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Jim Hill
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After a week of stories that called the Walt Disney Company unpatriotic for even considering such a maneuver, the Mouse had no choice but to issue a statement saying that the Muppets were not moving in Disneyland's Opera House. They also assured Orange County residents that the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" show was there to stay.

Which was why Abe continued to play to empty houses for the next decade. And why it took Kermit & Co. over 10 years to find a new place to set up shop at the Disneyland Resort. (Of course, another mitigating factor may have been Disney & Henson's decision to abandon their proposed merger in December 1990. As well as the deal that the Mouse initially cut with Henson's survivors about where and when "Jim Henson's MuppetVision 3D" could be presented. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we ... )

The Lincoln / Muppet debacle taught Disneyland management one very tough lesson: If you're going to close and/or make changes to an attraction that the public loves, you do so quickly, quietly and with as little advance notice as possible. Witness the lightening fast yet low-key closings of the Skyway in November 1994 and the Submarine Voyage in September 1998. Or next month's rumored closure of Disneyland's version of "Country Bear Jamboree."

Speaking of Lincoln: Given that Disneyland management has just pumped several million dollars into a high-tech overhaul of the "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" show, I'm pretty sure that Orange County's Republicans will be pleased to hear that they have nothing to worry about. At least for the foreseeable future, Abe will be calling the Main Street Opera House home.

As to whether there was any Muppet-style fall-out from this event ... I can't help but notice that -- during the second season of ABC's short lived "Muppets Tonight!" TV series -- there was an episode (hosted by singer Paula Abdul, if I'm remembering correctly) where a crazed robot of President Lincoln runs amok throughout Muppet Studios.

Co-incidence? I don't think so.

IN OUR NEXT INSTALLMENT: We finally get to the really sad part of the story. Jim Henson's tragic death. His final moments in the hospital as well as the uplifting memorial service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. And then the Disney deal begins to unravel ...

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-- 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 21, 2001

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