The Muppets Take Manhattan could’ve been remembered as the film in which Kermit The Frog and Miss Piggy finally tied the knot. But the moviegoers of 1984 had a different takeaway: Kermit, Piggy, and friends looked so dang adorable in the fantasy-flashback number, “I’m Gonna Always Love You.” The miniaturized versions of the core Muppet characters were the breakout stars of Muppets Take Manhattan—sorry, Dabney Coleman—winding up in their own animated series, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies, the following fall.
And while our world was cruelly robbed of a Jim Henson’s Dabney Coleman Babies spin-off, it turns out we’re getting more Muppet Babies: Disney is rebooting the series, with the current owner of the Muppet nursery eyeing a 2018 debut. Unfortunately, they’ve also provided a first look at the rebooted Baby Kermit, Baby Piggy, and Baby Fozzie, and if these versions of the characters were featured in The Muppets Take Manhattan, there might not have been a Muppet Babies to reboot in the first place.
Here’s the thing: A tiny live-action Kermit is cute. A tiny Kermit cartoon is also cute. Slam them together into a computer-generated avatar that the eye recognizes as the basic shape of a living, potbellied toddler—only with the half ping-pong-ball eyes and giant smile of a beloved frog puppet—and you’re suddenly in the depths of the Uncanny Valley. Fozzie’s fine (illusions of his three-dimensionality aside, that’s recognizably a cartoon bear—bears wear hats, remember), and Piggy manages to not look like a genetic experiment gone awry. But there’s something off about this Baby Kermit. He exists in the terrible netherworld created by countless “If The Simpsons were real people” slideshows.
Actually, you know what it is? It’s the crook of the elbow. Puppet arms should be floppier than that. This image is off-putting because it wants us to think that Baby Kermit has bones.
Bones or no bones, the new Muppet Babies is set to arrive on Disney Junior in early 2018. Quotes from Disney execs meant to reassure Muppet fans—“Parents will delight in seeing their favorite Muppets in the mixed animation style they remember from the original series”—only heighten the sense that these new versions of the characters were cooked up in some sort of lab. “Mixed animation”? Please. That’s not a way of saying “Maybe Gonzo winds up at Jabba’s Palace.” Those are mad-scientist’s words.