Monthly Archives: April 2007
Those wacky Saudis!
So here’s the story behind this clip. For many years, I worked at an advertising agency writing Pizza Hut commercials. It’s a strange and absurd job. You see, Pizza Hut tends to be one of the more innovative pizza companies. They always want to have the newest, most interesting pizzas. But sadly, pizza has been around for hundreds of years, and there’s really not a lot of new things you can do with it. So what do they do? They shove cheese in the crust, or cheese on the bottom, or cheesy bites on the outside, or they cut the pizza into strips, or layer it with Brie, or whatever some focus group in Kansas City tells them will be a good idea. But, I digress.
This clip was taken on the set of a commercial I wrote for the Cheesy Bites Pizza. You may remember it–it ran during the Superbowl in 2006. It was Jessica Simpson dancing around and throwing cheesy bites into people’s mouths, while singing a bastardized version of “These Boots are Made for Walkin’.” It was actually a bastardization of a bastardization, as Jessica had recently co-opted the Nancy Sinatra song for the Dukes of Hazzard, and I co-opted her version for Pizza Hut. I had the brilliant idea to change the song to: “These bites are made for poppin’.” It was a terrible commercial, and I’m sorry. But at least some good came of it. This clip.
You may not remember it, but there were actually two versions of this commercial. The first version was Jessica singing and dancing. The second version was Miss Piggy singing and dancing in the exact same way. That commercial turned out marginally better, but overall, still pretty awful. Again, I apologize. However, working with the Muppets was great. The “muppeteers” are these high school AV club kids who made it to the big time. But what makes them really cool, is that when they get into character, they stay in character. So when the director gives them direction, he’s not giving the muppeteer direction, he’s giving Kermit direction. And if Kermit doesn’t get it, Kermit will ask a question. And it will be Kermit, in Kermit’s voice and Kermit’s mannerisms.
Incidentally, the guy who plays Kermit is a bit of a prima-donna. Apparently, in Jim Henson’s will, he stipulated that this guy, and only this guy, would be allowed to play Kermit. So the guy demands more money, his own dressing room, and he walks around with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Anyway, as I was saying before, the muppets stay in character. So between takes, the characters will sometimes talk to each other. The clip you saw above was Kermit and Miss Piggy screwing around between takes. Miss Piggy had flubbed her line and Kermit was…chastising her for it. I then dropped the sound and inserted a clip from “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” in which Ike is beating the crap out of Tina.
This clip was shot on green screen, and if you watch it again, you can actually see that we put Jessica Simpson in the background. On a side note, we actually had to shoot the Muppets and Jessica separately because Jessica said the Muppets freaked her out–mostly because they always stay in character, even between takes, but also because they have these strange rules for when the Muppets are “dead” or not being used. They put bags over the character’s heads and you’re not allowed to take pictures of them in that state. It’s a bit creepy. But apprently, Gonzo or the Swedish Chef was hitting on her or something, and Jessica refused to shoot with them. So we had to shoot everything twice. Once with Jessica in front of green screen and then again with the Muppets in front of green screen. Then, in post, we made it look like they were together. The Muppet people were really upset that Jessica wouldn’t work with them. They told me that it was the first time EVER that a celebrity had refused to work with the muppets–and over the years, they’ve worked with their share of celebs.