Those who remember seeing The Muppet Movie had at least one time in their life when Movin’ Right Along—Fozzie Bear’s duet with Kermit the Frog—was a persistent earworm. That one, along with Rowlf the Dog’s I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along and Kermit’s The Rainbow Connection are a few of the most iconic songs in Muppet history.
While music takes a front seat in The Muppet Movie, it’s clear that producer and Muppet Master Jim Henson was a car guy, too. As evidence: a 1951 Studebaker Commander played a central transportation role in the movie, transforming from a hand-me-down beater from Fozzie’s hibernating uncle to a sweet ride swathed in bright colors. As of this month, the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana is partnering with Razorfly Studios to restore it to its full-color glory.
Faded and dusty after sitting in a Warner Brothers Studio backlot for many years (perhaps hibernating in its own way), the Studebaker Drivers Club’s Orange Empire chapter acquired the iconic car and gifted it to the Museum in 2004. While it has been lovingly cared for by the museum, it deserves a makeover to bring joy to Generation X Muppet fans and anyone in their orbit.
The South Bend Tribune reported that most of the paint from the movie wore off after years outdoors. And no wonder; museum archivist Andrew Beckman told the paper that the filmmakers had used poster paint on the Studebaker. That wasn’t uncommon for prop cars, because the paint could be washed off, and it didn’t present a reflection issue for the film crew.
The museum has raised $60,000 for the restoration so far, which is estimated to cost around $175,000. Razorfly, which has created a solid reputation for itself as a custom car builder (they built a recreation of Marty McFly's Back to the Future time-traveling DeLorean and Jurassic Park Explorer), is partnering with the museum to provide restoration services.
This movie was created way before CGI, so the filmmakers used the distinctive “bullet nose” between the headlights to conceal a video camera used by the car operator in the trunk. Fozzie and Kermit’s human operators ducked down under the dashboard, out of sight. As Fozzie drives down the road with Kermit as a passenger, he observes with a happy sigh, “A bear in his natural habitat – in a Studebaker.”
Me too, Fozzie. Me too.
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