Meet David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman: The Men Behind the Muppet Magic

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Prior to their solid Thanksgiving weekend opening, WALT DISNEY PICTURES hosted the global media for a two day MUPPET extravaganza which included press conferences, roundtables and one-on-one interviews with, David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, the men behind the Muppet magic!

THE MUPPETS, a WALT DISNEY PICTURES film, reunites Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo The Great, and the original bad boy rocker, Animal, after a twelve year absence, in a madcap, wild globetrotting adventure.

Produced by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman (THE FIGHTER/The Proposal), THE MUPPETS fill the screen with great slapstick comedy and big musical scenes reminiscent of early Hollywood musicals. 

Prior to their solid Thanksgiving weekend opening, WALT DISNEY PICTURES hosted the global media for a two day MUPPET extravaganza which included press conferences, roundtables and one-on- one interviews with the men behind the Muppet magic!

 

Held in the historic Beverly Hills Hilton the two, David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman, seem to exude balance. David, his years as President of WALT DISNEY’s Motion Picture Group clear as his answers echoed wisdom, thought and reflection and Todd, the image of a contemporary Hollywood producer, intelligent, funny and perceptive. They’re genuinely humorous, appreciative and immediately comfortable.  They project a clear sense of enjoyment in their current place which was evident as the interview was brimming with laughter.

 

Having the opportunity to interview the two during THE MUPPET Media Day the following is the transcript of our interview.

 

Janet Walker: I’ve read bits and pieces that describe your partnership. You’ve been a producing team for some time. How do the two of you describe your partnership and how did the partnership come about?

 

Todd Lieberman: David, I’ll take this. David hired me as a young real newbie many years ago. I was working for him as an executive and I found that when you find a place and you find someone whom you feel could be a mentor and I had respected David’s career for many years, and a lot of the things he had done and has still done many amazing things in his career, I felt the best way for me to learn the business was to align myself with someone who was so well respected and had done so many great things.

 

We got along really well, our tastes seem to align and at the appropriate moment I guess he may have felt the same and he turned to me and said, ‘Let’s partner up.’ And that was, we’ve been together, I think we’re on our thirteenth year now.

 

David Hoberman: Which is crazy to think about frankly, you know, we weren’t like best friends who started or said, ‘let’s start this company and see how it goes.’ We’re from different generations and it, when you think about thirteen years, (hesitating) I’m just shocked by it frankly. It’s like in some ways; it has gone by so quickly. I think the key to any relationship, personal, professional whatever it is mutual respect.  And I think we both have that for each other.

 

Todd Lieberman: And another word about relationships, any marriage, any friendship has ups and downs and when there are downs we talk about it. We there are ups we talk about it. There’s an open line of communications. If David’s upset about something he talks to me. If I’m upset about something I talk to him. There are no closed doors. Nothing’s ever perfect and if you can express feelings and not be to manly about it . . . (they both laugh).

 

Janet Walker: What was your most memorable moment from working on this film?

David Hoberman: I think, like I said in the press conference, for a producer in Hollywood to shut down Hollywood Blvd., in front of Grumman Chinese which I remember going and looking at those hand and footprints as a kid, and doing a huge musical number is an extraordinary thing for a producer. And shooting in LA and the movie being about LA it just that was a real high for me, I could really just giggle about the whole thing . . (laughing).

 

Todd Lieberman: And he has a lot. He giggles all the time about it. For me, actually, the most amazing part of making the movie was prepping the movie. The making of the movie was unbelievable for various reasons but having grown up with The Muppets and kind of loving and respecting them in a way that a child has this awe and admiration for something, this intangible quality.

 

The moment we decided to take our script and film the read through of the script with The MUPPETS and we had twelve cameras set up on this table and we were going to cut that together like a movie and so we could watch to see how the story flowed. And seeing the first reading of it live with The MUPPETS as they were all unveiled coming to life it was really awe inspiring, it was pretty amazing.

 

Janet Walker: What challenged you most on this project?

David Hoberman: Yes. I remember we did one day we asked The Muppet group to pick out a dozen scenes, an exterior scene, a musical number, an interior scene all these different kind of things we would have in our movie and they could take us through how they did it when they made that movie because we had people that were around then and that was one of the more informative things I think we did to understand how these things were actually done. But I got to say, (he snaps his fingers), day one of shooting everybody knew how to do it, everybody knew what they were doing and we just sort of went and did it successfully.

Todd Lieberman: It’s the whole idea of the show must go on. You know, challenges are . . they’re always overcome during the course of making the movie process. You’ve got to finish it. (laughing)

 

Janet Walker: How long, from concept to completion?

Todd Lieberman: David and I got involved a couple years ago. There was a story and a very early draft that Jason [Segal] and Nick [Stoller] had written and when we got involved DISNEY became very serious about making the movie. We hired James [Bobin]. After that it was probably a two year process.

David Hoberman: And probably a year or two before that.

 

Janet Walker: So, I’ve read that you have a first look deal with DISNEY.  

Janet Walker: How those types of deals typically work and is that only for film projects? Does it include Spec Scripts? 

David Hoberman: Everything. When I transitioned from being an executive to being a producer I had a personal deal in ‘95 it just sort of keep going and going and going. In some way, I will have been with the studio twenty-three or twenty-five years. And then Todd came in and we’ve had a first look for that period of time.

Janet Walker: And the Muppets came through that?

David Hoberman: The Muppets were just because we have a deal and made a lot of movies for the studios. And having done DISNEY movies they came to us and entrusted us with the franchise.  And as I say, Jerry [Bruckheimer]gets nervous because he has 200 million dollar budgets he’s working with and we get nervous because they’re giving us, and there is a lot depending on this movie, the future of the Muppets and merchandising and TV and other films and so forth. There was a lot of pressure on us to understand what they had given us and what our obligation were to try to make a great one.

 

Todd Lieberman: And we knew they had the property and knew they wanted to make a movie of it. So we actually were annoyingly prudent about wanting to potentially get involved. We’ve had a good relationship with DISNEY for many years and been lucky enough to share success with them.

Janet Walker: You’ve produced THE MUPPETS, The Fighter & the Proposal and many others; your credits are very impressive.  With so many unique projects is it instinct, is it analytical, a business model; how do you decide and how do the projects compare or contrast in development? (laughing).

 

David Hoberman: For me, simply, if you look at all our films, they all end happily. The trick is, what is the story and the journey and the characters that get you to that point. And we’ve done that in any number of ways. You could say The Fighter and The Proposal are the same movie, they all end well. They get together at the end. They’re just different stories to tell to get there. But we tend to like happy endings. (laughing)

Todd Lieberman; I always like to find something that moves me personally. I mean there was a personal connection I had to The Proposal. I had a personal story of dating my boss many years ago. The Fighter, the very first movie I saw many years ago in a movie theater was THE CHAMP. So I’ve always wanted to do a boxing movie. The Muppets, I grew up with them and the idea, the potential to be involved with them was like a personal gesture toward history basically.

All the things we’re involved with . .  (laughing)

David Hoberman: (laughing) Warm Bodies, we’re involved Todd was a zombie in a former life.

Todd Lieberman: And now it’s really how we exercise the taste we both have which is so wide ranging and just be able to do lots of things.

 

Janet Walker: What’s next for on your slate?

David Hoberman: Well we just finished a film for relativity called 21 and over. Which is an R rated college comedy and we’ve never done an R rated other than The Fighter.

Todd Lieberman:  Hard charging drinking movie . . .

David Hoberman:  . . . that ends well (laughing). And we in post on that and we’re in middle of production of Warm Bodies, the zombie movie we’re doing for SUMMIT and that ends well (laughing). And Phineas and Ferb were prepping for Disney.

 

David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman prove that happy endings are the key to movie making success!

 

THE MUPPETS are entertaining, magical and engaging! See local listings for show times!

 

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