The Muppets and Me at D23, Part 1

Ryan Dosier – Oh, hiya Muppet fans! How long it’s been… I see that The British Correspondent reaped his patented havoc upon you all while I was away. Well, I think it was worth it. Let’s see if you agree. This past weekend I journeyed out West, and like my pioneer brothers before me, I went in search of talking mice and singing frogs and dancing ducks. Well… maybe not exactly like the pioneers. But who cares about them? I got to go to the Disney D23 Expo 2011 from Friday, August 19th until Sunday, August 21st. While I was in the neighborhood (Anaheim, California, to be specific) I got to visit the Disneyland Resort as well.

And what a time I had, let me tell you! I arrived in Anaheim on Thursday afternoon, the day before the Expo. And what is a young Muppet fan in Anaheim to do with so much time on his hands? Go to Disneyland, of course! So off I went, towards the land of mice and FastPasses, and made my way to Disney California Adventure, home of Muppet*Vision 3-D. You’d think this means loads of Muppet stuff, yes? Well, unfortunately, no. As we’ve learned from Disney Parks visits in recent years, there is very little new Muppet stuff to buy. They did, however, have the new Muppet Monopoly and Muppet Yahtzee for sale, but other than that it was the same old stuff: old plush dolls, a Kermit mug, a Kermit water bottle, two t-shirts, two hats, and not much else. Slightly disappointing, but not surprising enough to be completely disappointing.

However, over in Downtown Disney, the shopping district adjacent to the Disneyland Resort, they have a store called D-Street where they sell the popular Vinylmation figures, including many exclusives. Some of these exclusives were the four 9″ Muppet Vinylmation figures, Muppet*Vision Kermit, Animal, Sam the Eagle, and Gonzo the Great with a 3″ Camilla the Chicken. On Thursday I bought Gonzo and Camilla, and by Sunday I bought Sam as well… and I’d rather not talk about how much of a dent that put in my wallet. However, once I got them home and displayed on my shelf with the rest of the Vinylmation figures (see right), I didn’t think twice. They’re awesome. D-Street still has plenty of each figure and has Gonzo and Animal for sale there as well.

But the exciting part of the trip came on Friday when the Expo began. Walking into the Anaheim Convention Center for the D23 Expo is an overwhelming experience. The entire covering of the first floor is flooded with Mickey Mouse, Lightning McQueen, Donald Duck, Stitch, Goofy, and, yes, even Kermit. On the show floor I found Amy Mebberson (artist of Muppet Peter Pan and others) and James Silvani (artist of Muppet King Arthur) working their own booth where they spent the entire weekend drawing Disney for people–including myself! Check out their amazingly beautiful work (Amy on the left, James on the right) that is currently on my wall (see the picture on the right). Yup. That really is Scrooge McDuck arguing intensely with Angus McGonagle. It is heavenly.

Anyway… also on the show floor was the booth for WeLoveFine T-Shirts, a website that we’ve promoted multiple times on the Mindset. They were handing out, free to everyone, paper Kermit “crowns” for Expo guests to wear on their heads (see right). WeLoveFine was also selling some awesome Muppet t-shirts including Kermit in a tuxedo, Muppets 8-Bit, The Great Muppet Caper, and a women’s shirt with Kermit Springsteen. Other than WeLoveFine, a couple other exhibitors were selling Muppet stuff including the upcoming makeup and nail polish lines, a preview of the 2011 Fozzie Bear Christmas ornament from Hallmark, and some new keychains featuring Kermit, Animal, and Beaker.

And then… it happened. The 2011 Disney Legends Ceremony. Hosted by Tom Bergeron (of America’s Funniest Home Videos), the ceremony continues The Walt Disney Company’s long-standing tradition of honoring those who contribute greatly to their success. Among this year’s honorees were Regis Philbin, Anika Noni Rose (Princess Tiana), Jodi Benson (Ariel), Paige O’Hara (Belle), and, the final induction, someone named Jim Henson. It all started with Lisa Henson coming out to speak about her father, saying that her favorite Muppet had always been Rowlf. Then she introduced her brother, Brian Henson and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, who would be performing the Jim and Jane Henson classic “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face.” It was extraordinary… and you can see it here:

Then Brian Henson said some nice things about Jim, saying that he could never do anything without making sound effects to go along with his movements. Even miniscule things like handing someone a pen, and Jim would make a goofy sound effect–a sort of “bwoooop,” if you will. Then Brian and Lisa accepted the award and took a picture with the walk-around Sweetums from Disneyland, and walked off stage. Soon, the stage curtains opened, and a smaller stage rolled out carrying a piano, lots of foliage, a dog, and a frog.

Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog, Jim Henson’s first two superstar characters, coming out to sing and honor their friend, performer, and creator Jim Henson with his most prolific song, “Rainbow Connection.” The last time that Kermit and Rowlf shared a duet was in 1979 in The Muppet Movie. It was an incredible experience. Mid-way through the song, Kermit and Rowlf asked us all to sing along with them and I can say here and now that getting a chance to sing a song with Kermit the Frog is something that I wish everyone everywhere could have the chance to do. It was the most magical moment I’ve experienced. Seeing Kermit and Rowlf together again at last, honoring Jim, and a Disney ceremony, was more than I ever expected. It gave me hope and happiness and everything in between.

Then came Saturday, the day of The Walt Disney Studios presentation where Disney would trot out big stars, directors, and more to show off their upcoming feature films. This included John Lasseter (head of Pixar and Disney animation), Robert Downey, Jr., Sarah Silverman, Jack MacBrayer, Jennifer Garner, Scarlet Johanson, Cobie Smulders, Jeremy Renner, and Jason Segel, Kermit the Frog, and Miss Piggy. It was just as great as you’d expect. Unfortunately, cameras and cell phones were strictly forbidden from the presentation, but the following is a very accurate transcript of what happened from and…

There was a star that was late for their big D23 appearance. When Disney’s head of production Sean Bailey introduced Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog and Jason Segel to talk about The Muppets at D23 this Saturday, the curtain pulled back and revealed Kermit and Segel sitting in director’s chairs–but Miss Piggy was nowhere to be seen.

“You’ve worked on a movie with her,” said Kermit when Segel pointed this out, “was she ever on time?”

“I love you, Kermit!” shouted an audience member. “I love you too!” replied Kermit.

Kermit went on to thank his fellow cast members. “Our movie stars the beautiful and talented Amy Adams! … And the equally talented but less beautiful Jason Segel–no offense.”

“I love you, Jason!” shouted another audience member. “I love you too and look forward to meeting you in person someday!” responded Segel.

Segel turned his attention to the clips of the movie they brought, saying there was a problem as they did not include Miss Piggy.

“She’ll tear this whole arena apart if she finds out!” said Kermit.

“But she’s not here,” said Segel.

“Good point,” replied Kermit as a motorcycle revved it’s engine from backstage. The curtain parted again to reveal a motorcycle with none other than Miss Piggy in the sidecar, soaking in the adoration from all of her fans.

Once Kermit nervously explained that the second clip would feature “…almost all the Muppets.” Piggy wasn’t too pleased. “Where’s [chairman of Walt Disney Studios] Rich Ross?” shouted Piggy as she stormed off the stage.

And then we were treated to two clips from the movie. MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

Clip #1: Gary (Segel), his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), and their Muppet buddy Walter are driving around Bel Air, Calif. at night, trying to locate the home of Kermit. They finally find it: a deserted-looking mansion with a driveway fence that has the faces of Kermit and Miss Piggy painted on it. There’s no doorbell, so Walter asks Gary to throw him over the fence. But Gary fails to toss Walter high enough, and the fence that Walter slams into winds up being electrocuted—clearly Kermit and Piggy have encountered enough stalkers to warrant such an elaborate security system. (NOTE FROM RYAN: The Walter-shocking scene was MUCH shorter than in the trailer maybe two seconds long at most.)

Suddenly, Kermit appears on the driveway behind Gary, Mary, and Walter. As Kermit walks toward the trio, he’s silhouetted by an enormously bright white light and we hear an angelic choir singing. It’s as if God himself were approaching. But seconds later, we see the source of that blinding light and Messianic music: On the street, a bus carrying members of the Good Shepard Church Choir just happened to be driving by. Walter immediately faints.

Next, we’re inside Kermit’s home with Gary, Mary, and Walter. It’s clear that Kermit has been living in the past. During the middle of a conversation, a robot butler enters the room with a tray of outdated sodas such as New Coke and Tab. Kermit asks the robot, whom he simply calls “80s robot,” to please leave and the clip ends.

Clip #2: Kermit, Rowlf, and Fozzie break off the chain around the door to the Muppet Theater. Kermit walks in slowly, nostalgically, hearing echoes of himself (Jim Henson) introducing “very special guest star, Bob Hope!!” and the announcer (Jerry Nelson) shouting “PIIIIIGS IIIIIIN SPAAAACE!” Most of the Muppets gang, plus Gary, Mary, and Walter, enter. Fozzie Bear insists that there’s no way to rehearse with the theater in that condition, as Floyd Pepper remarks, “Who fired the maid service?” With offers to help from Gary, Mary, and Walter, the Muppets start cleaning. Smash cut to… Scooter sweeping. Very slowly. Cut to the Muppets gang watching as Kermit remarks, “Well this is boring.” Walter looks at the group and says, “Don’t you guys remember? You’re the Muppets! You’re supposed to do things like this with… with music!” Dr. Teeth pulls out a boom-box, presses play, and thus begins a montage set to Starship’s 1985 hit “We Built This City.”

As the group cleans, Kermit starts going through his old Rolodex, calling various celebrities with the hope that they may take part in a telethon (to presumably save the Muppet Theater from being demolished by an oil tycoon). Again, Kermit is a bit behind the times. We see him cross off Molly Ringwald’s name, and he doesn’t get very far in trying locate President Jimmy Carter.

Meanwhile, the Muppets are cleaning. We see Fozzie uses Walter tied to  a pole with a sponge on his back to clean higher places–Walter is elated. Rowlf hammers away at something. Floyd removes the tarp from Animal’s drum set, and Animal goes berserk. Chickens feather-dust the seats. Mary changes a lightbulb while Marvin Suggs sits in the audience sits banging away on Muppaphones. Fozzie pulls out an old picture and shows it to Link Hogthrob and Gonzo and says, “Look at this goofy 80’s haircut I had back then!” the picture is revealed to be exactly the same Fozzie we see today. Rats skate across the soapy floor on old toothbrushes. The Swedish Chef incinerates some moldy talking food in a refrigerator. Scooter opens a closet and there’s Beauregard sweeping away, Scooter shouts, “Beauregard!” Beau just looks up and says, “Oh, Scooter, there you are! Where has everybody been?”

The clip ends with the camera circling around the large group of Muppets (as seen in the trailer). Cut to Kermit, still in his office, looking completely exasperated and somewhat distraught. Cut back to Dr. Teeth as he stops the tape and the gang surveys the now spotless theater.

That’s all we can fit in for D23 coverage in this post! Check back tomorrow for even more coverage including two Muppet performers, a Muppet fan-site operator, and much, much more!

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier,

4 thoughts on “The Muppets and Me at D23, Part 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s