Muppet*Vision Week: 25 Years and 25 Things to Love

Published: May 23, 2016
Categories: Feature

Muppet*Vision 3D opened at Walt Disney World in May, 1991 – 25 years ago!  The attraction was duplicated in Disneyland, and features Kermit and the Muppets showing off 3D technology, including a bizarre digital puppet named Waldo.  It is also notable for being the last Muppet production overseen by Jim Henson before his passing.  To celebrate this momentous occasion, we are dedicating a week of ToughPigs articles to Muppet*Vision 3D!

This week, Muppet*Vision 3D turns 25.  To celebrate, I thought I’d tell you about 25 things I love about this attraction. The problem is that it’s really hard to narrow the list down to just 25 things, because there’s a lot – and I mean a lot – to love. So without further ado, please wait patiently until the doors swing open, take any open seat, put on your 3-D glasses and enjoy…

MuppetVision 3D sign

  1. The Front of the Building

I’ve always found something beautiful about the attraction’s Walt Disney World façade. There seems to a striking calmness with just a touch of Muppet whimsy that belies the zaniness that waits within. I think it’s an architectural extension of Jerry Juhl’s adage, “The Frog 99, Chaos 98.”


  1. The Fountain

There’s just something that gets me about the fountain in front of Muppet*Vision at Walt Disney World. Muppet hilarity is cast in bronze, giving the whole thing sense of gravitas out of pure silliness. What could be a better invitation to step into the world of the Muppets?


  1. The Balloon

I love when a prop lets my imagination run wild, especially when it comes to Muppets. What is that balloon’s deal? Was Kermit trying to catch everyone’s attention while competing with the Chinese Theater and an AT-AT Walker? Was Miss Piggy trying to make a grand entrance to work that day? Did I miss Muppet*Vision 3D’s opening credits?

  1. The Area Music

Whoever plans out the area music loops deserves a good deal of credit. In an age where sadly a lot of great classic Muppet music has been kept out of print, I’ve heard some deep tracks playing. (Or at least deep tracks in the minds of people who don’t have the words to “Happiness Hotel” committed to memory.) I’ve heard songs off The Great Muppet Caper’s soundtrack, Muppet Hits volumes One and Two, and some great original instrumental recordings of timeless Muppet favorites like “The Muppet Show Theme” and “The Rainbow Connection.” Music is a crucial element to the Muppets’ appeal, and park management decided to show off everything from the beloved to the obscure.


  1. The Security Desk

From the moment you step into that first hallway, you know you’re in Muppet territory. The security desk is chock full of Easter eggs that reward the curiosity of anyone who stops to look (and those with a knowledge of Muppet trivia). The officer on duty is no one else but Police Chief Link from Bear on Patrol, but it looks like Patrol Bear has turned to the other side of the law, as he’s wanted for impersonating a comic. But the best-known Easter egg has to be the sign saying “Key is under mat.” And lo and behold, if you pull up the mat, you’ll find Link’s key. But he doesn’t want a dangerous criminal to break into the security desk, so he’s smartly embedded his spare key in the concrete floor. That Link is such a genius; isn’t he?


  1. The Crates

The pre-show room is so crammed with sight gags that I highly recommend staying there for a full cycle or two of the pre-show video. There are a few that I’ll single out, but the crates are worth mentioning. Gonzo’s mold and helmet collection! Kermit’s neck ruffles! 2-D Fruties! (That’s just a little joke. A Little Richard joke, that is.) Lew Zealand’s boomerang fish (straight from Long Island Sound and Seafood Supplies: From Hearing to Herring)! But don’t forget to look up, or you’ll miss…


  1. A Net Full of Jello

C’mon, say it three times fast…you know you want to.

  1. The Man, The Myth, The Muppet

I’m sure the average ToughPigs reader knows that Jim Henson tragically passed away during the making of Muppet*Vision 3D. But what you may not have noticed is that Disney Imagineers stowed away a tribute to the man responsible for the Muppets in the preshow room. If you look in just the right place, you’ll see a portrait of Jim…to be precise, his caricature-style Muppet from The Country Trio. That way, Jim is looking from above, watching over everyone who enjoys his characters here. (Didn’t think you’d tear up reading this, did ya?)


  1. The Three Ds

This is just a textbook example of classic Muppet humor. The Three Ds, set to perform, are Dorothy, Dinah, and Debbie, but since Debbie is sick, the union sends a replacement: Max, a gruff-looking man who sings off-key (if you can call that singing). It’s a simple joke, but it’s effective.

  1. Gonzo’s Flowerpot Dance

This has got to be the best use of the preshow’s monitor setup. Just when you think you think you’re seeing three shots of Gonzo dancing with a flowerpot on his head, one of them drops the flowerpot and the other Gonzos cover for him. I just love the unexpectedness of it all. Unfortunately, this is the segment that got replaced with Constantine’s appearance, so we don’t know if or when it will be restored to the preshow.


  1. R-I-Z-Z-O-T-H-E-R-A-T (As Sung to the Tune of the Mickey Mouse Club March)

Had the planned 1990 purchase of the Muppets by Disney been successful, I think this would’ve been a perfect symbol of what would be: the Muppets, part of the Disney, uncompromised by their new owners. It’s funny and cynical all at the same time.

  1. “What Foolishness Would You Like to See?”

This is the perfect comeback to any time anyone tells you to stop this foolishness, nonsense, or even malarkey. Just put the correct noun in there, and zaniness reigns.


  1. The Theater

For an attraction showing a 3-D movie, it doesn’t seem like you would have to put a lot of effort into designing the theater itself, but this is where Disney goes above and beyond the call of duty to bring guests into their own personal episode of The Muppet Show. If you get a chance in-between fending off guests looking for that perfect seat, take a moment to look at the pediments over the entrances and exits, or the Miss Piggy-inspired columns around Statler and Waldorf’s box, or even the sculpture sitting just above the screen. The detail in these features is amazing. And the aforementioned heckler-holding box looks like it could’ve been taken straight from Elstree Studios. Features like these make Muppet*Vision 3D one of the most immersive Muppet experiences to date.


  1. Audio-Animatronic Muppets

Look, I get that having live puppets performing during the whole show for hours on end every day would be unfeasible (not to mention inauthentic to the regular Muppet performers), so I think it’s pretty darn good that Disney managed to do such a good job taking the design of the Muppets and translating that into Audio-Animatronic form. Presidents, movie stars, and Disney’s most beloved characters have been given the Audio-Animatronic treatment, and to see characters like Statler, Waldorf, and the Swedish Chef take their place in the robotic ranks is a high honor indeed.


  1. The Opening

The lights go down, the main curtain opens, and we are treated to a long run of curtains opening, evoking the “Another Opening, Another Show” number from The Muppet Show, one of my personal favorite bits. We then see the entrance to Muppet Studios, where a big 3-D floats towards us as The Muppet Show Theme plays, and then the door opens to reveal Gonzo pushing the 3-D sign on a stick. I just love how indicative this is of the general idea of the show. It’s the Muppets, and they’re going to use every 3-D trick in the book.

  1. Zoot Ironing

Personally, I think it’s absolutely hysterical that Muppets, characters that are emblematic of fantasy and whimsy, have to deal with such a mundane problem as wrinkled slacks. (Though it would explain why a good portion of the Muppet roster doesn’t wear pants.)


  1. “Did You Say Cheap 3-D Tricks?”

Good ol’ Fozzie is willing to try anything for a laugh, and that’s why I love this character. His dedication and love of comedy make him endearing to fans the world over (despite what Statler and Waldorf think). This also makes for a great excuse to play with the 3-D medium, leading to some really good effects.


  1. Waldo and Bean Bunny

At the time Muppet*Vision 3D was being filmed in early 1990, The Jim Henson Hour was still fresh on Henson’s mind, and he brought along two stand-out characters from the show, Bean Bunny and Waldo C. Graphic, into this Muppet Show-inspired production. Even though the TV show wasn’t a rousing success, it’s good to know that two of its characters managed to survive. (And what’s weird is that for younger Muppet fans, Muppet*Vision 3D may be their introduction to these characters. I think Waldo may be more remembered for his appearance in the attraction than he was on The Jim Henson Hour.


  1. “Dream a Little Dream of Me”

I’d be remiss if I talked about a Muppet attraction and not mention the divine Miss P. Miss Piggy proves to be an unflappable performer, circumventing every distraction Bean throws at her. I just love the dynamic between Bean and Piggy, where a simple idea can be brilliantly executed.


  1. A Real Life Muppet!

With all the surprises Muppet*Vision 3D throws at you, I doubt anyone outside the Henson/Disney offices could’ve predicted that you would see a real life Muppet being performed during the show. When Sweetums steps out into that auditorium, I’ve seen people witnessing the show for the first time gasp in amazement, and regular visitors still be wowed. It’s just the next level in bringing the audience into the show (or in this case, the show into the audience).


  1. “It’s a glorious three-hour finale.” “You got a minute and a half!”

I know everyone loves the “A Salute to All Nations But Mostly America” line, but this is my favorite Sam the Eagle moment from the show. Doesn’t that sum up the Muppets? They’re always under the gun to keep the show rolling, cramming all the technical mastery and hard work into short bits that sometimes we barely notice.


  1. The Ending

So I don’t want to spoil the big ending for those Muppet fans who have yet to enjoy this experience in person, but I will say that there may be an explosion or two (in typical Muppet fashion), but the biggest demolition belongs to the fourth wall. The line between film and reality is blurred, and in the end, the one thing that stands alone is that classic Muppet sense of humor. It really is the perfect ending to a Muppet project of this caliber.


  1. The Rest of the Building

So once you’ve exited to your right and tossed your 3-D glasses neatly into the bins provided, take some time to explore the outside of the building and the neighboring Stage One Company Store. From funny signs (“This Door is Alarmed…and Genuinely Concerned”) to bits of Muppet history (The lockers from The Muppets Take Manhattan! The plywood cutout of the Electric Mayhem bus from the end of The Muppet Movie!), there is so much for Muppet fans to take in.


  1. A Piece of Disney History

For decades, 3-D films have been a staple at Disney parks around the world, and what makes Muppet*Vision 3D so special is that with the 25 years that it’s been running, it has become Walt Disney World’s longest-running 3-D film, and no other attraction comes close. Even with Magic Journeys jumping from Epcot to Magic Kingdom and Captain EO’s recent comeback, no as attraction has yet to cross the 20-year mark (though It’s Tough to Be a Bug! in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is close at just over 18 years), let alone 25. And with the recent round of closures at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Muppet*Vision 3D has become the third oldest attraction in the park (only The Great Movie Ride and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! are older). It’s a serious achievement to keep people coming in for a quarter century.


  1. For One Brief, Shining Moment…

Frank Oz once called working with Jim Henson “a Camelot time.” Jim Henson and the work of his fellow Muppet performers and writers was something that, while the feeling could be recaptured, could never be exactly duplicated. And it’s a wonderful testament to everyone who had worked with the Muppets to that point that this attraction, which captures the essence of the Muppets’ glory days, is still running today. Muppet*Vision 3D would be one of the last projects to feature Jim Henson and Richard Hunt, whose lives were tragically cut short. This was one of the last things to feature the Muppet performers who helped build the Muppets into global superstars, and what I absolutely love about it is that it’s great. It could’ve been just your standard Muppet project, and that would’ve been good, but everyone just worked to the peak of their potential to make this, in my opinion, one of the greatest projects in Muppet history. And the best part is that after 25 years, it’s still entertaining and enthralling people today. That’s a legacy anyone would be incredibly fortunate to have.


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by Matthew Soberman

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