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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Here Come the Muppets

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

With the premiere of a new Muppets television show, it is important to remember that Disney’s association with producing shows featuring the Muppets goes back a couple of decades.

In the late 1980s, legendary puppeteer Jim Henson had tired of having so much of his time devoted to business matters. He was in final negotiations with The Walt Disney Company to sell the rights to his famous Muppet characters and become a creative consultant just before his untimely death.

It looked so much like a completed deal that Henson was already at work on a variety of projects for Disney, including theme park attractions featuring the Muppets. In fact, there were plans for an entire new land to be called Muppet Studios with attractions, a restaurant, shops and more at Disney’s MGM Studios.

(c) Disney

While work was still proceeding on the major Muppet*Vision 3-D attraction, to help introduce the characters into the park, the fifteen minute stage show Here Come the Muppets was quickly opened in May 1990 in the theater in the Animation Courtyard that later housed The Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

To save time and money, the characters were portrayed by full-sized costumed performers with moving mouths, rather than puppets, except for two video inserts during the production.

The pre-show featured a video of the dog Rowlf playing the piano and being interrupted by Sam the Eagle.

Kermit is onstage and concerned because the other Muppets are late for the show. He receives a call on a videophone from Mickey Mouse who is checking in to see how things are going and Kermit lies that everything is fine. The scene with Mickey features the same set and animation as the Mickey scene in The Muppets at Walt Disney World television special from May 1990, but with different dialog.

Kermit calls the WDW picture phone operator who turns out to be actress Lily Tomlin doing her Ernestine character from Laugh-In. He asks to be connected with Miss Piggy who is relaxing in a robe and with mud on her face. Informed that she is on a videophone, she panics and instantly gets ready.

Kermit phones Fozzie Bear who claims to be lost but Kermit directs him to a green door behind him and it leads him to the stage.

Fozzie tells Kermit that Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem band will be arriving soon by monorail,l and the front of a WDW monorail crashes through on stage right and the characters disembark. That same mechanism was later used for Ariel sitting on a rock in The Voyage of The Little Mermaid, to move it on and off stage.

The show now starts with the Muppets performing the songs: Make ‘Em Laugh (Kermit/Fozzie), Personality (Miss Piggy), Bein’ Green (Kermit), The Heart of Rock & Roll and Shout!

The prerecorded voice track for the show uses all the main Muppeteers: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson and Steve Whitmire. In addition, there were two filmed video inserts of Frank Oz voicing and performing Fozzie and Miss Piggy. That video footage was reused in the PBS series Great Performances episode entitled The World of Jim Henson in 1994.

Two weeks after the show closed on September 2, 1991, another show using full sized Muppet costumed characters premiered on a loading dock stage near the exit of Muppet*Vision 3-D entitled Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses. The premise was that the Muppets were shooting a movie but take a break to interact with the audience by signing autographs and posing for photos. That show closed in 1994.

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Thanks, Jim!  And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disney Never Lands, about planned but unbuilt concepts, and Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.


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