The Muppet Movie is the first of a series of live-action musical feature films starring Jim Henson's Muppets. Released in 1979, the film was produced by Henson Associates, and ITC Entertainment.
The film is dedicated to Edgar Bergen who died during production.
It was released on DVD by Sony Pictures on June 5, 2001 and again by Walt Disney Pictures on November 29, 2005 as Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition.
The Muppet Movie uses meta-references as a source of humor, as characters occasionally break the fourth wall to address the audience or comment on their real-life circumstances:
- Fozzie: [to Big Bird] "Hey, there! Wanna lift?"
- Big Bird: "Oh, no thanks. I'm on my way to New York City to try to break into public television."
(This refers to Big Bird's future "career" on Sesame Street.)
In a particularly meta-fictional plot twist, Kermit and Fozzie actually give the screenplay to Dr. Teeth, who later uses it to find and rescue them after they have been stranded in the desert.
Filming locations included Albuquerque, New Mexico.
To perform Kermit static on a log, Jim Henson squeezed into a specially designed metal container complete with an air hose (to breathe), a rubber sleeve which came out of the top to perform Kermit and a monitor to see his performance, and placed himself under the water, log, and the Kermit puppet. He was also assisted in this operation by Kathryn Mullen. This scene took five days to film.
Before this, no movie had a hand puppet act with their entire body appearing on-screen. To have Kermit ride a bicycle in a full-body shot, a Kermit doll with legs was posed onto the seat and his legs and arms were attached to the pedals and handlebars. An overhead crane with a marionette system held the bicycle through strong strings invisible to the camera, guiding the bicycle forward. The crane and system was out of the camera's frame of vision.
Other shots required Muppets standing and acting in a full-body shot. Specially-made, remote-controlled dolls were placed on the set and controlled by puppeteers out of the frame. A dancing Kermit and Fozzie Bear were operated by their usual puppeteers in front of a blue screen, and were composited onto a separate reel of the stage. Both of these effects and the bicycle effect would be used again, and refined, in the next Muppet films.
Several classic cars were specially selected by Henson for appearances in the film. The most famous was a pair of psychedelic painted 1951 Studebaker Commander Coupes. In the film, Fozzie states that he inherited the car from his uncle. When asked by Kermit if his uncle is dead, Fozzie replies "no, he's hibernating". One car was painted but unmodified and driven by a person in the front seat. It was used for long, traveling shots. The second car was driven by a person in the trunk, who viewed the road through a TV set. The TV received its image from a camera located in the center nose of the car's front grill. This made it possible for Frank Oz to sit in the front seat and portray Fozzie driving the car in close up shots. This car is now on display at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana.
Doc Hopper is chauffeured throughout the movie by Max in a 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine. The 1959 is distinctive for its enormous fins.
The final car driven by the Muppets is a 1946 Ford 'Woody' Station Wagon, which is famous for its wood panel siding and is a valuable collectible.