This Times story on the Muppets, by Brooks Barnes, is depressing enough that I’m considering re-subscribing to the paper just so that I can cancel again.

First, there’s news that elicits mixed emotions — at best. Disney, which gobbled up the Muppets four years ago, is hoping to reinvigorate the franchise. But it’s Disney. And I’ve just used the word “franchise” in conjunction with the Muppets. Like I said, mixed emotions. Second, Barnes reports that, “recent focus groups indicated that some children could not even identify Kermit and Miss Piggy, much less ancillary characters like Fozzie Bear and Gonzo the Great.” “Some” is doing a lot of work there, isn’t it? What percentage of children in focus groups couldn’t identify Kermit and Miss Piggy? 10%? 20%? 30%? Or an End-is-Nigh 40% or more? I need hard data so I can decide whether it’s time to begin digging my End Times shelter. Also, Fozzie Bear is not an “ancillary character”. Seriously, how dare Barnes? Imagine what this will do to Fozzie’s already fragile ego. Third, of the Muppets hold on the culture, Barnes writes: “…those glory days are long gone.” Um, somebody doesn’t read the Edge of the American West very often.

All of that said, there is some good news about Disney’s stewardship:

At the same time maintaining the core DNA of the characters is crucial, so as not to alienate an older generation with warm memories from their own childhoods. Miss Piggy, as a result, does not suddenly become a vegan; she communicates about exercise by talking about how she hates to exercise. Kermit does not pontificate on going green; he listens to others talk about it in his humble, unassuming way.

Wait, did Barnes just say that I’m part of an “older generation”? Well, at least Disney’s allowing Miss Piggy to be Miss Piggy. In the end, though, there’s not much here to cheer about. Disney, we learn, is creating a “Muppets’ war room”, and that’s just wrong. Oh, and it turns out that I got played. Those new Muppets videos I blogged about a while back? Part of a “viral” marketing campaign. Sigh.