“The Muppets at Walt Disney World” (1990)
It’s one of those things that makes you scream, “Why isn’t this on Disney+?” This special, which aired as part of the Sunday night staple “The Magical World of Disney” (don’t get us started on how many of these specials/movies/documentaries should be on Disney+), is overflowing charming and at this point is an important historical document too. The special, which saw Kermit and the gang leave his family in the Florida swamps for a Walt Disney World vacation, was written by longtime Muppet scribe Jerry Juhl, and is filled with witty and absurd moments (like Miss Piggy and Beauregard riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) and a big turn from the late, great Charles Grodin as an overzealous security guard. You’ll also see plenty of gorgeous shots of Disney-MGM studios in their heyday. (I wonder if the “MGM” part is a blocker.) Plus, the episode aired ten days before Jim Henson’s shocking death, making it one of the last things he ever worked. and adds a poignant level to the project.
But perhaps the most incredible thing about “The Muppets at Walt Disney World” is an interlude near the end where an animated Mickey Mouse welcomes Kermit and the rest of the Muppets to the Walt Disney Company family. This was to signal the start of the Henson/Disney alliance, engineered by Michael Eisner (who appears with Fozzie’s mother at the start of the episode), which would have included, among other things, an entire Muppet lot at Disney-MGM Studios. . At the time the special aired, no official documents had been signed, which makes it even more confusing/unbelievable. Of course, Jim’s death complicated the matter, and the Muppets wouldn’t be part of Disney until 2004. Watching this special is like peeking into an alternate universe. Wouldn’t you love to see this peek readily available on Disney+?