I’ll start this article by saying that I am doing my darndest to not judge Muppets Haunted Mansion before it comes out in a few weeks. I haven’t seen it yet (Hey Siri, text Disney to see if I can get a press screener) but there are a couple of things that are giving me the chills before the special has even come out, and it’s surrounding the marketing around it.
I’m talking a little about the total lack of footage so far besides a ghostly Kermit, a ghostly Chip, and a screaming goat. Now, I’m not saying let’s show every little bit of the special in the trailers, but is there really nothing more Disney could be showing to get people excited? Sure, we all saw Chip as a ghost and went ‘Ha, that’s fun’. But you know who didn’t? Your Uncle Frank who only got Disney+ to check out that show about the baby Yoda his friend told him about at the bar that one time. Disney needs to pull their finger out if they want the casual Muppet fan to jump on this when it is first released, rather than a slow burn throughout October.
There’s another bit of marketing that is really strange to me though, and that’s the announcement of the celebrities in the special. So far listed are people like Craig Robinson and Chrissie Metz, as well as the late Ed Asner in one of his final roles. Then you’ve got Darren Criss and Sasheer Zamata, Alfonso Ribeiro and Danny Trejo. When your biggest names include Carlton from Fresh Prince and an SNL cast member who was criminally underused (I’ll die on that hill, Sasheer deserved better), what the heck is going on? Is Disney expecting the announcement of Geoff Keighley, a Canadian Game Awards host, to bring in the viewers? I’m sure he’s a lovely guy, but that announcement got a ‘Huh?’ out of me.
That said, it’s not even the calibre of guest star that has confused me – it’s the fact that we’re even announcing cameos in the first place? Has that always been common practice? Would it not be better for fans to watch the special and be surprised when the Pontiac Bandit turns up and get a smile out of that than announce it and have it not be as fun? I can perhaps understand announcing Ed Asner, considering he passed away only a couple of weeks ago, but the fun of a Muppet project is not knowing who’s going to be in it, kind of spoiling that if they make it a whole announcement. Let me be delighted when Chrissie Metz turns up for 5 seconds, don’t have me sitting there ticking the box like ‘Okay, that’s one, who’s next?’. It makes it feel clinical. It also makes it feel like Disney doesn’t trust that people would come on their own to watch it, so they need Skai Jackson to tell her 7.6 million Instagram followers about it in the hopes that even a fraction of that audience watches for her 8 seconds of screentime, probably. Also, side bar, but Craig Robinson, Alfonso Ribeiro and Chrissie Metz all clearly didn’t write their announcements. At least that Game Awards guy seemed excited when he posted about it.
Again, I’m really trying not to judge Muppets Haunted Mansion before I actually watch it (Hey Siri, check my emails to see if the presser has come through yet), it’s just that I’m really put off by the marketing stratergy around it. Chip has made me laugh already, that screaming goat is likely to be a fun runner, and I’m a big fan of the Gonzo/Pepe pairing considering we’re probably a while away from getting Rizzo back. Writer and director Kirk Thatcher has had this project in mind for 30 years, and I like and trust that guy enough to make a fun, funny Muppet production. It’s just that the spookiest thing about it so far is the very confusing marketing coming from Disney+. Well, that, and the idea of Dead Chip. Dude’s eyes are WEIRD.
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