We interrupt this week’s edition of
Fab Jim Hill News for … A Muppet news flash!
Are you like me and still a little blue because ABC opted not to renew “The Muppets” back in May? I know that I’m probably in the minority here, but I really liked what Bill Prady & Kristin Newman were doing with the characters. And I was genuinely looking forward to seeing where this ABC Studios production would go in Season 2.
Of course there were those who said that because ABC had pulled the plug on Miss Piggy and pals … Well, that meant the Mouse would now be mothballing the Muppets. That The Walt Disney Company would now be throwing all of its money & marketing might behind far more viable franchises (i.e., Marvel, Pixar & Lucasfilm).
Well, if that was really was the plan, Mouse House management clearly forgot to tell the staff at Muppets Studios. Because these folks quickly shrugged off the unfortunate cancellation of the ABC show and then motored on with other Muppet-related projects.
First up was Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem’s “live” performance at the Outside Lands music festival back in August. Thousands of people poured into Golden Gate Park that Sunday afternoon, eager to see Animal, Janice & Floyd in the flesh … er … fabric. The band did a 25 minute-long set up on Outside Lands’ main performance venue, the Lands End stage. And among the numbers they covered were “Can You Picture That?” from the Muppet Movie and the Mowgli’s “San Francisco.” Dr. Teeth then closed out this show with the help of the Oakland Tabernacle Choir, leading the crowd in a rousing rendition of Joe Crocker’s version of that Beatles’ hit, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
Eight weeks later on the other side of the country, Sam the Eagle started popping out of the top of the Hall of Presidents …
… to serve as the would-be MC of a brand-new Magic Kingdom show, “The Muppets Present … Great Moments in American History.” This several-times-a-day presentation allows Kermit & Co. to put a comical spin on the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the midnight ride of Paul Revere. And based on the crowds who now regularly camp out in Liberty Square to make sure that they won’t miss this show …
… it looks like the Heritage House might be home to a hit.
Given that the Muppets were now drawing a crowd at the Magic Kingdom, the folks at Epcot wanted in on this action. Which is why they dusted off Muppet Mobile Labs (i.e., that Living Character Initiative which first began rolling through the parks back in 2007) and sent Bunsen & Beaker back out into Future World to start interacting with WDW visitors.
And if that weren’t already enough for Muppet fans, starting on November 18th (or so say Disney insiders), you’ll be able to snag a slice of PizzeRizzo at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
According to the backstory that the Imagineers cooked up for this casual Italian-American eatery (which is located where DHS’ Toy Story Pizza Planet restaurant previously stood), Rizzo the Rat now owns & operates this establishment. And as you wander through this two-story quick-service location and try to decide if you want dine inside (where you could maybe sit in the booth that Rizzo has set aside for his celebrity friends) or outside (where you’ll then have a great view of Muppets Courtyard), you’ll soon be surrounded by imagery of the Muppets’ top rodent and all his relatives.
What’s that you say? You want to get in all this Muppet-related fun but don’t plan on heading down to Orlando anytime soon. Well, the folks at Disney Junior, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media (DCPI) and Muppet Studios have some good news for you. They’ve begun production on a reimagined “Muppet Babies” TV show.
Mind you, this CG-animated series won’t begin airing on Disney Junior ‘til early in 2018. But the executives who run this cable channel have been solidly in Kermit’s corner for the better part of two years now. Let’s not forget that Disney Junior began airing “Muppet Moments” back in the Spring of 2015. And these two minute-long vignettes are the Mouse’s way of introducing a whole new generation of kids to these characters.
Getting back to that new CG version of “Muppet Babies” now … Nancy Kanter (i.e., the Executive Vice President for Original Programming and General Manager of Disney Junior Worldwide) – speaking on behalf of the creative team at this cable channel – said “We are proud, and a little bit giddy, to begin production on our new version of the much-loved ‘Muppet Babies.’ Parents will delight in seeing their favorite Muppets in the mixed animation style they remember from the original series, and kids will be introduced to this warm and zany world made just right for the Disney Junior audience.”
And just so you know: It’s not just Disney Junior & Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media that are excited about this “Muppet Babies” reboot / reimagining. Given that the original animated series back in the 1980s was a co-production of The Jim Henson Company and Marvel Productions (Not to mention that Marvel also published the “Muppet Babies” comic book), the folks at Marvel Entertainment are pretty jazzed that this IP is now part of Disney’s overall Muppet revival.
And speaking of revivals … Shelly is still in recovery mode. But it won’t be too long now ‘til she’s back here at MiceChat serving out her own special brand of Fab News. In the meantime, you’re stuck with me. The man who really, really wishes that Disney had actually built Muppet Studios at Disney-MGM Studios in the early 1990s. If only because I wanted to be able to ride the Great Muppet Movie Ride and see scenes like this …
… which is where Jim Henson planned on sending up all of Universal’s Monster movies by filling a scene with animatronic Muppets.
And just so you know: Jim was an equal opportunity offender. Here’s yet another piece of concept art for the Great Muppet Movie Ride where Henson wanted to spoof Disney’s 1953 version of “Peter Pan.”
And – yes – the above image does show (right to left) Kermit as Peter Pan, Janice as Wendy, Scooter as John, Fozzie as Michael and Miss Piggy as Tinkerbell. Pretty scary, don’t you think?
Happy Halloween !