The Muppets, coming to theaters everywhere on November 23, 2011 is produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman.
David Hoberman is the founder and partner of Mandeville Films and Television. He is one of the leading producers in the entertainment industry today, having made his mark on more than 100 movies.
Todd Lieberman is a partner at Mandeville Films and Television where he is one of the leading producers in the entertainment industry today.
Since its founding in 1995, Mandeville Films has produced feature films that have grossed well over $1 billion in domestic box office receipts. Most recently, Mandeville partners David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman produced the critically hailed Academy Award®-nominated feature “The Fighter,” starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, directed by David O. Russell. Produced for $25 million, the film has grossed over $125 million worldwide and earned a host of awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Actress Awards for Bale and Leo.
In a recent interview Todd and David talked about their relationship with the Muppets and some of the challenges they faced with filming and production of the movie.
Q: Have you guys always been Muppets fans?
Todd Lieberman: I’ve been a fan my whole life and grew up with them and saw all the movies, watched the show. So when the opportunity arose to be involved in the brand it was really exciting. And I have 2 young children. I have a 6½ year old boy and a 2½ year old boy. So getting them and showing them you know the movie and getting them invested in the brand and Kermit and the gang is really fun. And watching, watching the love that my kids had mirroring the love that I had when I was a kid is really special.
David Hoberman: And I think I’m too old actually to have, to have grown up with them. But I was at the studio as an executive when we did Treasure Island and uh one of the, one of the other ones. So I loved it going back from that time.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges in bring all of the pieces together?
Todd Lieberman: There were a lot of technical challenges that we weren’t necessarily aware of having never produced a Muppets movie before. The real lessons came in of you know how do you fit 10 people in a small space? Um how you choreograph a scene where you just have to show from here to here. How you build a set that enables Puppeteers to go there and actually show the puppets. How do you put a group of people in the real world and not show the humans and just show the puppets?
Q: How involved were the Henson family in all this?
Todd Lieberman: Well the family wasn’t involved because Disney owns the brand but the, the people who we, who we collaborated with um have been involved in making Muppets movies and television shows and Sesame Street for years, and years, and years, and years, and years. So they had the expertise that we learned from.
Q: What are the plans for the franchise now?
David Hoberman: I don’t know that anybody is uh– you know it’s really waiting for this movie that– you know movies you know for all the studios ,a successful film triggers a lot of different areas of the company to want to, whether it’s merchandising, or a TV show, or special, or whatever, what have you, we’re all kind of waiting to see how the movie does and how that ignites interest in the various division of the company to move forward and put it together you know. I mean look at what Pirates has done and look at what even like– something like Nightmare Before Christmas has done.
While an executive at Disney, Hoberman championed the first-ever stop-motion-animation full-length feature, Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Q: Was there ever a time after you signed onto the project where you’re like are we really gonna’ do this? Is this really gonna’ work out? Because it was so iconic and it has such a loyal following from before.
David Hoberman: I don’t know. My philosophy in these kinds of things and having run a studio I think if, if I knew how much money I was responsible for between production, pre- production distribution it, it would be so daunting.And because it was either gonna’ ignite as we talked about that brings the other divisions of the company or wasn’t. So we knew we had that, but once you sort of have that you gotta’ put out of your, out of your mind and just make the best film you can.
Prior to forming Mandeville Films, Hoberman served as president of the Motion Picture Group of the Walt Disney Studios, where he was responsible for overseeing development and production for all feature films for Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures. During Hoberman’s tenure, Disney was often the number one studio in domestic box office grosses.
Todd Lieberman: Yeah I mean you know we’re in Hollywood. Fear I think drives us all. Fear of failure. So getting involved in something like this, which is– it’s scary because there’s a lot of pressure to deliver something great. Um but it’s that fear specifically, to me I will say, that really pushed me and wants to get something that works really well and succeed.
Also produced by Lieberman are “Wild Hogs,” starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy (the film generated more than $168 million in domestic box office); “Surrogates” starring Bruce Willis; “Traitor,” starring Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce; “The Lazarus Project,” starring Paul Walker; and Spike TV’s hit show “The Kill Point,” starring John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg.
David Hoberman: Thematically the, the film really I think has important things to say to kids, to parents, to families in general. Because it really is about finding your place in the world and, and discovering what’s important in life and what family’s all about.
Todd Lieberman: That’s actually really true. There’s awhole sequence when Kermit and the gang go into a network and pitch to try and get their show on the air. And the network executive shows them an example of what’s on television today. Saying, “The– these are the shows that kids are watching today.” And it’s a show called Punch Teacher. And Kermit gives a speech about it I think kids are smarter and better than that and there’s– really is. And there’s a great power in the simplicity of just great, clean comedy and fun.
Q: The marketing leading up to the movie it’s really unique with the Muppets with all the stew. Do we have a lot of more those to look forward to? Especially with the holidays approaching?
David Hoberman: I hope so. [LAUGHS] You know we– so this is one of those movies that lends itself– You hope to God when you make movies, and we’ve made a bunch of ‘em, that, that, that, that there aren’t that many that opens it up to so many different ideas. And the Marketing Dept., the Print Marketing Dept., the Trailers, TV, they’re having a ball with it. So ideas just come to these guys because the Muppets sort of lend itself to doing tons of different things.
Made a lot of movies? Under the aegis of this Mandeville/Disney relationship, Hoberman produced “The Negotiator,” “George of the Jungle,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Senseless,” “The Other Sister,” “Mr. Wrong” and “The Sixth Man.”In 1999, Hoberman utilized Hyde Park Entertainment’s financing capabilities and co-financed and produced “Anti-Trust,” “What’s the Worse That Could Happen?” and “Bandits,” all for MGM. During this time, Hoberman also began working with Todd Lieberman, who was senior vice president of international finance and production for Hyde Park Entertainment. In 2003, Mandeville produced the box-office hits “Bringing Down the House,” starring Steve Martin and Queen Latifah, “Raising Helen,” starring Kate Hudson and directed by Garry Marshall and “Walking Tall,” starring Dwayne Johnson at MGM. In 2005, Mandeville released “Beauty Shop,” starring Queen Latifah, Djimon Honsou, Kevin Bacon and Alicia Silverstone.
With secret, signature, celebrity cameos, Disney’s THE MUPPETS opens in theaters everywhere on November 23rd.