Jason Segel brings The Muppets back to life

Weeks before the release of “The Muppets,” writer and actor Jason Segel is laughing as he looks back at the production and his fond memories of it. In a press junket at the Beverly Hilton, he recounts how one of his favorite possessions of all time is a “chicken-scrawl” survey that contains a seven-year-old boy’s criticism of his face, which the crew had framed for him to keep on his wall.

The actor, who also wrote “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” is excited as his hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” approaches.

“My childhood list of dreams is now almost completely checked off,” he says. “It was [to] be on David Letterman, which I did a couple of years ago, work with the Muppets, and host ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and then the next one is the cover of Men’s Health.”

Segel pitched “The Muppets” to Disney soon after the grand puppet musical ending of “Sarah Marshall.” A lifelong fan of the Muppets and puppetry in general, he will see his labor of love, “The Muppets” released to audiences Thanksgiving weekend.

“The Muppets are not scripted,” he said. “We wrote the script, but they’ll say whatever they want.” Knowing the history the Muppets have had on the first year of Saturday Night Live, Segel hopes to include them in the show for a triumphant return.

With reality TV and gross-out, raunchy comedies, Segel sees the cycle of comedy being in a cynical stage, which encouraged him to pursue bringing the Muppets back in a big way. “Their style of comedy is so pure, so kind, that I felt like it’s important that kids have that influence in their lives,” he said.

“These characters exist in our world, you see them interacting with humans and you could meet Kermit,” Segel said. “You could touch him, you can take a picture with him, but you’ll never meet Shrek - he lives in a computer.”

Also present at the junket were Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog, who said that, “it’s nice to have a chance to kind of reintroduce yourself to the next group of kids.”

The Muppets are not back alone, they bring with them a new member, Walter. A character in the vein of Elmo, Walter brings people into his shoes. “I think what’s exciting in the film, is that it’s so great for old-time fans, as well as for a generation who maybe don’t know you guys as well,” Walter says.

To that Miss Piggy lets out a laugh of haughty derision at the idea that anyone would not know of her, and she says “that’s funny.” In the movie, Miss Piggy channels the spirit of “The Devil Wears Prada” as a plus-sized fashion editor at Vogue Paris.

“That was a really, really hard, challenging part of the movie for moi because I had to play this very bossy person. Which is completely foreign to moi,” she said as Walter and Kermit hemmed and hawed in an avoidant fashion. “I am nothing like that in real life.”

The movie is set to be loaded with celebrity cameos, some so secret that the publishers request they be kept out of print. So many cameos were shot that the producers regretted having to cut so many out of the theatrical release, which they assure will become DVD extras.

Alongside the film, a “Toy Story” short will be released from the maker of the “Wall-E” short, “Burn-E”, about a welding robot that is unwittingly affected by Wall-E’s actions in the film. Director Angus MacLane dedicated the miniature “Burn-E” to his father and “Small Fry” - to his mother, a therapist.

In the short, Jane Lynch portrays an abandoned mermaid toy that plays therapist to other abandoned toys.

The short film, “Small Fry,” will accompany “The Muppets” in its theatrical release on Nov. 24.

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