When Muppet Treasure Island was first released in February 1996, there was no telling how popular the film would become in the world of Muppet movie canon. As one of the only literary adaptations The Muppets have produced in their lengthy film history, the Muppet-led adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic is one that has absolutely stood the test of time in terms of humor, casting, and perhaps above all else, music.
The Muppets are almost always at their best whenever music is involved, as the beloved puppet performers never fail to go all out whenever a performance calls for it. In the case of Muppet Treasure Island, with its varying set pieces, hundreds of Muppet characters, and full commitment to the pirate aesthetic, the music is perhaps better than it ever has been.
8 “Boom Shakalaka”
In an otherwise stellar soundtrack, “Boom Shakalaka” stands out as just a little bit beneath the high standards for Muppet songs.
Though it’s hard to find anything to criticize in terms of the breadth and scope of the tropical tribal number, it’s clear that it serves no real purpose other than introducing Miss Piggy in her role as Benjamina Gunn. Otherwise, the performance is more spectacle and repetition than a show-stopping musical number like the rest of the film’s songs.
7 “Love Led Us Here”
Love songs aren’t often featured in Muppet movies — and in some cases, they’re even unceremoniously tossed on the cutting room floor, as with “When Love Is Gone” in The Muppet Christmas Carol. But in Muppet Treasure Island, the love song “Love Led Us Here” serves a deeply moving purpose, as it finds Captain Abraham Smollett (Kermit the Frog) and Benjamina Gunn (Miss Piggy) singing for their lost love as they fight for their lives.
After they’re left for dead hanging off the edge of a cliff, Smollett and Benjamina reflect on the mistakes they made in their previous romantic relationship, engaging in a tearful, moving duet about how every choice made in their relationship led them to this point.
6 “Love Power”
Though this song in fact features over the end credits of Muppet Treasure Island, multiple miniature scenes take place with “Love Power” set in the background. Performed by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, this a great reggae song that perfectly fits the quasi-Caribbean vibes of the entire movie.
Paired with some hilarious tableaus of various Muppet rats retrieving treasure chests of gold and jewelry from the depths of the sea, this song makes for a truly enjoyable number and a memorable ending credits sequence.
5 “Cabin Fever”
“Cabin Fever” is perhaps one of the best-known numbers in the entire movie, not least of all for its total meme-worthy status. It’s also arguably one of the most impressive numbers in Muppet history, purely for the volume of performers, outlandish costumes, and multiple style changes within the song itself.
The performance finds all crew members on the Hispaniola developing, as the title suggests, cabin fever after they’ve been at sea with no land in sight for quite some time. What follows is a fever dream of a musical number, one that breaks the fourth wall with quips like “I’d like to get my hands on whoever wrote this script” and features hundreds of Muppets in Carmen Miranda-inspired costumes.
4 “Sailing for Adventure”
Long before the crew members of the Hispaniola have descended into the depths of cabin fever, they are all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the musical number “Sailing for Adventure.” As the ship embarks in its secret quest for treasure, the passengers on the esteemed vessel look forward to all aspects of life on the sea.
Most of the passengers are motivated by simple wanderlust and excitement to see the world. Squire Trelawney is excited to voyage “on the big blue wet thing“; the rats taking part in Rizzo’s Rat Tours are excited for “margaritas at the midnight buffet“; and young Jim Hawkins, naive of all that is to come, looks forward to following in his father’s footsteps.
3 “Something Better”
In Disney musicals, it’s traditional for a hero (usually a princess) to have their “I Want” song, which lays out what they desire from life and what they will likely acquire over the course of the movie. Muppet Treasure Island follows this trend with the lovely “Something Better,” a song that captures the adventurous ambitions of Jim Hawkins, Gonzo, and Rizzo the Rat alike.
The three very different best friends lament the sad state of their lives at the Benbow Inn and imagine an alternate future. Jim wants to “be an explorer, setting off to distant lands,” while Gonzo expresses interest in finding the “weird and wild.” Rizzo, for his part, has no interest in a life of adventure, instead hoping to “[find] someplace with ten square meals a day.“
2 “Shiver My Timbers”
Though many musical films aimed at children and families start with a number that sets the scene and establishes the overall genre of the movie, it’s hard to find many songs that establish a world as effectively as “Shiver My Timbers” does.
“Shiver My Timbers” serves multiple purposes, and serves all of them well. It completely establishes the world of piracy the film inhabits. It succinctly encapsulates the adventures of Captain Flint’s crew as Billy Bones drunkenly describes them to his fellow bargoers. And it quite literally starts the movie off with a bang, setting the more adult tone of the adventures these Muppets are about to go on with the closing lyrics: “Shiver my timbers, shiver my sails. Dead men tell no tales.“
1 “A Professional Pirate”
Just as most Disney movies feature the hero’s “I Want” song, they almost always feature a villain stating their motivations and desires in lyrical form, too. Muppet Treasure Island does not disappoint at all in this regard, as it provides the legendary Tim Curry with a show-stopping number, and arguably the film’s best song, in “A Professional Pirate.”
Long John Silver is as morally ambiguous a character as they come in the world of the Muppets, motivated by his desire for treasure and what he feels he is owed after Captain Flint’s betrayals. But in this song, a livelier, more jovial side of the pirate’s life is shown, with Curry nailing every note and accompanied by hilarious pirate sidekicks, both human and Muppet.
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