Hannah Friedman is versatile veteran when it comes to television, with writing and producing credits on “Obi-Wan,” “Willow,” “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Roadies,” “About A Boy,” and “Super Fun Night” (Rebel Wilson).
Currently, Friedman is a Co Executive Producer, writer, and songwriter on Disney+’s Muppets revival, “Muppets Mayhem.” The series stars Lilly Singh, Tahj Mowry, and Andrew Holms alongside Jim Henson’s famous puppet creations. The plot follows the Muppet band, Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem as they journey from the Muppets realm into the current world of music in an attempt to go platinum.
Alongside her work as a co-EP and writer on the show, Hannah also collaborated with music EP Linda Perry, co-writing the opening title track “Rock On” (included below). This led to the show’s soundtrack album charting at number one on the Billboard’s Kid Albums category.
Friedman spoke to Awards Focus’ Byron Burton about all things Muppets, her expansive career, and what’s next on her horizon.
Awards Focus: The Muppets franchise is well-known, but with “Muppet Mayhem” you’re able to connect with a new generation of families while keeping the spirit of the original alive. How did you approach writing the lyrics and creating the feeling that we experience when hearing the “Muppets Mayhem” theme song “Rock On?”
Hannah Friedman: Great question! We knew that this had to be an anthem for the ethos of the band, and what we love about the band is that they are a family and they always find a way to come together through music. That was kind of the north star of the series thematically and we were hoping to find a way to encapsulate that theme in the hook.
So “Rock On” felt like a fun nod to their mission statement as characters. We also tried to add in a lot of groovy wordplay because Bill Barretta, our Dr. Teeth, is such a talent at riffing when he delivers vocabulary as Dr. Teeth. We wanted to give him some lyrics that felt in line with his playfulness and his loquaciousness.
AF: Can you discuss the role of music in children’s programming and how it contributes to the overall viewing experience and emotional connection with the characters and story?
Friedman: Music is such a huge part of Muppets and obviously this show is about a band so it was even more central in the storytelling. Music has the ability to make us feel beyond anything words can express, so we used it in every episode to land the emotional beats, to tie characters together across storylines, and to echo back to memories of the past.
It is such a dynamic paintbrush and we were so lucky to get to work with Dawn Soler and Mick Giacchino and Linda Perry and everyone on the music team.
AF: What was your collaborative process like with co-writer Daniel Pinnella?
Friedman: Dan is the greatest! We have worked on a few projects together so we’ve developed a shorthand. He’s a genius in the studio and prolific on guitar, so we just jammed out as fast as we could and we’re very proud of the results.
AF: Were there any points of the process that challenged you creatively and resulted in a new idea or approach for the song?
Friedman: We actually weren’t sure about the chorus hook, “Rock On” felt like maybe too on the nose at first and we wavered between that and other aphorisms about the rock and roll lifestyle that echoed the sentiments of the series… this being the time of their lives, or how we’re a family through the music. Ultimately, the “Rock On” hook kept coming back and back and we took a chance and put it in.
AF: The soundtrack for the series reached #1 on Billboard’s Kid Album Category. What was it like seeing the audience’s reaction to the music and “Rock On” in particular?
Friedman: Oh, a total dream come true! We’ve loved Muppets since we were kids so getting to be a tiny part of that musical legacy is literally the best we could’ve ever hoped for. We’re so touched that the fans got behind the music because we are also genuine fans of The Mayhem and all the music from Muppet cannon.
AF: “Rock On” has become an anthem for the series. How do you hope this song will leave a lasting impression on young audiences, and what do you think sets it apart from other theme songs in children’s entertainment?
Friedman: We think it taps into the zest for life and for community via music that the band believes in wholeheartedly. It’s just an infectious feeling, so we’re so thrilled it’s been connecting with people and the larger theme of no matter what happens, snow or sleet, if you have your bandmates and you keep moving forward you will be OK.
We’ve found that to be the case in the music industry and in our own personal lives, finding the joy in comradery and just rocking to get through those times. So we hope it’s a fun tune and also a comforting message to the audience.
AF: What’s next for you in the children’s entertainment space?
Friedman: I’m developing a series with my husband Jacob at Henson for kids, puppets and music will be front and center so we can’t wait to get it out to the world!