Nuggets of Wisdom

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Top 11 Favorite Disney World Attractions (#6)

#6: Muppetvision 3-D

Do I even need to say how much I love the Muppets? Really, who doesn’t love them? That question was actually the entire premise of their 2011 film, in which Disney seriously pondered the question, “Do people still care about the Muppets?” If that movie’s box office was any indicator, the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Since Jim Henson created them in the 1950s, the Muppets have been entertaining audiences through venues such as Sesame Street, the Muppet Show, and their various movies. So they were quite the sound investment when Disney decided to buy them off of Jim Henson in the late 1980s—and not a moment too soon, since he would meet his untimely death in 1990.

Since then, Disney has made good use of them. There’s the recent Muppet films, which have done well in the box office, as well as the earlier Muppet films made by Disney including Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. (There’s also Muppets in Space and various lackluster made-for-television specials, but that’s neither here or there.)

However, Disney’s first major project for the Muppets was actually a short 3D film for its new theme park, Disney-MGM Studios (Now Disney Hollywood Studios). As I had said previously, the film was actually going to be partnered with a dark ride for an entire Muppet-themed land. Instead, we only received the film—but honestly, that’s all we really needed!

The film itself takes place in the Muppet Theater as Kermit and the other Muppets are holding a performance to test out their latest technology, Muppetvision 3-D. Hijinks ensue!

That’s pretty much all I need to say. It’s the level of humor and entertainment that we’ve come to expect from the Muppets.

Helping to aid in its overall performance was the fact that this was the very last Muppet project that Jim Henson himself was involved in before his death. So when you see this film, you’re literally hearing the last time Kermit was voiced by the main man himself.

The film may have “3-D” in its title, but it literally is a 4-D experience. Many other less popular attractions may claim to be four-dimensional (*cough* Shrek 4-D *cough*), but this film truly immerses you in the experience. From the moment you step into the pre-show queue and main theater, you actually feel you’re stepping into the real Muppet Theater. It even has Stanler and Wardoff sitting in the balcony cracking their usual snarky one-liners.

Aside from those two, there’s also a penguin orchestra that plays the music, the Swedish Chef who lights the lights with the film projector (and later, a freaking cannon!), and even a full-body costumed Sweetums who bursts into the audience.

Perhaps the most impressive effect is Waldo C. Graphic, who’s credited as the world's first computer-generated Muppet. He’s a hybrid of computer technology and puppetry, designed with computer imagery, but with his movements controlled to look and feel like he's an actual puppet character.

Everything from the 3-D effects, real-life special effects, audio-animatronic characters, and costumed characters makes the entire film experience feel real. Perhaps even more so is at the very end, where, following a fireworks performance gone bad, the entire movie theater actually looks like it’s been destroyed. Again, it’s a true 4-D experience that makes you feel that you're watching a live performance of the Muppets in-person rather than in a movie.

And that’s perhaps the beauty of the Muppets. They may otherwise be lifeless objects made from felt and thread, but their performances make them look and feel like real living, breathing creatures. That was always the case in their movies and television shows, and it’s also true for this movie.

On a side note, this is the only 3-D film in the Disney Parks that I enjoy. The other ones? They scared the living daylights out of me as a kid. In fact, I had such a bad experience with Honey I Shrunk the Audience that, when I first visited this film as a little kid, I felt rather hesitant about it. Fortunately, there were no hidden air pumps to make it feel like a horde of angry rats were crawling all over you. (And if you want to know more about what I’m talking about, feel free to read about my experience here.)