The Muppets at (the Real) Disney World p.1: A Brief History

Published: April 18, 2016
Categories: Feature, Fun Stuff

It seems like a lot of rumors have been bouncing around lately about new Muppet stuff coming to Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Of course, we’re super excited about the idea of new Muppet attractions, a bigger Muppet presence at the theme parks, and Disney actually investing some time and money into the brand (not to mention what this might mean for the future of The Muppets TV show).  And as with any set of rumors, we’re ready to go wild with anticipation, expectation, and speculation!

I mean, it’s unlikely that we’ll have any concrete news for a while.  Right now, we only have the rumors of a Muppet restaurant, something above the Hall of Presidents, and whatever might end up in the “Muppets Courtyard“.  So in the spirit of keeping the buzz going, we’re just going to make a bunch of stuff up.  You cool with that?  Cool.

Before we get into our guesses as to what might be added to the Disney parks, it’s worth taking a solid look back at what might’ve been.  Muppet attractions have been in all levels of development in the past, and while this is just a recap for a lot of you, hopefully it’s brand new news for many Muppet fans out there.

And because someone out there is going to mention it: Yes, the Muppets starred in The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and it’s fantastic and should be on DVD.  But alas, this article isn’t about their history with the park, but the history of Muppet attractions in the park.  We’ll save our conversation about the special for another day.

We are lucky enough to have Muppet*Vision 3D and a Muppet-themed gift shop (or, what’s left of them) at the parks, and we’ll have more to say about those in another article.  But the Muppets had more presence in the parks over the years in things that weren’t so sustainable.  For example:

(Almost) Live Muppets

It’s still super weird to see full-bodied Muppets who normally only exist as hand puppets.  But since Disney managed to turn their animated characters into giant, stone-faced mimes, it kinda almost works.  The Muppets appeared in several live shows, “Here Come the Muppets” and “Days of Swine and Roses”.  I recently watched them on YouTube for the first time, and I was surprised as to how good they were.  I mean, I fully expected garbage.  Like, total trash.  But the live shows were definitely something I could see making a comeback at some point.  Okay, maybe if they were a little less garbagey.

I Love a Parade

The Muppets also popped up in the parades a few times, including the aforementioned full-bodied Kermit and Piggy costumes, as well as some bloated-looking Kermit and Piggy puppets during the whole “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” campaign.  A Sweetums walkaround (which is quite possibly the best Muppet to become a walkaround) also walked… around during these parades.  I mean, why even bother owning walkarounds if they’re not going to walk around?  Have I said “walk” and “around” and “walkaround” enough in this paragraph?

Muppet Mobile Lab

Quite possibly the coolest thing to ever exist in the state of Florida, animatronic versions of Bunsen and Beaker rolled around the park interacting with guests at Epcot.  I am 100% not joking when I say this: It is a crime that this has been mothballed for so long, and the Imagineers who made that decision should be imprisoned for life without parole.  (Okay, maybe my joking percentage was a little high.)

Bring Them Backlot

backlot taxi

The (now shuttered) Studio Backlot Tour at Hollywood Studios had a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Muppet props on display.  Beauregard’s taxi could be seen in one of the queues, and (during my visit) Gary and Mary’s costumes from The Muppets.  Muppet stuff aside, the Indiana Jones in me is extremely upset that there’s no home for all of the movie props that were on display.  They belong in a museum!

Temporary Muppets

The Muppets also had a bit of representation in the form of topiaries, a scavenger hunt, and a special appearance by the real Constantine.  And while these were all very cool in their own rights, they were also only around for a short period of time, and just a few people really got to share the experience.  So boo to that, but yay to Disney’s efforts?  I guess?

That short list just about covers almost everything the Muppets have done at Disney World and Disneyland.  But that’s not the end of their involvement.  There have been plans for other attractions featuring Kermit the Frog and Company that never quite made it to the parks.  And it’s a damn shame, because some of these sound absolutely fantastic.

The Great Muppet Movie Ride

gmmr - frankenstein gmmr - peter pan

Just imagine: The Muppets parodying one of Disney World’s famous attractions.  It would have been the best.  The Great Muppet Movie Ride would have spoofed The Great Movie Ride (obviously), and rather than just show off some famous movie scenes, the Muppets would have starred in spoofs of the scenes themselves.  You also would’ve seen what was going on behind the curtain, as the chaos spread to the backstage.  For example, a Frankenstein spoof would’ve seen Beaker as the monster, and as your car passes by, you’d see rats running in a hamster wheel to create the electricity, and a poor Fozzie Bear getting electrocuted.  There was also a Peter Pan spoof storyboarded, and each car would be equipped with Statler and Waldorf to comment on the ridiculousness going on in front of you.  I don’t know how far beyond the idea stage this got, but Disney should really consider revisiting it.  It’s just too good an idea to ignore!

The Great Gonzo’s Pandamonium Pizza Parlor


Another attraction planned around the same time as The Great Muppet Movie Ride was Gonzo and Rizzo’s very own pizza restaurant.  The concept was this: Video screens would show Gonzo, Rizzo, and the Swedish Chef preparing your food (with great calamity, I’m sure), along with classic Muppet clips.  Animatronic rats would deliver the food via a track system that would’ve run all around the restaurant.  Gonzo could be heard crawling through the duct work, as if he was stuck in the walls (because, of course).  And a little like the Muppet gift shop and Muppet*Vision waiting room, the walls would be covered in Muppet props and hilarious sight gags.  With the new rumors of a Muppet restaurant replacing Pizza Planet, this seems like a wonderful idea to revisit.

The Muppets Take America


In 1993, Disney CEO Michael Eisner considered opening a third domestic theme park – Disney’s America, to be located in Virginia and focused on American history.  Although the plans fell through pretty early on, the Muppets (a favorite of Eisner’s, and a personal dream to acquire the brand) were definitely going to have a place in the park.  All we know is that there would’ve been an Ellis Island building, and the Muppets would do a musical show about immigration.  You’ll just have to let your imagination fill in the blanks on the rest.

Muppetland Takeover

Muppet Ctyd

Had the Muppets been sold to Disney back in 1990 (instead of the decades-later date of 2004), the Muppets would’ve given Mickey, Minnie, and Donald a vacation as they “took over” Disneyland for an entire year.  The Disneyland marquee would have renamed the park as “Muppetland”, the flower bed int he shape of Mickey Mouse at the entrance to the park would have been replaced with Kermit flowers, Miss Piggy would have appeared as Cleopatra in It’s a Small World, Animal would have appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean (presumably, chasing women in circles in the pirate-occupied town), and the Matterhorn mountain would’ve been painted green.  The Muppets would have also been heavily featured in the parades and live shows.  Y’know, it’s not too late for a Muppet takeover, Disney!  Have your people call… your people.  Make it happen.

And thus concludes our brief history of Muppets at the Disney theme parks.  Stay tuned for more, as next week, we’ll continue the conversation with our own wild speculation about what could be coming next at the parks.  We have so many thoughts!  And none of them are financially responsible!  GREAT!

kermit mickey ears

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by Joe Hennes –

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Co-owner and Editor-in-Chief.
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