As a Muppet fan, there was one thing I never thought I’d get to do: see them in person.
Unlike other Disney characters, the nature of their existence doesn’t lend itself to a traditional character greeting. To ever see them, I’d have to be on a film set, or at the very least a special event like a talk show or telecast. And what were the odds of that happening? It wasn’t like Disney would ever bring a live Muppet show to the theme parks.
Except that it’s exactly what Disney did, and then some. When this autumn season is complete, Walt Disney World will have debuted three Muppet experiences in three different parks: The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History at Magic Kingdom, Muppet Mobile Lab at Epcot, and PizzeRizzo at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is, of course, in addition to the longstanding classic Muppet*Vision 3D, still operating daily just near PizzeRizzo‘s future location.
These additions are unprecedented and delightful, and for the remainder of this article we’re going to zoom in on the one of them that brings a new significance to the area it inhabits: The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History. Appearing in the windows above Liberty Square, the gang shares an historic moment from our nation’s past as only they can. From the get-go, this attraction is clearly a Muppet production. Its opening moments declare it to be a celebration of “great moments in history, but only the American ones.” What follows is a clever romp that is authentic to both the characters it involves and the land whose space it uses, a rare and near-perfect combination of entertainment and education.
Liberty Square has always been the outlier of Magic Kingdom, at least at first glance. When thinking about the other areas, one might ask what Liberty Square has to do with any aspect of the park whatsoever. Yes, it’s connected geographically and thematically to Frontierland, but doesn’t a land dedicated to real-life 1770s America seem random in a theme park that celebrates kingdoms of fantasy? That begs the bigger question: How would we even define Magic Kingdom as an entire park in a description that encompasses all of its contents? In answering that, I think we must view the park as an expression of Walt Disney himself. Each land represents a realm that fascinated and excited Walt, and Liberty Square is no different. Walt once said, “Actually, if you could see close in my eyes, the American flag is waving in both of them and up my spine is growing this red, white, and blue stripe.” Pride for his country was important to Walt Disney, and while colonial America may seem a random subject in relation to other lands in the park (Aren’t all of them really, though?), it’s not a random subject at all in its relation to Walt Disney as a person, as the other lands also are.
In fact, Liberty Square‘s connection to Magic Kingdom actually poises itself as the most important area of the whole park. No, it may not be the biggest, or the most popular, or even, admittedly, the most fun. It is, though, the most important because it is the bridge that connects everything else here. In Liberty Square, particularly in The Hall of Presidents, we hear inspirational stories of real people presented with that Disney touch that immerses us in the world of that story… which just so happens to be the same world as our own reality, which is different from every other story told in the park. As the glue of the park, Liberty Square takes the ideals represented in romanticized imagination and grounds those same principles within real-life stories. We can actually relate because these are real people, not fantasy characters. As relatable as Disney’s fictional stories are, there is always the obvious understanding that they are made-up tales. The stories of our nation’s leaders, not so much. Liberty Square takes the same concept presented elsewhere in the park and makes it real for the guest. It makes it something tangible that the guest can relate to his or her own life. This makes it, essentially, the most important land in the Magic Kingdom.
And now the Muppets play a hand in that.
No, The Muppets Present Great Moments in American History doesn’t take itself too seriously or pretend to be as groundbreaking of a spectacle at The Hall of Presidents. (Actually, it even acknowledges that The Hall of Presidents might not be a priority destination for your day in the park.) However, in striving to be a simple expression of the Muppet brand, Great Moments essentially serves the same purpose as The Hall of Presidents, but obviously with a much different tone. In just being itself, it becomes an all-encompassing whammy of an attraction that single-handedly defines Magic Kingdom and drops the mic. Will guests leave the show with this thought in mind? Probably not. Most guests probably doesn’t pause to consider Liberty Square‘s role for the park (I didn’t really until I lived in Orlando). The impression, though, and its subconscious impact, is still present; that effort to chase very real dreams and acknowledge them as concepts that don’t just exist in fairy tales. The Muppets now make that connection happen, and that is a very special thing indeed.
(Images belong to author’s personal collection.)
Blake graduated Appalachian State University studying Electronic Media Production/Broadcasting and Film. He is currently a participant of the Disney College Program. Blake’s favorite attraction is the hub grass. You can find him on Twitter @blake_242 or at BlakeOnline.com.