Home » Muppet Studios: The Whacky Tale of Disney World’s Most Muppetational Never-Built Land

Muppet Studios: The Whacky Tale of Disney World’s Most Muppetational Never-Built Land

It’s time to play the music! It’s time to light the lights! It’s time to meet the Muppets at Walt Disney World tonight!” At least, it could’ve been…

Here at Theme Park Tourist, our Possibilityland series is here to breathe new life into the forgotten theme park concepts that could’ve been – never-built, would-be E-Tickets, lands, and even parks that simply got left on the cutting room floor. Together, we’ve toured the Tomorrowland 2055 that never was, stepped through an alternate reality Disneyland, explored the Beastly Kingdom that Animal Kingdom almost had, took a journey to Disneyland’s most inventive lost land, Discovery Bay, and scaled ten unbelievable Never-Built “Mountains” that could’ve changed Disney Parks forever. You can find those stories and many more bundled in the Possibilityland section of our In-Depth Library.

Today, we turn our focus to the Disney-MGM Studios as it existed upon its opening in 1989 – underbuilt and not quite ready for show time – and the pet project of then-CEO Michael Eisner that would’ve plussed the park with an entire themed land around the timeless and evergreen cast of Jim Henson’s inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational creations… In the early 1990s, Disney-MGM Studios was due to get its first large-scale expansion: Muppet Studios.

What happened to derail this incredible themed land? Where did its DNA turn up? What’s next for Disney’s most whacky intellectual property? What do you get when you put chocolate pudding in your mother’s shoes? All will be revealed as we dig into the lost concept that could’ve powered up Disney’s movie park.


The story of the never-built Muppet Studios shares an origin story with many of our Lost Legend, Disaster File, and Possibilityland entries: one man, Michael Eisner. When Eisner was brought on board as the new CEO of Walt Disney Productions in 1984, he was put at the helm of a sinking ship. If you can imagine, Disney had been largely directionless since Walt’s death in 1966, and the company had narrowly escaped a handful of buyout and takeover attempts.

Without Walt, the studios had withered – producing fewer and fewer hits, each subsequently tarnishing Disney’s brand – and Walt’s theme parks had stagnated and became stale. Though it may be hard to believe now, Disney’s brand was in such decline that the company’s future was unclear. Certainly it would’ve occurred to audiences of the 1970s and early ‘80s to wonder aloud, ‘What is Walt Disney Productions without Walt Disney?’

Image: Disney

But Michael Eisner was a man with a vision. Having come to Disney from being the CEO of Paramount Pictures, Eisner’s specialty was simple: movies. He was well-versed in the film industry and knew that if he could right Disney’s studios, the rest of the company would fall into place. And boy did he. Beginning in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, Disney’s studio underwent what’s often called the Disney Renaissance, when he oversaw hit after hit after hit at the box office in an unstoppable streak of success.

Under Eisner’s tenure, Disney also acquired Miramax Films, ABC, and ESPN and partnered with Pixar and Lucasfilm, diversifying and building the renamed Walt Disney Company into the international media conglomerate we know today.

And Eisner was determined to utilize those same strategies – movies, acquisitions, and partnerships – to save Disney’s aging theme parks. He would use movies to transform and grow the parks into destinations fit for the 21st century.

Eisner’s park

In a particularly distressing moment, the just-hired CEO had invited his son Breck to come tour Disneyland with him, only to have Breck rebuke that “that place is for babies, dad.” Eisner was rightfully horrified and made it his personal mission to ensure that Disney Parks grew and expanded, becoming places where everywhere – even teenagers! – wanted to visit.

So from his first weeks with the company, Eisner was determined to embed himself in Imagineering – the part of the company he admitted to knowing the least about. Imagineers were stunned that the CEO himself would be dropping by to see their concepts, and quickly polished up old models that would now get a second chance at life.

But to Eisner’s thinking, movies seemed to be the solution for the parks, too. Given that Disney wasn’t making many movies worth seeing in the 1980s, if he wanted to supercharge the parks with the stories young people cared about, he’d need to look beyond Disney films. And Eisner began reaching out to old industry contacts… 

Image: Disney / Lucasfilm

Given that he’d been the one to personally green-light Raiders of the Lost Ark, Eisner was sure that famed filmmaker George Lucas might be interested in seeing his stories brought to life at Disney. The duo first teamed up with director Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Jackson to produce the legendary Captain EO. They followed it up with a Lost Legend: Star Tours at Disneyland (and would go on to create Indiana Jones Adventure and another Lost Legend: The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, too).

This was the proof needed to justify Eisner’s next coup: an entire theme park dedicated to movies, cinema, Hollywood, and seeing “behind the scenes.”

Image: Disney

The Disney-MGM Studios opened May 1, 1989 as Walt Disney World’s third theme park. Miniscule by Disney’s standards, the tiny park had but two rides: first, the Great Movie Ride that whisked guests through a century of filmmaking aboard an epic 20-minute dark ride of EPCOT Center proportions, and the Studio Backlot Tour.

Image: Disney

The latter purported to be a real behind-the-scenes tour of real working studio facilities… except that film production ceased pretty quickly when Eisner’s dream of turning Orlando into a “Hollywood East” flickered out. And that was the problem. Eisner had banked on the Studio Tour being the selling point for the miniature movie park. When its star began to dim (and quickly), it was clear that the studios would need to shift, re-emphasizing the under-built theme park.

Click and expand for a larger and more detailed view. Image: Disney.

And expectedly, exit surveys showed that visitors liked the Disney-MGM Studios, but one resounding comment repeated: it needed more to do.

Luckily, Eisner was on it. Famous for his laser-like focus and near obsession with projects he deemed his own, the CEO now set his sights on acquiring yet another outside intellectual property for his movie park…

Eisner’s project

Disneyland Park opened in 1955.

That very same year is credited as the birth of another American cultural institution: The Muppets.

Image: Jim Henson Productions

A portmanteau of “marionette” and “puppet,” these colorful creatures were created by puppeteer, artist, voice actor, cartoonist, inventor, screenwriter, and director Jim Henson. Though it began with Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog on Washington D.C.’s local cable channel, the Muppet family gained new life year after year after year, culminating in the 1976 debut of The Muppet Show (above) adding familiar faces like Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and Animal in a unique sketch comedy hour that took the world by storm.

The 1980s followed with The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan further cementing the zany characters as American icons.

Image: Jim Henson Productions

In 1989, just as the Disney-MGM Studios opened, Eisner began talks with Henson about Disney outright acquiring Jim Henson Productions for $150 million. Eisner wanted to own the Muppets outright, and to acquire Sesame Street as well.

According to insiders, Henson was agreeable on most terms and thought highly of stepping back from the business to instead let Disney handle the numbers while he remained on board as a lead creative consultant. However, as Henson himself only owned 50% of Sesame Street, any deal with Disney would be for the Muppets characters only.

Image: Disney

While neither Henson nor Disney were ready to sign on the dotted line, the two entities decided to provisionally move forward with Muppets-themed projects for the new Disney-MGM Studios, in just the same way Disney had partnered with Lucas for Star Tours.

Jim Henson was even on-hand at the grand opening of the Disney-MGM Studios to represent the emerging partnership. 

Image: Disney

Already, work was underway on a cutting edge 3D extravaganza featuring Henson’s Muppets, but it wouldn’t be the last or even biggest Muppet presence in Disney’s movie park. Even if it wasn’t quite ready in time for the park’s opening, their magnum opus together would be a new themed land to bring the Muppets to life as never before: their own Muppet Studios.

On the next page, we’ll step into this exciting new land and see the animatronic rats, Frankenstein monsters, flying pigs, explosions, and mayhem that would’ve been waiting within…

Welcome to The Disney-MGM Studios!

This brand new destination at Walt Disney World is so much more than a theme park… It’s a real, working movie studio where you just might stumble upon a live taping, a real celebrity, or a hot set. No promises, though.

Image: Disney

The truth is that this new theme park was a thinly veiled preemptive strike against Universal Studios, who had plans to import their world-famous Hollywood Studio Tour to Florida. Rumors have it that the new CEO here, Michael Eisner, knew about Universal’s plans since he used to be in charge of Paramount Pictures, and that he fast-tracked this park to try to ward Universal away. (It didn’t work. Universal still built their park just down the street, but since Disney stole their Studio Tour, Universal was forced to split the components of their Hollywood tour in separate, standalone attractions here in Florida, producing Lost Legends: JAWS, KONGfrontation, and Back to the Future: The Ride). 

In any case, early visitors here to Disney-MGM Studios noted that, while it was interesting, the theme park just didn’t have enough to do compared to Magic Kingdom or Epcot. And even now, just three years after the park’s 1989 opening, the signature Studio Tour is looking a little… well… empty. Disney’s efforts to turn Orlando into a new moviemaking destination for the stars doesn’t seem to have stuck, which leaves the Disney-MGM Studios in need of something to do.

Image: Disney

Luckily, Disney fast-tracked a copy of Disneyland’s Lost Legend: STAR TOURS that’s right at home here, as well as an Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular based on the brand new Raiders of the Lost Ark. They also opened up the “Streets of America” that had once been part of the tram tour.

By annexing the old street sets to the theme park, Disney was able to finish off the vision Eisner and Jim Henson had had from the park’s earliest days… a new land called Muppet Studios. As a child of the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, you’ve likely grown up with the Muppets on television, in theaters, and in Happy Meals. Just as you’d never expect Mickey Mouse or Ariel to fall out of favor, it’s clear that Kermit and his friends will be icons for many decades to come.

Click and expand for a much larger and more detailed view. Image: Disney / Jim Henson Productions

And here at the Disney-MGM Studios, they have their own lot where they produce their feature films. Passing into the whimsical backlot, you might get the impression that it’s modeled after New York. All the better to serve as the Muppets’ hot set.

But right away, one structure is likely to catch your eye. At the center of this studio’s plaza is a gleaming bronze fountain, clearly modeled after the iconic entry to Universal Studios Hollywood. But here, the brass figures aren’t accomplished members of a film crew, but Muppets. Gonzo is immortalized mid-fall as he and his bullhorn head into the water. A pair of rats row rat-sized rowboats across the fountain. Fozzie is balanced on a floating brass barrel trying to grip a camera and an umbrella at once. And reigning over it all is Lady Liberty herself… Or, Miss Piggy’s best impression of her, water streaming out of her crown and torch.

Image: Ben Piddington, Flickr (license)

It’s the perfect central icon for a land and unlike anything Disney’s created before.

Beyond the fountain is a towering red-brick building. Its clocktower serves as the tether point for a giant hot air balloon in trippy technicolor serving as the land’s weenie. It reads, Muppet Studios.

Image: Disney

Inside this brick warehouse is the first of the land’s must-see attractions: Muppet*Vision 3D. A cutting edge jaunt through the inner workings of the Studio, this 3D feature gives you an unparalleled glimpse into the stages, sets, changing rooms, laboratories, and prank-filled closets of the Studio. As you can imagine, the tour is handled professionally and courteously, and all goes exactly as planned. Well… kinda.

The show exits into the Stage One Company Store, which – fans will note – is the set of the Happiness Hotel from The Great Muppet Caper, repurposed as a tchochkes shop.

Exiting from Muppet*Vision, you’ll notice that the back of its showbuilding doesn’t carry through with the elegant red-brick plaza out front. Rather, this side of the studio soundstage is decked out in half-finished paintings, colorful pipes, gags, and murals. That’s intentional! Sure, it’s what you’d expect the Muppets to do with the side of the building that’s not forward-facing. But it’s also a nod to a very real event. In 1964, as the Muppets crew waited in NBC Studios’ green room to go on the Jack Paar show, they opened a closet and decided to waste time by painting the pipes inside… an artifact saved and now shared on NBC studio tours.

In any case, there’s so much more to see in this zany backlot. 

For example, you’ll likely need reservations to dine at The Great Gonzo’s Pizza Pandemonium Parlor. In the same style as the Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood, this star-studded dining experience allows you a once-in-a-lifetime look at some of the Muppets’ real artifacts and costumes. But when Gonzo and Rizzo are in charge, you can bet your dining experience will be… exceptional. For one thing, your meal comes delivered on a tray carried by an exhausted rat (an animatronic on a track), racing directly to your table. And it’s the Muppets, so you shouldn’t be surprised when an explosion from the kitchen rocks the building, sending the doors bursting open, with smoke and chicken feathers flying into the dining room.

Image: Disney, via DisneyHistoryInstitute.com

Of course, in the style of the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, you can bet that the staff is on it, hurriedly and embarassingly tidying up and apologizing for the ruckus… and trying to distract you from the unmistakable sound of Gonzo climbing through the air ducts overhead.

Next door beneath an inflatable hot air balloon of his head is Swedish Chef’s Cooking School, a unique character encounter attraction where we get to watch the Muppets’ unintelligible head chef battle his ingredients for control of a meal.

By far, though, the land’s anchor has to be The Great Muppet Movie Ride. Guests would enter this incredible, in-depth dark ride through a Frankenstein style castle (with a soundstage rising conspicuously behind) for a tour of the current, in-production films the Muppets were hopelessly working on.

An E-Ticket in its own right, this astounding oversized dark ride would’ve been packed with animatronics and special effects. Jim Henson himself described the experience as “a backstage ride explaining how movies were shot… and all the information is wrong.”

In this intentional spoof of the Great Movie Ride, you’ll see the greatest scenes in film history brought to life as only the Muppets can… And in each famous recreation, Statler and Waldorf – the Muppets’ resident retiree critics – would be on hand to offer their analysis.

Image: Disney / Jim Henson Productions

Click and expand the image above to get a sense of all the mayhem taking place on the set of the Muppets’ Frankenstein. The details are endless, and all brought to life through an animatronic cast the likes of which Disney hasn’t seen since Splash Mountain.

 The Great Muppet Movie Ride would even poke fun at Disney’s best, with the Muppets’ live action remake of Peter Pan looking a little unusual, with Miss Piggy’s Tinkerbell really hogging the spotlight.

Image: Disney / Jim Henson Productions

Muppet Studios would’ve been a headlining land at the Disney-MGM Studios, and would likely be a fan favorite to this day. But it never came to be.

It’s not that Disney Imagineers soured on the idea.

It’s not that Eisner lost interest. (In fact, he’d spend the next decade trying to make Muppet Studios happen.)

It’s not that the Muppets lost their popular appeal.

The real reason for the cancellation of Muppet Studios is much more sobering. Read on…

When Pigs Fly

On May 16, 1990, Jim Henson died at the age of 53. The unexpected loss shook the entertainment world as celebrities, studios, and everyday folks mourned the loss of a creative visionary, inventor, and artist who stood among the greats.

Image: Disney

The Henson family reeled and hurried to protect their father’s intellectual property. Given that no deal with Disney had been finalized, they seized the opportunity and shut down any further development of theme park attractions created using the Muppet brand.

Even the already-produced Muppet*Vision 3D was on the chopping block until Frank Oz, famed puppeteer, filmmaker, actor, and friend to Jim took a stand. He allegedly showed the Henson family the completed Muppet*Vision 3D film and begged them to let the world see their father’s final work. The family agreed to let Muppet*Vision premiere in 1991, but only at Walt Disney World. (When the original Disney’s California Adventure opened a decade later in February 2001, it was separately licensed).

Image: Disney / Jim Henson Productions

Like it or not, the Hensons were now the sole owners of Jim Henson Productions, and they wanted little to do with Disney’s in-progress development of Muppet Studios. The land was cancelled, and any hopes of seeing the Muppets expand in Disney Parks were quickly snuffed out.

Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D

Even if it did not become part of the much larger Muppet Studios project, it’s worth noting that Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D is phenomenal. The seemingly ageless attraction tours guests through the inner workings of Muppet Studios (though a hilarious queue stocked with more in-jokes, references, and veiled puns than you could comprehend in a lifetime) and a pre-show designed by Frank Oz.

Image: Disney / Jim Henson Productions

As guests queue in a pre-show chamber and watch the Muppets hurriedly ready for the presentation to follow, automatic doors open on a plywood wall (installed mostly upside down). But upon passing through the doors, guests are seated in an opulent and gorgeous theater that might just pass for palatial… if we hadn’t just seen the plywood holding it up.

Kermit attempts to tour us through the studio, though it’s quickly derailed when a stop by Muppet Labs produces Waldo, the “spirit of 3D” who goes on to cause unintentional mayhem. From the painfully funny torments of Beaker to a beautiful musical by Miss Piggy (and its unintended water ski finale) and Sam Eagle’s “Salute to All Nations, but Mostly America” (“it is a glorious three hour finale!”), the mile-a-minute attraction is simply a work of art, even aside from being Henson’s last creative endeavor (and thus, his last time voicing Kermit). By the end of the ordeal, the glorious theater is reduced to literal smoking, steaming rubble. 

The elaborate 3D film involves projections, Audio-Animatronics (including Swedish Chef, Statler and Waldorf, Bean Bunny, and a full animatronic Penguin Orchestra), live costumed characters, bubbles, water, wind, and more.

Just a refresher, you can catch-up on Muppet*Vision 3D – the only part of Muppet Studios to actually get built – in this video:

The Great Muppet Struggle

Though Disney managed to squeak through the 1991 opening of Muppet*Vision 3D, it seemed that the Hensons would stand their ground and that any future use of the Muppet brand was unlikely.

Fast-forward nearly a decade later. In 2000, Jim Henson Productions was sold not to Disney, but to a German media group called EM.TV & Merchandising AG for a staggering $680 million. (And yes, it’s odd that Henson’s children were protective enough to keep Disney away from the brand, but willing to sell to a never-heard-of-‘em European media giant. But anyway…)

EM.TV owned the Muppets for only three years before an economic collapse in the company saw their assets put up for sale. Disney put in a bid, readying to receive the Muppets at last. Eisner trumpeted the would-be deal, saying that it would “finally culminate the years of romance” he’d spent in pursuit of the brand.

But the Henson family struck again, rallying at the last minute to purchase the Muppets back for $78 million. Eisner had been cut off at the quick, and the desperate last minute purchase by the Hensons had painted a protective picture – that they’d rallied just to keep the Muppets out of Disney’s hands… again. Jim’s daughter Lisa Henson said at the time, “Emotionally and psychologically, we feel that something has been put right.”

Image: Jim Henson Productions

But just one year later, the Henson’s changed their tune and made Disney an offer. For an undisclosed sum, Disney officially acquired the characters and licensing rights to the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House (but not Sesame Street, which continues to be owned independently by Sesame Workshops). Lisa Henson said in 2004, “In the months before his death in 1990, my father Jim Henson pursued extensive discussions with The Walt Disney Company based on his strong belief that Disney would be a perfect home for the Muppets. As such, the deal we announced today is the realization of my father’s dream, and ensures that the Muppet characters will live, flourish and continue to delight audiences everywhere, forever.” 

It only took fourteen years for them to see it.

Eisner’s Swan Song

So in 2004, Eisner had finally won Disney control of the Muppets. But remember earlier when we mentioned Eisner’s laser-focus and near obsession with projects he deemed essential? The same over-involvement that spelled the end of a Lost Legend: Alien Encounter and crafted what may be Disney’s worst ride ever, as told in our Disaster File: Superstar Limo now left Eisner and his team with ownership of a declining brand.

Image: Disney

Eisner tasked the parks, retail, television, and studio divisions to move forward with Muppet-branded projects, but by 2004, the Muppets weren’t what they had been in 1989. As a matter of fact, the acquisition of the Muppets was one of Eisner’s final coups before the Save Disney campaign rallied to kick him out of the company, so while Eisner had his trophy in hand, he didn’t have much chance to celebrate before he left the company coolly in 2005.

The Muppets were down, but not out. Disney had plans to revitalize the brand and, even if it took a decade, the Muppets would get their own themed land at a Disney Park… Read on…

Movin’ Right Along

In 2007, the Muppet Mobile Lab – part of Disney’s Living Character Initiative – began touring around Epcot. The self-contained, self-balancing animatronic encounter has Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker traveling aboard a free-roving rocket ship, interacting with guests.

In 2010, Disney’s annual promotion – “Give a Day, Get a Disney Day” placed the Muppets front and center as ambassadors for the volunteer-based program.

Most notably, in 2016, the cast began to star in a brand new show in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square called The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History. While the inclusion of most characters in Liberty Square would’ve enraged the Disney Parks fan community, the affable and delightful Muppets got a deserved pass as people love their slightly-irreverent retellings of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, performed via live Muppeteering on the second story of Liberty Square’s Heritage House.

Image: Disney

Meanwhile, 2011’s reboot live action film The Muppets was a triumph among critics, fans, and the box office, followed up by 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted. 2015’s “The Muppets” TV show didn’t fare as well, and was cancelled after one season, but critics were quick to point out how the show was fundamentally flawed with its adult-oriented, single-camera setup based on NBC’s The Office and Parks and Rec.

But when it came to the Muppets’ place in Disney Parks, it seemed that still, the 1991 Muppet*Vision 3D would be the only permanent place dedicated to Kermit and company… Until…

Land ho!

In January 2008, an expiring licensing deal with MGM saw Disney World’s third park renamed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Three years later, Muppet*Vision celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Image: Disney

But for Muppet fans, the real celebration would take place soon after.

In 2015, Disney began in earnest a massive redesign effort at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We discussed in-depth why the “studio” motif aged poorly and why the idea of seeing behind-the-scenes lost its appeal in our in-depth entry, Disaster Files: Walt Disney Studios Paris. But in short, audiences of the 21st century had been spoiled by new, immersive parks (like Animal Kingdom and Islands of Adventure) and lands (spearheaded by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter), which made a park packed with big, tan soundstages serving as a catch-all for any and all intellectual properties look like a cop-out.

Image: Disney / LucasFilm

Disney’s Hollywood Studios was due for a foundational shift away from its “studio” origins. In 2015, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced massive, immersive themed lands dedicated to Star Wars and Toy Story were on the way to the park, which would also receive a new name (no doubt further downplaying the “studio” aspect).

On April 2, 2016, the Streets of America closed and went behind construction walls to make way for the new themed lands, due for a 2019 debut. In the meantime, Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be a park with very little to see or do. The closure of the Streets of America also left Muppet*Vision alone and isolated in the corner of the park with one way in and one way out…

Certainly fans expected the 3D film – now 25 years old – to simply be bulldozed to make way for a Star Wars land. Instead, beginning April 2, 2016, the area was designated with a new name on the park map.

Muppets Courtyard

Image: Disney

So what was the Muppets Courtyard really made of? To be sure, the miniscule little “land” was still anchored by Muppet*Vision 3D. The only real change was that a bathroom was given a grand marquee announcing it as Gonzo’s Royal Flush and the Toy Story Pizza Planet restaurant (which had always been odd – a quick service pizza place with nothing in common whatsoever with its movie counterpart… a sort of Pizza-Planet-in-name-only) closed. In its place would rise PizzeRizzo, a clever pizzeria seemingly owned by the Muppets’ Rizzo the Rat.

Image: Disney

The new family restaurant’s fare isn’t much better than Pizza Planet’s, and there’s not too much Muppet fanfare within (and certainly no Animatronic rats or kitchen explosions), but the restaurant is now plausibly “real” and fits into the New York motif of the area while also incorporating the standard Muppet Mess™ adorning walls and ceiling that’s packed full of references, puns, and fun.

And even if the one-two punch of Muppet*Vision and PizzeRizzo is no where near the mayhem and wonder that a Muppet Studios would’ve wrought, we can’t help but be giddy when the neon sign reigning over Rizzo’s flickers out to light a secret message before our very eyes…

Muppets Courtyard was at least a symbol that Disney has not given up on the unique brand that is the Muppets. Even if they’re not ready to invest E-Ticket money into a Great Muppet Movie Ride, they seem to acknowledge that the Muppets are a brand that can be constantly reinvented for a new generation, so long as they don’t lose the whimsy, the bad puns, and the feel-good music that they’re known for…

Of course, after less than a year, Muppets Courtyard, too, disappeared off the map. While the little mini-area still exists, it’s been wrapped into a larger new land for the park called Grand Ave., representing modern Los Angeles (nevermind that the Muppet area, now called Grand Park, is a recreation of New York?).

Rainbow Connection

Here’s the takeaway: even today, the Muppets are wonderful. Sure, Disney’s rebooted 2011 big screen film The Muppets fared better than the short-lived 2015 primetime ABC sitcom, but the indisputable, undeniable fact remains that Kermit, Piggy, Gonzo, Rizzo, Rowlf, Beaker, Bunson Honeydew, Statler and Waldorf, Swedish Chef, Sam Eagle, Pepe, and Bobo are as timeless as Disney’s best.

Image: Disney / Jim Henson Productions

Maybe that’s why the idea of Muppet Studios still resonates. Even 30 years after the initial concept was dreamed up, it still feels like the kind of theme park land we’d like to visit and spend time in. We’d still want to ride the Great Muppet Movie Ride, and we’d still check into Gonzo’s Pizza Pandemonium. Sure, kids today may not know Fozzie like they know Olaf, but wouldn’t a theme park land be the perfect place to meet him via a comedy show / meet-and-greet with a real Muppet?

In an alternate reality, carving a “Muppet Studios” into Disney California Adventure’s tired Hollywood Land studio section would’ve continued the park’s thoughtful Californian story-centered trajectory while also giving new life and purpose to a neglected section of the park. (Instead, Marvel super heroes are on the way to overtake Hollywood Land entirely, cancelling out the California stories and settings in favor of “irreverent” comic book characters and modern pop music the park just paid $1.2 billion to get rid of…)

Despite their earlier misgivings, even the Henson children seem to agree that The Muppets are right at home among Disney’s canon, and Jim Henson’s legacy lives on there. And even as Disney tests and adjusts the use of these comic characters and how they fit into Disney’s movies, television interests, and theme parks, one thing is certain: this property is evergreen. And if Muppet Studios opened today at Walt Disney World, millions of guests would be delighted to visit. Now that’s star power.

As for what do you get when you put chocolate pudding in your mother’s shoes?

Image: Disney / Jim Henson Productions

…A spanking. Wocka wocka!