For the past few weeks, starting with the days around Thanksgiving and the hoopla over the Muppet’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” video, I’ve been posting Muppet-related entries every Friday (I think). However, today, we usher in a new era of Muppet posts, “Muppet Mondays,”* a hopefully weekly addition to Jumped The Snark (however, this certainly does not preclude the possibility of posting Muppet-related material on days other than Monday).
The inaugural Muppet Monday post is not just a viral video, but something much greater than yet. Yesterday, even though I’ve been visiting Southern California for the last 12 years and have been living here for the past 7 months (to the date, in fact) I had yet to visit the original Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland. Well, that all changed about 36 hours ago. And sure, I enjoyed myself on the two Buzz Lightyear rides, was charmed by the Monsters, Inc attraction, was thoroughly spooked by Pirates of the Caribbean, and napped during the Finding Nemo submarine tour, these all paled in comparison to what was the clear highlight: Muppet*Vision 3D.
I had made it Disney World only once, I believe in the summer of 1990, one year before Muppet*Vision 3D debuted at MGM Studios (or, as it is known now, I just found out, Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and eleven years before the attraction helped usher in Disney’s California Adventure theme park. For all these years the fact that I have not seen the show has been a source of great embarrassment for me, as well as intense frustration. The only vestige of the mythic proposed Muppet-Disney merger and I had not seen it? The Muppets were the theme for my freaking Bar Mitzvah, for Pete’s sake. It was too sad.
Full disclosure: I didn’t even realize that Muppet*Vision 3D was even in California Adventureland. I thought it was only at the former MGM Studios. So not only was it a culmination of years of anticipation, it was a complete surprise as well. Which only enhanced the experience.
And how was it? Well, they still have the magic, even if the film is 20-years old. And, as I later found out, it was the last Muppet film Jim Henson directed, so it takes on extra poignancy. Looking down the aisle and seeing my 3 and 5-year old nephews, oversized purple 3D glasses perched precariously on their noses, cackling at Bunsen Honeydew’s unending abuse of Beaker made my heart warm.
But, it was clear that the theater, and the show is a little dated. In fact, my nephew vacated the seat next me because he thought it was dirty. Really, the seat cushion was just weathered and beaten. The comedy still holds up, as do the characters, but after coming from the Monsters, Inc ride and the Bug’s Life show before that, it was clear that while at one time Muppet*Vision 3D was at the vanguard of 3D technology the tricks aren’t as impressive as they once were. This is not to say, it was not a potentially life-altering experience, but if you’re someone who didn’t choose the Muppets to help usher in his acceptance into Jewish manhood, well then you might be amused but not quite impressed.
That being said, if you haven’t seen it, see it.
And when I got home at midnight, despite the fact that I was completely and utterly exhausted from 13 hours in the park carrying around my nephews, I went right to the Internet(!) to reread Jim Hill’s 11 (I believe) part series exploring the failed Muppet/Disney merger of 1990 and the inventive park attractions we were deprived of when the deal fell apart. The series is from 2001, so it predates the eventual sale of the Muppets to Disney in 2004, but it’s still definitely worth the read (and if that piques your interest, check out Hill’s fascinating backstory on The Emperor’s New Groove and its original incarnation, Kingdom of the Sun, the sweeping epic that never was. (Btw, You can now find Jim Hill news on Disney at Jim Hill Media (where he just detailed the evolution of Prep and Landing, the Disney holiday special that my nephews have watched 20 times in the last 4 days))).
But you didn’t think that I’d write a Muppet post and not include a video did you? You did? Well, you were wrong. Below is part one of The Muppets at Disney World, broadcast in 1990 as part of NBC’s Magical World of Disney. I obviously recorded this on VHS and watched it over and over, and I think it holds up against even the best Muppet theatrical films. But it’s particularly interesting because it shows just how close the Muppets came to being permanent fixtures at Disney World in the early part of the last decade.
*Yes, I do realize that’s already Tuesday on the east coast, and nearly tomorrow on the West. Shhhh.