“The Muppets at Walt Disney World” (1990)
This is one of those things that makes you scream, “Why isn’t this on Disney+?” This special, which aired as part of 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these specials/movies/documentaries should be on Disney+), is overflowing with charm and at this point is an important historical document too. The special, which saw Kermit and the gang leave his family in the swamps of Florida for a vacation at Walt Disney World, was written by longtime Muppet scribe Jerry Juhl, and is filled with witty, absurdist moments (like Miss Piggy and Beauregard riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) and a great turn by the late, great Charles Grodin as an overeager security guard. You’ll see lots of wonderful shots of the Disney-MGM Studios in its heyday, too. (Wonder if the “MGM” part is a hang-up.) Additionally, the episode aired ten days before Jim Henson’s shocking death, making it one of the last things he ever worked and adding a level of poignancy to the project.
But maybe the most incredible thing about “The Muppets at Walt Disney World,” is an interlude towards the end where an animated Mickey Mouse welcomes Kermit and the rest of the Muppets to the Walt Disney Company family. This was meant to signal the beginning 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, amongst other things, an entire Muppet land at Disney-MGM Studios. At the time the special aired, no formal paperwork had been signed, making it even more baffling/incredible. Of course, Jim’s death complicated up the deal and the Muppets wouldn’t become a part of Disney until 2004. Watching this special is like peeking into an alternate universe. Wouldn’t you love to have that peek readily available on Disney+?