The Muppet franchise has tried a few new things over the years, and while some of it has been well-received, other projects have not. The short-lived ABC primetime comedy The Muppets is one noteworthy example, and it turns out that a prolific voice actor from the franchise had some blunt thoughts about that project and why it failed. Frank Oz said the magic in the Muppets is their purity, and The Muppets more or less destroyed that.
The pure quality I'm talking about is the purity of character. I had to turn The Muppet thing off, the ABC series, after 15 minutes. Fozzie had a girlfriend and he drank some wine, I don't know. It totally destroyed Fozzie. Destroyed. The reason you guys love them is because we were true to their character. That's why you love them, they touch your heart.
Frank Oz wasn't a fan of the liberties The Muppets took with Fozzie Bear, specifically the real life persona that was given to that character and presumably others. Frank Oz told attendees at SXSW (via Syfy) it was a destruction of the "purity of work," but perhaps not in the way folks would think. Oz doesn't seem so upset about the general actions of Fozzie, but rather that those developments limited him as a character.
Essentially, giving Fozzie Bear adult problems and hobbies boxed the character into a role that could only be enjoyed by adults. That's something Frank Oz has worked against his whole career in regards to Muppets or Sesame Street, as he said his mission was to make his performances accessible to all ages. That is to say, even if he was in a show geared towards children, he was actively avoiding pandering to them.
This means Frank Oz doesn't like it when the Muppets get too adult, but he also doesn't appreciate when they get overtly cute either. He specifically cited the 2011 movie in that regard which, while it did feature some things he enjoyed, Oz ultimately felt it wasn't a very good showing for the Muppets either.
In general, I start to vomit when things get too smarmy. When it gets overly sentimental and sweet, I just start to vomit. It's all because Disney doesn't understand purity.
Oof, that's some harsh words for Disney, especially when Frank Oz has provided the voice of a lot of characters for the company's projects over the years. Oz told the audience he may get in some trouble for his comments, although his grin either implied he was joking or he didn't care all that much whether it happened. Perhaps when you're one of the most prolific voice actors in Hollywood, being honest about companies you work for, regardless of the consequences, is one of the perks of the job.