Frank Oz Wants To Play With The Muppets Again But "Disney Doesn't Want Me"

It can't be easy for a once-in-a-generation creative talent to be largely responsible for a beloved staple of pop culture ... only to live long enough to watch it pass by completely and turn into something unrecognizable. Throughout the decades, director, producer, performer, and puppeteer extraordinaire Frank Oz has been upheld by many as the main figurehead (along with Jim Henson) behind "The Muppets" and "Sesame Street," celebrated for bringing so many of the legendary characters to life. At the same time, Oz has also been vocal on several occasions when discussing his extreme displeasure about the lack of spark that current iterations of "The Muppets" seem to possess these days. Always refreshingly honest and candid, Oz is once again making headlines for his thoughts on the subject with some of his most acerbic quotes yet.

"They Don't Get It"

Frank Oz isn't holding back. In an interview with The Guardian (via Uproxx), Oz opens up even more than he has before about why he wouldn't return to the Muppets despite wanting to, his issues with ongoing "Muppets" media these days, and why he believes that Disney holds some of the blame for Henson's death. Like we said, the man is shooting straight from the hip here. In response to the assumption that he's officially retired after not working on anything Muppet-related since 2007, Oz clarifies his present mindset:

"I'd love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn't want me, and Sesame Street hasn't asked me for 10 years. They don't want me because I won't follow orders and I won't do the kind of Muppets they believe in."
"The soul's not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them."

Though some may look at this as little more than sour grapes, it's easy to see where Oz is coming from here. There's still plenty to love among the recent output, but The Muppets haven't exactly reached the glorious heights of decades past or even remained consistent. In terms of movies, 2011's "The Muppets" and 2014's "Muppets Most Wanted" certainly have their pleasures, but the television side of the franchise has failed to produce anything even remotely approaching the peak of the property.

The lack of Oz's presence in recent productions has been unmistakable, but Henson's shoes are just as impossible to fill. He died at the shockingly early age of 53 in 1990 due to streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, which Oz theorizes had much to do with ongoing negotiations with Disney at the time.

"The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick."
"[Then-head of Disney, Michael] Eisner was trying to get Sesame Street, too, which Jim wouldn't allow. But Jim was not a dealer, he was an artist, and it was destroying him, it really was."

These are incendiary words, but painfully honest ones from a dear friend of Henson's who has likely harbored these feelings for years and years. Of course, Disney did go through with the purchase of the beloved Muppets, at least, and Oz has never been able to look at it the same way again, noting a "...demarcation line between the Jim Henson Muppets and the Disney Muppets." He also pointedly adds, "There's an inability for corporate America to understand the value of something they bought. They never understood, with us, it's not just about the puppets, it's about the performers who love each other and have worked together for many years."

In that light, it feels like something of a minor miracle that Oz agreed to reprise his role as the voice and performer of Yoda for his exciting cameo in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Some could argue there's a parallel between what happened with the Muppets post-Oz and Star Wars post-George Lucas, in terms of original properties becoming watered down with new creators and losing something integral in the process. Personally, I take this as a full endorsement of how "The Last Jedi" treated Yoda with all the respect the character deserves and kept his philosophy in line with what Lucas originally intended. Or maybe he just really likes Rian Johnson, having also appeared in a small but great role in "Knives Out." We can't blame him, either way.