Ryan Dosier - I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cory Edwards. Muppet fans should recognize the name as the man responsible for bringing us the Fraggle Rock feature film sometime in the (hopefully) near future. Cory has written the script for the film and will act as its director once shooting begins. I talk to Cory about the upcoming film, the story, the characters, and so much more. Read on, won't you?
Cory Edwards Interview
RYAN: Today I have the extreme honor of interviewing the writer and director of the upcoming Fraggle Rock feature film, Cory Edwards! Cory, welcome to The Muppet Mindset. Please, make yourself at home. I tried to find some Doozer sticks to snack on but no grocery stores around here carry them.
CORY: That’s okay, I brought my own. They are very good with Ranch Dressing.
RYAN: First of all, Cory, how did you get involved with The Jim Henson Company and Fraggle Rock?
CORY: The conversations began because many people over there are fans of my film Hoodwinked. Eventually I started talking to them about doing a rewrite on the Dark Crystal sequel, which was very exciting. When that didn’t end up happening, they immediately started asking me about Fraggle Rock as a movie. The more I worked on a story idea for that, the more excited I got and the more I rallied for the job.
RYAN: What is your earliest memory of Fraggle Rock and the Muppets?
CORY: I grew up with the Muppets, as many of us did. Sesame Street started the year I was born. The Muppet Show was appointment viewing every week. I was a member of the “Muppet Fan Club” and got their first newsletter. But to be honest, we didn’t have HBO at our house growing up, so I completely missed Fraggle Rock. I was aware of it, and I read all about it in those Fan Club newsletters! But I really discovered the show on DVD, much later.
RYAN: When writing the script for the Fraggle Rock film, how much do you rely on the television show for inspiration?
CORY: I like to say that I am more inspired by the inspiration for the show than the show itself! Does that make sense?
Not to worry -- there will be a lot of elements from the TV show in the movie, but what was most important for me was to go back to a lot of those early interviews with Jim Henson and listen to WHY he created Fraggle Rock. What did he want to accomplish? What was the vision? If I stay true to that, then I’m not going to worry about Wembley wearing the exact same shirt or the Trash Heap having the same glasses. All of that is window dressing to the core values of the show. Those core ideas are the important thing to keep focused on.
Both Brian and Lisa Henson have been very encouraging by saying that I have retained the VOICE of the show and the voice of those original characters. You will definitely recognize the Fraggle Rock you grew up with on the big screen.
RYAN: How difficult is it to transfer the Fraggles from a timeless world of Fraggle Rock to the modern world we live in today?
CORY: We’re keeping the Fraggles’ world just that – timeless. The Fraggles are untouched by our human world, and that’s what makes them great impartial observers of us and our silly ways. The human world in the movie is going to be completely current, because we want this to be a commentary on life today, right now. The movie takes satirical jabs at our dependence on technology, our materialism and our self-centeredness. Everything in our world will be very grounded and recognizable, but I am trying to still give the whole thing a general timelessness. My goal is to make a film that people can enjoy ten years from now, and one that still feels relevant.
RYAN: Has anyone who worked on the show been involved with the film as of yet?
CORY: Karen Prell, who played Red Fraggle, has been onboard from the very beginning. She and I email from time to time, and she is very enthusiastic about being a part of the film. Karen performs Red at different promotional appearances, and she’s one of those energetic people who doesn’t seem to age! She’s in top shape and ready to go.
Dave Goelz is another essential cast member who I’ve met with. We talked a bit at Comic Con and he is as ready as ever to be Boober again. It’s hard to believe I am talking with people like the man behind The Great Gonzo, and it’s going to be such an honor to collaborate with him.
There are many other original cast members who are much older now, with health limitations or who are no longer with us. Henson is constantly apprenticing new talent to take over old characters, and I am sure we will have to do that with some of the Fraggle cast. But my intention is to use as many of the original performers as we can.
RYAN: It seems that once it was announced that you were bringing the Fraggles back into the world, a whole Fraggle resurgence emerged. What motivated you to bring the Fraggles back into the spotlight? Was the idea to do a film yours or did it come from The Jim Henson Company?
CORY: The Jim Henson Company has always wanted to do a movie, I think from the moment the show ended. But it’s all about timing. The company has gone through a lot of restructuring in the last couple decades, and it took a larger studio like The Weinstein Company to help pay for it.
Other merchandise like the Fraggle fashions, DVD collections and comic books are all coming out organically, with no dependence on the movie’s schedule. Obviously it will be great to take advantage of this synergy and make sure all things work together. I think there is a general resurgence of Fraggle love simply because all of the fans are grown up with kids of their own and they are sharing it again. A lot of these brands are cyclical like that.
RYAN: How does it feel to be spear-heading this reemergence of the Fraggles?
CORY: It’s an honor and scary at the same time. When you are responsible for taking beloved characters and doing something new with them, there is a lot of scrutiny around you. And frankly, there are many fans who have declared the project a bad idea before I’ve even begun! Many people just love their old shows the way they are and are afraid of anything upsetting their memories of it. But I think most everyone, like me, just wants to have a bigger adventure with these characters.
At the end of the day, I try not to think about any of the outside pressures, and focus on what worked about the Fraggles in the first place. If I can rekindle the same spirit of the show, I think we’ll be okay.
And apart from all that heavy stuff, this is a FUN world to play in. These are fun characters that give you permission to let loose with a lot of comedy and silly adventure. That’s right up my alley!
RYAN: As a screenwriter, would you say that it’s easier or more difficult to work with well-known, established characters as opposed to originals?
CORY: With a known property, you already have a lot of groundwork done for you. The characters are set, the world is in place. Then you are deciding what to take from the old show and what to improve upon. Many times what worked twenty years ago just won’t fly in a modern movie, so you have to justify some things with a new location or character. I think it’s always an exciting challenge to take the original show and build on it, elevate it if you can.
I love telling original stories, and that is creatively very freeing. But there is a safety you have with known characters. You already have a built-in audience for what you’re writing. This is the first time I’ve been able to tell people what I’m working on and see a big flash of recognition on their face!
RYAN: How many drafts has the script gone through? Has a final one been agreed on yet?
CORY: We’re on the tenth draft. I love the script and where we are right now. I’m ready to shoot the movie. But we are stuck in an infuriating notes process that I hope we can work through soon. Every time a new executive gets involved in this, they bring their notes to the process. So we’re working through those.
But as a Fraggle fan I can honestly say we’ve got a really, really great story with lots of layers and some really cool sequences!
RYAN: How important is music to this film? Does it play a role as large as it did in the TV series?
CORY: Music will be essential. No question. The movie will be filled with new original songs. I am very excited about the level of talent that is being drawn to this soundtrack. Some top people in the field. And we hope to have some musical cameos in the movie from these folks.
RYAN: Have any of the Muppeteers been in contact with you about the movie?
CORY: Just Karen Prell and Dave Goelz. I’m sure the floodgates will open once we are green lighted for production.
RYAN: Can you tell us what happened to the announced Red Fraggle short that never made it onto the DVDs? Was it filmed?
CORY: I wrote something, but it was not filmed. The distributor pulled the plug at the last minute. And by that, I mean we were two days out from shooting and we got the call. I guess the paperwork was not in order and there was confusion as to who was actually paying for it – the distributor or the Henson Company. They just ran out of time to work it out before the DVD’s hit the shelves.
It was a tricky kind of segment, with lots of restrictions. There’s only ONE puppet built right now, and that’s Red. So I had to write something that had no other main characters in it, but was a fifteen-minute episode worthy of being added to the DVD.
Maybe someday the script will get out there. It basically involved Red encountering a cave full of musical bugs who challenge her to a singing duel. It incorporated a lot of favorite songs from the show.
RYAN: What is your favorite aspect of Fraggle Rock?
CORY: It had seemingly silly, simple stories, but it was really layered. The show was actually saying a lot of big things about our world and how we should treat each other. I call it “Muppets with meaning.” And the characters are just great looking, colorful, springy creatures. You just want to squeeze them.
RYAN: If you had to choose, would you rather be a Fraggle, a Doozer, or a Gorg? What about a Trash Heap?
CORY: Definitely a Fraggle. I always put myself in their place. The Doozers are kind of mysterious little people and the Gorgs are just obnoxious cave people to me. The Trash Heap kind of freaks me out! They never explain her! Nothing ELSE comes to life like that; there’s no “Dirt Monster” or Talking Mailbox. But we just accept her.
RYAN: Who is your favorite Fraggle Rock character?
CORY: I go back to Wembley a lot. He has a lot of energy and usually some of the best comedic zingers. He is happily naïve, and I like that.
RYAN: Since you’ll be serving as both writer and director of the film, how much care do you take in not only how the characters sound, but also how they’re presented?
CORY: This is a brand that I want to make sure is preserved and that its integrity is maintained. At the same time, I don’t want to be afraid to change things up. And I want to shoot this movie as if these are just little actors on an adventure, not puppets. My goal is to get away from the standard “waist shot” seen in these films and shoot these guys in ways that make you forget their limitations. We will still perform the characters as traditional puppets, but modern effects will help us place them in scenes in new ways, as well as hide the puppeteers with new techniques.
RYAN: In your opinion, what is the most exciting aspect of the new Fraggle Rock movie?
CORY: I like to say that this is not the tenth Muppet movie; it’s the FIRST Fraggle movie. I am approaching this as a one-of-a-kind adventure film with very unique central characters. There are moments from the other Muppet films that will inspire shots for this one, but I get excited thinking of how we can exceed the audience’s expectations for this type of movie.
The other thing I get psyched about is the message and the emotional content we are shooting for. I call this “the goosebump factor.” Music will be a big part of that, and the music – in my mind – has to be really special.
RYAN: You also wrote and directed the highly successful animated film Hoodwinked, and a sequel is following soon. How have these movies changed your life and career?
CORY: I guess they have put me in a new league where I can take meetings with bigger people. It’s given me a foothold to develop bigger projects and to shoot higher.
Hoodwinked also showed me that movies can be made in new ways and come from surprising places. The fact that that movie even got finished, let alone got distributed and found success, is an amazing thing.
RYAN: When do you hope to start working on the Fraggle movie?
CORY: Tomorrow!! I have been ready to go for months. I love the script, and I’ve started storyboarding and creating concept art. But it’s not up to me, it’s up to the studio. Sometimes it’s hard to wait when things are out of your hands.
RYAN: What would you like Fraggle Rock fans to know about the movie and what your plans for it are?
CORY: I’m taking good care of it. I have the highest aspirations for it. I’m a tough critic of myself and a big fan of the Muppets. I hope that gives the fans some comfort.
RYAN: Well those are all the questions I’ve got. Do you have any questions for me, Cory? Or anything you’d like to say to the fans reading?
CORY: I’d love to know what is most important to Fraggle Rock fans; what they consider the “essentials” of a Fraggle movie. I’ve got my own list, but I’m listening to the chatter out there. Drop by my blog and let me know!
RYAN: Thank you so much for this interview, Cory. Congratulations on all of your success and I’m sure that I speak for all Muppet fans when I say that I hope we get to see the movie past the development stage soon enough!
CORY: You and me both. Thanks!
My extreme amount of thanks to all-around awesome guy, Cory Edwards! Please check out Cory's blog, http://coryscuriosities.blogspot.com/, and Cory's official website, http://www.coryedwards.com/ for more Cory and occasional updates about the upcoming Fraggle Rock movie!
Let Cory know just how excited you are for the movie by commenting here on on his blog. I think it's about time Fraggle fans throw their full support behind Cory and this film!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier