This article was written by Disney Parks aficionado and former PizzeRizzo employee Melia Schnef. Many thanks to Mel for providing this terrific report for us!
“Hello! Welcome to the Brew-Wing Lab, where we are treating ourselves to a taste of the future!”
Is it a little disappointing that in the year 2023, the main source of new Muppets representation in the Disney parks is in lightly themed quick service eateries? Sure. While Muppet*Vision 3D continues to hold down the far corner of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the theme park representation of the Muppets has moved away from live entertainment (RIP Great Moments in History, we hardly knew ye) and towards (thoughtful, but perhaps quick) rethemes of existing dining locations. With the “Famous Original” PizzeRizzo in Hollywood Studios (open in 2016) and the Regal Eagle Smokehouse in EPCOT’s American Adventure pavilion (2020), the Muppets were indeed given more permanent residences at the Walt Disney World Resort. A couple weeks ago a third, albeit temporary, Muppet restaurant popped up in EPCOT. As someone who briefly, truly got a job at PizzeRizzo for the bit, I consider myself a connoisseur of these quick service establishments and had to check it out myself.
Opening with the 27th annual EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival this year was the event’s first dining experience taken over by the Muppets—the Brew-Wing Lab at the Odyssey. The Odyssey pavilion, a flexible use space that opened with the park in 1982, has housed restaurants, entertainment, and served as a preview center for updates and new attractions coming to the park throughout its history. In recent years The Odyssey has transitioned to the park’s interim Festival Center, hosting kitchens and merchandise for the park’s yearly slate of seasonal festivals. The pavilion typically becomes lightly rethemed every few months, adding decals and backdrops featuring park-specific characters like Figment for the Festival of the Arts or Orange Bird for the Flower & Garden Festival. In 2021 the space was first branded as “Brew-Wing at the Odyssey” for the Food & Wine Festival, and with this year’s third iteration of the space Walt Disney Imagineering has brought some of our Muppet friends into the mix–they’ve given the building over to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker, and made The Odyssey an official outpost of Muppet Labs!
Walking into the space you’re greeted with the Muppet Labs logo, illustrations of bright and colorful tubes and flasks, and of course Bunsen and Beaker welcoming you to their culinary experiment center. When the Muppets takeover of the Odyssey was announced, many fans held out hope that we may finally be seeing the triumphant return of the Muppet Mobile Labs animatronic of Bunsen and Beaker that had disappeared from the park a few years ago, but it was unfortunately not to be. While the space does not have any Muppets physically present and interacting with guests, Bunsen and Beaker’s photos instead greet you in the lobby while you’re in line and they appear in several new video segments showing off their culinary experiments in the dining room.
The Lab features a menu divided into “Food-based Experiments” and “Beverage-based Experiments”, and while the offerings are similar to past year’s iterations of the booth, there are certainly new additions full of the whimsy and chaos the Muppets are known for.
As the name suggests, the Brew-Wing lab’s menu mostly consists of varieties of chicken wings, offering both classic and kooky flavors and multiple plant-based options for any meatless Muppets who step into the Lab. I was thrilled to see one of my absolute favorite Festival dishes, the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Buffalo Sauce, make a return to the booth, so I started my culinary experimentation there.
The roasted brussels sprouts come topped with a plant-based ranch dressing and option for plant-based blue “cheese” crumbles. They’re crispy, decently spicy thanks to the buffalo sauce they’re tossed in, and at $5 for a sizable portion they’re one of the most cost-efficient snacks of the Festival. They’ve been a go-to for me in years past, and getting to munch on them while watching Muppet shenanigans made them even more perfect.
The Brew-Wing Lab offers some truly wacky wing sauce selections, including the returning Peanut Butter and Jelly Sticky Wings and “Unnecessarily Spicy, Yet Extremely Tasty Scotch Bonnet Pepper-Curry Wings with Cool Cucumber Yogurt,” new this year. Thanks to a nut allergy and fear of what the Lab’s cast members assured me were truly and genuinely extremely spicy wings, I avoided both of these and instead sampled the Garlic-Parmesan Wings (sorry!). I was once again impressed by the portion size ($7.50 for six large wings with plenty of sauce, which considering theme park prices….it’s decent!) The Garlic-Parmesan sauce was a great contrast to the spiciness of the Buffalo on my brussels sprouts, and these wings would work great as a shareable snack as you work your way through the Festival.
The most surprising thing I tried, however, was the Frozen Fusion, a non-alcoholic slushy described as “Twinings Pomegranate and Raspberry Herbal Tea fused with Orange Ice Cream Molecules.” I hadn’t heard many people talk about this drink before my trip to the Festival, with much of the online hype focusing on the other signature drink available here, the Pickle Milkshake. The Frozen Fusion, however? Actually perfect. It gives the other iconic EPCOT festival slush (Flower & Garden’s Violet Lemonade) a run for its money as the best frozen treat I’ve had in the parks, and I will absolutely be getting it every trip I make for the remainder of the Festival. It’s light, summery and fruity, and the “orange ice cream molecules” topping it are a Dippin’ Dots-esque garnish that melt into a creamy addition to the slush. It comes served in a themed Brew-Wing Lab plastic cup that unfortunately doesn’t feature the Muppets directly, but still makes for a cute souvenir.
The dining room here in the Odyssey is expansive, featuring themed Muppet Lab tables, lots of posters explaining the culinary experiments available and also featuring some actual scientific explanations of the ingredients used. As previously mentioned, there are video screens showing new clips of Bunsen and Beaker getting into mischief in the Lab’s kitchen experimentation area.
While the space does feature lots of silly jokes, “Hidden Mickeys” amongst the lab and kitchen props on the walls, and plenty of cute Muppet-y faces amongst the gadgets, I was disappointed by the lack of Muppet-specific Easter eggs. In my examination of the space I really didn’t spot any, and while the Muppet Labs refresh of the Odyssey is one of the most involved the space has had in recent years, I did leave selfishly wanting just a little more. (I did overhear another guest telling a friend that some of the gadgets and props around the space are repurposed from EPCOT’s Innoventions and the Test Track 1.0 queue, but I haven’t seen these claims or confirmation of them elsewhere..
The saving grace is, still, the video segments. While the lighting in the space is a little rough and the sound could be hard to hear (though the one “Muppet Labs Captionator” next to the main screen does help), the minute-long interstitials are cute and bring so much life to the space. The seven new segments play every five minutes, handily counted by the projected “Safety First!” sign, counting “This Lab Has Gone __
Days Minutes Without an Accident”.
This video from Attractions Magazine is a really wonderful overview of the space and features a few clips of the Bunsen and Beaker segments, including one with a truly spectacular reference to another iconic food from EPCOT’s history (“This next experiment surpasses even the Handwich in its innovation!”). Bunsen and Beaker experiment with everything from pickles to hot sauce, and, of course, things go predictably awry. When attempting to show off the Lab’s plant-based food experiments, Beaker is zapped with a ray that turns his head into a squash, artichoke, pineapple, and finally carrot, which of course brings out several bunnies determined to make him a snack.
Some of the segments are super short (Beaker gets brain freeze from a pickle milkshake) and some are more involved (a plate of Super Sticky hot wings glob all over Beaker, eventually sticking him to the floor and then ceiling). Despite their short runtime, the clips are charming, silly, and do set the Brew-Wing Lab apart from its siblings PizzeRizzo and Regal Eagle, as they are truly new Muppet content produced exclusively for the restaurant. The video loop runs approximately 35 minutes, meaning that guests who stop in for a quick snack or drink in the blessed respite of air conditioning can easily see all of the footage.
The Brew-Wing Lab is, sadly, temporary, and will close with the festival on November 18. It’s a delightful addition to EPCOT, and I can’t recommend stopping by enough if you’ll be at the park. With more new Muppet entertainment on its way to Orlando (a live show exclusive to the $160/ticket Disney’s Jollywood Nights, the new limited time holiday event coming this season to Hollywood Studios), it’s nice to see Disney Imagineering spending the time and energy to bring the Muppets to the masses. I raise my Frozen Fusion slush to them (and you!).
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by Melia Schnef