Disney+ Really Needs to Stop Disrespecting the Muppets

Kermit the Frog was a recurring fixture on Sesame Street back in the day. But the Muppets didn’t truly come into their own until 1975. That’s when The Muppet Show debuted in prime time, launching what has since become a decades-long franchise.

The characters went on to star in several TV series, countless specials and movies, and eight theatrical releases. But ownership of the franchise has changed hands over the years. In 2004, Disney acquired the Muppets in a similar way to its purchase of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm throughout the subsequent decade.

But how is the House of Mouse handling the Muppets these days? Not great, according to the streaming options over in the Disney+ library.

Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog at The o2
Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog at The o2 | Antony Jones/Getty Images for AEG – The o2

Disney hasn’t properly developed the Muppet brand

Prior to Disney’s acquisition, the company had established a long-running relationship with Jim Henson’s signature creations. Those projects included The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, released in 1993 and 1996, respectively. Following the deal’s finalization, Disney eventually revived the franchise with 2011 hit The Muppets. However, that resurgence didn’t last long.

Three years later, Muppets Most Wanted earned less than half of The Muppets‘ worldwide box office total. Disney seemingly tabled the film side, choosing to focus on a short-lived sitcom inspired by The Office. A rebooted Muppet Babies — based on the 1980s children’s show — has been the only major project since 2015.

Disney+ is missing a great deal of the Muppet library

We can’t necessarily blame Disney for not pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the franchise. After all, as beloved as these characters are, they have rarely inspired monstrous mainstream turnout. Rather, the Muppets work best when they’re operating on a smaller scale. But Disney definitely hasn’t made the franchise super accessible to interested fans.

A recent Vanity Fair article explored Disney’s mishandling of Henson’s characters, specifically on Disney+. The streaming service features tons of “channels” and “collections” for brands like Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and even National Geographic. But the characters have no way of reining in users. Moreover, the library is shockingly short of the franchise’s content.

Of the franchise’s eight theatrical films, six of them are accounted for, as is most of the recent Disney content. But the five-season run of The Muppet Show, the original Muppet Babies, and many other programs are still nowhere to be found. Perhaps licensing complications are behind it, but even if that’s the case, Disney+ is doing Kermit no favors.

What does the future hold for Kermit, Miss Piggy, and friends?

Thankfully, as the Vanity Fair piece points out, fans could have reason to hope for something better around the corner. In February 2020, Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, announced he was stepping down. Iger inherited the Muppet acquisition from his predecessor Michael Eisner and never made the franchise much of a priority.

A lot of prospective projects have fallen by the wayside over the past 15 years. But as of now, the franchise’s only upcoming project is Muppets Now, a Disney+ series due for summer 2020. Perhaps a change of executive leadership means Disney could “light the lights” on other projects, such as the nixed Muppets Live Another Day co-written by Disney regular Josh Gad.

Even if Kermit and company will never be as huge as the Avengers, Henson’s legacy deserves better. Generations of fans will turn out for more Muppet goodness if Disney produces it. We can only hope Chapek sees the potential profitability in Kermit the Frog and his motley group of lovable misfits.