There’s a lot to love about Fozzie Bear, the “Wocka Wocka”-ing, endlessly optimistic underdog of the Muppets crew. Much of that has to do with director Frank Oz, who spent 24 years as Fozzie’s voice actor and puppeteer, working with his friend Jim Henson to create the warm, anxious, perpetually heckled bear that most of us have known and adored since the early Muppet Show days. As such, Oz himself is pretty familiar with Fozzie—and equally protective of him, which quickly became clear in a heated argument he had with a well-known ursine collector on Twitter today.
The man in question, Gyles Brandreth, is a well-known author, TV presenter, and former politician in the U.K., whose accomplishments include the fact that he once boasted one of the largest stuffed bear collections in the world. Among his various famous bears (including, reportedly, Paddington) is one that Brandreth has long claimed is the original Fozzie Bear, gifted to him by Henson after they met during a TV appearance many years before. (Brandreth has been making this assertion for a number of years, including in 2006, when he was trying to find a buyer for his museum via Christie’s Auction House, with OG Fozzie as one of its key selling points.)
Earlier this week, Brandreth tweeted about his collection’s new home at English country house Newby Hall, showing off his original Fozzie and its place of pride at the Brandreth Bear House.
Oz wasn’t having it.
In an increasingly apoplectic series of tweets, the Little Show Of Horrors director laid into Brandreth today, accusing him of making up the Henson story, and asserting that the bear in question was no Fozzie that he’d ever met. (And presumably, he’d know.) While nobody likes an ugly custody battle, the real joy here is watching Oz dive deeper and deeper into a very kid-friendly sort of rage; he starts with annoyed questions, before descending into “tee’d off,” and finally ends with an angry declaration that the whole thing is “TOTAL B.S.”
And honestly, we get it; not only does this concern the fate of a character Oz spent a huge part of his life defining and embodying, but it also touches on the legacy of Henson himself. It’s actually very touching to see Oz get quite so angry on the topic of someone supposedly trying to profit off of his friends, real and imagined.
In any case, Brandreth’s account has yet to respond to Oz’s questions and accusations (even with a thrown tomato or two).
Update: After apparently consulting with a Muppets archivist, Oz has now confirmed that Brandreth’s bear is “an original Fozzie,” if not “THE original FB.” He’s issued an apology to Brandreth and deleted most of his original tweets, but his dismay at the whole situation (and his abiding love for Fozzie) is still pretty clear: