Rumors of Kermit and his friends’ imminent demise at Disney’s Hollywood Studios appear to have been exaggerated.
A March 11 photo report from WDW News Today showed that the area around MuppetVision 3D had been repainted. Most notably, a large mural of Miss Piggy and Kermit dating to its 1991 opening has been painted over the match the rest of the area’s color scheme.
That report seemed to unleash a wave of speculation — and anger — from Disney and Muppets fans who saw the removal of the recognizable mural as a sure sign that the attraction’s days were numbered. Disney, however, gave Orlando Rising a simple explanation for the new paint job.
“I found out that we are in the process of refreshing exteriors of Grand Park, aligning with the story in this area of the park,” said Walt Disney World spokesperson Andrea Finger. “MuppetVision 3D will continue to delight guests daily with the zany antics of the Muppets.”
MuppetVision 3D has so far survived the massive overhaul of Disney’s Hollywood Studios that began in 2014, during which time Disney shuttered seven shows and attractions. The closures made room for new experiences like Toy Story Land, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
For the near future, the large crowds expected to be drawn to the park thanks to Galaxy’s Edge mean Disney can’t afford to lose what capacity it has by closing MuppetVision 3D or any other remaining attractions.
The common fear among fans reacting to the missing mural was the current MuppetVision building may be demolished as part of a future Star Wars expansion of Galaxy’s Edge. But there are other options for adding to the 14-acre Galaxy’s Edge that wouldn’t require closing down any existing attractions.
“Knowing the layout of Galaxy’s Edge and the surrounding areas of the park, if you wanted to expand Galaxy’s Edge, I would move the service buildings behind Galaxy’s Edge, the ones near Toy Story Land, to expand before I would expand towards the MuppetVision area,” said Bill Zanetti, a founding member of the University of Central Florida’s Entertainment Management Advisory Board. “There’s just a lot more room over there.”
In the long term, however, Muppets fans do have some reason to worry about the current attraction.
3D films, once a staple of Disney theme parks, are no longer the charming novelty they were in 1991, being readily available in local movie theaters. Not helping matters is Disney’s less-than-stellar track record since buying The Muppets in 2004, such as the mockumentary-style TV series on ABC that has cancelled after 16 episodes in the 2015-16 season.
“The Muppets are an older brand that hasn’t been updated recently,” said Duncan Dickson, who was Walt Disney World’s director of casting when MuppetVision opened and now teaches at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “They were a pet project of Michael Eisner, I’m not sure another executive is as interested. The other IPs going into the Studios are more current.”
Inside the park, Disney has added to fans’ stress by reducing the attraction’s hours and moving the Muppets-themed restaurant PizzeRizzo to seasonal operation just two years after it opened.
The survival of the 3D film — one of the last Muppets projects developed by Jim Henson before his death — may depend on the revival of the characters’ popularity. That hope may be answered by a rumored series being developed for the Disney+ streaming service starring “Frozen” voice actor Josh Gad.
Even then, the 28-year-old attraction may need to be changed or updated. A new show starring Kermit and co. would be welcomed by Jarrod Fairclough, who runs the fan site The Muppet Mindset.
“You can’t please all of the people all of the time, so any new Muppet content replacing MuppetVision is going to be a divisive issue,” he said. “On one hand you’d have the purists saying that MuppetVision is Jim’s last work and needs to be kept exactly as it is, and on the other hand you’d have people welcoming new content, and being excited that Disney believed in the characters enough to create something new with these characters.”
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