On this Presidents’ Day, I’ve got one thought just endlessly pinging around in my neural jungle gym. It’s persistent, it’s insistent, it’s non-stop, and it’s this:
Oh my God, it’s really happening.
And we’re going to live or die in public. In front of everyone.
I’m excited and I’m terrified.
And it got me thinking.
This is no safe bet. It’s risky; I bet the farm on this. I’ve been nurturing it and readying it since March of last year, and the books and stories I wrote that this game calls back to are even older. When I’m showing off this game next month, it’ll be a year old, and will have an even larger family of people who have spent their time and energy and love on it. Because it’s not just my creation, not something I can bury as a youthful folly or hide behind my back or bundle off in the garage when company calls like an embarrassing folk-singing habit. Ahem.
Other people built this dream with me. People who took the precious seconds of their lives, the only currency they can’t trade back for, the most valuable thing they own, and they spent it with me and my dream.
Last night as we finished our trailer video and I saw what we had built – what you’ll see in just a few days – it hit me all at once. Sure, we’ve got a million more miles to go before we fall down at your door (with our completed game in our hand, enjoy!), but it was enough to cause that crazy flood of emotions that meant only one thing: I had to watch The Muppet Movie again.
I have a cynical edge across part of my emotional wingspan that leads me to distrust and – God help me, even sneer at – many stories about writing or making stories. Musicals about making musicals, books about writing books, music about writing music (well, Joe’s Garage was alright); the endless optimism and contrived situational comedies and setbacks that fill this particular subgenre give it a saccharine texture that leaves it somewhere on my own personal spectrometer somewhere between “glurge” and “Crystal Light”.
How-EVER. There’s one movie that makes me honestly tear up with happiness and it’s one about a frog trying to break into Hollywood. This frog.
It’s not going to matter how old, how jaded, or how beaten-down I get. Kermit the Frog and his crazy, impossible dream of making millions of people happy is going to be forever special to me, and I thought I’d share a few of my favorite scenes and thoughts.
In part, it comes down to how much I admire this singing, dancing frog who came all the way from his home swamp with a bunch of similar dreamers right there with him.
And, in part, it’s because I’m doing the very same thing. I feel like this darn frog every single day.
Kermit doesn’t have many of the traditional epic heroic American values – he’s not physically strong, he’s not possessed of a startling intellect, he’s not even particularly successful; each movie is about an underdog that has to make it happen. And it’s something that can’t be explained by the standard hero stats, that makes people want to follow along with him.
It’s the different thing, the silly thing, the thing about having a dream, even if it’s a crazy dream, that catches people right in that ray-of-light part of their heart, that golden locus that causes them to wonder: “what if”, or more often, “why not”?
Of course, like any good (or bad) movie about making a movie, things don’t go right all the time. Even Kermit the Frog isn’t always sure he’s done the right thing for all his friends when times are tough, but deep inside, he’s got what it takes to succeed, to share his gifts with the world and bring happiness to people.
You won’t see Kermit fight much. More often than not he’s a ragdoll being flung around as he gets caught in the world’s regrettable machinery: greed, envy, hatred, fear. But he doesn’t give up. He never loses focus on his dream. He won’t fight, he won’t kill. But he will stand in front of a dozen men with shotguns and be willing to die if it means giving up on what he’s built.
And, not to spoil it for the three of you that haven’t watched The Muppet Movie yet, but this frog makes it to Hollywood, stands right on the doorstep of the biggest producer in the business and tells him exactly what he’s come to do: make millions of people happy.
That’s my kind of hero.
It was sad news indeed this week that we lost another of the Henson family, and maybe there was a bit of that in my nostalgic interlude here too, but inasmuch as this blog is to be a reminder to me of not only where I’ve been but a constant recentering on that bright north star I’m trying to hit, Kermit and The Muppet Movie are forever intertwined with the philosophy that I’m aiming for, and I felt that today, on the eve of stepping out onto the stage, it’d be good to remember there’s a frog out there that’s still dreaming.
That’s something to be proud of. Something I’d like to remember in the days ahead. Something that I’m supposed to be.