Legacy Content

Jim Hill
Page 2 of 5

Just for the record, folks: It was only going to be the Fab Five plus One that were supposed to be AWOL from Disneyland during the Summer of 1991. Just Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy & Pluto. All the rest of Disney's characters -- from Snow White right up through to Ariel -- were still going to be in residence in Anaheim that summer. But -- if you really wanted to see the Big Cheese -- you were going to have to wait until after Labor Day.

To cut down on the confusion that this bizarre change of pace was probably going to cause Disneyland guests, a decision was made that the Muppets -- with few very exceptions -- would do all of their meeting-n-greeting work on Main Street U.S.A. There would be also banners & signs all over this part of the park that reinforced the idea that the Muppets were taking over Disneyland just for this summer.

And -- while there wasn't really supposed to be a Muppet-specific attraction in the park that summer -- there would still have been a daily parade (a West Coast version of Disney/MGM's Magnificent Muppet All-Star Motorcade / Parade) as well as a stage show at Carnation Gardens. One of the running gags for this show was going to be that Mickey kept calling in on a picture phone from the road, just to make sure that things were going okay at the park. Of course, at the very moment that Mickey called, something horrible was happening. Scenery falling down. Explosions occurring right off-stage. You know. The usual Muppet stuff.

Best of all -- in honor of the Muppets taking over Disneyland that summer -- Disney's tech staff was going to use colored lights to paint the Matterhorn green every night. A bright white image of Kermit would then be overlaid on top of the green mountain, to serve as this huge reminder to Disneyland guests about who exactly was running the show while Mickey Mouse was away.

Of course, come Labor Day, Mickey & the rest of his crew would return to the park. Their return would be the focus of media attention, of course, as well as lots of in-park celebration. Their 1950s era roadster would then be folded into the daily Magnificent Muppet All-Star Motorcade / Parade. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy & Pluto would be seated inside -- waving happily to the crowds. Clearly demonstrating to all those lining the parade route that the classic Disney characters and the Muppets were all part of one big happy family.

After this ... To be honest, the Muppets weren't officially supposed to get a real home at Disneyland 'til the Summer of 1993. That was when "Jim Henson's MuppetVision 3D" was supposed to open as the inaugural attraction at the Toon Town Opera House.

Yep, that's right, folks. The Muppets were supposed to live in Toon Town. Right alongside a "Little Mermaid" dark ride as well as an early version of "Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin" -- where the Lenny the Cab ride vehicle were supposed to have taken Disneyland guests on a trip across the rooftops of downtown Toon Town (Driving in and out the windows that lined the second floor of all the buildings that were featured in this part of the park).

So what went wrong? Why didn't this brilliantly mapped out campaign go through? To be honest, the trouble started when Jim Henson passed away in May of 1990.

The Imagineers -- who had really enjoyed all of the time that they'd spent with Henson -- were crushed when Jim died. Particularly since they knew that this was a guy who had been working at the height of his creative powers. A man who should have had decades of good work ahead of him. A brilliant light -- a brilliant life -- tragically snuffed out prematurely.

What made this doubly difficult is that -- during late May and early June -- the Imagineers began cutting together the very last thing that Henson had worked on: "Kermit the Frog presents MuppetVision 3D." And they saw what a truly great thing this 3D movie was. Almost a perfect distillation of everything that Jim had done up until this time. The silliness. The sophistication. The gutsy use of cutting edge technologies. Not to mention the gleeful embracing of cheap 3D tricks.

To the Imagineers way of thinking, this was just too good a show to have to wait 'til 1993 to appear in Disneyland. As a tribute to all that Jim Henson had accomplished in his lifetime, the Imagineers tried to figure out a way to get "Kermit the Frog presents MuppetVision 3D" (later renamed "Jim Henson's MuppetVision 3D" -- recognition of this being the very last Muppet project that Jim Henson rode herd on) fast-tracked in the Anaheim theme park.