The Past, Present, and Future of the Muppets in Walt Disney World

Unlike other entries in our Past, Present, Future blog series, today’s post will be unique in that it focuses on a set of characters rather than a specific location. Of course, nothing in Disney’s vast library of IP is more unique, silly, and downright weird as the Muppets.

The Muppets have a long history at Walt Disney World, thanks in part to the close relationship Jim Henson held with Walt Disney Imagineering up until his untimely passing in 1990. While Muppet Vision 3D has thankfully remained a staple of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, many other Muppets experiences have come and gone, with new Muppe-ty content always seemingly in the pipeline for the park.


The Past:

Muppets: Live, Huge, and Possibly Terrifying

Multiple Muppet stage shows captivated (and possibly perplexed) audiences at Disney MGM Studios. The first was Here Come The Muppets, the second Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses. Currently, Voyage of the Little Mermaid  in Disney’s Hollywood Studios sits where Here Come the Muppets was held. Swine and Roses was held outside.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5jqwsnkGY?start=183]

The perplexing part of these shows was that the Muppets were full sized characters, making them exponentially larger than the Muppets of the screen. They did feature moving mouths which was way ahead of its time, as WDW didn’t get a moving Mouth Mickey until the Dream Along With Mickey castle show in 2006. From my observation, most fans remember Here Comes the Muppets for its scene where a Monorail crashes into the stage. Of course, this long predated the actual Monorail crash that tragically occurred in 2009. I did you the favor of time-stamping this scene in the video above just in case you don’t believe it actually happened.

Muppet Mobile Labs and the Living Character Initiative:

The year was 2007 and the place was Epcot. Long before the promise or threat (depends who you are) of Guardians of the Galaxy, Future World had a roving vehicle featuring beloved scientists Bunsen Honeydew and his poor assistant Beaker.  The impressive roving animatronic first appeared in Disney’s California Adventure earlier that year.

It’s Alive!

Back then the focus at Imagineering was on the Living Character Initiative. This was a movement to add interactive animatronics at Disney Parks. It started with Lucky the Dinosaur in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The most famous one built would have to be Mr. Potato Head found in the queue of Toy Story Mania. Muppet Mobile Lab hasn’t been seen since 2016, but I think maybe we will see it again when the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge crowds descend on Disney’s Hollywood Studios.


The Present:

Muppet Vision 3D and PizzeRizzo:

As the last Muppet project Jim Henson worked on before his death, Muppet Vision 3D stands as a major part of Muppet history. It is also arguably the best 3D show at Walt Disney World. Everything about is is rich in detail. The queue has more gags and references then can be seen in one walk-through. The gift shop even recreates the Happiness Hotel from The Great Muppet Caper. Muppet Vision is one of the few elements of Disney’s Hollywood Studios that has stood the test of time.

27 Years later the Muppets’ footprint on the Studios has grown with PizzeRizzo. While I can’t speak to the pizza’s quality (It has to have to be an improvement over Pizza Planet… right?), it’s a fitting place to eat in what has now been officially dubbed the Muppet Courtyard.

The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History

The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square has always been known for being somewhat of a drowsy affair. It was even joked about in now retired Tiki Room Under New Management. The area has been given a little more character with a Muppet show outside, The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History. The Muppets pop out from windows and present their take on either the Declaration of Independence or the midnight ride of Paul Revere. This time the Muppets are more appropriately sized too.


The Future is Fuzzy

Muppet Mobile Lab - property of Blake Taylor

After a rather eventful decade with two successful Muppet movies and one no so successful TV Show, Muppet content has quieted down quite a bit. While a reboot of Muppet Babies is currently airing on Disney Junior, there isn’t much going on for the adult Muppet fans. However, when it comes to the parks, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the Muppets.

When Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, crowd overflow of the new land will certainly bring more traffic to Muppet Vision 3D. While there might not be space to build another Muppet ride, new fans of Muppet Vision could easily fuel more Muppet content in the other parks.

Since Epcot is the next park on the docket to receive major additions, a Muppet Labs redo of Innoventions would be an easy way to integrate the characters. Each area could be run by a different Muppet who would be competing in a science fair of sorts being judged by Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. A running gag of Muppets waiting for them to come in to judge would be complemented with revival of Muppet Mobile Lab showing the two scientists occupied with their own problems.


The Muppets have been a long staple in Walt Disney World, and with recent additions like Pizza Rizzo, they won’t be going away anytime soon.

Leave a  comment and let me know how you would like to see the characters used in WDW in the future. 

 

(Lead photo copyright Disney. Muppet Mobile Lab photo from the personal collection of Blake Taylor. Video property of MagicCityMahem on YouTube.)

 

To learn more about Zack and read his recent posts for the WDW Radio Blog, visit his author page by clicking the link on his name above. 

Comments