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Jim Hill
Page 1 of 4

by Jim Hill (archives)
August 16, 2001
Jim Hill continues his multi-part series exploring the history of the convoluted relations between the Jim Henson Company & the Walt Disney Company. Part 5.

When You Wish Upon a ... Frog?!
The Greatest Disney / MGM Attraction You Never Got to See: The Muppet Movie Ride

As Jim Hill continues his series on the convoluted relations between Jim Henson Productions and the Walt Disney Company, he now takes LaughingPlace.com readers on a tour of Muppet Studios, where WDW guests could have taken a trip on the Muppet Movie Ride and/or dined -- if they dared -- at the Great Gonzo's Pandemonium Pizza Parlor.

If you missed it Parts One, Two Three and Four are still available.

Here's the tough part of the story, folks. The section where you learn that "Jim Henson's MuppetVision 3D" was only supposed to be just the start of things. That the whole backmost corner of Disney/MGM Studio Theme Park wasn't meant to be home to just the Hunchback amphitheater and/or that bland bunch of New York Street facades. But -- had the Disney / Muppet merger gone through the way it was supposed to -- this part of the park would have become home to Muppet Studios.

Which -- as it turns out -- Muppet Studios would then have been home to Disney / MGM's best ever ride-through attraction: The Muppet Movie Ride.

This is the loss that really hurts, folks. Out of all the stuff that didn't get done because the original Henson / Disney merger went south in late 1990, this is the proposed attraction that the Imagineers who worked at WDI during this era still talk about the most. The show that they feel that the company really should have found a way to build.

So what was supposed to so special about this Muppet Movie Ride thingy?

This was going to be *THE* ride for Disney/MGM. The one that -- barring all others -- you *HAD TO* see during your day at the theme park. A "Pirates of the Caribbean" for the 1990s. An epic attraction that would have featured elaborate set pieces, amazing special effects as well as dozens upon dozens of audio-animatronic Muppets.

I hear you Tower of Terror fans mumbling out there. "Better than Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?," you say. "No way." Yes way, guys. The Muppet Movie Ride was going to be just as technically advanced as TZTOT. Only -- instead of thrilling -- this Disney/MGM attraction was going to be funny.

Lord, was the Muppet Movie Ride going to be funny! Not just "fall-down funny" or "pee-in-your-pants funny," but "I'm- going- to- have- to- ride- this- thing- a- dozen- or- more- times- to- make- sure- I-get- all- the- gags" funny.

Why was the Muppet Movie Ride going to be so much fun? Because it was going to have the Muppets do what they did so well so many times on "The Muppet Show" : send up great old movies as well as reveal all the behind-the-scenes chaos that went on whenever the Muppets tried to put on a show.

Personally, I think that one of the funnier aspects of Disney/MGM's proposed "Muppet Movie Ride" ride is that this attraction was clearly a parody of another ride at that same theme park: The Great Movie Ride. Just like at the show that was being presented just up the street inside the Chinese Theater, guests would slowly glide through the enormous show building aboard giant theater cars past these highly detailed recreations of great moments from famous Hollywood films.

Only in the Muppet version, something just off-screen would go wrong ... and then the fun would begin.

Take -- for instance -- the tribute to Hollywood's classic horror films that the Imagineers & Henson wanted to do as part of the ride. This sequence's set was deliberately designed to ape the art direction of James Whale's 1931 version of "Frankenstein." So picture a secret laboratory hidden away in a cobweb-filled dungeon of a huge stone castle. Bizarre electric equipment flickers and sparks in the dark, as the mad scientist makes ready to bring his evil creature to life.

Only in this version of the movie, it's Miss Piggy & Kermit who are the heroes who have just discovered the fiend's lair. As they stand on the stone staircase -- agape with horror -- looking down into the lab, the frog & the pig realize that they're too late. The mad scientist makes ready to throw the switch ...

So who's the mad scientist? Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, of course. Which means that the monster laid out on the slab is -- you guessed it -- Beaker. Only a 10 foot tall version of Beaker with bolts sticking out of his neck.

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