Recently, I got to speak with Hannah Friedman, who is a co-executive producer, writer and songwriter on several recent Disney+ Originals, including “Muppets Mayhem”, “Willow”, and “Obi-Wan Kenobi”.
On “Muppets Mayhem”, alongside her work as a co-EP and writer on the show, Hannah also collaborated with music EP Linda Perry, most notably co-writing the opening title track “Rock On”, which helped the show’s soundtrack album chart at #1 on Billboard’s Kid Albums category.
What’s it like working with the Muppets?
The Muppets is pure joy and chaos, and that was just so exciting. And with all of these, all three of those shows have so much nostalgia for me. It really was just channelling my inner kid for all of them and in different, fun ways.
How did you go about writing a song for The Muppets?
I am so obsessed with Muppet’s music, and I used to listen to it in the car when I was a kid, anywhere we drove. And Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, they’re such a seminal band. And we love, Can You Picture That. And this whole season was about them finding their sound and releasing their first album.
And so I listened to a lot of influences, a lot of Muppet music and also Dr. John, a lot of cool New Orleans jazz, just to get a vibe and feel what they were grooving on. And then, I jammed out with my wonderful producer and co-writer, Dan.
And we just had such a blast. And it was fun because I had been in the writer’s room, so I knew the vibe of the band. And Bill Barretta, who’s one of the co-creators, who plays the voice of Dr. Teeth, was in the room. We were always hearing him pitching his jokes and talking about what Dr. Teeth would be fantabulating about. We had a good sense of what the wavelength that the band was on. It came out really easy.
How did it feel having the success of “The Muppet Mayhem” soundtrack?
What a gift, what a childhood dream. And the vinyl is so cool. If people are Muppet fans, you can get the vinyl at Target. And it has this awesome album artwork, and it’s Kermit the Frog green, the vinyl itself, and it’s just so cool. And there are other co-creators, Adam Goldberg and Jeff Yorkes, they joked that this was a very long way to get the goal of having Dr. Teeth release an album, to make a whole TV show and produce it over multiple years, but they did it. And so, if you dig the band, you can hear them sing all kinds of songs on that vinyl.
What was your highlight working on “The Muppets Mayhem”?
I think doing that theme song was the biggest highlight for sure. And then another fun day was, I won’t spoil it, but Janice becomes a thought leader, and I got to join her cult on screen in the last episode. And that was very, very exciting to get to perform with a Muppet on screen. Just, I mean, there’s nothing better.
What was the biggest challenge working on “The Muppets Mayhem”?
Just living up to the legacy. Jim Henson is one of the greatest creators, I think, in modern media. And we really love these characters, and there’s so much latitude of what to do with them. We just wanted to really make sure that the fans felt like the characters were honored and the humor was what you expect from a Muppets property. And also, that we were doing something new and exciting.
How did it feel working on a Star Wars show?
The pressure of that was really immense because Star Wars is just legendary. I was very intimidated and nervous to write for those characters. And they’re so well established, and people have such strong personal relationships to Obi-Wan and to Darth Vader and to Princess Leia. There’s a lot of pressure that I felt to just make sure that it lived up to that.
What was your biggest highlight working on “Obi-Wan Kenobi”?
My biggest highlight was writing the character Freck. He’s the mole truck driver in episode three or four. That was a really big highlight. And getting to work with… There’s a theme here of puppets. Ewan McGregor was on set, and he’s incredible and so talented. And I was very excited to see him, but I was even more excited to see the Mole puppet and all the individuated little moly tendrils that they had built for his nose when he was excited or whispering and inquisitive. That was a real trip to think of that character and then have these amazing technicians, build and puppeteer him was just wild.
What was your biggest challenge working on “Obi-Wan Kenobi”?
Well, it was challenging because it was during COVID, so it’s not a traditional shoot. Ordinarily, there would be just a lot more co-mingling, but because it was still the height of COVID, that was definitely a challenge.
Were there lots of pressure on you in creating “Willow”?
“Willow” had much more flexibility than Star Wars because there was just that one movie. Star Wars has this massive canon and so many movies and ancillary series and comic books and the Clone Wars and all these things. Willow, we had a lot more flexibility. And the thing we talked about a lot on Willow was this humor because it is a big fantasy series, and that is something we loved about the original movie, which I rented at Blockbuster over and over again. But the comedy between work and Val is so strong that we really wanted to make sure that came in a modern sensibility. Yeah.
You’ve worked with the Muppets and Star Wars. Would you like to add Marvel to your resume?
I do love Marvel. I definitely would be excited to find something in that universe. Yeah. And it’s just all of these are such great playgrounds. And the people who work there are so passionate about the properties and the projects, so it’s just, it’s really a gift. And I saw… I know this is not Disney, but seeing something like Barbie is so inspiring because it’s something everyone’s heard of and it’s just so elevated and contemporary and exciting. And so, I think there’s a lot more to be done in all of these franchises.
And finally, what is your favourite Disney+ Original?
I love She-Hulk, Jessica Gao’s show. She-Hulk, very exciting. Other originals on Disney Plus? I think, I mean, obviously, the Mandalorian incredible. Does that count?
“Muppet Mayhem” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” are available to stream now on Disney+.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.