggy is difficult to work with, ha ha ha! He's very serious about Miss Piggy's singing ability, and obviously Miss Piggy's a terrible singer, so it's quite funny.''

McKenzie's only other major movie connection, meanwhile, is on fellow New Zealander Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, in which he has little more than a recurring cameo, thanks to a pre-Conchords appearance he made as an extra on the first Lord of the Rings film, The Fellowship of the Ring, in 2001.

So is this is it for McKenzie now? A life of Hobbits and Muppets?

''Ha ha ha! It's strictly Muppets, man. I only work with Muppets now.''

Muppets Most Wanted

Genre Family comedy.

Buzz It hasn't exactly set the American box office on fire, but critics have enjoyed it - at the time of writing, the film had an emphatic ''fresh'' rating of 78 per cent on review-aggregating website Rotten Tomatoes.

Stars The Muppets, Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Ty Burrell.

Director James Bobin.

Released Out now, rated G.

Top five Muppet songs


Winner of the Oscar for best original song in 2012, it's a tricky four-way ballad in The Muppets featuring Jason Segel's character, Gary, and Muppet Walter (and then their human and Muppet forms) as both must decide if they are, well, men or Muppets.


Why are there so many songs about rainbows? It's a good question, and it was answered beautifully by Kermit as he strummed on a banjo in his swamp as the original Muppet Movie opened. The answer? Someday we'll find it.


More comic relief than actual singing as Animal steps in after Weezer's drummer, Pat Wilson, is kidnapped by Miss Piggy. Cue backing vocals from Kermit, Gonzo and Fozzie Bear. The verdict, according to Statler and Waldorf: ''They ain't half bad!'' ''No. They're all bad!''


A cover of Queen's epic 1975 singalong, the video hit 7 million views within a week of its posting on YouTube (it's now had more than 37 million views). Opened by Gonzo and his chickens, it features just about every Muppet you could think of, including some excellent rocking by Dr Teeth and his band Electric Mayhem. In the words of Miss Piggy: ''Nothing really matters, but moi.''


Originally written for an Italian documentary about Sweden, it shot to fame when it was performed on The Ed Sullivan Show by Bip Bippadotta and the Snowths (the furry, pink back-up singers). You know how it goes: ''Do do do-doo do!'' LOUISE RUGENDYKE

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by emira » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:58 pm

Bret McKenzie Talks Muppets, Ricky Gervais, 'Flight of the Conchords' Film
By Mike Ayers, New York | April 01, 2014 4:00 PM EDT

The former "Flight of the Conchords" star has been busy writing music for "Muppets Most Wanted" since winning an Oscar composing for its 2011 predecessor

The Muppets are currently back in theaters with "Muppets Most Wanted," a sequel to the 2011 blockbuster that won songwriter/comedian Bret McKenzie a Best Original Song Oscar for "Man or Muppet." McKenzie returned as the music supervisor for the "Muppets Most Wanted" soundtrack, which entered this week at No. 68 on the Billboard 200 and No. 4 on the soundtrack chart. "The songs are very story-driven," he says of reprising his Muppets work. "I get the script and the characters' perspective comes out from where the story is going. We got these total heavyweights, this killer L.A. session band. I loosely directed them and I'm doing Muppet impressions while they're playing along."

After initially breaking out as "Bret" on HBO's cult comedy "Flight of the Conchords," McKenzie's full-time gig these days has shifted to more behind-the-scenes work with soundtracks and scripts. Billboard spoke to him earlier this week from his home in New Zealand, where he detailed his latest Muppet creations, why Ricky Gervais might be the next Meat Loaf, his new projects and more.

You resumed your duties as music supervisor for "Muppets Most Wanted." What was different this time?
I did all the songs. Last time, I did two or three of them. I came on board at the beginning, whereas last time I came on halfway through and helped sort things out. From the beginning, I was trying to write a group of songs as a whole, rather than doing one at a time. The studio trusted me a lot more. I don't think anyone at the studio really knew what ("Flight of the Conchords") was. So they just saw some random New Zealander who just walked in. They weren't sure what I was up to last time. This time, they were hands off and really supportive.

You had to prove yourself the first time around, to write songs for Muppets.
[Laughs.] Exactly. The weird thing about the Muppets is that they're kind of sacred and silly at the same time. I'm from a generation that grew up with the Muppets, so I took the job pretty seriously. I didn't want to ruin the legacy [laughs]. Even with Conchords stuff, when we were doing songs that were parodies, they were more a homage than parody.

After the success of the last soundtrack and "Man or Muppet," do you have any theories as to why people connect to songs sung by Muppets?
It's very weird writing a song that's going to be sung by a puppet. Now I'm an expert. One of the key elements of the Muppets success, is that they're not perfect. And that makes them incredibly relatable. There's so much character in their voices and performances; it's so human in a weird way. Some of the key characters like Kermit, Piggy and Fozzie -- they really hold up 40 years later. Working on the movie, you forget that they're puppets [laughs].

Is it easier for you to write for the Muppets now? Do you have their perspective down better?
A lot easier. I now do the demos myself, doing bad Muppet impressions. They're getting quite good now. My Miss Piggy almost made it into the film. Miss Piggy is my strong Muppet voice. If everything turns south, I could launch a career doing a Miss Piggy tour.

Like a weird, grown adult male Miss Piggy cover band.
[Laughs]. Yes, a Miss Piggy Tribute Band.

The Muppets covered "Moves Like Jagger" on the new soundtrack. What makes a pop song "Muppetable" ?
The best ones have an animal reference in them. Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" is one of my favorites. Cee-Lo's "Fuck You" was quite cute with the chickens.

Did you work with Ricky Gervais?
We were in the studio, when we did his vocal in London. I'm a big fan of his. You know he had a band in the '80s?

Yeah. I feel like he's got a great rock and roll voice. He could really pursue a Bruce Springsteen-type career if he wanted. He's got a big, powerful, gravely [voice]. It's got a Meatloaf quality as well. If only he could keep himself from giggling during his performances. That would be one of the problems with his rock and roll show. He'd crack up too much.

Did you two ever kick around a music-based project?
We didn't actually. But that's a good idea.

You mentioned "Flight of the Conchords." A few years ago, there was talk of a film being written. How's that going?
Um ... very slowly would be an exaggeration. We haven't really cracked that one. It'll happen at the right time.

What new projects are you working on?
I'm working on a fairy tale musical for Warner Brothers. That's in the early stages. I'm writing the songs for that. I'm working on a couple scripts. A Fox animated comedy, about a NASA base. An obsolete NASA base. It's still in development. We're still drawing pictures, and I'm working on the scripts. The working title is called "Work Space."

Because you won the Oscar for "Man or Muppet," did you vote for the winning song this past year?
No. I don't think you automatically become ... or I didn't fill out the right form, but I didn't vote for that.

There's probably some forms you need to fill out.
A lot of forms, I don't get, because I live in New Zealand. I'm a big fan of the song "Happy." I was disappointed that didn't win.

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by emira » Fri Apr 11, 2014 2:41 pm

Interview With Muppets Most Wanted Songwriter Bret McKenzie
March 28, 2014 By Stefani Tolson


If you have seen Muppets Most Wanted or The Muppets you will know that these movies include some amazing music. Music that makes you want to sing along or at least sing along in your head even when the song has stopped. I have the soundtrack for Muppets Most Wanted and L-O-V-E it!

During my trip to Los Angeles for the Muppets Most Wanted Press Junket we were able to interview Bret McKenzie, the amazing songwriter for the film.


If you haven’t had a chance to see the film yet, it opens with a song called “We’re Doing a Sequel” that was written by Bret McKenzie. (...)

For those that didn’t know, songwriter Bret McKenzie won an OSCAR in 2012 for Best Achievement In Music Written For Motion Picture for his original song “Man Or Muppet” in The Muppets (2011). This man has some talent when it comes to making these catchy songs and in interviews I have listened to this week, McKenzie has mentioned that there was some sequel pressure when asked to write songs for Muppets Most Wanted.

He obviously works well under pressure because I am in love with the music from the film and so are many others. There are 25 songs on the Muppets Most Wanted Soundtrack to get you going through the day!

During our interview with songwriter Brett McKenzie, here are some of the questions we were able to ask him:

While working on the music for this film did you have any pressure to try to meet that kind of standard again?

Bret McKenzie: Yeah I was, obviously yeah there was a lot of pressure because of the Oscar and, um, but really what could I do? It was, there’s always gonna be downhill, so, uh, I just had to, you know, I mean I was appreciative but then I had to get on with the job and just, you know, forget about that. ‘Cause I didn’t, I didn’t work on the last muppet film to win awards, you know. Yeah. That’s all we got? Okay, let’s go. You have a t-shirt as well, oh my god. This is like the Muppet Club.

So how fun was doing work similar so…?

Bret McKenzie: Oh it was really fun working on those, James and Nick Stoller sent me the script and they’re lots of fun, great ideas for songs and then I got to add new ideas and, um, the first song “We’re doing a sequel,” um, they had the original idea then I just started looking through the history of bad sequels and qualities of sequels and there’s so many. And there was one lyric, the–– the first song, the first lyric in the song, um, “We’re doing a sequel, that’s what we do in Hollywood, but everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good,” that is, felt like a great start to the movie ’cause it lets the audience know that it’s a, first of all it’s a sequel and then we–– we know that it’s possibly not as good as the last one.

And it’s, you know, like that’s the way they wanted it ’cause he wants kinda the audience can’t but help go, “Oh is this gonna be better than the last one? Let’s see what they do.” So we kinda let them in on that. And then, um, and that’s what I love about the Muppets is they can do that, you can, the Muppets can turn to the audience and look straight at camera and talk to them about how they’re making a movie, and, um, yeah there was one lyric in that I just went through and looked at bad sequels and the qualities in them. Like there was one lyric that Ralph the Dog was gonna sing that, uh, was in the soundtrack but not in the movie where he goes, um, “We’re doing a sequel, how hard can it be? We can’t do any worse than the Godfather III.” So yeah it was a bit of a zinger so we took that one out. But then I like how Piggy can talk about how “there’s no need to disguise,” um, “the studio considers us a viable franchise,” there’s some fun, it was really a fun song to write, yeah. It was good.

Just your creative process, how you put your songs together?

Bret McKenzie: Um, well they send me a script with the idea of a song and then, um, I, but it’s usually quite a loose idea. And then for example the ballad, um, it was originally called “Love Ain’t Easy,” and it was a Piggy ballad. And first of all I was nervous because Piggy is a great character, a great comedic character, but not a great singer, and, um, I was worried about her carrying, you know, an emotional ballad because there’s only so much of her voice that the audience, I think, wants to hear, you know.

Thirty seconds is great, you know, then a couple of minutes you’re really start being a bit painful. So I suggested we put, um, you know, try and get a singer to help her and we were really excited when Celine Dion agreed, um, and I’m actually hoping that there’s a, I’m hoping that these two divas, you know, um, I’m hoping to get like a Las Vegas Celine Dion/Piggy, uh, Diva Night, um, that’s–– that’s my dream. Yeah. Anyway so then I would write the song and then adapt it for the characters and, and I’d–– I’d go to the, to James Bobin and play it to him and I’d, one of the stranger experiences on the job is I go to the Disney offices to play the songs to them.

Do you have a favorite song from this film that you wrote?

Bret McKenzie: I really like the, um, I really, I mean, I like how all of, sometimes I write songs for these things and they, I don’t like the way they turn out in the final film because I don’t like the video or something changes in the edit and, um, but I–– I really think, uh, the music’s kinda, I think it’s, the film works really well, you know, I really like the–– the final film was made and I guess my favorite would be, I don’t know, I mean, the opening’s pretty fun. I think it really gets the movie off on a–– a great note.

But I do like “I’ll Get You What You Want” brackets Cockatoo and Malibu closed brackets, uh, which is–– is the frogs, the bad frog trying to woo Miss Piggy.

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