“The Muppet Show” recently made its Disney+ premiere, causing Muppet fans everywhere to cheer whilst throwing their arms in the air in a Kermit-like fashion. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but there did seem to be a lot of excitable chatter on social media about this TV series from 1976 coming to the streaming service. Whenever I see something Muppets-related getting positive attention, it always makes me wonder why we don’t get more of The Muppets in the Disney Parks. This time around, it got me thinking about The Muppets Whatnot Workshop.
For those who may be unfamiliar, a Muppet Whatnot are those unnamed characters you see in crowd scenes during any Muppet TV show or movie. In the human world, these performers are known as “background” or sometimes “extras.” These are the people who make a scene feel like it lives in the real world. In the case of The Muppets, these Whatnots fill out the Muppet world.
In 2008, the toy store FAO Schwarz turned a section of its store into The Muppet Whatnot Workshop. Think of Build-A-Bear Workshop, but instead of building a stuffed animal, you’re creating a much cooler (in my opinion) Muppet-like puppet. This was very exciting for anyone who ever wanted to be turned into a Muppet. You could design a Whatnot to look like yourself or anyone else with various body types, hair, eyes, nose, clothes, accessories and more to choose from.
In addition to the coolness of building and taking home your own Whatnot, they really did a fantastic job giving the workshop the proper décor in The Muppets signature zany fashion, turning everyday items into faces and more. They also had TV monitors showing your favorite Muppets as they explained what exactly a Whatnot is, the process of building a Whatnot and more.
What does any of this have to do with the Disney Parks? Well, in 2009 at the very first D23 Expo, there was an entire panel dedicated to The Muppets. During the panel, a lot of Muppet news was shared, much of which never came to fruition. Among the undeveloped news was that The Muppet Whatnot Workshop was heading to the Disney Parks. I was overjoyed with this news, as it felt like a great fit. The recent re-release of “The Muppet Show” sparked this memory in my mind and made me think about what could have been.
Through the years, FAO Schwarz went under new ownership, closed, reopened, and The Muppet Whatnot Workshop didn’t survive all of the changes. Around the release of the 2011 movie “The Muppets,” you could purchase what essentially was a Muppet Whatnot Workshop in a box that came with some options to build your Whatnot, but it certainly wasn’t the same as the in-store experience. If you’re really interested, you can often find the boxed version on eBay.
Today, I believe the perfect fit for The Muppet Whatnot Workshop is Disney Springs and Downtown Disney. With the excitement and buzz around park shows like “The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History” in Magic Kingdom, in addition to the joy surrounding the Disney+ launch of “The Muppet Show,” it feels like now is the time to finally get the workshop at the Disney Parks.
People do love Disney merch, but beyond that, people really love turning their shopping into an experience. We’ve seen many people who were very willing to spend hundreds of dollars at a Disney Park to build a lightsaber or Droid in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I believe that folks would be equally willing to spend money on and experience building their own Whatnot. It would be especially great to see The Muppet Whatnot Workshop as its own standalone shop for the first time.
I would love to see what the Imagineers could do designing this shop and making the whole experience as wacky as we would expect from The Muppets. Perhaps even some favorite Muppets could make appearances at the shop or maybe they could offer some puppeteering mini-classes as part of the experience.
Overall, I’ve loved the initial concept of The Muppet Whatnot Workshop since the first time I heard about it. It truly feels like now is the perfect time to bring it back and make it grander and zanier than ever before.
What do you think? Would you be interested in this experience while on a Disney vacation? If you could choose any location at the Disney Parks to build the workshop, where would you put it?
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.