The Muppets have enjoyed a long and illustrious history. Jim Henson’s lovable creations have permeated just about every form of media in the past few decades. And Disney+ continued that traditioned with Muppets Now, the characters’ first streaming series. However, Disney+ still doesn’t have the complete Muppet movie collection. Here’s why two installments are missing.
Disney hasn’t always owned the Muppets franchise
Since 2004, Disney has owned The Muppets Studio. And in that time, Disney has produced two theatrical features, a short-lived ABC sitcom, and assorted other media. But from 1955 until Disney purchased the rights, the Muppets remained the property of The Jim Henson Company. And as such, the characters appeared in a variety of independent projects.
For example, The Muppet Show, The Muppet Movie, and 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper were produced by now-defunct British company ITC Entertainment. Over the years, Disney has collaborated with the Muppets, producing 1990s hits The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. But the Muppets became a Disney property far more recently.
So Disney+ hasn’t added these two theatrical Muppet movies yet
And the complicated rights issues involving the Muppets have come to bear on Disney+. All in all, the Muppets have appeared in eight theatrically released movies. Four of these were produced outright by Disney. And the studio has since acquired ownership rights of the ITC productions. But that still leaves two Muppet movies unaccounted for.
Sony released both 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan and 1999’s Muppets from Space. Presumably, the studio still retains the rights to them, preventing Disney from adding them to the Disney+ library. The former is notably the final big-screen appearance of Henson’s Kermit the Frog. Meanwhile, the latter stands as the Muppets’ least successful theatrical release to date.
In fact, Muppets from Space largely devalued the Muppet franchise for more than a decade. It would take 12 years for actor Jason Segel to star in and co-write The Muppets. That film revived the brand. But despite their resurgence in the 2010s, Disney remains — at least so far — unable to reclaim the two Muppet movies which Sony released decades ago.
But ‘The Muppet Show’ is coming to Disney+ in February 2021
However, perhaps there’s reason to think Disney might be able to reunite the complete Muppet movie collection someday. Fans were thrilled to learn recently that Disney+ will be adding all five seasons of The Muppet Show to its library in February 2021. That series too has been tied up in rights issues. In fact, Disney never even released the final two seasons on DVD.
Even before The Muppet Show joins Disney+, it won’t be the only remaining Muppet series left off the streaming service. While subscribers can check out Disney’s Muppet Babies reboot, the original 1984-1990 series is conspicuously absent. Likewise, ABC series Muppets Tonight — which ran from 1996 to 1998 — is not available. Could Disney+ add these shows next?