The following article was written by Brian Sullivan, who also provided our first in-depth look at Walt Disney World’s other Muppet restaurant, PizzeRizzo! Many thanks to Brian for all his hard work!
With the Regal Eagle, our friends at Walt Disney World have finally seen fit to increase the Muppet presence at EPCOT.
We’ve had MuppetVision 3D at Hollywood Studios for decades, alongside the more recent addition of PizzeRizzo, as well as a number of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them stage shows, parade floats, and projection shows. The Muppets recently took up residence at the Magic Kingdom with the critically acclaimed Great Moments in American History, presented by the Muppets – an excellent live-performance use of what we all know is Disney’s best franchise.
And, of course, the Walt Disney Company even named its fourth WDW park after everyone’s favorite Muppet percussionist when they opened Animal Kingdom. (Wait, what? That’s not why it’s called Animal Kingdom?? I want my money back.)
In any case, these Muppet projects have had varying degrees of success, and it seems like Disney teases us with the potential for closing any one of them at a moment’s notice. But if there was any fear that the Disney Parks hate the Muppets, it has been squashed by their latest culinary revolution: Sam’s Regal Eagle Smokehouse.
Could there be a more natural combination of a second-tier Muppet persona with a section of an amusement park than the addition of a Sam the Eagle-themed Brews and Backyard BBQs restaurant at the American Experience in EPCOT’s World Showcase? It would be simply un-American to disagree, and the newly opened Regal Eagle truly delivers (not the food itself, but the concept).
First, let’s all give a Kermit the Frog “YYYaaaYYYYY” and flipper flail to the folks at Disney for taking another calculated risk with Muppets not named Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal, Beaker, and of course, Kermit. If PizzeRizzo was a bit of a character association stretch, Sam the Eagle is an even stretchier stretch – a bald eagle’s wingspan of a stretch. But, when comparing the two Mupp-eateries, the Regal Eagle’s theming and location make this latest culinary endeavor an even stronger representation of the Muppets at the parks (and judging by the lines we experienced and the throngs of finger-licking BBQ aficionados in the restaurant, they nailed it).
The basic premise is this: Sam is hosting the centennial celebration backyard barbeque cook-off at the Regal Eagle, complete with concoctions representing every segment of America, from sea to shining sea. To wash all that barbeque down, you have a wide variety of craft beers (from domestic brewers, of course) and specialty drinks – what says ‘Murica better than a bald eagle, brews and BBQ, right?
To continue the measured risk-taking Disney’s team took, the interior of the Regal Eagle includes some Muppetational past contestants, including, Gonzo, Rowlf, Janice, and (wait for it) Bobo. This assortment of characters seems somewhat random at first glance, but when perusing Sam’s posted reviews of these Weirdos’ BBQ contest entries, you’ll discover a common thread: distinctly unique characters representing equally unique styles of barbeque-linary goodness.
Of course, as Muppet fans, we all would prefer a stronger approach to the theming. For example, the Muppet representations are so subtle that it’s entirely possible that the majority of patrons had no idea that the restaurant’s premise is Muppet-based. The most eye-catching likenesses include Sam on the main signage, menus and posters, of course; caricatures of the four Muppet contestants along the seating area wall.
Our favorites have to be the two portrait silhouettes of Sam and Gonzo near the food pick-up windows (arguably two of the more recognizable Muppet profiles).
But, the Muppets are absolutely at their best in three dimensions (i.e., Great Moments in History) in all their fur, felt, flock, and feather glory. Unfortunately, the Muppet presence at the Regal Eagle is almost entirely two-dimensional, partly out of practical necessity (these counter service restaurants can get crowded and are more hectic than a “Salute to All Nations, but Mostly America,” crammed into a minute and a half), but mostly some creative missed opportunities for Disney.
So, while we continue to wait for Disney to announce more Muppet projects and products, order up some pulled pork and brisket and throw back a craft beer to toast this latest Muppet Must-Do at Walt Disney World.
Click here to taste Muppet-themed ketchup on the ToughPigs forum!
by Brian Sullivan