The Muppet Mobile Lab is a theme park exhibit that was originally developed for Disney's California Adventure. It debuted as part of the "Living Characters Initiative" project, and brought Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker "to life" through the use of advanced audio-animatronic remote-control-puppeteering technology.
Starting in February 2007, Bunsen and Beaker began to travel in their Muppet Mobile Laboratory vehicle through the Hollywood Pictures Backlot in California Adventure. The characters encourage park visitors to take part in their experiments and antics.
The Muppets' vehicle is equipped with flashing lights, rotating signs, bubble jets, smoke sprayers, water misters, confetti cannons, and even a built-in gorilla detector. Eight cameras are concealed within the unit, including one in the bridge of Bunsen's glasses which allows the controller to make eye contact with guests.
Imagineers have written 53 scripted comedy bits and routines and a repertoire of 12 traveling songs.[cite] The entire show can be controlled by a single operator from a control booth many miles away for the actual park. The characters can react spontaneously to audience involvement through improvisation as the characters can call guests by name, tell the color of their shirts and respond to unique questions.
The characters react to the guests in real time and directly respond to them (as opposed to the traditional, one-sided audio-animatronic shows). The Muppet Mobile Laboratory unit is of a shape and size that would make it impossible for any full-sized human being to operate the characters from inside. The two Muppets are detachable from the unit and can be operated as remote puppets independent from the vehicle. On a few occasions, the Imagineers have set the pair in cafes, theaters and on benches throughout parks to have them interact with guests.
Dave Goelz served as a consultant for this project and was personally on-site with Steve Whitmire, observing and working on the show when the attraction was first unleashed in early 2007. A public test was conducted at Disney California Adventure from February 13 to March 4, 2007.
In August of 2007, the Muppet Mobile Lab moved to Epcot Center in Walt Disney World. In February 2008, it moved to Hong Kong Disneyland. In Hong Kong, Bunsen's dialog was performed in Cantonese. The unit returned to the US to stroll the streets of New York City as part of the 2008 World Science Festival, after which it moved to the Tokyo Disney Resort for the summer 2008. The lab made an appearance at Hong Kong Disneyland's Disney Dreamers Everywhere event in May 2013.
On October 3, 2016, the Muppet Mobile Lab was spotted in Epcot, one day following the debut of The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History in Magic Kingdom. The show was said to have a limited four-week run at Epcot's "Future World" area before being moved over to Disney's Hollywood Studios for a more permanent stay within the "Muppets Courtyard" area.
From 2009 THEA Awards presskit
- General Manager: Lylle Breier
- VP, Talent Relations: Kevin Frawley
- Director, Creative Affairs: Debbie McClellan
- Creative Consultant/Voice of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew: David Goelz
- Voice of Beaker: Steve Whitmire
- Writer: Jim Lewis
- Muppet Mobile Lab Development & Production – WDI Research & Development
- Electronics and show software: Holger Irmler
- Electronics: Dave Barnett
- Mechanical: Tod Camill
- Figure: Bryan Tye
- Ride software: Carl Allison
- Show software: Bill McArdle
- Skins: Phil Jackson
- Creatives: Toni Dogi, Bruce Vaughn, Orrin Shively
- Producer: Susan LeBar
- Project Managers: Chris Holm, Frank Mezzatesta
- SPX/Audio: Asa Kalama
- Puppeteer/Show Director: Cory Rouse
- Audio: Steve Kadar
- SPX: Gilles Martin
- Writer & Characters: John Paragon
- Costumes & Figure Finishing: Amy Van Gilder
- Fabrication: Dean Christie
- Mechanical Design/Fabrication: Lance Updyke
- Segway Algorithms: John Morrell
- Live Show Development – WDI Creative Entertainment
- Creative Director: Dan Fields
- Project Producer: Carrie O'Banion
- Supervising Technical Director: Peter Ballenger
- Production Manager: Sam Russo
- Writer: Bill Larkin
- Technical Director: Bob Maske
- Technical Supervisor: Mark Major
- Project Coordinator: Michelle Malakoff
- Muppet Mobile Lab is also the name of the lab depicted in the 2009 web video "Muppet Labs Experiment 5T832: Ghost Hunt," in which Bunsen and a penguin watch Beaker investigate a haunted house.
- Mike Quinn assisted in the refurbishing of the characters for their 2016 debut while filming The Muppets.
- In March 2009, the Muppet Mobile Lab (then stationed in Hong Kong) received a THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement (Technical) from the Themed Entertainment Association.
- At the D23 Expo in 2009, it was mentioned that an additional mobile vehicle featuring The Electric Mayhem was also in development.
- Jim Hill Media Disney's Living Character Initiative
- Jim Hill Media Muppet Mobile Lab Update
- 2008 press release, Hong Kong Disneyland