Mitchell Stein – In order to promote Muppets Most Wanted on Blu-Ray, Disney released an awesome brand new Muppet digital series exclusive to their digital movie streaming service Disney Movies Anywhere. While the show is really called Disney Drive-On With the Muppets, the small cast of Muppets who appear are just Walter, Kermit, Pepe, Bobo, Big Mean Carl, and a new cast of characters including two script writing monkeys, a bunch of bunnies, and a chicken who’s not Camilla. According to Peter Linz, the segments were actually filmed two years prior to the release, which makes more sense why it’s all about Walter fitting in and why the signs say The Muppets (2011) Production offices. I’m glad that these are finally being released and I hope more are to come in the near future.
I think the series is fantastic on many levels, but it would not have hurt to have a few extra Muppets around, like Gonzo, for example, would fit perfectly into this series. I think the wacky and zaniness that he brings to the Muppets would have fit perfectly into a series about the Muppets taking over the Walt Disney Studios. With Kermit gone, the place should really be a bit crazier.
In episode one, “Introducing Disney Drive-On,” we open to see Walter currently working at “The Muppets Post-Production Department,” and Walter is handling the phone calls, and doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job (at least it explains why I wasn’t one of those people who were at the Muppets Most Wanted press junket. Some people got lucky. I’m looking at you Ryan.) Walter is confused at his job and he’s left to wonder how he fits into the movie business. When Kermit has other issues to attend to, Pepe takes over and gives Howard, I mean uh, Walter unqualified advice on how to survive in the film industry and who to trust. Pepe tells Walter to hand out his business card which he ends up handing to Martin Laundau. The cliffhanger of the episode is if Martin ever ended up calling.
Along the way Zach Braff, Jennifer Tilly, Muppeteer Bruce Lanoil, and Richard Sherman, Don Hahn make cameos. Most of the celebrity cameos feel weird to be honest, like Zach Braff’s feels a bit rushed and awkward. Jennifer Tilly’s cameo reveals a relationship between her and Bobo which felt a little bit strange. Richard Sherman and Don Hahn take the house down with their awesome cameos in the last two episodes. To be honest, I think the behind-the scenes people like these two should really be the cameos in each episode. I guess the cameos made much more sense with what was being produced at the time. Martin Landau and Don Hahn were clearly both there for their work on Frankenweenie. The Fix-It Felix machine in each episode is an obvious advertisment for Wreck-It Ralph and Zach Braff felt like he literally just walked off the set of Oz The Great and Powerful and was told to act and pretty much do an ad for the film.
The second episode, A Piece of Cake stars Jennifer Tilly and the only appearance of Bobo (besides in the opening theme song). The episode was by far my least favorite of the six, because it mostly focused on Tilly’s weird relationship with Bobo and it just didn’t really work. The following episode, The Tenth Man was short and funny, with Walter crashing through to the famous Disney Studio Tunnel down (which oddly the easiest accessible way in is via garbage) Opening up an old door, he discovers the “Tenth Old Man” (in reference to the original Disney animators known as the “Nine Old Men”) played by Carter(!) who made his debut on Muppets Tonight and is currently being performed by Bruce Lanoil. Apparently, Carter doesn’t keep very good track of time, because he was still working on Peter Pan. Someone better break the news to him and tell him that Frozen has already been made as well.
The following episode, This Is Talent Okay is even more entertaining. Pepe decides to hold auditions for no apparent reason, and several people show up, including Zach Braff. Some of the acts are entertaining at least (my favorite was “Penguins with Attitude”). Beyond that they felt rather poor though. Even Big Mean Carl who is usually hilarious feels bland in this show. His timing is off, and when every episode is about Carl eating another bunny, it’s bound to get stale real quick. The “It’s Walter” joke is overused a lot also. It got stale. Another terribly overused joke is Muppets ogling over women, which makes the weird situations feel awkward and slows everything down. I don’t think ever worked, and it’s one of those styles that Muppets Tonight used a lot and it always fell flat. I guess it works with Pepe as a character, but not with a series at the whole. This sort of off-beat humor is the type that the Muppets should stay away from, as history has shown.
Getting back on topic, the last two episodes are phenomenal (doo-doo-doo-doo). In The Legend, Pepe sends Howard into the Disney Legends plaza to sell Legend plaques to people and forcing current legends a monthly renewal fee for the ones they already have. Disney Legend Richard Sherman shows up and he’s not happy about it. Richard Sherman is incredible and it was awesome to see him show up in the series, even though it’s a rather small role. Walter is forced to try to talk Sherman into paying for his plaque and literally repeating everything Pepe says into the phone. Kermit finally makes a return for the final climactic ending to Disney Drive-On, where Walter is called into Kermit’s office for something. Nervous, Walter enters the office thinking it would be his last day at the studios, but Kermit reveals to him that he thinks he’s been doing a great job and Walter politely faints on the spot. Not much happens in this final episode, but it is funny and it features an awesome cameo by Don Hahn.
While an insanely fun series overall, some of the humor feels a bit reminiscent of Muppets Tonight, which was by no means a bad show, but not the direction the Muppets should head back into. Currently they are in an almost Muppet Show style which the world knows and loves, but once the style starts getting changed, I think people lose interest in the characters, and I feel that’s one of the reasons why Muppets Tonight didn’t go as far as it should have.
Capping off, this show was fantastic overall but has a handful of problems scattered throughout. Either way, I hope Disney continues to make Muppet web series, and hopefully releasing something like this has made the possibility of a Muppet TV show stronger in the Disney Studios. I’m hoping the release of this series is a new step in a new direction for Muppet Digital Series. I would happily welcome a second season of Disney Drive-On.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org