With late-night appearances on everything from “SNL” to “Chelsea Lately,” how grown-ups were lured in for the puppet revival
It's the most edgy marketing campaign you'll ever see for a PG-rated movie.
In hopes of luring in a wider audience — specifically parents who loved the Muppets the first time around, as well as their children — Disney hasn't relied on mere nostalgia for the puppets' revival.
And it's not just that the reboot of the 35-year-old property — released in 3,440 theaters in the U.S. and Canada Wednesday — features appearances by such notoriously blue comedians as Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais and Wanda Sykes.
Franchise players like Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog and Animal have been ubiquitous on the late-night circuit the last two weeks, appearing on everything from "Saturday Night Live" to "Chelsea Lately."
In fact, speaking to E! late-night host Chelsea Handler, Miss Piggy was asked there was, um, "penetration" involved with her relationship with Kermit.
(See video of Piggy's Handler appearance below. Story continues below video.)
And last week, while appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!", the perpetually diva-ish Piggy was again asked about her imaginary inter-species love life. "There might be handcuffs involved, if you know what I mean," she admitted.
The adult-oriented talk-show spots continued with Kermit and Piggy talking up Jimmy Fallon, and Kermit appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Also in the wee hours, multiple Muppets made a surprise appearance in the monologue of last week's "Saturday Night Live," supporting a piano number by "Muppets" star Jason Segel.
Beyond the TV appearances, trailers hyping the film have also been catering to adults. They've spoofed R-rated fare such as "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (with a trailer titled "The Pig With the Froggy Tattoo"), "Paranormal Activity" ("Abnormal Activity") and "The Hangover II" ("The Fuzzy Pack").
Disney marketing executives would not comment for this article, but one needs only to refer to Sony's release of "The Smurfs" over the summer to see the benefits of broadening the appeal of a youth-targeted film.
With parents who grew up with the Smurfs franchise turning out in large numbers, that film grossed nearly $560 million at the global box office.
And Disney officials appear to be succeeding, based on pre-release audience surveys.
The strongest demographic for "The Muppets" is women older than 25, according to research firm NRG, with 95 percent of that group reporting awareness of the movie and 37 percent saying they have "definite interest" in seeing it.