So now that Walter has been accepted into the fold, what will his role in the story be this time around?

"Actually, I discover a secret in this film," he says. "I discover something that is very, very wrong and I enlist the help of Fozzy and Animal...and we make it right. It's actually a pretty dramatic turning point in the movie. I'm very happy with my role in the film. Heck, if they just let me bring water to the guys on the set, I'd be happy. Are you kidding?!?"

As it turns out, that last part isn't so far from the truth.

"[Walter] keeps messing up my coffee order," complains Miss Piggy. "Until he gets that right, we’re going to keep calling him ‘the new guy’. Really, who needs anybody new when you have moi?"

*****

Another dose of the surreal: lined up on the platform before us is a collection of every imaginable Muppet, from Animal to Swedish Chef to Fozzy Bear to Thog to Janice. Their human operators are bunched tightly together in the small space, gathered to film a group reaction to Kermit's earlier proclamation. As we watch on the monitors, we can see that the scene opens with a tracking shot of Sweetums, adorably carrying a suitcase as he lumbers past a sign reading "Union Station - City of Los Angeles."

"Ok guys, gather round and listen up!" Kermit begins as Sweetums joins the group. "If we're gonna go on a world tour, well, I figured we should do it in classic style, right? So I've booked us on a tour train!"

The Muppets "ooh" and "aah" in delight as a glistening, to-be-inserted-later luxury locomotive rolls into view.

"No, not that one!" Kermit exclaims. "This one!"

And just like that, the fantasy is broken. You can practically hear the refrain of a sad trombone as the Muppets' actual mode of transport comes into view: a far less-impressive train (to be inserted later) that results in a collective drooping of fluffy Muppet heads.

Between takes, the fantasy for us humans is broken too. As the Muppeteers stand down with their respective characters, it's as if a light is turned out instantaneously: one moment, Gonzo and Fozzy and Animal and Thog are as living, breathing beings; the next they are lifeless pieces of fleece and foam. And yet every time director James Bobin yells "action!", they come alive again. And we are kids, again.


James Bobin and Kermit the Frog on the set of Muppets Most Wanted


On the platform opposite ours, a group of delighted bystanders has gathered to snap pictures and observe the shoot. One middle-aged man even loudly proclaims his adoration for Scooter. Indeed, it's easy to imagine that everyone watching has unconsciously tapped into their own inner child.

"Here on this train platform I see people on the other side snapping pictures like crazy," Kermit says of the Muppets' enduring celebrity with fans of all ages. "It’s great to meet our fans. We don’t often get the chance to do it because we work in a studio, you know? So people come up to us all the time."

So where do the Muppets go when their work is done? As we speak with Kermit, one of my fellow reporters notes a black contraption where humans can be seen entering and leaving with the fuzzy creations.

"Oh yes," Kermit remarks non-chalantly. "Yes, that is a - that’s sort of like on 'Star Trek' when they put you inside that thing and they zap you back to Hoboken, New Jersey. It’s a one way ticket but it saves FedEx, you know."

"Muppets Most Wanted" hits theaters on March 21.

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