Earlier this week Muppets voice legend Frank Oz was interviewed by The Guardian. Oz is best known for his work with Jim Henson, where he helped develop, puppeteer, and voice classic characters for TV and and movies such as Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Grover, Cookie Monster, and Jedi Master Yoda. Oz worked on various projects since joining The Muppets in 1963 until his semi-retirement from puppeting the characters in 2001 but still stayed on in an advisory role. During this rare interview with The Guardian, Oz confessed the reason that he hasn’t been associated with The Muppets since 2007, and it wasn’t really is choice, it was Disney’s.
“I’d love to do The Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years,” Oz said. “They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in.”
For years Oz admits a distrust of Disney, stemming all the way back to when they were were striking a deal with Jim Henson before his untimely death. After the deal eventually went through with the media giant, it wasn’t long before Oz saw the work and the characters he created change.
“The Disney deal is probably what killed Jim. It made him sick,” Oz said. “[Then Disney CEO 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.”
He continued, “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.”
The media giant hasn’t asked Oz to participate in The Muppets since 2007, instead enlisting Eric Jacobson to take over all of Oz’s characters for both The Muppets as well as Sesame Street, where Oz hasn’t performed since 2014. In fact, Jacobson started the process of performing the characters as early as 2000. But despite not performing with The Muppets, he’s worked with the mouse company on Star Wars-related things the last few years, although he wasn’t consulted for Grogu/Baby Yoda’s appearance on The Mandalorian.
But Oz still can’t watch his former characters today, adding “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.”