Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Disneyland's Unknown Muppet Parade

"Here Come The Muppets" Parade models, 1990.
With the Muppets' recent comeback for a new generation, I was reminded of my brief brush with Muppetdom in early 1990. "Here Come The Muppets" was the title for a proposed Disneyland parade that would have featured giant inflatable characters rolling down Main Street on floats, similar to the balloons in the Pardi Gras parade (also 1990). Disney had just purchased the Muppets from Jim Henson for an estimated 150 million dollars, and the company was speedily making big (and wild) plans for Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. 

Disneyland President Jack Lindquist had an idea of sending Mickey and the other Disney characters  on a year-long "vacation" away from the Park while the Muppets took over for the duration. Some of the concept sketches we saw at the time included draping the Disneyland marquee on Harbor Blvd with a big banner reading "Muppetland", painting the Matterhorn green, and replacing the Mickey flower bed in front of the Train Station with Kermit's face.  You think I'm joking?

Thankfully, none of this came to pass, but the Disneyland Art Department certainly enjoyed working on several Muppet parade models. In the photo above, Kermit, Sweetums, Dr. Teeth, and Animal were all sculpted by Rich Collins. I did Fozzie and Beaker. Miss Piggy was done by Scott Sinclair, and Jackie Perreault sculpted Swedish Chef. One other model I'd started but never completed: Gonzo in his super-hero cape and red tennis shoes.

Beaker and Fozzie sculptures in Plasticine. In the final ver-
sion, Fozzie sat on a steamer trunk full of vaudeville props.
On May 16th, 1990, Jim Henson died unexpectedly of pneumonia. I heard the news on KCRW while driving to work that morning. It was a terrible shock, made even more surreal because of the project we had been immersed in for months. With Henson gone, Disneyland's Muppet deal immediately floundered, and we were told to stop working on the parade. Any artwork that we had done featuring Muppets was packed onto a truck and taken away (possibly to the Henson company?) Maybe there's a warehouse somewhere with all our models packed away in crates. At any rate, I'm glad we snapped a few photos while we had the chance!

TV's "Magical World of Disney" welcomed the Muppets to the family. (1990)

1 comment:

TokyoMagic! said...

I remember those Muppet overlays that were proposed for the park, including painting the Mattehorn green....UGH! Wasn't the event going to be called "The Muppets Take Disneyland"? And am I remembering correctly that the 3-D Muppet film was going to replace Lincoln in the Opera House on Main Street? Thank goodness none of that happened!