Todd Lieberman, who coproduced the new film, says the intention all along was to reach a general audience – "We're not making entertainment specifically for children," he says – because the characters are so rich and have the ability to work on different levels.
"The Muppets are a couple of generations old in a good way," he says. "When I was a child, I appreciated them as a child, and now that I'm significantly older, I appreciate them in a completely different way, and there are hopefully lots and lots of people like me."
The Disney 'hipster' effect
Since acquiring the Muppets, Disney tried a "Wizard of Oz" reimagining that failed because it was solely tailored for children. Momentum behind the new film, "The Muppets," in theaters Nov. 23, was stronger because of its team: writers Nick Stoller and Jason Segel, the duo behind the R-rated comedies "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek," and director James Bobin, best known for his writing and directing roles in "Da Ali G Show" on HBO.
While still G-rated fare, the film's self-referential humor – designed for hipster tastes – is a direct result of its new handlers. "There was something contemporary and dare I say 'hip' about their involvement," says coproducer David Hoberman.
Mr. Hoberman says reaching as broad an audience as possible means the possibility of replicating the success of "The Smurfs," another retooled franchise from many decades back that became a worldwide hit this summer, earning Sony $135 million globally and continued revenues in toys and video games. A sequel has already been announced for next year.