The Muppets In London: A Brief History

By Londonist Staff Last edited 28 months ago
The Muppets In London: A Brief History

They might be an all-American export (with the odd Swedish chef thrown in), but there's no denying the Muppets have a glove love affair with London.

Long before they were cavorting with Ricky Gervais in The Muppets Most Wanted, the beloved bits of felt were paying their dues to the English capital. Like in this 1981 episode of The Muppet Show, featuring questionable accents and the also questionable Chris Langham (at the time a writer on the show, who was filling in last minute for Richard Pryor).

The Muppets often liked to hang out with Londoners; vintage shows include guest appearances from Dagenham's Dudley Moore, Neasden's Twiggy and Stockwell-born Roger Moore — in which he played opposite a frisky Miss Piggy:

In The Great Muppet Caper (1981), the intrepid puppets travel to London on a shoestring budget of $12 (good luck trying to do that now), but their first real London adventure wasn't until 1992, when they ran amok on a Dickensian London set, with the help of Elephant and Castle's own Michael Caine (he later said it was one of the most challenging roles of his career).

Much of the magic of The Muppet Christmas Carol was created not the States, but at The Creature Shop in Camden (fitting, because that's where the Cratchits live in Dickens's book).

The Muppets have always had a captive UK audience, doing special Brit-centric spots on location to peddle their wares. Here's Kermit and Pepe the King Prawn plugging movie The Muppets, on the London Eye in 2012:

It set the precedent for much more on (and off) location shooting in London for 2015's Muppets Most Wanted. Filmed at Pinewood studios, the movie ends with a heist at the Tower of London. The Crown Estate granted The Muppets rare filming permission, although we're guessing the scene where they dangle over the Tower's roof from a helicopter en masse was filmed in the studio.

Lots of other London locations double up for settings abroad, notably Berlin: both Wilton's Music Hall and Wyndham's Theatre moonlight for German theatres; Greenwich Naval College becomes a Berlin street; and the camera candy that is the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley becomes a swanky restaurant. Holborn's Freemasons' Hall, meanwhile, turns into a Spanish art gallery.

We'd like to invite Kermit et al to return to London anytime they like, no strings attached.

Last Updated 09 September 2016