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When You Wish Upon a ... Frog?!
Lincoln 1, Muppets 0
As Jim Hill continues his series about the convoluted relations between the Jim Henson Company and the Walt Disney Company, he looks back on the Summer of 1990 -- when Kermit & Co. almost forced Abraham Lincoln to get some change-of-Gettysburg-address cards
You know, the sad part of this particular part of the story is that things really didn't have to go down the way that they did.
I mean, if the Imagineers had just stuck to their original schedule for introducing the Muppets to Disneyland, things would have gone on just fine. There would have been no need for ugly headlines, no un-necessary accusations from Orange County Republicans about how the current Disney management team was going to pull the plug on Walt's greatest creation to make room for a pig.
Best of all, if Imagineering had just stuck with the original "Muppet at Disneyland" master plan, Kermit & Co. would have been introduced in this truly cool way to Southern California's theme park fans. For the Muppets were going to take over Disneyland. Literally.
Here's how it was supposed to go down: Disneyland would have wrapped up its 35th anniversary celebration in November 1990. For the next five weeks, the Happiest Place on Earth would have run through its usual assortment of yuletide festivities. And then -- starting in the Spring of 1991 -- things were going to get ... Well, a little weird.
First of all, there would have been this series of full page ads in Southern California area newspapers. They would have started out with a note from Kermit congratulating Mickey on the successful completion of Disneyland's 35th anniversary. The Frog would have then gone on to thank the Mouse for all the kindness he had shown the Muppets, for really making them feel like members of the Disney family. "If there's anything I can ever do to repay your kindness, please let me know, okay, Mickey?" was how Kermit was supposed to have closed out this note.
A week or so later, a second full page ad would have appeared in Southern California area newspapers. This time around, Mickey would have thanked Kermit for his note. Then the Mouse would have gone on to say that -- while he, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy & Pluto had enjoyed all the 35th anniversary hoopla -- the Fab Five plus One were still feeling pretty bushed from last year's festivities. Mickey would then have gone on to say -- in a wistful sort of way -- that while he loved Disneyland, the Mouse wished that he & the gang could go on vacation. Just get a short break from the Magic Kingdom for a while.
A week or so after that, yet another full page ad would appear in Southern California area newspapers. This one would be from Kermit, and -- in essence -- would read: "You know, Mickey. The Muppets and I don't really have anything scheduled for this summer. If you were serious about wanting to get away from Disneyland for a while, we'd be happy to watch the fort 'til you get back."
The fourth & final full page ad in Southern California area newspapers would show another note from Mickey Mouse. On top of this note would rest the keys to Disneyland. Mickey's note would read to the effect: "Thanks, Kermit. Here are the keys to the Park. We're heading out on Memorial Weekend and be back in time for Labor Day. You have the run of the place 'til then. Thanks again for all your help. See you real soon. Your Pal, Mickey Mouse."
You see? If things had just gone according to plan, it was going to this audacious -- but beautifully orchestrated -- publicity stunt. There would have been TV commercials that showed Mickey handing Disneyland's keys over to Kermit. Then the Fab Five plus One would pile into a classic 1950s roadster and drive off down Main Street U.S.A., heading off for a three month long vacation. With that, the Muppets would be left in charge of Disneyland for the entire Summer of 1991. For three short months, "The Happiest Place on Earth" was going to become "The Most Muppet-tational Place on Earth." And things were -- understandably -- going to get a little crazy.