It’s amazing to think that many people’s childhoods could be partly credited to Frank Oz, the “Muppeteer” who was the right-hand man to the equally legendary Jim Henson. And yet, there’s been some trouble in the air for Oz recently, who revealed that he hasn’t been asked back to work on certain projects.
In the Star Wars community, many know Oz as the voice of Yoda — distinctly speaking in a voice like no other in that familiar backwards syntax. But Oz has had many other great roles as well, providing the voices for the likes of Bert, Grover and Cookie Monster in Sesame Street, and voicing Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and more in the classic Muppets productions.
But in a recent interview with The Guardian, Oz revealed that he hasn’t worked with the likes of Disney and Sesame Street. Not because he doesn’t want to, but allegedly, it’s the other way around. Here’s an excerpt from the feature interview:
"Oz hasn’t worked with the Muppets since 2007, and I assumed he’d retired. I assumed incorrectly: “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,” he says. He can’t bear to watch the Muppets or Sesame Street today: “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.”"
Frank Oz and Disney
It’s quite astounding to hear that Disney wouldn’t want to collaborate with someone who was the backbone of the Muppets. In the years since the company acquired the Muppets from Jim Henson, they’ve created several new ventures, including the last two Muppets movies and even a brand new TV series. But since then, voice actor Eric Jacobson has filled some of the roles vacated by Oz.
Still, Oz has gotten some credit on the Disney side, mostly for his role as Yoda in a few Star Wars projects. He’s even credited for the role of Yoda in an entry as recent as 2020’s Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge.
And, as mentioned in the interview, he sees from his point of view that corporations and companies don’t exactly know what to do with the characters they have when they assume ownership of them. They can only try to do their best to mimic the success of the original. (Think: Bob Iger guiding the new era of Star Wars without needing to answer to George Lucas.)
So, it’s possible Disney may choose to collaborate with Oz again in the future. But he seems quite content now, at least knowing that he’s left his mark on those characters. And he’ll certainly be remembered for that.
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