Jarrod Fairclough – Monday 23rd November 2009 started as just a normal day. It seemed the only noteworthy thing to happen to pop culture was the release of Susan Boyle’s debut album. It would be like any other normal, kind of boring day on the internet.
Then someone pressed ‘Publish’ on a video on YouTube. And world went insane. It was Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Only it wasn’t Freddie Mercury and Brian May. It was Lew Zealand and Bunsen Honeydew. It was The Muppets.
At this point in time, The Muppets were doing okay. They weren’t riding high, but they were still putting out content. There had been a smattering of viral videos, referred to as ‘Virmup’. 2008 had seen the release of the Letters To Santa Christmas special. And everything they were doing was… fine. It wasn’t the best Muppet content we’d ever had, but it wasn’t the worst. It just seemed people were beginning to forget about The Muppets.
Until Bohemian Rhapsody.
Suddenly, people started to take notice. The video did what ‘Virmup’ set out to do – it made The Muppets go viral, gaining over 7 million viewers in as many days. As soon as people heard the dulcet tones of Gonzo backed up by a plethora of chickens, they realized this was no ordinary parody – this was The Muppets doing what they do best – weird and wacky, but most importantly; funny. People started demanding more. More Animal! More Beaker! More Beauregard probably! It eventually went on to win the 2010 Webby Award for Best Video.
Disney took notice. What could they do to capitalize on this momentum? So they decided to take a meeting with a couple of writers who had an idea for a project, one who might even act in it. That meeting was with Jason Segal and Nick Stoller, and two years later The Muppets came out in cinemas, introducing the world to these characters once again.
Yes – Bohemian Rhapsody saved The Muppets from relative obscurity, meaning that without Big Mean Carl eating Rizzo, we wouldn’t have had Constantine dancing on Ricky Gervais’ head. Without a group of cacti asking if anyone had a line for them, we wouldn’t have had David Tennant reprising his role of The Doctor in a Pigs In Space sketch.
And people are still taking notice. At the time of writing, the video sits at over 80 million views. In research for this article, I came across multiple reviews of the biopic of the same name, many of which referenced this video. It tops a lot of ‘Best Song Covers’ lists, and even Queen’s Brian May has spoken about it in interviews over the decade. The video benefits from the fact that the backing track is the actual backing track from the original song, care of Queen. Brian stated that he holds such respect for The Muppets and the performers as artists, that it was a no brainer. He even believes Freddie Mercury would have seen it as a perfect collaboration.
It continues to be a fan favorite, too. It is often mentioned when people discuss their favorite Muppet memory. It was even played at Disneyland on New Years Eve in 2011, projected on to Rivers of America!
The Muppets have even performed it again, at both The Hollywood Bowl and the O2 live shows, to great response (you can see an example a couple of paragraphs up). Because it seems even they know how beloved this thing really is. There is no doubt about it, Bohemian Rhapsody saved The Muppets. It lead to directly to the 2011 film, which lead to Most Wanted, which lead to the 2015 series, which lead to more YouTube stuff, which lead to Muppet Babies, which lead to Muppets Now. Here’s hoping we get a heck of a lot more, which in 2029 we’ll inevitably trace back to the videos success!
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