Jim and Jane Henson rolled out the first Muppets in 1955, and the ensuing 65 years have given the franchise time to expand into virtually every medium, from film and TV to music and theater, and on to internet memes, Vines, and an AR app. There’s an awful lot of Muppet history to sort through, but inevitably, we all have our favorite Muppet moments. As the newest Muppet TV series, Muppets Now, heads to Disney Plus on July 31, Polygon’s entertainment writers are spending the week looking back on the Muppet creations that have meant the most to us over the years.
I did not grow up as intimately acquainted with the Muppets as some of my colleagues. (Some of them have clowned on me because my favorite Muppet movie is Muppet Treasure Island.) What I lack in years of experience, however, I hope I make up for in passion. I would argue, though, that my late discovery of the Muppets is what makes them special to me.
My love for the Muppets sparked when I was in high school, the result of an inside joke with my best friend, revolving around the scrunched-up face Kermit makes when he’s upset. We started wordlessly sending each other pictures of that face, which then evolved to Kermit images in general, then the whole Muppet pantheon. Kermit and the rest of the Muppet gang became such an important part of our friendship, part of the way we maintained long-distance relationship years after graduating high school. We still communicate with Muppet images today.
To me, the best of the Muppets represent experiences and jokes that are universal and appealing, that transcend state lines, time zones, and generations. In spite of any Muppets Treasure Island-related teasing, in spite of differences in age and generation with my co-workers, we all share a strong enough love for the Muppets to inspire this entire little series.
Similarly, my favorite Muppet content evokes strong memories for me, while transcending generational boundaries.
Favorite official Muppets release
My favorite Disney World park is Hollywood Studios, because it has an identity crisis and does not know what it wants to be. (Honestly? Relatable.) When it first opened, Hollywood Studios (then titled MGM Studios) was supposed to be a celebration of movie-making magic, but now it’s sort of a dumping ground for everything Disney owns that isn’t related to animation. Tucked among new, shiny lands like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land is a small Muppet-themed courtyard, which boasts only one attraction and one restaurant.
This corner was originally supposed to be a fully fleshed land — complete with a Muppet-themed parody of my favorite Disney attraction, The Great Movie Ride — but the deal with the Henson Company fell through after Jim Henson’s death. But that’s okay, because in that little quiet corner of Hollywood Studios, right next to the entrance to Galaxy’s Edge, is one of the most enjoyable Disney World experiences: Muppet*Vision 3D.
Muppet*Vision 3D, one of the last projects Henson worked on, combines kooky ’90s 3D effects, audio animatronics, practical “4D” effects like bubbles, smells, and poofs of air, and a live performer. The “ride-through” videos of the experience can only capture so much of what makes this attraction special. Yeah, the effects are hokey and dated, but unlike the other park attractions with 4D effects, it works here, because Muppet*Vision 3D is a time capsule of the 1990s.
There is never a line at Muppet*Vision 3D It isn’t a particularly long experience, but every moment — from the short wait and pre-seating video to the final cannonball — is hilarious, full to the brim with Muppet wackiness. It’s the sort of attraction that first-timers at Disney World may miss, because it’s older and more low-key, but it’s the kind of thing that becomes a beloved cult favorite as people who grew up with it take their kids and friends to discover it. Disney World is rapidly undergoing changes and remodels; I hope this little pocket remains untouched in years to come.
Favorite unofficial release
Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas blooper reel
Full disclosure: I have not actually seen Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.
I did, however, stumble across this blooper reel online when I was in the trenches of final projects in my last semester of college. It’s a clip of bloopers from the 1977 TV movie, posted online sometime in 2013. When I first watched it, I couldn’t stop laughing. I sent it to my best friend and to everyone else in my life who I knew would appreciate it. Some of them had fond memories of Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas; others were also hearing of it for the first time.
The blooper reel captures the many takes involved in getting a drum to roll out of a doorway and land at a specific angle on the sidewalk. It required many, many takes, with the Muppets riffing after each one happens. It’s a cute behind-the-scenes look at how Muppetry works: Emmet and his mom appear to be bolted to the floor, and they flatten down as the puppeteers rest while waiting for the scene to be reset. Meanwhile, those puppeteers keep addressing the crew around them, totally in character, asking about overtime. It’s just a fun time.
More from our Favorite Muppet Moments series here.