Muppet Vision 3D has always been one of my favorite attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…mostly. There is one thing about this attraction that has always bothered me, and his name is Waldo C. Graphic. I never understood his place in the show. He is a computer generated character, not a Muppet. Someone is giving him his voice, but nobody is performing him. He’s a piece of animation, not a Muppet.
Or so I thought.
Imagine my surprise when, in Jim Henson: The Biography (the book I had just finished reading), the author, while talking about all the new technology being used for Fraggle Rock, mentioned “a radio-controlled device called a waldo.”
My eyebrow raised, and I did a quick internet search.
Originally, the waldo was used for the full-size Muppets, like Big Bird on Sesame Street and the Gorgs on Fraggle Rock. One performer used the mitten-like device to control the mouth of the Muppet which freed the performer in the suit to use both of their arms in the character’s arms. Henson also used the waldo for some of the scenes with Kermit in The Muppets Take Manhattan, so he wouldn’t have to get into small, uncomfortable spaces to perform.
That’s an interesting coincidence, I thought, but nothing more. Waldo in Muppet Vision 3D isn’t a full-size Muppet in need of two performers. Maybe Henson named the character as a nod to the technology, but that was it.
I didn’t give it any more thought until I read this sentence later on in the book: “For The Jim Henson Hour [an ill-fated TV show in the 80’s], the technology was used in the creation of a vaguely, birdlike, bouncing, shape-shifting CGI Muppet called Waldo C. Graphic.”
Wait, what? Waldo was created before Muppet Vision 3D? And he’s a Muppet?
The book continued: “The computer image of Waldo would be overlaid on video images of other live performers – and [Steve] Whitmore, working in the traditional Muppet style, could watch…Waldo move on-screen as he performed, talking and interacting virtually with other performers.”
So, Waldo actually has a performer like Kermit and the rest of the Muppets. That revelation blew my mind and suddenly gave me a deeper love for Muppet Vision 3D in general and Waldo specifically.
That’s what I love about being a Disney fan. The more I learn, the more the layers of the onion are peeled back, and the more I appreciate what I find underneath. Has this ever happened to you? Please let me know in the comments section or on Facebook.
(Photo © Disney)
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