Here's something that everyone has wondered about at one point or another: Where do Muppets come from, and where do they go? Are they immortal, never-aging gods and goddesses who exist in felt bodies until the end of time? If not, do they have a natural cycle of birth and death, like humans do? Could a Muppet, dare we even say it, be killed?
Alright, so maybe not everyone has wondered about these things, but we certainly have. And apparently, so to has Todd Berger, the writer of the new R-rated puppet romp, The Happytime Murders.
The film is directed by Brian Henson, the son of legendary Muppet creator Jim Henson, and it has more than a little in common with the world of the Muppets. In a new interview with Slashfilm, Berger gets deep and conquers the question of Muppet mortality.
In the world of the film, puppets live alongside humans... and they can certainly die. They can also be brutally murdered, and the film's story depicts it. So does this logic extend to the world of the Muppets?
"I don’t want to speak out of bounds. I don’t want to make any remarks about the Muppet world, but I would think so, right?" Berger says. He makes it clear that the puppets in the world of his film "are born, puppets get older, and puppets can die." He also notes the fact that the film uses flashbacks to show younger versions of the puppets as evidence of this.
Still, this doesn't mean that the Muppets play by the same rules — although there is one, huge piece of lore that Berger uses to blow away the notion of the Immortal Muppet. That piece of lore is none other than the animated series, Muppet Babies.
"I guess if you think about it, if the Muppet Babies are child versions of the Muppets, which means they were born and get older, and therefore they can get even older, and someday die... if they can die, they can certainly be murdered," Berger admits. "It’s not like they’re eternally the same age, so they had to have been born from somewhere. So yeah, I think the answer is yes. We just blew the lid off this thing."
Berger worked closely with Henson on the new film, and if there is anyone who would be an authority on whether or not a Muppet can be killed, it would be the son of Jim Henson himself. Berger says that Jim Henson always had the idea of a more adult puppet film in mind, but that he never got around to making it. One imagines that Henson the Elder would have gone full-out with the "adult" part of the description, just as Henson the Younger and Berger have done with Happytime. When it went from a PG-13 to an R rating, Berger mentions how they were not only encouraged to add their raunchiest material back into the draft, but to add even more. According to Berger, everyone realized that if it was going to be rated R, then it needed to "embrace being R."
Berger also mentions towards the end of the interview that the raunchiest, filthiest, and most brilliant puppet film of all time, Meet the Feebles, was definitely an inspiration when creating this new film. Though Berger hasn't talked to Peter Jackson about it yet (Feebles was the second film Jackson directed), he does say that he'd love a crossover. One of the original puppeteers from Feebles, Danny Mulheron, did reach out to Berger recently, saying, "So great to see the spirit living on of bad puppets."
The spirit lives on indeed, and the question of Muppet mortality has, for now, been answered. If there's a particular Muppet who is making your life miserable, take solace in the idea that he/she is just as delicate as anyone else. Bad things happen to bad Muppets all the time, kid.
The Happytime Murders opens wide this weekend.