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Passholder Muppet Event

by Mini Reporter at Large, Virginia R

Walt Disney World Passholders were treated to another special event on Saturday, March 7th, 2009 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This time it was a presentation by Craig Shemin, a long-time writer for The Muppet Show.

The program began with a 10 minute video clip featuring Rowlf the dog and Sam the Eagle. Once the audience was well into ‘Muppet mode,’ Craig was introduced. He proceeded to entertain us with stories and a brief history of the Jim Henson legacy. We were treated to rare footage of an early-version Kermit and other Muppets that had been televised on talk shows and used in local advertising in the Washington area. Craig introduced us to his wife, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, a tony nominated actress well-known for her work in the Broadway musical, Avenue Q.

Surprise guests were alluded to before the program began, and Passholders were not disappointed. Dave Goelz, the voice, creator, and human-behind-the- Muppet for Gonzo, was brought into the theatre. Craig and Dave continued telling stories of how The Muppet Show was filmed. They showed out-takes from The Muppet Show as well as alternate camera views from the filming of the Muppet Vision 3-D movie. I’m sure I wasn’t the only guest who was amazed at the tight quarters in which the actors were forced to work to make The Muppets look alive and natural. My favorite clip was a blooper with Fozzie and Michael Eisner in the Grand Floridian. After several attempts by Michael Eisner at trying and failing to say “…the Grand Floridian,” Fozzie yelled for someone else to be brought in.

The second surprise guest was Heather Henson, the daughter of Jim Henson. Heather stayed seated in the back of the theatre, but she did talk of how much she enjoyed growing up in London, the location for filming The Muppet Show, and told us that Rowlf was probably her father’s favorite Muppet, with Kermit a close second. Many of the songs that Rowlf sang were songs that Heather heard sung at home. Heather also admitted to having enjoyed trying on Miss Piggy’s wardrobe when she was a child.

Suddenly a huge gasp was heard around the theatre as the REAL Gonzo was brought out. It was fascinating to see the change in Dave as he went from presenter to Gonzo. Dave no longer was really there. It was Gonzo to which you were drawn.

During a short question and answer session at the end, guests learned that although there aren’t any new Muppet Shows in the works, there is serious talk about a Halloween special. And those trick-or-treaters that would like to dress as their favorite Muppet may get their wish in the near future: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and the Swedish Chef costumes, including adult sizes, may be available later this year.

Those who could not attend may get a second chance to see some real Muppet memorabilia. The Smithsonian has loaned “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” to a museum in the Orlando area. The exhibit will be on display now and through May 3rd at the Orange County Regional History Center at 65 E Central Blvd in Orlando. For more information visit The History Center or call 407-836-8500. The exhibit will also tour other areas of the US. For a complete tour schedule click here.