Muppet Treasure Island is the fifth feature film to star The Muppets, and the second produced after the death of Muppets creator Jim Henson. Released in 1996 and directed by Jim Henson's son Brian Henson, it was one of many film adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
Jim Hawkins is a young orphan living with his friends Gonzo and Rizzo at the Admiral Benbow Inn in England. Dreaming of sea voyages, Jim only has the tales of Billy Bones to help. Bones tells Jim and the inn patriots of Captain Flint, his old captain, burying his treasure on a remote island and killing all of his crew. However, it turns out that Bones' tales are indeed true when Blind Pew, a fellow pirate, arrives and gives Bones the black spot. Bones dies of a heart attack but gives Jim, Gonzo, and Rizzo his treasure map beforehand. Blind Pew returns with an army of pirates, but the boys escape with the map and decide to find out if the treasure is real.
Going to a harbor town, the boys meet the half-wit Squire Trelawney (Fozzie Bear) who decides to fund a voyage to find Treasure Island and Flint's fortune. Accompanied by Dr. Livesey (Dr. Bunsen Honeydew) and his assistant Beaker, the boys and Trelawney hire the Hispaniola, commanded by Captain Abraham Smollett (Kermit the Frog) and his overly strict first mate Mr. Arrow (Sam the Eagle). The boys meet the cook Long John Silver, a one-legged man who Bones warned the boys about before dying. The ship sets sail, but Smollett is concerned by the pirate-like crew, learning they were hired on Silver's suggestion. Jim and Silver bond, but Gonzo and Rizzo are captured by three of the pirates, Polly Lobster, Mad Monty, and Clueless Morgan, who demand they surrender the map but Mr. Arrow catches them in the act and imprisons them in the brig. Smollett demands Jim to give him the map, which Jim does reluctantly, and Mr. Arrow locks the map in the safe. After six weeks out at sea everyone now has a case of cabin fever and begin to sing different genres until the wind picks up. While giving the prisoners bread and water, Jim accidentally reveals the map to Long John, but he tells Jim he won't say anything.
Eventually, it becomes apparent that Silver is the leader of the pirates and plots a mutiny, fooling Mr. Arrow into leaving the ship to test a lifeboat for safety precautions, and faking his death. Jim, Gonzo, and Rizzo learn of Silver's plan and try to inform Smollett. However, Silver captures Jim upon arrival at Treasure Island, the other pirates stole the map from Smollett's safe. While Captain has a plan to get rid of Silver, Rizzo points out that Jim was kidnapped. Smollett, Gonzo, and Rizzo go to save Jim but are captured by the local tribe of wild boars, ruled over by Benjamina Gunn (Miss Piggy), Smollett's ex-fiancée whom he left at the altar because he had to leave for a long voyage. Jim, Silver, and the pirates find the hiding place of Flint's treasure only to find the treasure missing. Silver sends Jim away as a fight breaks out among the pirates. However, before Long John is killed, he realizes that the Black Spot is on a page of the Bible which means it was a fake. His crew begs for forgiveness and Silver goes to find the treasure. Jim frees Gonzo and Rizzo and try to get help. The pirates come across Smollett and Benjamina who are reconciling. Smollett finds out that Benjamina was also with Silver at one point. After noticing the Spanish coins on Benjamina's necklace, Silver demands to know where the treasure is, and she says that it was all a set-up but Silver doesn't fall for it. Smollett is suspended from a cliff until Benjamina tells Silver the treasure is hidden in her home, but the two are left to dangle, allowing the pair to fall in love again.
Jim, Gonzo, and Rizzo find Mr. Arrow who aids them sneaking onboard the ship and scaring off the pirates still on board and freeing Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and Beaker, before the figureheads of the Hispaniola (Statler and Waldorf) save Smollett and Benjamina (though Waldorf notes that they "didn't save the movie"). A battle breaks out between the heroes and the pirates until Smollett fights Silver but loses his sword. Jim and the others rally to their captain's aid, Silver surrendering honorably. All the pirates are stuffed into the brig but Silver escapes using Mr. Arrow's keys. Jim catches him in the act but allows Silver to leave for the sake of their friendship. However, Mr. Arrow informs Jim and Smollett that the longboat Silver took was damaged, forcing Silver to abandon ship and swim to Treasure Island without the treasure. The crew of the Hispaniola sale off into the sunset with the treasure recovered by the scuba-diving rats, whilst Silver is marooned with only a wisecracking Moai head for company.
- Tim Curry as Long John Silver, the main antagonist.
- Kevin Bishop as Jim Hawkins, the main protagonist.
- Jennifer Saunders as Mrs. Bluveridge
- Billy Connolly as Billy Bones
- Dave Goelz - Gonzo, Waldorf, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot
- Steve Whitmire - Rizzo the Rat, Kermit the Frog, Beaker, Walleye Pike
- Frank Oz - Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal
- Jerry Nelson - Statler, Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Mad Monty, Blind Pew, Old Tom
- Bill Barretta - Clueless Morgan, The Swedish Chef, Jacques Roach
- Kevin Clash - Black Dog, Polly Lobster, Spa'am
- John Henson - Sweetums
- Muppet Characters (speaking)
- Gonzo as himself
- Rizzo the Rat as himself
- Kermit the Frog as Captain Abraham Smollett
- Miss Piggy as Benjamina Gunn
- Statler and Waldorf as Ship Figureheads
- Fozzie Bear as Squire Trelawney
- Bunsen Honeydew as Dr. Livesey
- Beaker as himself
- Sam the Eagle as Samuel Arrow
- Pirates (speaking)
- Polly Lobster, Clueless Morgan, Mad Monty, Blind Pew, Black Dog, Angel Marie, Old Tom, Real Old Tom, Dead Tom, Spotted Dick, One-Eyed Jack, Walleye Pike, Sweetums, Jacques Roach, Calico, Wander McMooch, Mr. Curly Twirly, Begoony*, Mudwell the Mudbunny*, Brool the Minstrel*, Murray the Minstrel*, Gray Frackle, Wolf, Dodo, Beggar, Scruffy, Headless Bill, Mr. Bitte, Old Joe, The Undertaker, Lyle the Dog, Lew Zealand
- Small Speaking Roles
- Minor/Background Characters (non-speaking)
- Janice, Dr. Teeth, Lips, George the Janitor, Rowlf, Robin the Frog, Bean Bunny, Inkspots*, Link Hogthrob, Crocodile, Sal Minella, Snakes, Skulls, Sprocket, Flaubert, J.P. Grosse, Pops, Chip, Yolanda Rat, Marvin Suggs, Mr. Plagueman, Winny, Eugene, Droop, Koozebanian Phoob, Laundress, Whatnots, Rats, Island Heads, Geri and the Atrics, Raccoons, Aretha*, Pigs, Chickens, Penguins, Gnu, Dogs, Wolfhound, Cow, Goat*, Moose Head, Bananas, Cactus, Green Frackle
* Indicates Muppets who aren't Disney owned characters used for the film.
- "Shiver My Timbers"
- "Something Better"
- "Sailing for Adventure"
- "Cabin Fever"
- "A Professional Pirate"
- "Boom Shakalaka"
- "Love Led Us Here"
- "Love Power" - sung by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
Changes from the novel
While the film is mostly true to the novel, there are changes, mostly to make the characters fit the Muppet personalities, or to tighten up the plot. Amongst them are:
- The Admiral Benbow is no longer run by Jim's family. Instead, Jim is an orphan, and the inn's owner is Mrs. Bluberidge, who appears only at the beginning, as a fat, drunken Madame Thénardier-like landlady (played by Jennifer Saunders). She has an uncanny knack for hearing and replying to other people's conversations, even when they are a long distance away. Commonly, after she responds, a character says "How does she do that?".
- Jim Hawkins is given two companions: Gonzo and Rizzo.
- In the book, although Blind Pew appears in only two chapters of the story, he is an extremely intimidating and even sadistic character, whereas in this depiction he is shown as bumbling, mistaking Jim for a "little girl" and is oblivious to everything, even to the inn blowing up all around him.
- In the novel, Captain Smollett initially appears as a stern and forbidding figure, overly concerned with regulations, although he later proves to simply be appropriately cautious. In the film he is sympathetic from the first, with a strictness only, it seems, for the consumption of alcohol.
- By contrast, Mr. Arrow is shown as obsessed with regulations and the correct way of doing things (though he meekly follows Smollett's orders), as suits a character played by Sam the Eagle. In the book, he is a drunkard, and overly-familiar with the men. He is also killed by being thrown overboard, whereas in the film he is merely tricked into taking one of the boats for a test run (and presumed dead) but later returns saying "that Silver fellow may not be trustworthy."
- Ben Gunn is female, and renamed Benjamina. She has had former relationships with Smollett, Flint, and Silver.
- Squire Trelawney is the "rich half-wit son" of the real Squire Trelawney (who is vacationing and will not return "until the Feast of Saint Lulu"), who takes advice from a man he believes to live in his finger (played by Mr. Bimble).
- Dr. Livesey (Bunsen Honeydew) is an inventor with an assistant (Beaker).
- Captain Flint (the parrot) is replaced by Polly, a lobster whom Silver "raised from a fingerling". When Gonzo asks why he doesn't have a parrot instead, both seem astonished and bemused by the concept of someone actually having a pet parrot, and Polly responds "What an imagination! First pirates? Now talking parrots? What's next? A singing, dancing mouse with his own amusement park?", which serves as a direct reference to Mickey Mouse.
- An attack on Gonzo and Rizzo by three of the pirates is added; this leads both to the stranding of Mr. Arrow (so Silver can let them out of the brig), and from there to the scene in the book when Jim hears Silver conspiring while in an apple barrel.
- Much of Parts Four and Five, "The Stockade" and "My Sea Adventure" is omitted.
- A running subplot, which has very little effect on the main course of the film, involves the ship's rats, who believe they have signed onto a modern-day Caribbean cruise. They are not treated like other characters; for example, while the ship's crew, pirate or not, are greeted with hostility by the boars, the rats are met with indifference, if acknowledged at all. Amusingly, the treasure island is introduced as being the set of the movie itself by rat tour-guide accompanied by miniature camera flashes, another example of the oblivious anachronistic nature of the rats as comic relief.
- As in most Muppet movies, the presence of talking animals and bizarre creatures such as Gonzo is treated as normal. One of the only indications of fourth-wall-breaking is the comprehension of the songs (as the film is a musical), when Clueless Morgan ask, "Hey guys, what was that song that just happened there?". No one else seems to understand what he's talking about. Another takes place after the death of Billy Bones. Rizzo stares straight at the camera and says, "He died? And this is supposed to be a kid movie!" Finally, Waldorf and Statler (who appear as the Hispaniola's figure heads) make their usual criticisms, such as Waldorf saying "We could've been stuck in the audience!".
The movie debuted at No. 2. The film was a commercial success, grossing $34,327,391 during its theaterical run and surpassing the grosses of The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Great Muppet Caper.
This is the second Muppet film co-produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures, following The Muppet Christmas Carol. The film has been made available on home video formats. It was released on VHS September 11, 1996, and twice on DVD in Region 1. The first DVD release in the U.S. on June 4, 2002 was in a fullscreen-only format. Other releases of these were in widescreen only format. The DVD release has 3 bonus features added like "Hidden Treasure Commentary", "The Tale of the Story Behind the Tail", and "Treasure Island Sing-Along" (but the menus were in widescreen format). The film was re-released on DVD November 29, 2005 in conjunction with Kermit the Frog's 50th anniversary celebration; this time the DVD contained both fullscreen and widescreen presentations and the 3 extra features were replaced with "Pepe Profiles Present: Fozzie Bear - A Long Day's Journey Into Night Clubs".
Hormel Foods Corporation, makers of Spam, sued the film production company for using the name "Spa'am" for one of the film's characters. Their suit was defeated on September 22, 1995. The judge dismissed it on the grounds that "The American public can tell the difference between a puppet and a lunchmeat."
- This film was considered a Disney classic when it was released, and was even successful when it was released on home video.
- Tim Curry actually named his portrayal of Long John Silver his favorite role. Many fans also consider it to be one of his best performances ever.
- One of the lines in "Shiver My Timbers" is "Dead men tell no tales", a phrase heard througth the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
- When Gonzo comments that sailors usually have talking parrots as pets, Polly Lobster says "What an imagination. First pirates, now talking parrots. What's next? A singing, dancing mouse with his own amusement park?".
- When filming the boat scenes, the crew gave the cast sea sickness medicine in case they couldn't handle being on a boat. While nobody got sick, the medicine made them sleepy as when Long John was introducing Polly, you'll notice his eyelids look heavy.
- IMDb: Muppet Treasure Island Box Office/Business
- Dretzka, Gary (1996-03-04). "Henson Legacy A Muppets' Tale", Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on 19 October 2010.
- Thomas, Kevin (1996-02-16). "Muppet Treasure Island a Lively Voyage", The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 18 October 2010.
- Original 2002 DVD
- Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition 2005 DVD
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