The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made! (lost production material of cancelled "Muppet" film; 1985-2009)
The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made! is an unmade Muppet movie that was first conceived in 1985 by Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz. There have been several attempts to get the film made, most recently by Disney in 2009, but none made it past the screenplay stage due (ironically enough) to budget issues. Despite having been confirmed to exist in multiple drafts, that screenplay has never resurfaced.
Longtime Muppet writer Juhl described the film's origins during an interview with Muppet Central in 1998:
"There was a project for a Muppet movie that we kept returning to. Jim and I worked on it and just loved it. It grew out of the fact that Jim was talking about finances and if we did another Muppet movie at the time, it would need to be done inexpensively since we were using bigger and bigger budgets for all our other projects...So we conceived of a movie slated as "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made." That was the original working title and that later became the subtitle with the title along the lines of, "Into the Teeth of the Demons of Death."
The idea being that this was a film that Gonzo directed. Kermit was too busy so when Gonzo asked, Kermit said, "Sure, go ahead. I can't take on the responsibilities behind the scenes at this time, but I'll perform in it." So Gonzo wrote this cheesy, terrible plot that made absolutely no sense whatsoever about something being stolen that led to a chase around the world. Unfortunately Gonzo blows half the movie's budget on the opening titles! So as the film progresses, it gets cheaper and cheaper where they're using a shot of the same street corner for every city in the world! We were still talking about this project in the last meeting I ended up having with Jim.
Every now and then, we still bring up the movie. Six months ago, Frank had said to me, "You know, there's still something in that movie, it would be a lot of fun to do." One thing that kept it from happening though was that for "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made," it still turned out to be expensive to shoot. Things like a tranquil island blowing up with a volcano and such."
Further details about the film's plot were revealed in 2013's "Jim Henson: The Biography." Gonzo's film-within-the-film was confirmed as "Into the Jaws of the Demons of Death," and his snowballing budget issues would eventually translate to "black & white Super 8 film," then to a slideshow and finally storyboards. In a dramatic twist ending Gonzo would find corporate sponsorship, ensuring a spectacular climax in hi-def widescreen.
During a 2020 livestream for the Museum of the Moving Image, Jim Lewis revealed that one scene would have crossed over with The Muppet Movie, showing the action behind the curtains of the Miss Bogen County Beauty Pageant moments before Miss Piggy's entrance.
Cancellation & Availability
The film would not be mentioned publicly again until D23 in September 2009, where it was announced as the next Muppet film. however it was later pushed aside in favor of 2011's "The Muppets".
During a January 2018 Reddit AMA, Frank Oz said of the film:
"When Dick Cook was head of Disney, he asked me to get involved with a Muppet movie, so because the previous script was dated from being written 40 years ago, I did rewrite it with the help of Jim Lewis. And personally, I love it. And I wish it could be made. But maybe its time now is gone because it feels like Disney would like to go its own way."
Outside of the various reminisces of those involved and a title card shown at D23, no versions of the screenplay have resurfaced in any format.