Kieran Moore – I have two big fandoms in my life. First will always be the frog, but after that my heart belongs to a mouse. Disney has always been a presence running through my life – my first movie at a cinema was “Mary Poppins” (although not in the 1960s), family birthdays and Christmases have been spent at the theme parks and my sister has a hidden memorial left outside “Pirates of the Caribbean” at both Magic Kingdom and DLP (Disneyland Paris). While The Muppets have shaped my way of thinking, Mickey and Co. have punctuated key parts of my life with memorable milestones. When I was at school, aged about 11 or 12, I was asked what my ambition for the future was. I said I wanted to go to Walt Disney World before I was 21. I finally got there when I was 21 years, six months and seven days old, so I did pretty well. I was an active member of the Laughingplace.com discussion boards for many years. I even won a Kermit Award at their annual prize-giving ceremony (and then lost it at Disneyland Paris somewhere near Star Tours) and some of my best friends are people I met because of my appreciation of Disney.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I love Disney. I love the theme parks. I love (most of) the animated movies. And I love the music. Technically speaking of course a lot of Muppet music is Disney music (certainly anything released since Disney bought the Muppets), but I’m going to focus here on the times The Muppets have covered Disney music or made appearances in Disney specials. So if everyone can put their arms and legs inside the top 10 chart and refrain from flash photography, we’ll begin…
This must be the quickest turnaround from release to an appearance on one of my charts ever, and I doubt it’ll be beaten. As the title of the video states this is more of a dramatic reading (with emphasise on the dramatic) and less a song, but spoken word tracks have hit the real-life charts before so I don’t have a problem with this. Pirates of the Caribbean has a special place in my heart for several reasons. When the first movie was released I arranged a UK Disney fan meet to see it in London and a whole gang of us descended on Leicester Square in various levels of Pirate fancy dress. It was my sister’s favorite attraction and movie series and she could recite whole passages of the film in full Jack Sparrow swagger. I also have an unopened box of Pirates of the Caribbean cereal that was sent to me by a friend in the US currently sitting on a shelf in my bedroom! Beaker and Bunsen must be one of the Muppets’ greatest ever double acts – rivalled only by Statler and Waldorf I suppose. This video is hilarious and the latest one with Floyd and Animal reciting “It’s a Small World” is just as fun. I’d love to see Beaker and Bunsen tackle “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow”.
Here’s an interesting lead in to a piece about this song… Do you remember that episode of “Roseanne” where the Conner’s get an unexpected check and instead of paying bills head off to WDW (Walt Disney World)? Something similar happened to me recently and I booked my first ever trip to Disneyland in California. As someone who’s been visiting Disney parks for over 20 years (and has held annual passes for WDW and DLP) my first trip to the original park is a huge thing and I can’t wait. This is where a lot of classic Disney attractions debuted and I finally get to walk in Walt’s footsteps. I’m super-excited! But, I’m also sad because I can’t see all the great things that are no longer at the park – like Wally Boag! Wally is quite rightly an official “Disney Legend” thanks to his performances at “The Golden Horseshoe Revue” at DL (Disneyland). He made the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running actor in the longest running show in the history of show business and is an incredible talent. (As is Louise Gold as Annie Sue).
I’m sure I watched this as a kid. This special aired in 1989 in the UK and several other countries in Europe. Although DLP was a good few years away yet, Disney was actively increasing their presence in Europe in the late 80s and early 90s to make sure we were all desperate to visit when the resort opened in April 1992 (the best laid plans of mice and men, eh?) This special was also aired around the time that Jim Henson and Michael Eisner would have been having discussions about the future of The Muppets so they seemed to pop up in lots of Disney things. I really wanted to feature Piggy and Gonzo’s appearance in “Disneyland’s 35th Anniversary Celebration”, but sadly there were no songs. I do urge everyone to go find it on YouTube though as it’s hilarious and encouragingly written by a chap called Bill Prady. Side note: I’ve just noticed Bill and I share the same birthday, so now it’s me, Liam Neeson, Prince, Tom Jones and Bill Prady in my fantasy “A-Team” movie. Piggy is a lot of fun to watch here. The dancing scenes must have been interesting to shoot. I love that she isn’t star struck by Mickey and Minnie and the twist of the prince turning into Kermit is brilliant!
I guess to some it must seem odd having such an iconic song and moment so low on the list – all I can say it strap in, you’re in for a bumpy ride! I guess the main reason this is so low is really just because of how short and slight this number actually is. This must be one of The Muppet Show’s best-known episodes (I got my copy bundled on a disc with the “Star Wars Holiday Special”) and it’s propelled Angus McGonagle to a status way beyond that of the usual one-hit character. He’s even at the top of this page right now! Mark is a reasonable singer and a terrible lip-syncher and I love the choral feel at the end of the song. With The Muppets small band of performers it’s a style we don’t often see from them. The genius stroke of having the space-castle rise in the background accompanied by fireworks, reminding us of just where the song comes from is inspired. Who’d have thought back in 1980 that all three elements of this song would one day be stable-mates? I guess it was kismet – now that sounds familiar…
After seasons four and five of The Muppet Show is there any Muppet production that is requested from Disney more than this one? I, for one, wish there was a better quality version of this special more readily available. I definitely watched this when it aired in the UK. I know because it was the inspiration for me wanting to visit WDW before I was 21. I just love this special and everything about it. One of the first things I did when I managed to rig up YouTube on my TV was watch the whole thing from start to finish. I’ve been thinking – are the songs from this show the first official Muppet Disney songs (as in original songs performed by Muppets in a Disney production)? I can’t think of any thing that would precede this. That would mean that “Knee Deep” becomes the first ever Muppet Disney song. That’s pretty cool.
Obviously Muppet*Vision holds a special place in every Muppet fan’s heart as it’s the last production directed by Jim Henson and was one of the last times Richard Hunt performed his signature Muppet Show characters. Although it seems the west coast incarnation has gone forever and the WDW version is under threat, for the reasons above I really hope it can continue for many years to come. Disney fans were clamouring for shows like this to be transferred to DVD as part of the “Disney Treasures” series a while back and I really wish it had happened. The show has had a phenomenal run for a theme park attraction, but I’d be sad to see it gone forever. The song in question is brilliantly Muppety and I could imagine something like this appearing on The Muppet show quite easily. Bean and Piggy actually work really well together so perhaps the fan who asked the D23 panel about Bean coming back should get their wish. I was never a huge Bean Bunny fan, but I could see how he would make a good foil for Piggy as her assistant. Miss Piggy’s undignified exit is hilarious and just one of the ways she gets spiked in this show. She really isn’t having a great day. Oh, and this was written by Bill Prady too!
I know that this song will be a controversial pick – especially at such a high position on the chart, but I’m prepared to defend my choice because I really do think that this is a great song. Studio DC is pretty lame, let’s not kid ourselves. The humor is lazy, the Disney Channel stars (with a few notable exceptions) seem wooden compared to actual puppets and the whole thing screams “SYNERGY” in a way that the Muppets would usually send up in a clever and funny way. However, this song for me is the lily pad in the turgid swamp. I’ll admit that although I’m not the target audience I quite enjoyed the first two “High School Musical” movies. I think they have really good positive messages and some of the best Disney songs of the 21st century. This is a fantastic pop tune and Ashley Tisdale and Steve Whitmire as Kermit really give it their all. Ashley has true star quality in my humble opinion and I’m pleased she’s making the transition from child actor successfully. I love the moment when Kermit first catches sight of Miss Piggy – his reaction is brilliant. And judging by his eye line as Ashley sings “Shake some booty and turn around” he has every reason to be nervous.
Not strictly a Disney song I know, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to mention Jim’s position as a “Disney Legend” in a Disney chart. I will say I hate it when Disney gets all revisionist on The Muppets and classes things from pre-Disney ownership as theirs. For example, Rainbow Connection is about to be featured on a Disney covers album, and if that doesn’t make you apoplectic enough so is “Bein’ Green”! How on earth is a song written for Sesame Street classed as a Disney song?! And it doesn’t stop at Muppets, I recently saw the movie “Willow” billed as “Disney’s Willow”!!! Anyway, I’m going to calm down long enough to write about how cool it is that Jim is a “Disney Legend”. And it really is cool. Jim was awarded this status in 2011 at that year’s D23 expo and the whole Henson part of the ceremony is a worthwhile watch. Jim’s award was technically for film and television, but as we’ve seen he also worked on theme park attractions and has inspired countless people acting within or for Disney and hopefully will for generations to come.
I really agonised over whether to feature more than one song from The Muppets at Walt Disney World – after all, as those keeping count have probably worked out there are some pretty amazing (and iconic) songs that won’t make this list. I don’t think I’ve disliked my own self-imposed restriction to 10 songs this much since my Jerry Nelson chart. However, I just couldn’t get past the fact that the music from this special is just that – special. From “Love in a Laundromat” to “I’m Doggin’ It”, I think these songs are some of the best written Muppet songs there are as they capture the spirit of the characters so well. And as if to illustrate this point this song really plays to The Mayhem’s rock music sensibilities. I love the little joke before the song about what Animal wants more than anything else in the world; it puts me in mind of his “nudity” comment in the recent pilot presentation. Of course what the band (and us) really wants is a world tour. Is there anybody reading this that wouldn’t buy a ticket? I didn’t think so. The costumes here are awesome and I love the fact that Lips appears out of nowhere and then disappears again just as quickly.
One of Disney’s most iconic attractions and songs gets the Muppety treatment it deserves! Technically speaking this song has featured twice on the chart now (as it appears briefly in the song above) and The Muppet Show is actually the third Muppet production on the chart to use the song as it also has a fleeting appearance in the finale of Muppet*Vision. This song has such pop-culture chops that the masters of parody (The Muppets, in case you were unsure), just can’t resist sending it up. This must surely be one of the most parodied songs in the world as even Disney themselves aren’t immune to giving it a gentle nudge. In this performance the Muppets do a superb job of re-enacting the attraction with spooky accuracy. Some of the costumes look like exact copies and the hot air balloon is spot on. Spike Milligan is at his quirky best as he lampoons his way through this number. The Muppet Show was great at getting stars who didn’t want to sing involved in big musical finales and this is a prime example. I’m not sure you’d get away with producing this sketch these days so I’m pleased it got through while it did!
As I mentioned above there are a good handful of songs that didn’t make the final 10 and most of them would be very deserving of a place. From classic Muppet covers such as “Never Smile at a Crocodile”, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah” and “An Actor’s Life for Me” to modern day Disney tracks like “Dream House” from “Good Luck Charlie” and the “Disney Drive-on Theme” the Muppets have a whole heap of history with the Disney company whether it’s pre or post-ownership. There have been more words than necessary already written about the rights and wrongs of what Disney has done with The Muppets so I won’t add my thoughts to the clutter, but I think we can all be happy with where Kermit and Co. are right now. The movies have been successes, The Muppets have an Oscar, the new show is sounding incredible and the Muppet performers are being seen by the masses. I don’t know about your Muppet wish list, but mine’s starting to look full. Perhaps when you wish upon a star your dreams really do come true?
Bonus from Jarrod – below you’ll find a dramatic reading by Floyd and Animal of the number 1 song from this chart, ‘It’s A Small World’.