Blake (of BlakeOnline.com) – Hello, all! Today I’ll be discussing something else that is very close to me: Walt Disney World. I am a huge Disney fan and very much enjoy visiting the most magical place on Earth. Also being a Muppet fan, it has been fun for me to see the slow but sure progression of the Muppets’ presence in the spotlight during the past couple of years and the different ways that Disney has been utilizing Kermit and company. So naturally, during my recent trip to Walt Disney World, I was intrigued to see how much the Muppets were featured throughout the resort in various merchandise and atmospheric elements. Here are my observations:
To see all of the Muppety pictures from Blake’s trip, check out our album on The Muppet Mindset’s Photobucket account!
First off, Muppet Vinylmation figures were EVERYWHERE! Honestly, there were only three series that I repeatedly saw virtually everywhere, and one of those series was the Muppets! More often than not, if a gift shop sold Vinylmation, they sold Muppet Vinylmation. At first I merely thought, “Hmm, that’s cool. It’s neat to see Muppet Vinylmation sold at so many places.” But then the longer my trip went on, it was more like “Wow, they’re everywhere!” It’s worth noting that the only other individual sets of characters to be given their own Vinylmation series are the Toy Story crew and The Nightmare Before Christmas bunch. As a random side note, a second wave in the Muppets series is coming in spring 2011.
The other Muppet-related merchandise item that I saw in multiple locations was the Kermit-themed mouse ears. Mouse ears aren’t available abundantly, but they’re not difficult to track down, either. I would say maybe one or two locations per park sell them and most mouse ear locations had Kermit mouse ears available. There are probably only a dozen or so mouse ear designs available, so Kermit should consider it an honor to have his image depicted on this classic Disney novelty.
Additionally, there were several Kermit pins. The locations that I found them at didn’t really seem to have any tie-in to the surrounding area. One in the hotel gift shop was part of a four-pin set that highlighted Walt Disney quotes. It had Kermit on it and said “Happiness is a state of mind.” Considering the only other character to be included in this pin collection was Mickey Mouse, I thought it was pretty cool for Kermit to be part of the set. (And although I didn’t see it during my trip, this also somewhat relates to the Miss Piggy pin that was included in a new Disney Princess pin set among the likes of Snow White and Cinderella.) A pin that I found at the gift shop in Epcot’s Imagination pavilion featured Kermit’s face and read “It’s easy being green,” which referred to the pin’s packaging being made of recycled paper.
Ever since the Honorary VoluntEARS Cavalcade was removed from the afternoon parade last October, there pretty much haven’t been any Muppet happenings in the Magic Kingdom. Plenty of Kermit ears and Vinylmation, though! However, Kermit and Miss Piggy made a rare appearance at the Magic Kingdom on December 3 during the filming of the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade, which will air on December 25 on ABC. So be on the lookout for them! They’re in the same car they rode in during the Honorary VoluntEARS Cavalcade. There are several different air-times for the parade this year depending on which part of the United States you live in, so be sure to check your local listings.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Since this is the park with the Muppets’ only permanent attraction, I was expecting the most Muppet presence to be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and my expectations were happily succeeded.
First off, Muppet*Vision 3D. The courtyard surrounding the attraction has a few Christmas decorations added to it for the season; nothing too extravagant, but neat enough to bring a few smiles to your face. Not every attraction has Christmas decorations, only those that thematically make sense. So while the Muppets easily lend themselves to receiving some Christmas finery, something like, say, Expedition Everest, doesn’t.
Most of Muppet*Vision’s decorations consisted of tinsel garland, tinsel Christmas trees, and giant Christmas lights. Here’s what the area looks like at night with the lights in action.
Background music throughout the area includes songs from The Muppet Christmas Carol, John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together, and A Red and Green Christmas. Oddly enough, I didn’t hear anything from A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, but it’s possible that I may not have been in the area long enough to hear the entire music loop.
And now on to Muppet*Vision itself. The digital remastering that the film received last May looks excellent. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if I didn’t know it had been changed, but it looks simply brilliant. The colors are crisper, the footage is clearer, and the general presentation is overall much better. I don’t know if they were added during the restoration or not, but there were also several in-theater effects that I didn’t remember being there before, like fireworks being visible on the ceiling. The bubbles were also working during Miss Piggy’s number, which I hadn’t seen used in a while.
The pictures don’t show it because they were taken in the park’s first hour of opening, but later on, around 12:30pm, when I went to actually see Muppet*Vision, there was quite a considerable crowd waiting to get in! Cast Members had us wait outside the theater and then moved us into the pre-show area once the previous pre-show area unloaded as opposed to cramming us all in the hallway preceding the pre-show area.
I didn’t see the parody movie posters that were added to the Muppet*Vision queue in 2009 (like Pirates of the Amphibian and Hammah Montana), so my only guess is that they must have been in the outside queue area surrounding the building, which is hardly ever used. I hope they weren’t removed because they were funny!
Adjacent to Muppet*Vision is the Stage One Company Store, the best place on property to find Muppet merchandise. There are items here that you can typically find outside of Walt Disney World (like the Muppet version of Monopoly, Muppet comic books, and the books written by Muppet characters—It’s Hard Out Here For a Shrimp, etc.), as well as exclusive items that are only sold in Disney. Here are a few of the most interesting items:
- A few cool Beaker shirts.
- A Statler and Waldorf coffee mug that reads “Old…It Sure Beats Dead!” and a Kermit thermos.
- A sketch of Fozzie. I embarrassingly don’t remember if the sketches behind this one were more Fozzie drawings or if they were of other characters.
- Animal antenna toppers, LOL!
- Kermit, Fozzie, and Miss Piggy pressed pennies.
- A snazzy merchandise display.
I didn’t get any pictures of them, but there were also Beaker and Animal beanie caps available. When I visited, Animal was currently sold out.
And you thought this was an ordinary gift shop—wrong! This is Happiness Hotel! Don’t try to order dinner, there’s no kitchen anymore. Overall this is one of the most details gift shops in all of Walt Disney World. There are gags and trinkets everywhere, and taking some time to look around will undoubtedly make you laugh.
A little ways down from Muppet*Vision, sort of in between the attraction’s exit and the Stage One Company Store, is the most elaborate Muppet-themed piece of Christmas décor in the area. This whole section of Hollywood Studios is themed to look like the streets of several urban American cities, complete with exteriors of apartments and shops. On one of these exteriors is a fire escape, and clearly the Muppets have left their mark. Adorning the fire escape are ribbons, Beaker-esque ornaments, boas, and rubber chickens!
Surprisingly, there were several areas beyond Muppet*Vision in Hollywood Studios that included Muppet-related findings. In the prop room during the Backlot Tour, there was a car labeled “Muppet Cab.” I didn’t see a tag on it like many of the other props had, so I don’t know what specific Muppet production it was used in. Does anyone know? In the gift shop at the exit of the Backlot Tour, there was another Muppets merchandise display similar to the one in the Stage One Company Store. In the Animation Gallery (the gift shop at the exit of The Magic of Disney Animation) there was a piece of art featuring Fozzie and a few of his favorite props.
At nighttime, Hollywood Studios puts on an elaborate display of Christmas lights called the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (which astonishingly originated at a family’s home). The lights are absolutely wonderful and seeing them is a very immersive, sensory experience. Anyway, every few minutes or so, the lights “dance” in synchronized motion to a Christmas song. The tunes range from classics like “Feliz Navidad” to newer versions of Christmas favorites performed by Disney Channel singers. One of the songs included in the lineup was “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” as sung by Gonzo and Rizzo from A Red and Green Christmas! While the background music I talked about earlier was more of a subtle touch that you almost don’t even notice (but definitely helps to set the mood for the atmosphere), the Osborne Lights music was L-O-U-D. It was so awesome to hear Gonzo and Rizzo’s voices so prominently and to see the lights all move to a Muppet song.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I was really excited to see what was new at the park named after the Electric Mayhem’s crazed drummer… kidding, of course. I understandably really didn’t expect to see anything about the Muppets at Animal Kingdom. I think I might have seen some Kermit mouse ears, but that was it. I don’t really blame Disney, though; the Muppets don’t really fit in anywhere at Animal Kingdom, anyway.
That just about wraps it up! Maybe now you an idea of the Muppets’ current theme park status, and hopefully we’ll be seeing plenty more of them in the parks soon. I enjoyed trying to find as many Muppet things as possible; I was overall quite satisfied with what I saw, especially merchandise-wise. After several years of having to track down the Muppets, it now seems that it’s difficult to escape them.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier