Article from The Repository (Canton, Ohio) - May 29, 2005
Muppets rescued! (free subscription required)

GLENDALE, Calif. -- Kermit the Frog dangles by his spindly legs in the hallway of a Walt Disney Co. office here, his red-felt mouth slightly ajar and his ping-pong ball eyes staring blankly at the floor.

Like so many aging stars, the iconic Muppet has struggled in recent years to find a role for himself, only to be relegated to ancient re-runs and B-list movies.
After a marathon courtship, Disney last year added Kermit and his co-stars from the 1970s television hit, “The Muppet Show,” to its coterie of characters for the seemingly modest sum of around $75 million. Done right, Disney thinks Kermit’s troupe could become a classic like Mickey Mouse.

“I’ve always been convinced that there are three real characters that have enduring entertainment value, that are evergreens: Mickey, Winnie and Kermit,” says Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner.
In the works for summer: a line of retro-hip Muppets apparel, including green T-shirts with glitter-encrusted images of Kermit. And Disney will trot out various TV shows, such as “America’s Next Muppet,” a reality-style contest in which new characters vie for a spot in the Muppets lineup.

After the characters find their feet, Disney plans a “hard” launch, broadening the appeal to a wider audience including younger children, starting with a feature film in 2007.

Then, if everything goes to plan, the floodgates will open to such things as stage plays, ring tones, theme-park attractions, TV specials and a possible relaunch of “The Muppet Show” itself. “This is franchise that will ultimately appeal to most age groups,” said Chris Curtin, general manager of Disney’s Muppets Holding Co.
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