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Of course, there were also lots of other potential benefits to be found in a Disney / Muppet merger. For example, Eisner was really looking forward to loading the shelves of the Disney Store with lots of exciting new Kermit & Co. merchandise ... Until he learned that Jim Henson Productions had already licensed the Muppet name so that it could be used on a chain of Muppet Stuff shops that were based out of Canada.
This previously negotiated deal -- of course -- cut into what Eisner had hoped would be the Disney Company's exclusive rights to use the Muppet characters. Which diluted the value of the brand. A little. Which troubled Disney's lawyers. A lot.
But even that not-so-minor point still wasn't enough to derail the deal. Which was why -- in August of 1989 -- Eisner & Henson decided to make it official. Even as Disney's lawyers were still trying to hammer out the language that they'd use in the Muppet acquisition deal (What exactly is a Muppet? How would you go about defining Henson's crazy creatures so that your company -- and only your company -- would have the exclusive rights to use puppets like these? Mouse House attorneys gave it their best shot. The contract supposedly went so far as to claim that -- once the deal was signed -- that only the Walt Disney Company would have the right to use any "boggle-eyed furry puppet creatures that act absurdly." Talk about acting absurdly! Anyway ... ), Michael and Jim announced the pending deal to the world from a stage that had hastily assembled in front of Disney/MGM's Studio Arch.
As costumed walk-around versions of Mickey, Minnie, Kermit and Miss Piggy shook hands and hugged behind Eisner & Henson, official WDW photographers took dozens of pictures. The very next morning, those same photos were splashed all over on the front pages of major newspapers around the globe.
The media really ate up all this Disney / Muppet merger talk. USA Today claimed that this was "a marriage made in family entertainment heaven." It's just too bad that the honeymoon was over long before Mickey & Kermie ever got the chance to walk up the aisle.
In our next installment: The stuff you've actually been waiting for! Detailed info on the wonderful Muppet Studio complex, a whole new "land" that Henson had mapped out for Disney / MGM. Climb aboard the "Muppet Movie Ride" and learn how movies aren't made. Also discover how the Walt Disney Company was planning on bringing the Muppets on board at Disneyland ... Mickey's on vacation?!
-- Jim Hill
Jim Hill can be reached using the Talkback form below or by emailing him at [email protected].
Jim Hill is this guy who lives 'way out in the woods of New Hampshire. (Hey, it's not like he wants to live there. But the Witness Protection Program has got rules, you know.) He has one beautiful daughter and three obnoxious cats. When he's not looking for real work, Jim writes about the Walt Disney Company and related matters for LaughingPlace.com, AmusementPark.com, "Orlando Weekly" and Digital Media FX.
The opinions expressed by Jim Hill, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the past decisions and future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.
-- Posted August 9, 2001