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Frank Oz has some very candid thoughts about The Muppets remake

By Christian Long
Frank Oz Getty Image

Despite the fact that the name Frank Oz is synonymous with everything from The Muppets to Star Wars to Sesame Street, he says he doesn't know what the term "children's entertainment" means. 

In a wide-ranging conversation at SXSW early Monday afternoon, Oz spoke about his career as a director, puppeteer, and actor, and weighed in on a variety of topics — including recent remakes involving his most iconic characters, like The Muppets. He was also surprisingly candid when talking about his approach to his many crafts, particularly his pursuit of what he calls "the purity of the work." He went on to explain how this approach has allowed him to create meaningful entertainment for all ages — without pandering to a younger age group. 

"I’m not a children’s performer," Oz told the crowd, which included SYFY WIRE. "We’ve never once thought about children when we did Sesame Street or The Muppets or anything else. I was a child, I didn’t know what I wanted. How can an adult tell what a child wants?"

Oz credits his success to his dedication to telling honest, heartfelt stories regardless whether he was dealing with a cast made of felt or flesh and bone. It's an approach that has left him feeling like an outsider in the Hollywood system these days. 

"The pure quality I'm talking about is the purity of character. I had to turn The Muppet thing off, the ABC series, after 15 minutes. Fozzie had a girlfriend and he drank some wine, I don't know. It totally destroyed Fozzie. Destroyed. The reason you guys love them is because we were true to their character. That's why you love them, they touch your heart." 

Oz also commented on the most recent crop of Disney-led Muppet movies, which kicked off with 2011's The Muppets. Though he said that the film "had some wonderful things in it," he ultimately disliked it because it lacked the sincerity he, and others, had brought to the franchise in years past. 

"In general, I start to vomit when things get too smarmy. When it gets overly sentimental and sweet, I just start to vomit. It's all because Disney doesn't understand purity." 

"And I'm gonna get in so much trouble now," he added with a grin. 

Be sure to check out all of SYFY WIRE's extensive SXSW coverage here