Like many of a certain age, I grew up on “The Muppet Show.”
So, back in the day, when Disney Imagineering and The Jim Henson Company collaborated on “Muppet Vision 3D,” my teenage-self was (secretly) thrilled.
However, there are signs that the Muppets’ presence in Disney’s Hollywood Studios may not be as solid as it was even a few years ago.
In an excellent article in Orlando-Rising, John Gregory spoke to the changes that the “Muppet section” of DHS has recently seen and what, if anything, may be gleaned from its newfound near-seasonal status:
PizzeRizzo, the Muppets-themed restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, has been downgraded to seasonal operation — meaning it will only be open when large crowds are expected — despite opening just two years ago.
The park also reduced the hours MuppetVision 3D will be available. It is currently scheduled to be open from 10 a.m. (one hour after the park typically opens) to 6 p.m., even for busy days like Christmas.
Even the Stage 1 Company Store, located next to MuppetVision, looked to be mostly devoid of Muppets merchandise during a recent visit by popular Orlando vlogger The Tim Tracker. The area has also seen smaller changes, like the removal of the Kermit hot air balloon which once topped the MuppetVision theater.
Gregory mentioned the below video, and like the writer, I was super-surprised by Tim’s report, in terms of the changeover in merchandise:
That said, I guess I am NOT surprised by the “demise” of PizzeRizzo.
The re-theming of the old “Pizza Planet” — which, in-of-itself, needed a re-theming to look more like the Pizza Planet in the movies (and whose aesthetic was hurt by Florida’s crackdown on midway style gaming machines) — needed to go in a different direction; not just a switch to a similar style personal pizza quick service restaurant.
But I digress…
Orlando-Rising.com also spoke to Jarrod Fairclough of MuppetMindset.com to get an opinion about the state of the Muppets at WDW:
“I think the nostalgia aspect is a huge factor for the fans who are screaming for its continued operation, but I can’t imagine at this point many people are going to Disney World and saying ‘Gee, I’d love to go see that Muppet 3D film,’” Fairclough said.
Further hurting MuppetVision’s chances for survival is its 3D film technology. Once a novelty widely exploited by theme parks, 3D movies can regularly be seen in most movie theaters — so why make it a priority during your limited time in a Disney theme park?
Rather than continuing to rely on dated technology and dedicated Muppets fans, Fairclough would welcome something new.
“On one hand you’d have the purists saying that MuppetVision is Jim’s last work and needs to be kept exactly as it is, and on the other hand you’d have people welcoming new content, and being excited that Disney believed in the characters enough to create something new with these characters,” he said.
However, another item that would help keep the Muppets relevant, and certainly drive any new Muppets-related attractions or upgrades in the park, would be a return to prominence on the big and small screens.
“The lack of exposure on film and TV may be hurting Kermit and the gang’s stock among theme park crowds,” wrote Gregory, who later added, “A brighter future may not be far away The Hollywood Reporter said in February that Disney plans to bring The Muppets back to TV in 2019, this time with a series on the company’s new streaming service which aims to compete with Netflix and Hulu.”
I must admit that I am very hopeful for a return to prominence of the Muppets (both in Hollywood Studios and in the media).
Despite its relative antiquity, Muppet Vision 3D remains a family favorite; from the key under the mat to the “cannon fire” at the end, everyone in my brood 2 to 42, loves nothing better than to sit down and enjoy a “Muppet Show” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Even though we’re not “bolted down…”
But what do you think? Would you upgrade Muppet Vision 3D? Leave it the same? Or would you go in a completely different direction?
Let us know in the comments below…