Welcome to Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole, and today I’ll be your guide through Muppet Studios, along with my good friend Kermit.
Though The Muppets have been around since the 1950s, when Jim Henson first conceived of Kermit the Frog, the troupe jumped onto the scene in 1976 with the inception of The Muppet Show. This television show had an awesome celebrity guest every week, who got to just have a blast with the Muppets. As the years went on, the Muppets gradually moved on to the film world and were still super popular, so naturally Michael Eisner reached out to Jim Henson about getting the Muppets into this new park Disney was creating in the late 1980s, Disney-MGM Studios.
Just about a year after the opening of the park, Here Come the Muppets opened as a placeholder attraction as Disney and Jim Henson worked to create an innovative new 3D show for the park. At the time, 3D shows were a had a good foothold in the Disney Parks experience with attractions like Captain EO and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience bringing in guests for years.
While production was moving forward, Disney had its sights set higher than just adding a permanent show into the parks, with a whole Muppets land being proposed. The E-Ticket attraction in this land would have been a parody of the Great Movie Ride, where the Muppets did their own take on the films. Now if this sounds like a lot of work for characters that Disney didn’t even own, you would be completely right, which is where the most important part of this ordeal comes into play: Disney’s purchasing the Jim Henson Company.
Upon the completion of the deal, Henson would have moved into various creative roles at Disney, much like we saw happen with John Lasseter when Pixar was purchased by Disney. Negotiations were under way along with the filming of the 3D show, when Jim Henson suddenly passed away in May of 1990.
With Henson’s death, there was a huge shakeup in the company as his son Brian Henson took over. Brian was not as enamored with the Disney Company as his father, and the potential deal almost immediately fell through. The idea of an entire land quickly fell by the wayside, but Brian was still open to completing the 3D film as a tribute to his father. (Though he reportedly basically told Disney that they would have to finish it by themselves, without the help of the Jim Henson Company.) Luckily, Frank Oz, the frequent Henson collaborator, agreed to step up and help complete Jim Henson’s final project.
Exactly a year after Jim Henson passed away, Muppet*Vision 3D opened at Disney-MGM Studios on May 16, 1991. The show managed to remain relevant and popular enough that ten years later, the attraction also debuted in Disney California Adventure, opening along with the park on February 8, 2001.
Before we jump into the main show, we have to pay tribute to the preshow (which you can watch by clicking above). The preshow went full Muppets and featured a lot of great jokes that got you in the perfect mindset for Muppet*Vision 3D. A lot of the characters came through to make you laugh, with Rizzo taking the cake.
After Sam the Eagle promised Mickey Mouse would show up, Rizzo made a surprise appearance playing Mickey Mouse. It was these pieces of humor where Disney got to make fun of itself a little bit that made the preshow such a fun time, as well. Now that you’ve been primed for the show, let’s jump into it (with the video showing it in 2D luckily).
There are so many things to love about Muppet*Vision 3D. The show is unlike anything else that I have ever seen at a Disney Park and is well worth watching if you’ve never seen it and especially if you are a fan of The Muppets.
One of the first things to set the show apart was Statler and Waldorf being a part of it with you. The cranky old Muppets watched the show along with you and interacted with both you and the characters on screen. Their wise-cracking comments added another layer of humor, with their jokes landing each and every time.
Another part of Muppet*Vision 3D that stood out was the 3D itself. Despite Kermit promising there would be no 3D tricks, the show is full of them as you might expect from a show by The Muppets. As you can see in the picture above, there were multiples times where characters literally lean into the audience to interact with you and other characters. Normally, I hate the overuse of 3D (especially because I have to wear two pairs of glasses), but they used it to such comedic and just downright impressive effect that it works perfectly.
These characters interactions are so successful because you felt like you were truly a part of the fun. Kermit led you on a tour all around the Muppet Studios, but also acknowledged that you were sitting in a theater, so the show was both live and recorded, which doesn’t make much sense, but then again, it’s the Muppets, so it’s pretty easy to just let it go.
Now all of the 3D, animatronics and humor were great, but what always stood out to me as a kid was Sweetums entering the theater. He just walked off the screen looking for Bean Bunny and then the next minute, he was literally in the theater waving a flashlight around. It was such unprecedented realism that immediately helped you realize that this show was something special. Even though I was pretty young at the time, I still remember the first time that I watched the show and how amazed I was that this character I just saw on the screen was suddenly there in front of me.
In case you couldn’t tell, Muppet*Vision 3D is one of my favorite theme park attractions ever and certainly my favorite 3D show. I would also argue that it is the funniest show that Disney has ever made because even though I’ve seen it countless times, it still keeps me laughing every time that I watch it.
Unfortunately, Muppet*Vision 3D’s time in California Adventure came to a close on November 1, 2014. To be fair, for nearly four years before that, the theater alternated between being a preview theater for upcoming Disney films and Muppet*Vision 3D. I still remember those hard years where all I wanted was to see the Muppets, but instead I had to deal with previews of Oz the Great and Powerful. Ultimately, when Muppet*Vision 3D closed, it was unceremonious and just made me sad that there was no true closure to the attraction (much like what happened with it’s tough to be a bug). Frozen Fever took over California Adventure, and the Sing-Along Celebration found its home there before it became home to previews yet again.
Just a few days ago though, Mickey’s PhilharMagic opened in the former theater, finally giving Muppet*Vision 3D a true, worthy successor.
Over in Hollywood Studios, Muppet*Vision 3D is still going strong, but its time seems like it will inevitably come to a close soon. Galaxy’s Edge will be open soon, and with Muppet*Vision 3D and Grand Avenue being the only thing standing between connecting Galaxy’s Edge and Star Tours, it seems the innovative show is on its way out. It will be a sad day for sure, but considering Muppet*Vision 3D has been around for 28 years, it certainly won’t come as a surprise. No Disney Parks 3D show has lasted anywhere close to as long as Muppet*Vision 3D, so you have to give it a lot of credit for surviving as long as it has. I know that it will always have a special place in my heart.
Now that I’ve gotten sappy, let’s look at what’s coming next week.
- This attraction was a Universal Studios attraction.
- This attraction was disaster themed.
- This attraction was based on a film.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.