I just got back from The Muppet movie, and there was the usual Disney productions spot just before the movie started.
If you think only characters originated by Disney are Disney characters, you'll be throwing out Cinderella, Snow White, Pinocchio, Mary Poppins, Hunchback, Hercules, Alice in Wonderland... gee, what's left?
The Muppets were created by Jim Henson. Disney purchased them. So now yes, technically he is a Disney-owned property. But they're Henson.
As far as the other characters you mentioned, it's based on the look. There was a great BBC program called Disney-fied, where they talked about how Disney was able to mold each classic fable into their own properties. The Snow White story Disney came up with is vastly different from the original story. They made these their own.
Just becaue the Muppets appear at the Hollywood Studios and Jim Henson is dead doesn't suddenly make them Disney characters. The sales receipt simply means that they are Disney-acquired.
When you buy something you own it. Disney bought the Muppets, ABC, Pixar and a number of other entities. They are all now Disney. If you can't understand basic ownership, then there's nothing we can do to help you understand.
Didn't say I didn't grasp ownership. Allow me to reiterate my point. If you can't beat 'em... buy 'em.
And Disney developed Muppets in a way Henson hadn't just like the authors didn't for Snow, Cinderella etc. Actually Henson worked with Disney to bring the Muppets prior to his death as he did with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to MGM until he was too sick to continue. (Henson was fond of his relationship with Disney. His heirs, not so much. When the Turtles were loosing TV ground they went to Nick/Viacom.) It is all what the current owner does with his assets. Disney has a long history of developing someone elses initial ideas into something better, in most cases. Likely you might have not liked the Disney connection to the fables because it the same thing, not Disney initial idea, but we are so far removed by years from the novels to Disney. Walt built a chunk of his empire on others creativity. One of Igers biggest triumph is to mend those fences and bring Pixar into the Disney Family, Eisner kinda blew that one.
I've been a fan of Muppets from their early movies and attraction opening at MGM. I always associated those with Disney, Sesame Street with PBS.
For a company that now owns the Muppets, they had precious little to do with the creation of this film. Short of (probably) bankrolling it and then distributing it.
The project was created and owned by Segel. Disney pretty much agreed to pull the puppets out of mothballs for him.
They are brilliant indeed. But Segel was the person who actually approached Muppet Studios about the project at the beginning. I think the franchise was sitting dormant and he, being a life-long fan, decided to try and kickstart things up again. In an interview, he said that the basic premise of the story was very much akin to how the initial talks went with the studios. They weren't sure that the Muppet name had the drawing power it once did in the 70s and moreso the 80s.
I actually side with SuperNova on this one. I think people tend to see Pixar as "Pixar" and not Disney. That may be starting to change but how many people are really comfortable with the idea of a large number of Pixar related attractions flooding the parks? To a large extent the same goes with the Muppets. There is definitely synergy but at the same time Disney, Pixar, Marvel and the Muppets are distinct brands.
Muppet Studios was created after Eisner bought out the Hensons in 2004, right? Iger then promptly fired the people in charge of Muppet Studios and they were pretty much limited to internet related releases and a few tv show appearances since. Without Jason Segel's interest and determination The Muppets was never going to get off the ground. I'm certainly not belittling the Muppets Studios efforts (and they have done great promotion work for the movie) but Disney has done very little with the franchise until now.
Pixar still, despite Disney coming along and gobbling them up, seems like a separate film company from Disney. In the beginning back when they were putting together Toy Story, Pixar realized that they would need Disney to help raise the company to a level of legitimacy. Now, it would appear that the circumstances are reversed, with Disney going to Lasseter for advice on how to make movies like Tron: Legacy have a more human feel to it. Somehow, I don't seem Lasseter and his team going to Disney for advice on how to put together a film.
However that can be said about any attraction or movie that Disney doesn't focus on in a given time frame. Disney re-invented Cinderella and SnowWhite from the fables. Until the roller-coater for the Dwarfs what has Disney done with them lately?
Eisner seemed to be determined to SWAK Pixar. The relationship was horrible. Iger at least knew it would be an asset Disney's. My opinion Iger was brighter for knowing Pixar was important to the Corporation for it to be Disney.
When any Disney property is pulled off the dusty shelf, it is someones project. Segel is the one for the Muppets this time. Segel gets the praise on behalf of Disney. It was Disney's perseverance that brought Muppets into the portfolio the same as Universal brought WWoHP into their portfolio.
Universal opened Harry Potter and they're already looking to expand the area. Disney created an attraction (literally) 20 1/2 years ago and hasn't done much of anything with them at the parks since.