A Muppetational Dark Ride – DePaoli on DeParks
I recently had the chance to experience the newly-opened attraction, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! at Universal Studios Hollywood, and I absolutely loved it. It did a great job of creating a new story around the franchise, it used modern technology, and it was done on a grand scale. Whenever I see a new, 21st century family-style dark ride, it makes me think of the Muppet dark rides that could have been, and I hope someday will be. The Muppets are the perfect cast of characters for a zany, dark ride adventure, and I would bet money on the fact that it would be a smash-hit among Disney Parks fans.
Muppet fans have had some pretty great Muppet experiences in the parks, like Here Come the Muppets, “The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History,” the Muppet Mobile Lab, and more, but they’ve never had a ride of their very own — but that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been any in development.
When MuppetVision 3-D was being developed for Disney-MGM Studios (now named Disney’s Hollywood Studios), it wasn’t planned as a stand-alone attraction. The original plan was to have a Muppet Studios section of the park. Unfortunately, we never got to see this land due to the untimely passing of creator Jim Henson.
One element they had in mind for this Muppet Studios land was “The Great Muppet Movie Ride.” I love this idea of one ride in the park spoofing another. Of course, this would have been a “Muppetational” version of the park’s flagship attraction, The Great Movie Ride. In it, the cast of The Muppets would have shown you how movies were made as you rode through Muppet-starring scenes from movies like “Frankenstein,” “Peter Pan,” and more. But if The Muppets are telling you how movies are made, you can’t necessarily trust all of the information you’re being told. In the words of Henson, “It’s the flip side of the rest of the Disney-MGM Studio, which tells you how movies are really made. We’re doing it in the most stupid way possible, using lots of misinformation.”
But that wasn’t the only time a Muppet dark ride was in development for a Disney park. When Disney California Adventure opened with an attraction called Superstar Limo, it was a flop; it was immediately clear that something needed to be done to fix the popularity (or lack thereof) of this ride. There were some concepts featuring Disney-created characters, but one that was on the drawing board was Miss Piggy’s Superstar Limo. This would have used the same ride system and vehicles as the original Superstar Limo, but the sets and animatronics would have been replaced with a Muppet version of Hollywood as you drove to a movie premiere starring Piggy herself. Once again, I would love to dream this one into reality. The ride system was eventually taken over by Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue instead.
Although featuring a different (and not Disney-owned) branch of The Muppets, we’ve seen successful dark rides starring characters from “Sesame Street,” like Street Mission at PortAventura in Spain, and Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase at Universal Studios Singapore. With the success of these attractions, I think it is almost certain that Walt Disney Imagineering could blow our minds with a Muppet dark ride. The great thing about The Muppets is that they’re highly adaptable, and if they keep their comedic sensibility in place, they can fit into almost any situation. With regard to believability, I also love the idea of an attraction full of Muppet Audio-Animatronics because the characters would be to scale and have the same “skins” as what we’ve seen on screen for many years.
So where should The Muppets go in the parks? Given the fact that so many of The Muppets are animals, I think it could be fun to put them somewhere in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Though immediately this idea might feel out of place, I don’t think it would be any crazier than some things Disney’s Animal Kingdom already has, like Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama! and Donald’s Dino-Bash! Whether or not you like them, the reality is they are part of the DNA of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I really do love the idea of The Muppets spoofing other attractions in the same park, as what would have been done with The Great Muppet Movie Ride, so how about a little plot of land called Animal’s Disney Kingdom, where the Muppet named Animal is the icon of this land spoofing some of the park’s attractions. I admit, that is pretty out there, but what else would you expect from The Muppets?
In all seriousness, one of my favorite fan-proposed Muppet dark ride ideas comes from @CartarSauce on Twitter where he wrote, “If all of Critter Country becomes a Back Bayou of New Orleans, what should they replace Winnie the Pooh with that would better fit the swamp theme, and why do you think it should be a dark ride with Kermit and a bunch of Muppet AA’s singing ‘Rainbow Connection’?”
This idea is in relation to Splash Mountain in Disneyland being changed into a ride inspired by “The Princess and the Frog.” Since the mountain is currently in Critter Country, but sits on the edge of New Orleans Square, it only makes sense to extend New Orleans to consume the Princess and the Frog attraction — which would practically obliterate Critter Country in the process. This concept feels like a natural fit and perhaps the perfect, first Muppet dark ride.
With Disney now owning The Muppets, and with their popularity seeming to climb with the success of the new “Muppet Babies” and the return of “The Muppet Show” on Disney+, it feels like now is the time when The Muppets need to be honored with their very own 21st century Disney dark ride.
What kind of Muppet dark ride would you want to see created for the Disney Parks and where would you like to see it placed? Let me know in the comments.
If you have any theme park topics you would like to hear my opinion on, let me know in the comments. You might just see it pop up in a future DePaoli on DeParks.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.