Before he was hanging with Frodo and giant apes, Director Peter Jackson was pushing the boundaries of morals and good taste with his answer to Jim Henson’s Muppets, MEET THE FEEBLES. These are definitely not kid friendly plush puppets. The first five minutes’ of the movie feature a dominatrix elephant and a bosomy hippo singing an opening number full of allusions to sex and drugs. Then a walrus is having sex with a cat on top of a desk. It just gets weirder from there.
Released in 1989, MEET THE FEEBLES is the story of a theatre troupe looking to have their variety show syndicated on national television (notably similar to the Muppets’ backstory). Robert, a shy hedgehog, has just joined the troupe as a member of the chorus. He soon falls in love with a chorus girl (a poodle) named Lucille. Meanwhile, the star of the show is a hippo fearing she’s near the end of her career. So she seeks solace in her walrus boyfriend, who happens to be cheating on her with a cat. All the while a porno directing rat sits in the sidelines insulting the stars and selling heroin to the cast.
MEET THE FEEBLES tackles a variety of adult themes including sexual perversions, violence, drugs, STDs, and Vietnam flashbacks. It’s a rather revolting film full of completely unlikable characters who are totally devoid of any charm, but with that said- there is something quite charming about this filthy film.
With nods to THE DEER HUNTER, THE TERMINATOR, and A CHORUS LINE, there’s an attempt at something bigger than a bunch of disgusting puppets humping each other, spewing bodily fluids, and eating shit (yeah, they do this too).
The film was a commercial failure, but quickly became a cult classic. Originally intended to be the pilot for a TV series, investors decided they’d likely see a bigger (and quicker) return off a film version. The script was then hastily expanded, and a budget that was intended to shoot a thirty-minute TV pilot was stretched to shoot a 100-minute film. The film received a limited theatrical run, but didn’t make it to the United States until 1995. It had a brief DVD release as well.
For all its fluids, sex, and fluid-filled sex, MEET THE FEEBLES is still a worthwhile film, if just for its place in film history and satire. The early works of Peter Jackson are a source of inspiration for any filmmaker. His first film BAD TASTE was shot on a shoestring budget over the course of several years and earned him the honored distinction as a disgusting punk rock auteur. As his second film, MEET THE FEEBLES showed that there was something extremely creative under all that juvenile gross-out humor. By the time he got to DEAD ALIVE we all knew that we were dealing with a genius destined for greatness. So track down a copy of MEET THE FEEBLES, and wrap your brain around Mr. Jackson’s journey from “puppet tits” to Tolkien.