Walt Disney World is a theme park resort that opened in Orlando, Florida in 1971. The resort includes four theme parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The resort also includes numerous hotels, water parks, and other entertainment offerings. Walt Disney World is the largest resort in the world.
The Muppets at Walt Disney World
After The Walt Disney Company had announced a deal to buy The Jim Henson Company in 1989, the two companies produced The Muppets at Walt Disney World, a primetime special that aired on The Magical World of Disney in May 1990, in which Kermit the Frog and his friends explored the resort.
According to the special, Walt Disney World lies "just on the other side" of Kermit's Swamp. The geography of the resort is also compressed and streamlined for purposes of the plot. For example, even though the Muppets begin their trip by breaking into the Disney-MGM Studios, they don't seem to have the same problem entering the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT Center, even though each park has a separate gate.
Attractions featured or mentioned in The Muppets at Walt Disney World include:
The Magic Kingdom
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Main Street Vehicles
- Mad Tea Party
- Space Mountain
- Country Bear Jamboree
- The Leapfrog Fountains at Journey Into Imagination
- Wonders of Life and Body Wars
- The Living Seas (referred to by Gonzo as "The Ocean Thing Over There")
- World Showcase pavilions: Mexico, Germany, China, France, Morocco, Canada, Italy, and Japan
MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios)
- Hollywood Boulevard
- New York Street on the Backlot Tour
- Star Tours
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
- Grauman's Chinese Theatre (which housed the Great Movie Ride)
- Grand Floridian Beach Resort
- The Walt Disney World Pet Care Center
- Utilidors (referred to by Gonzo as "Walt Disney's Laundryland")
Theme Park Attractions
Although the Disney/Henson deal fell through in the wake of Jim Henson's death, some of the initial plans for Muppet attractions at Walt Disney World were completed, most of which were located at the Disney-MGM Studios.
The first attraction to feature the Muppets was the Hollywood's Pretty Woman stage show at the Theater of the Stars on Hollywood Boulevard, which included Kermit and Miss Piggy walk-arounds in the surprise finale. The show, which premiered in December of 1989 was the only Walt Disney World attraction that was finished in Jim Henson's lifetime.
In 1990, the Here Come the Muppets stage show, the first full-fledged Muppet attraction at the parks, premiered at the former Walt Disney Theater in the park's Animation Courtyard. The production featured walk-around characters playing to a vocal track recorded by the Muppet performers. A second stage show, Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses, followed in 1991, and played for three years.
Muppet*Vision 3D, an elaborate attraction featuring a 3D film with Audio-Animatronic characters and in-theater special effects, was introduced in 1991, along with the Stage One Company Store, which specializes in Muppet merchandise. Muppet*Vision 3D is still a popular attraction at the park and was recreated for Disney California Adventure in 2001, although the latter version of the attraction has since closed. Constantine was added to the attraction's pre-show in 2014 to promote Muppets Most Wanted.
Muppet*Vision 3D, which was the last film directed by Jim Henson, was also the last of the originally planned attractions to be built. The attraction was originally slated to anchor a new Muppet Studios section of the park, nestled between Star Tours and New York Street. But when the Disney/Henson merger fell through, plans to build the Muppet Movie Ride and the Great Gonzo's Pandemonium Pizza Parlor were abandoned.
Walk-around versions of Kermit, Piggy, and Sweetums appeared in the park's Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade. And the first new attraction to feature the Muppets since Disney acquired the characters in 2004 was the Muppet Mobile Lab, an interactive "Living Characters Initiative" starring Audio-Animatronic versions of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker.
Weatherproof versions of Kermit and Piggy appeared in Disney's Honorary VoluntEars Cavalcade in 2010. The parks also hosted Epcot Muppet Scavenger Hunt, and the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival which has featured topiary likenesses of Kermit and Miss Piggy. The 2019 Festival debuted a new Kermit topiary riding a bicycle.
Constantine made a live appearance at the Villains Unleashed event at Disney's Hollywood Studios park on August 23, 2014. The meet and greet was set up inside the Muppet giftshop with Constantine caged inside a small Gulag cell.
By 2016, the area where Muppet*Vision 3D is located was renamed "Muppets Courtyard." As part of the re-theming, a Muppet restaurant PizzeRizzo opened, replacing Pizza Planet. A new live show featuring the Muppets also plays in Liberty Square in Disney's Magic Kingdom entitled The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History. This show closed in 2019. These windows were used in November 2020 for physically distant, silent appearances.
A photo of Jim Henson (and Kermit) can be glimpsed in the film montage of American heroes near the end of the "American Adventure" attraction at the host pavilion (America) in Epcot's World Showcase. In 2020, a Muppet-themed restaurant would come to the American Adventure Pavilion in the form of the Regal Eagle Smokehouse, themed around Sam the Eagle.
A tile mosaic portrait of Jim Henson and Kermit was originally on display at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in Disney MGM Studios. It hung next to portraits of Fred Rogers and Burr Tillstrom.
Other Henson properties that were given attractions at Walt Disney World include:
- Dinosaurs - Dinosaurs Live!
- Bear in the Big Blue House - the Bear in the Big Blue House: Live on Stage show, which ran from 1999-2001, was later expanded into Playhouse Disney: Live on Stage. Bear and his friends continued to be featured in this show until early 2008. Bear and Treelo also rode in the Playhouse Disney car in the Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade for the duration of its run.
- 101 Dalmatians - the Backstage Pass walking tour featured a stop that explained how Jim Henson's Creature Shop developed the animatronics puppies for this film.
- Unidentified TV appearance (c. 1991)
- Walt Disney World Inside Out
- Walt Disney World's 25th Anniversary Kickoff
- Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade
- In Episode 3379 of Sesame Street, Kingston Livingston III interviews subjects on "The Wide World of Writing." After watching Gordon write a shopping list, Kingston asks, "Hey, Gordon, you just finished writing your shopping list! What are you gonna do now!?" in the same manner as the "I'm Going to Disney World" advertisements.
- In the queue for The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), bird agent William claims his client is "a very big bird." Fellow agent Morris responds, "Your client is Big Bird?"
- Jason Alexander voiced Weevil Kneevil in the "Its Tough to Be a Bug!" 3-D film at Disney's Animal Kingdom
- David Arquette voiced Skully in the Disney Junior- Live on Stage! show at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Tyra Banks portrayed the female alien host (body performance only) in the preshow film of ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (1995-2003) in the Magic Kingdom
- Chevy Chase starred in The Monster Sounds Show, a former attraction at Disney-MGM Studios
- Walter Cronkite was a host of "The Magic of Animation" film at Disney-MGM Studios and the narrator of Spaceship Earth at Epcot (1986-1994)
- Tim Curry voiced S.I.R. in the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter pre-show (1995-2003) in the Magic Kingdom
- Anthony Daniels portrayed C-3PO in the film and ride of Star Tours (1989-2010) and Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Disney-MGM Studios/Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Ellen DeGeneres starred in Ellen's Energy Adventure at the Universe of Energy pavilion and Dory in The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot
- Johnny Depp voiced Captain Jack Sparrow in the updated (2006-present) Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the Magic Kingdom
- Dave Goelz provided the voice of Figment in the Journey Into Imagination with Figment ride at Epcot
- Gilbert Gottfried voiced Iago in "The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)" (1998-2011) in the Magic Kingdom
- Charles Grodin played the Left Brain in the Cranium Command show in the Wonders of Life at Epcot (1989-2007)
- Phil Hartman voiced Morris in "The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)" (1998-2011) in the Magic Kingdom
- Jonathan Morgan Heit voiced Cubby in the Disney Junior-Live on Stage! show at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Jeremy Irons narrated Spaceship Earth at Epcot (1994-2007)
- Michael Jackson starred in the "Captain EO" 3D film at Epcot
- Allison Janney voiced Aly San San (spokesbot) in the Star Tours: The Adventures Continue attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader in the Star Tours: The Adventures Continue ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Richard Kind voiced Sergeant 90210 in the pre-show of the Stitch's Great Escape attraction in the Magic Kingdom
- Nathan Lane voiced Timon in Circle of Life: An Environmental Tale film at Epcot
- Jon Lovitz played the Right Brain in the Cranium Command show in the Wonders of Life at Epcot (1989-2007)
- Cheech Marin voiced Chili in the "Its Tough to Be a Bug!" 3D film at Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Ian McShane portrayed and voiced Captain Blackbeard in the updated (2011-present) Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the Magic Kingdom
- Rick Moranis played Wayne Szalinski in the "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" 3-D film at Epcot
- Kathy Najimy played Dr. Femus in the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction film (1995-2003) in the Magic Kingdom
- Bill Nighy voiced Davy Jones in the updated (2006-present) Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the Magic Kingdom
- Frank Oz voiced Yoda in the Star Tours: The Adventures Continue ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Rob Paulsen voiced José Carioca in the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros ride in Epcot
- Madison Pettis voiced Izzy in the Disney Junior-Live on Stage! show at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Kevin Pollak played Spinlok in the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter attraction film (1995-2003) in the Magic Kingdom
- Paul Reubens voiced RX-24 (Captain Rex) in the Star Tours film and ride (1989-2010) and in the queue of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (archival audio) at Disney-MGM Studios/Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Kevin Michael Richardson voiced Captain Gantu in the Stitch's Great Escape attraction in the Magic Kingdom
- Don Rickles voiced William in "The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management)" pre-show (1998-2011) in the Magic Kingdom and Mr. Potato Head at the Toy Story Mania! attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Geoffrey Rush voiced Captain Barbossa in the updated (2006-present) Pirates of the Caribbean ride in the Magic Kingdom
- Martin Short starred in The Monster Sound Show at Disney-MGM Studios and hosted the "O Canada!" and The Making of Me films at Epcot
- French Stewart voiced The Termite-ator in the "Its Tough to Be a Bug!" 3-D film at Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Patrick Warburton hosts the safety video in the Soarin' attraction at Epcot and voiced G2-4T in the queue of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Disney's Hollywood Studios
- George Wendt played the Stomach in the Cranium Command show in the Wonders of Life at Epcot (1989-2007)
- Robin Williams was one of the hosts of "The Magic of Animation" film at Disney-MGM Studios and the voice of Timekeeper in The Timekeeper at the Magic Kingdom
- Telly Monster visited the Magic Kingdom park, briefly, in Martin P. Robinson and Annie Evans' blog "Sesame Family Robinson".
- As a kid, Kevin Clash wanted to live at Walt Disney World.
- Martin P. Robinson, "Telly's Travels", Sesame Family Robinson, November 28, 2010.
- Marisol White, "New: Muppets Return at the Magic Kingdom Just in Time for the Holidays", KennythePirate.com, 6 November 2020.
- Nadine Bells, "Kevin Clash is living his childhood dream being Sesame Street’s ‘Elmo’", The Lighter Side (Yahoo), 29 September 2011.