After the launch of the Muppets Meet the Classics book series that began last year with Phantom of the Opera, Disney and Penguin Workshop are back again with the second installment in the series, Muppets Meet the Classics: Tales from the Brothers Grimm. Unlike its predecessor, which told the entirety of the Phantom of the Opera tale in a colorful, wacky Muppetized version, this book puts the Muppets into short concise stories adapted from some of the most famous Brothers Grimm tales out there–and some of it’s most obscure, in a wonderful example of what the Muppets can accomplish in a new medium.
Adapting The Muppets, primarily known for their on-screen appearances in television and film, into a literary chapter book was a challenge for author Erik Forrest Jackson, who was faced with the challenge of adapting the Muppets’ signature visual comedy into descriptive text. “Whenever you think about The Muppets, you think about how they look” explains Jackson, “and so when you see Miss Piggy in a movie, you instantly recognize her. You also recognize her visual cues and expressions, but when you’re writing for a book, you need to take those descriptions a bit further.” The book delves into descriptions of the characters and their movements, such as moments where the story calls for Kermit to blink or blush–both movements that don’t particularly consciously exist when you view the characters on screen. Taking these characters that are largely visual characters, and adapting those characters in an entirely new medium brings along its own unique situations and additions to the ongoing canon and logic of the universe.
But the Muppets have always been used to taking on new projects and new stories throughout a wide range of mediums. “For me, the Muppets are actors, and they’re always putting on a show,” says Jackson, “just like I had done for Phantom of the Opera, I began by putting them through a casting process, to find which characters would work better for each part. It’s kind of like putting on a show, but on a page.” Following in that spirit, the start of Tales from the Brothers Grimm actually begins by the Muppets gang establishing that the preceding pages are nothing more than just a show at the Muppet Theater, with each interval act beginning a new tale. For inspiration for this setup, Jackson went back to revisit episodes of The Muppet Show, as well as storytelling Muppet productions like Muppet Treasure Island and The Muppet Christmas Carol. “Having this format helped me incorporate many jokes, like Veterinarians Hospital into the story, and take these stand-alone Muppet Show ideas and work them into these fairy tale settings, and often times they really surprised me.”
Being a book about the tales from the Brothers Grimm, there are certainly many grim elements to pull from within these stories, but what challenges does that set for adapting for the Muppets, which are primarily a comedy franchise? “The first time I encountered this question is when I was writing Muppets Meet the Classics: Phantom of the Opera one year earlier. The book features the prominent death of a minor Muppet character, the goofy janitor Beauregard in the Phantom story. At the time, I wasn’t sure how that idea would be received, but Jim Lewis, who is essentially the gatekeeper of the Muppet world in many ways, loved the idea of blending the goofiness of the Muppets with the darkness of the tales we were adapting. That gave me the freedom and empowerment to go further with Brothers Grimm, essentially taking it darker, but also goofier at the same time.”
At the same time, Jackson’s two books also feature a wide array of hidden details and character appearances to please hardcore Muppet fans, delving out some of the most obscure characters from the vast filmography of the characters. “I didn’t want readers to feel they were bored, in that I would have to use Kermit and Fozzie in every story, and there’s such a wide cast of great characters, so why not use them?” Jackson explains. Tales from the Brothers Grimm features almost all of the prominent Muppets in various roles, including many appearances that may even have the most knowledgeable Muppet fans searching their memory to remember these wonderfully obscure characters.
Muppets Meet the Classics: Brothers Grimm is a spectacular follow-up to its predecessor and another fantastic foray into this entirely new medium for the characters. The Muppets Meet the Classics series is hopefully one that will have many more installments on the way, and we can’t wait to see what may be in store next in the future of Muppet literature.
Muppets Meet the Classics: Tales from the Brothers Grimm is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Mitchell Stein is the founder and operator of the Disney-fan based website The Mickey Mindset which is a leader in delivering Disney news, articles and opinions across the company. He can be contacted by following him on Twitter @MitchellStein1.