Muppets In Space (lost early drafts of "Muppets From Space" sci-fi family film; 1999)
Muppets From Space, released on July 14th, 1999, is the sixth theatrical film created for the Muppets franchise. The film centers around Gonzo, whose desire to know more about his family leads to the discovery that he might actually be an alien from outer space. The film is generally considered a box-office bomb, receiving mixed reviews and barely making back its $24 million USD budget. In light of this, it is noteworthy that the finished film is much different than what was originally planned.
Originally, the film was envisioned as a sci-fi parody titled Muppets in Space, a takeoff on the Star Wars franchise (and the logical follow-up to the similarly-themed Muppet Show segment, "Pigs in Space"). The plot of the new film would have involved Kermit getting kidnapped by an alien race after being mistaken for their long-lost leader, prompting the rest of the primary Muppets cast (Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, etc.) to head out on a rescue mission. The screenplay based on this idea was to be written by Kirk Thatcher.
At the same time, veteran Muppet writer Jerry Juhl was developing a similar idea titled "Star Gonzo", the plot of which is unknown save that it focussed on Gonzo and involved aliens. Eventually, Columbia Pictures opted to focus on Juhl's idea, although the original title was largely retained. Though Thatcher's version of the film was never produced, a series of Welch's Jelly Jars were made to promote it.
Joey Mazzarino was hired to co-write for the film alongside Juhl and Ken Kaufman, with Randal Kleiser, of Grease fame, set to direct. Mazzarino described his version of the script as also 'parody-heavy', featuring references to such franchises as Men in Black, Contact, and Alien. The ending was also very different: Instead of Gonzo being confirmed as an alien, it would have been revealed that the aliens had actually modelled themselves after Gonzo, and Gonzo's own origins would ultimately have remained a mystery, he having accepted that his true home was with the Muppet troupe. At this point, however, the film's creative team was overhauled yet again. As Mazzarino related in an interview some years later:
"... Then I got a panicked call from Henson saying that they were firing Randal [Kleiser, the director]. They said, “We don’t feel like he’s bringing enough vision.” I said, “But we got the green light! We’re going!” So they flew me out to LA to pick a new director, and we picked a director who was a very nice guy, and he did a decent job, but he wanted to get rid of all the parody stuff. He wanted it to be more real, and the ending, I hate the ending. In my draft, the aliens were getting the signal of old Muppet Shows, and they made themselves look like Gonzo because he was the ultimate being to them. And then they peel back to reveal themselves to be these hideous creatures. And it’s not about family being those guys, his family is the Muppets. So he’s still a whatever, he’s not an alien in the end. So the fact that they made him an alien bugs the crap out of me. Anyway, they hired him, he wanted to make all these changes, and I just left."
- Mazzarino, speaking to fansite ToughPigs.com
Another casualty of the revamp were the original songs, including a new version of Gonzo's theme "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" from The Muppet Movie, and a new song that was written by rock band Ween, titled "Eye 2 the Sky." Whether or not any other songs were planned/written for the film currently remains unknown. Muppets From Space would ultimately become the only non-musical Muppet film to date.
None of the earlier scripts have been leaked to the public, and little-to-no behind-the-scenes production material has been released as of this writing. The cut songs were eventually included on an official soundtrack album and can easily be found online, along with several screenshots of cut scenes.
- Sam and Friends (partially found Jim Henson puppet TV series; 1955-1961)
- Wilkins and Wontkins (partially lost series of Jim Henson commercials; 1957-1969)
- The Muppets' early ads (partially lost series of commercials; 1962-1969)
- Sesame Street (partially lost children's educational TV series; 1969-present)
- The Dark Crystal (partially found high-quality version of workprint/director's cut of puppet fantasy film; early 1980s)
- The Power of The Dark Crystal (lost production materials from canceled sequel to "The Dark Crystal" fantasy film; 1982-2014)
- Fraggle Rock (partially found British co-production of puppet children's television series; 1984-1990)
- The original plot Retrieved 30 Jul '22
- "Star Gonzo" Retrieved 30 Jul '22
- An archive of the official Jim Henson website advertising the Welch's promotion Retrieved 30 Jul '22
- An interview held with Joey Mazzarino Retrieved 30 Jul '22
- The music for Muppets From Space Retrieved 30 Jul '22