3 Magical Muppet Encounters in Walt Disney World
It’s time to start the music! It’s time to light the lights! Disney+ recently announced that they will be streaming all five seasons of the Muppet Show beginning February 19. In light of that fantabulous news, we thought we’d take a look at just a few of the places where you can laugh along with the Muppets in Walt Disney World!
1. Muppet*Vision 3D
The most spectacular way to encounter the Muppets in Walt Disney World is to pay a visit to Muppet*Vision 3D. Located in Hollywood Studios, the attraction takes you inside the world famous Muppet Theater for an experience that combines film, live action, and a variety of sensory special effects, not to mention a heaping helping of Muppet hilarity.
The attraction opened in May of 1991, on the one year anniversary of Jim Henson’s passing. Though Jim couldn’t be at the opening physically, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. Jim directed the film portion of Muppet*Vision 3D. Henson also provided the voices for Kermit, Waldorf, and The Swedish Chef.
The show is a delight, with goofy 3D special effects, and Audio Animatronics of Statler, Waldorf, Bean Bunny, and the Swedish Chef. You’ll see a real, live version of Sweetums and meet a mischievous new character named Waldo C. Graphic (the world’s first computer generated Muppet). He’s a creation of Muppet Labs, and like most of their inventions, things don’t exactly go according to plan.
Before entering the theater, you should take a little time to examine a few hidden details in the entrance. There’s a directory listing all of the departments contained within. Among the listings are the Department of Poultry and Mold Cultivation (with the Great Gonzo as paramour and connoisseur) and Cute and Cudly A.W. Shucks Attorneys (with Bean Bunny). You’ll also notice a sign that reads, “Back in 5 Minutes: Key is Under Mat.” Be sure to actually lift the mat and take a look. You’ll find there really is a key hidden there.
It’s also worth taking a look at what’s painted on the exterior walls in the Muppet Courtyard outside the theater. The Swedish Chef’s Editing and Catering Department is represented (From Quick Cuts to Cold Cuts) as is the Props Department of Rizzo the Rat.
Take a look around the pre-show area too. There, you’ll find one of the most clever puns on Walt Disney World property. There’s a net full of jello there. Try saying the name a few times. Now, say it faster. Sounds a bit like Annette Funnicello doesn’t it? For you youngsters out there, Annette Funnicello was one of the original leads in the Mickey Mouse Club and became an absolute star of screen and a Disney Legend.
One more fun fact about the attraction: Statler and Waldorf both have three arms. You’ll never see all three at once, but they’re there. You see their normal arms for most of the attraction, but later the two dive for cover and begin waving white flags of surrender. Those are extra arms, separate from the body’s of Statler and Waldorf.
2. Stage 1 Company Store
Located a stone’s throw from the Muppet*Vision 3D theater is the Stage 1 Company Store. It’s a must visit location for any Muppet fanatic, but before stepping inside let’s take a quick look at a few more features of the Muppet Courtyard.
The centerpiece of the courtyard is a Miss Piggy Fountain. Piggy stands in the center in all her Piggy glory (I had to say that so she wouldn’t karate chop me). If you can tear your eyes away from Piggy’s beauty, you’ll catch sight of a hidden Mickey. He doesn’t look like the traditional Mickey Mouse, but looks an awful lot like Waldo’s version of Mickey as seen at the end of Muppet*Vision 3D.
While you’re out there, take a look at the lamps on the buildings. One of them has a pair of eyes and some very angry looking eyebrows. There are also eyes hidden in the decorations above the Miss Piggy clock.
Inside the Stage 1 Company store, you’ll see one of my favorite hidden details: Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. That’s right! The coolest band in the entire world can be seen inside the store on a small shelf. However, their diminutive size doesn’t keep them from rocking!
Take a look up in the gift store and you’ll also notice the Muppets dressing rooms. They look just like the ones from The Muppet Show! Don’t believe me? You can double check by watching the show when it starts streaming.
3. The Regal Eagle Smokehouse
Hollywood Studios isn’t the only place to encounter the Muppets in Walt Disney World. You can also get a taste of Muppety goodness at Epcot. The Muppets are no strangers to the park. In the past, you could encounter Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his faithful assistant Beaker at Muppet Mobile Labs. They’re off conducting their experiments elsewhere these days, but fear not! You can get a healthy dose of Muppet by stopping by the Regal Eagle Smokehouse at the America Pavilion in the World Showcase.
The Muppet theming is a touch more subtle here than in Hollywood Studios. However, it still can’t be missed. As soon as you step inside you’ll see a mural with a painting of the MOST regal and patriotic eagle of all time: Sam the Eagle. If you peruse the walls of the restaurant you’ll find more subtle nods to the Muppets, such as a sketch of Janice and a certificate for her entry into a Regal Eagle Smokehouse competition and a poster for Sam’s Centennial Cook-Off. Even the condiment dispenser gives a nod to the Muppets, with Sam’s visage appearing on the ketchup dispenser!
Beyond the Muppet theming, you’ll find a variety of delicious barbeque dishes to choose from. Just don’t tell Miss Piggy if you get the North Carolina Smoked Chopped Pork Butt. Trust me. That conversation won’t end well.
Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and the entire rest of the Muppet crew are some of the most beloved figures in the history of popular entertainment, and Walt Disney World wouldn’t be the same without them, and they wouldn’t be the same without you. Like a wise frog once said:
Life’s like a movie
Write your own ending
We did just what we set out to do
Thanks to the lovers, the dreams, and you!