Muppet Treasure Island
Muppet Treasure Island is a 1996 American musical action adventure comedy film directed by Brian Henson, produced by Jim Henson Productions, and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the fifth feature film to star the Muppets and is based on the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
|Muppet Treasure Island|
Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
|Directed by||Brian Henson|
|Based on||Treasure Island|
by Robert Louis Stevenson
|Narrated by||Billy Connolly|
|Music by||Hans Zimmer|
|Edited by||Michael Jablow|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures Distribution|
|Box office||$34.3 million|
Similarly to its predecessor The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), the key roles were played by live-action actors, with the Muppets in supporting roles. It stars Tim Curry, Billy Connolly, Jennifer Saunders and, in his feature film debut, Kevin Bishop, alongside Kermit the Frog as Captain Abraham Smollett, Fozzie Bear as Squire Trelawney, Sam Eagle as Mr. Samuel Arrow and Miss Piggy as the castaway Benjamina Gunn. Following their success as the narrators of The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat were given specially created roles as Jim Hawkins' best friends.
The film was released on February 16, 1996, grossing $34 million on a budget of $31 million, and receiving generally positive reviews from critics and audiences.
Jim Hawkins is a young orphan who lives in an inn in England with his best friends Gonzo and Rizzo. Jim listens to Billy Bones' tales about the pirate Captain Flint, who buried his treasure trove on a remote island and executed his crew so only he would own the island's map. One night, Bones' crewmate Blind Pew arrives, giving Bones the black spot. Bones gives Jim the treasure map. Just before dying of a heart attack, he begs Jim to go after the treasure and keep both it and the map safe from pirate hands. An army of pirates attack the inn, destroying it, but Jim, Gonzo, and Rizzo escape with the map.
The trio takes the map to the half-wit Squire Trelawney (Fozzie Bear), who arranges a voyage to find the treasure. The boys are enlisted aboard the Hispaniola as cabin boys, accompanied by Trelawney, Dr. Livesey (Bunsen Honeydew), and Beaker. The ship is commanded by Captain Abraham Smollett (Kermit the Frog) and his overly strict first mate, Mr. Arrow (Sam Eagle). The boys meet the cook Long John Silver, a one-legged man whom Bones warned them of, but Jim and Silver become good friends. The ship sets sail, but Smollett is suspicious of the crew, believing them to be of shady character. After Gonzo and Rizzo are kidnapped and tortured by three of the crew who have turned out to be pirates, he has the treasure map locked up for safe keeping.
It is revealed that Silver and the secret pirates in the crew had been part of Flint's crew and want the treasure for themselves. Silver fools Mr. Arrow into leaving the ship to test out a rowboat, claims he drowned, and has his minions steal the map during Arrow's memorial service. Jim, Gonzo, and Rizzo discover Silver's treachery and inform Smollett. Arriving at Treasure Island, Smollett orders the entire crew save the officers to go ashore, planning to keep himself and non-pirate crew aboard the ship and abandon the pirates on the island. However, his plan falls through when it is discovered that Silver has kidnapped Jim to have leverage against the captain. On the island, Silver invites Jim to join them in the treasure hunt using his late father's compass. When Jim refuses, Silver forcibly takes the compass from him. Smollett, Gonzo, and Rizzo land on the island in an effort to rescue Jim. However, unbeknownst to them, Silver had hidden a squad of pirates aboard the Hispaniola before leaving, and they capture the ship in Smollett's absence. On the island, Smollett and the rest of the landing party are captured by the native tribe of pigs, where Smollett reunites with his jilted lover Benjamina Gunn (Miss Piggy), the tribe's queen.
The pirates find that the cave in which Flint hid the treasure is empty, leading to a brief mutiny against Silver. Silver reveals that, even though he is a pirate, he cares for Jim and allows him to escape. Smollett and Benjamina are captured by Silver, and Smollett is hung from a cliff to fall to his death. In an effort to save Smollett, Benjamina reveals the treasure is hidden in her house, but when she spits out a kiss from Silver, he hangs her off the cliff as well. Jim rescues his friends and with Mr. Arrow (who is revealed to be alive), the group regains control of the Hispaniola, and rescue Smollett and Benjamina. The group engages the pirates in a sword fight until only Silver is left standing, but he surrenders when he finds himself outnumbered. While the pirates are imprisoned, Silver discovers he still has Mr. Arrow's keys and tries to escape with the treasure. Jim confronts him, but allows him to leave as long as they never cross paths again, much to Silver's disappointment. Silver rows away, but not before returning Jim's compass to him. However, Mr. Arrow informs Jim and Smollett that the boat Silver used was not seaworthy, and Silver is stranded on the island with no gold.
The crew of the Hispaniola sails away into the sunset, while some scuba-diving rat tourists recover the treasure from the sea, ending the film.
- Kevin Bishop as Jim Hawkins, a good-natured orphan boy who, for most of his life, has worked at the Admiral Benbow Inn under the strict rule of Mrs. Bluveridge, but has always dreamed of nautical adventures. He is an incredibly trusting boy, which proves to be somewhat of a downfall for him, as he forms a bond with the ship's chef Long John Silver, who is ultimately revealed to be a pirate.
- Tim Curry as Long John Silver, a deceptively charming pirate, posing as a chef, who befriends Jim at first until he is overheard by Gonzo, Rizzo and Jim as he reveals his dastardly plans to his fellow pirates aboard the Hispaniola. During his siege on Treasure Island, it is suggested that Silver and Benjamina Gunn share a romantic history. Despite his villainous nature, he genuinely cares about Jim.
- Jennifer Saunders as Mrs. Bluveridge, a loud, plump woman who owns the Admiral Benbow Inn where Jim and his friends work. She has an uncanny ability to know when people are not doing what they should be doing, which leads to various characters exclaiming, "How does she do that?!" Though rough with the "boys", she does show a genuine concern for Jim, helping him escape the pirates before seeing them off herself.
- Billy Connolly as Billy Bones, an ex-pirate, previously a member of Captain Flint's crew who witnessed the burial of gold on Treasure Island and informs Jim that he still has the map to the treasure before he suffers a fatal heart attack. During a 2002 live performance in Dublin, Connolly jokingly claimed to be the only man to ever die in a Muppet movie.
|Performer||Muppet character||Treasure Island character|
|Dave Goelz||The Great Gonzo|
|Dr. Bunsen Honeydew||Dr. David Livsey|
|Steve Whitmire||Kermit the Frog||Captain Abraham Smollett|
|Rizzo the Rat|
|Beaker||Dr. Livsey's assistant|
|Lew Zealand||Crew member|
|Floyd Pepper||Crew member|
|Frank Oz||Fozzie Bear||Squire Trelawney (voice only)|
|Miss Piggy||Benjamina Gunn (voice only)|
|Sam Eagle||Mr. Samuel Arrow (voice only)|
|Kevin Clash||Fozzie Bear||Squire Trelawney (puppetry only)|
|Miss Piggy||Benjamina Gunn (puppetry only)|
|Sam Eagle||Mr. Samuel Arrow (puppetry only)|
|Real Old Tom|
|Bill Barretta||Mudwell the Mudbunny|
|Louise Gold||Brool the Minstrel|
|Don Austen||Originals||Background Pirates, Native Pigs|
Following the release of The Muppet Christmas Carol, it was decided that the next Muppet film would be an adaptation of a classic story. Co-writer Kirk R. Thatcher stated: "There were a whole bunch of ideas out there and I was most keen [on] Treasure Island and a King Arthur story with medival [sic] dragons and knights, in the end we all agreed as a group that Treasure Island was a better story for the Muppets to take on." In the first draft, Gonzo and Rizzo were initially written to portray two characters named Jim and Hawkins, but Thatcher explained that "the studio was nervous that they couldn't hold the emotional heart of the movie, so eventually the human Jim Hawkins was written in, and we cast Gonzo and Rizzo alongside him." About a hundred actors auditioned the role of Jim Hawkins, but Kevin Bishop, who did the very first audition, received the part.
In May 1993, Brian Henson announced that the Muppets would appear in a loose film adaptation of Treasure Island. Filming was slated to begin in the fall in London with a tentative release date slated for spring 1994. While the film did not have a distributor at the time, Walt Disney Pictures did have a first look deal. Veteran Muppet performer Frank Oz was unavailable for most of shooting, so fellow Muppet performer Kevin Clash puppeteered his characters, while Oz dubbed the voices in post-production. Oz had already participated in a recorded read-through of the script; Clash used these recordings to help prompt his performances. According to Clash, Oz gave him a brief description of each of his characters prior to shooting. Oz described Miss Piggy as "a truck driver wanting to be a woman", and Fozzie Bear as somebody similar to Jerry Lewis.
|The Muppet Treasure Island: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||February 6, 1996|
|The Muppets chronology|
|Singles from The Muppet Treasure Island: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
The Muppet Treasure Island: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack features an instrumental score by Hans Zimmer, with additional music by Nick Glennie-Smith, as well as songs written by pop songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The film's ending includes the reggae number "Love Power" performed by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, which was released as a single and promoted with a music video featuring Marley and some Muppets with dreadlocks.
- "Shiver My Timbers" – The Pirates
- "Something Better" – Jim, Gonzo and Rizzo
- "Sailing for Adventure" – The Hispaniola crew
- "Cabin Fever" – The Hispaniola crew
- "A Professional Pirate" – Silver and the Pirates
- "Boom Shakalaka" – Island Natives
- "Love Led Us Here" – Smollett and Benjamina
- "Love Power" (end credits) – Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
- "Love Led Us Here" (end credits) – John Berry and Helen Darling
To coincide with the film's theatrical release, a making-of documentary featuring the filmmakers and the Muppets aired on the Disney Channel on February 2, 1996. On February 14, 1996, Jim Henson Video released a direct-to-video Muppet Sing Alongs VHS entitled Muppet Treasure Island, which was hosted by Kermit the Frog and featured two musical numbers from the film.
Muppet Treasure Island was the second Muppet film co-produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures, following The Muppet Christmas Carol. It has been made available on home video formats. Walt Disney Home Video and Jim Henson Video first released the film on VHS on September 10, 1996. During its initial home video release, it had sold an estimated 5 million VHS copies. The film was re-released on a "Special Edition" DVD in Region 1 on August 8, 2000.
The first DVD re-release in the U.S. was on June 4, 2002, and was a fullscreen-only version. Other releases of these were in widescreen only format. The DVD release has 3 bonus features added like "Hidden Treasure Commentary", "The Tale of the Story Behind the Tail" and "Treasure Island Sing-Along" (but the menus were in widescreen format). Walt Disney Home Entertainment re-released the film on DVD on November 29, 2005, in conjunction with Kermit the Frog's 50th anniversary celebration; this time the DVD contained both full-screen and widescreen presentations. The film made its debut on Blu-ray Disc on December 10, 2013 as part of a two-movie bundle with The Great Muppet Caper.
Muppet Treasure Island opened on February 16, 1996 in 2,070 venues and earned $7,906,689 over the weekend, ranking third at the North American box office behind the second weekend of Broken Arrow and fellow newcomer Happy Gilmore. At the time, it held the record for having the biggest opening weekend gross for a Disney film in February. It ultimately grossed $34,327,391 domestically.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 73% based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Though less Muppet-centric than the original trilogy, Muppet Treasure Island is an energetic, cheerful take on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure, with typically solid gags."
Stephen Holden of The New York Times praised the playfulness of the Muppets as keeping "the story amusingly off-kilter. The mood is perfectly in keeping with the notion of the Muppets as contemporary children dressing up and improvising their own versions of classic tales." Ken Tucker, reviewing for Entertainment Weekly, gave the film a B+ noting that "the film is notably handsome in a dark, foreboding way. The Muppet action blends seamlessly with the human actors, and adults will be kept giggling with wittily anachronistic jokes about codependence, water-skiing, and Henry Kissinger."
Roger Ebert, reviewing for the Chicago Tribune, gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four. While he was favorable to Tim Curry's performance, he summarized the film as being "less cleverly written, and for moi it's a near miss." Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film two stars out of four writing that the film was a "boring Muppet adventure that doesn't successfully meld the Muppets into a conventional buried-treasure story. I wanted the Muppets to play themselves rather than phony pirate-related characters."
The Hormel Foods Corporation (the creators of Spam) sued Jim Henson Productions for using the name "Spa'am" for one of the film's tribal pig characters. The judge dismissed their suit on September 22, 1995 after a trial for failure to prove damages, noting, "one might think Hormel would welcome the association with a genuine source of pork." When Spa'am later appeared as a racing boss in Muppet RaceMania, he was credited as "Pig Chief".
- "Muppet Treasure Island". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- "Treasure Island' Gets Muppetized". Chicago Tribune. November 14, 1996. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- Billy Connolly Live 2002, 2002
- The Tale of The Story Beyond the Tail (DVD) (Media notes). Walt Disney Home Entertainment. 2003.
- Stein, Mitchell (January 15, 2015). "Interview with Muppet Writer and Director Kirk Thatcher Part 2". muppetmindset.com. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
- Fanning, Jim (February 16, 2016). "Muppet Treasure Island: Did You Know?". D23. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- Morek, Christian (May 14, 1993). "'Treasure' pic charted for Muppets". Variety. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- Honeycutt, Kirk (June 7, 1993). "Film to Team Up Muppets and Long John Silver". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- AllMusic review
- "SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : New 'Oddities' on MTV; how to make a Muppet movie on Disney; TLC's hurrah for cheerleading?". Los Angeles Times. February 4, 1996. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- Heffley, Lynne (April 29, 1996). "Dahl's Scary 'The BFG' Is a Home Video Treat". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- Garrett, Diane (January 3, 1997). "Videocassette Business Still in Fast-Forward Mode". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for February 16-18, 1996". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 22, 2017.
- "Muppet Treasure Island (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
- Holden, Stephen (February 16, 1996). "FILM REVIEW;Those Muppet Puppets As Wacky Swashbucklers". The New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- Tucker, Ken (February 23, 1996). "Muppet Treasure Island Movie Review". Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- Ebert, Roger (February 16, 1996). "Muppet Treasure Island Movie Review (1996)". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- Siskel, Gene (February 16, 1996). "Snappy Patter and Cusack Can't Save 'City Hall' From Unfocused Story". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
- "Muppet Treasure Island". MobyGames. Blue Flame Labs. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- McKinley, James C. McKinley, Jr. (July 26, 1995). "Hormel Sues Over a Boarish Film Muppet". The New York Times.
- Tina Kelly (August 6, 2000). "Following Up – When Is a Wart Hog A Canned Pork Product?". The New York Times.