Tough Pigs Anthology
It was a time of wonders. Enormous frogs and pigs roamed the earth -- or, at least, they roamed the Disney-MGM Studios theme park at Walt Disney World. From 1990 to '95, two "live" Muppet shows ran at Disney World, with full-body costume versions of the Muppet stars performing to soundtracks recorded by the Muppeteers. Overshadowed by the vastly superior MuppetVision 3D, pushed aside in the legal squabbles between Henson and Disney, ignored and mostly forgotten by Muppet fans -- their true story has never been told. Until now.
"Here Come the Muppets"
May 25, 1990 - Sept 2, 1991
"Here Come the Muppets" is this weird little fossil of the planned Henson-Disney merger, which fell apart so spectacularly after Henson's death in May 1990. The Muppets at Walt Disney World TV special and the live show actually bookend Henson's death in an eerie way -- the special aired on May 6th, 1990, just ten days before Henson died, and the live show premiered on May 25th, just nine days after. (There's a lot of information about the Henson-Disney merger, putting this show in the context of the aborted plans, in Jim Hill's column at The Laughing Place.com.) The two shows constitute the "premiere" of the Muppets at the Disney park, and they were supposed to be the beginning of that "beautiful friendship" between the Mouse and the Frog.
Actually, my guess is that "Here Come the Muppets" and The Muppets at Walt Disney World were probably produced as one block. There's a live-action/animation clip of Mickey talking on the "Picture Phone" at the beginning of "Here Come the Muppets" which uses the same set and animation as the Mickey scene in The Muppets at WDW. The soundtrack for "Here Come the Muppets" uses all the main Muppeteers -- Henson, Oz, Goelz, Hunt, Nelson and Whitmire -- and there are two filmed inserts of Oz performing Fozzie and Miss Piggy, all of which could have been recorded during the production of the TV special. So, in a way, "Here Come the Muppets" is kind of a companion piece to The Muppets at Walt Disney World. The only difference, really, is that the TV special had the Muppets in it, and the "live" show had minimum-wage Disney-drones dressed in enormous, stiff costumes. Enjoy.
Kermit opens the show, with help from Mickey, Lily, Piggy and Fozzie...
The Electric Mayhem arrive, and Kermit and Fozzie perform the opening number...
Miss Piggy makes her grand entrance, and Kermit is forced to improvise...
The Electric Mayhem performs the grand finale!
"Muppets On Location"
Sept 16, 1991 - Summer, 1995
Okay, wasn't that weird? It keeps getting weird from here on in. "Here Come the Muppets" ran for a little more than a year -- and when it closed in 1991, it was replaced with "Muppets On Location: Days of Swine and Roses," a live outdoor show about the Muppets making a movie. On a loading dock. With live audience participation. And stopping in the middle for an autograph session.
Yeah, I'm not sure I get it either. But it went on and on, for four years. The soundtrack features Steve Whitmire as Kermit and Bean Bunny, backed by Frank Oz (Piggy, Fozzie, Animal), Dave Goelz (Gonzo, Zoot), Jerry Nelson (Floyd Pepper, Announcer), Richard Hunt (Janice) and John Kennedy (Dr. Teeth).
Between the two live shows, I'd say that "Muppets On Location" is marginally better than "Here Come the Muppets." The movie-making story gives "Location" a bit more of a coherent idea; it's doing a little more than just being a musical revue. Not much more. But a little. The autograph session in the middle was probably enjoyable for the kids who desperately wanted a "Kermit" or "Miss Piggy" stamp in their autograph books, but it cuts the show in half, and it makes the anti-climax seem all the more anticlimactic. Still, it was one of Whitmire's earliest projects as Kermit, and possibly Hunt's last project as Janice, so that makes it kind of interesting, doesn't it? Help me out here.
The Electric Mayhem welcome us to the filming of the new Muppet movie...
It's Miss Piggy's big scene, as the Muppets start filming their blockbuster, Days of Swine and Roses...
The Muppets give us a big finish, as Miss Piggy sings "42nd Street," and Kermit's got "Happy Feet"!
for the neat pictures...
for the tape of "Muppets On Location"...
and Artie Esposito
for performer information!