On this day in film history, Muppet Treasure Island premiered in theaters 20 years ago (man I feel old just saying that).
Like the Muppet’s Christmas Carol before it, Muppet Treasure Island tells the story of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver with the Muppet twist: Captain Smollet is Kermit the Frog; Fozzie Bear is Squire Trelawney Jr.; Mr. Arrow is Sam the Eagle (his character is a total opposite from the book version); the pirates are an assortment of Muppets; Silver has a pet lobster named Polly; Gonzo and Rizzo play Jim’s two friends and, oh yes, Miss Piggy plays Benjamina Gunn, marooned on the titular Treasure Island by Captain Flint after Smollet left her waiting at the altar. The film was directed by Brian Henson, the son of Jim Henson, the late creator of the Muppets.
Aside from the original Muppet Movie, this was my favorite film to feature the Muppets growing up. The songs and music are funny and serve to keep the story moving along. The instrumental score was composed by Hans Zimmer (no wonder I love listening to it so much), with additional music by Harry Gregson-Williams. Zimmer certainly did not skimp on musical quality. The opening instrumental melody (before Billy Bones’ narration begins) is just splendid, with a driving horn theme that is reminiscent of sea songs and old films about the high seas.
My favorite songs by far are:
“Shiver My Timbers” : This is the opening song set during the prologue where Billy Bones narrates how Captain Flint brought all of his treasure onto the island, and once it was buried, killed all of the pirates so that only he would know where the treasure was hidden (Billy Bones the first mate, stayed behind on the ship so his life was spared). I just love the men’s chorus as they sing this song, it’s driving, it’s good music.
“Professional Pirate” : After kidnapping Jim and revealing himself as a pirate, Long John Silver (and company) sing of the virtues of being a pirate in an attempt to convince young Hawkins into joining them. Tim Curry’s great singing voice is put to good use here and this is a great musical number.
“Boom Shakalaka” : It turns out that Treasure Island is also the home of a tribe of wild boars (led by Spa’ am, get it?) who have made Miss Piggy their Queen (but of course), and “Boom Shakalaka” is the song they sing to summon her big entrance on an Asian elephant (how an Asian elephant got onto a Caribbean island I shall never know). Boom-Shakalaka is also her name among the tribe.
“Cabin Fever” : After the voyage to Treasure Island has begun, the Hispaniola is becalmed at sea for almost a week, and the bored-out-of-their-minds crew goes slightly nuts, performing a song and dance routine about how crazy they have all become. It’s pure Muppet hilarity (notably, Silver, Hawkins, Smollett and Arrow are all absent from this number).
Even if you’ve never seen a Muppet movie before, Muppet Treasure Island is a great place to start. At 20 years old, this movie has lost none of its charm. -Bex
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