“It’s going to be a great demonstration and at no time will we be stooping to cheap 3-D tricks.”
Muppet*Vision 3D is a film to show off the 3-D technology perfected at the “Really Really Super Tippy Top Secret MuppetVision 3-D Research Labs” by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. It was the last project directed by Disney Legend and creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson. The attraction was also the final performance of Jim Henson (Kermit, Waldorf, Swedish Chef) and Richard Hunt (Scooter, Statler, Beaker, Sweetums, Chuck)
Opening on the 1 year anniversary of Jim’s death, May 16th 1991 in MGM studios (Hollywood Studios) Muppet Vision was the first 3D/4D type attraction in WDW with in theater effects. Before Jim Henson’s untimely death, he was planning to team up with and sell his company to Disney. He was days away from signing the contracts when he died. The attraction was just the beginning of what was planned for the never finished Muppet Studios area of MGM. At the time, restaurant, dark ride, live-action show, and other things were in development. Sadly Henson’s heirs broke the negotiations with Disney and caused for most of the plans to be canceled.
The queue line and pre show room is one of the best in all of Walt Disney World. Filled floor to ceiling (literally look everywhere!) with sight gags and hidden jokes, I always find something new. We’ll eventually do a whole “lesson” on the queue. Make sure and keep your eyes peeled for “a net full of jello.” Say that a few times really fast. What does it sound like? Maybe a tribute to Mouseketeer Annette Funicello?
For the pre show, Imagineers and the Henson team wanted to do something more than just a video running, but for budgetary reasons they did the three screens show we see today. You may not know that the current pre show video was not the original video planned. They filmed another version first, but had to made another due to the need for incorporation of the sponsor Kodak. It was shot in the small Henson studio in New York with three cameras.
Before entering the 584-seat grand theater Sam Eagle reminds you to make sure not to stop in the middle of the row (everyone knows that “stopping in the middle is distinctly unpatriotic”) and not walk with your 3D glasses on. Speaking of the 3D glasses, Muppet Vision 3D is one of the two 3D attraction that call them 3D glasses. The other is Epcot’s Captain EO.
The film and pre show were written by Bill Prady (Honey, I Shrunk the Audience) and directed by Jim Henson. Almost all the work for the attraction was done in California including filming on Stage 3 at the Disney Studios (where 1954’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was shot.)
Puppets are in fact very difficult to put in 3D due to them always being attached to the bottom of the screen. That’s why they will oftentimes lean out of the frame. Look for it next time you watch.
CGI (Computer Generated Image) Waldo C. Graphic is where the 3D effects can really shine. The character and technology created by Henson company. It was very expensive and time-consuming to create in the early days of CGI and would take weeks of rendering. He was in one episode of the Jim Henson hour, but hasn’t been featured in any Muppets feature since.
In an interview, Imagineer Mark Eades recalled,”During the production of the patriotic finale the scene with the cannon shots, one of the patriotic characters was in front of the cannon blast during a take. The blast blew the character’s arm off. Steve Whitmire, the performer, had the character stage this way over-acted death scene before Jim Henson finally yelled cut. The entire crew was in stitches. Jim walked up, laughing so hard he could hardly talk, and told Steve it was an excellent performance and that if he ever lost his arm again not to die like that ever again.”
The loss of Jim Henson was definitely a blow to the project, and company. The Henson family sold the Muppets to Disney in 2004. While we will probably never see all they had planned for Muppet Studios, I’m glad we can appreciate the hilarity and legacy Muppet*Vision 3D brings to the best place on earth.
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