A Very Muppet Magic Trick

You know how magic tricks are great, until you know how they’re done, and then you can’t not see your Uncle Dave palm the quarter before he reaches behind your ear? Ever since I figured that one out a couple months ago, I just don’t have the same interest in going to magic shows every week, and my Uncle Dave has started to seem a little more creepy in retrospect.

Disney talks a lot about preserving the magic. And I don’t want to be the one to spoil anything for anybody. But you know, Mickey has his own dressing room at the Town Theater, and a little Sorcerer’s Apprentice set-up at the Studios, and a Character Spot in Epcot, and a Safari gig in Animal Kingdom. And in spite of there being only one Mickey, he somehow manages to greet guests in all those different locations at all times of day. I’m not gonna spell it out for you, but just think about that for a moment. Consider all the implications about the so-called honesty of adults. And then tell me how a fat man can possibly fit down a chimney. Especially if you have gas heating.

It used to be that Disney went through great pains to maintain the integrity of their character greetings. If there was a 3:00 parade in which Mickey was expected to appear, his character spot would shut down for half an hour. A mouse can’t be everywhere at once.

That’s why I’m shocked that a film like Muppet Vision 3-D, which has been around for nearly a quarter of a century, can so profligately shatter the illusion every time it runs. Like Uncle Dave’s quarter trick, once you spot it, you can’t unsee it. So be warned before you continue.

Most of us can recite MuppetVision in our sleep. Take this little test and see if you can fill in the blank. Those of you go 5-for-5 get an official Parkeology Certificate of Achievement. Those of you who don’t, study harder.

  1. “Look at the guy in the Goofy mask!” “That’s not a mask.” “Oh. Sorry ____!”
  2. “It’s called a Salute to All Nations, but ____ ______.”
  3. “Sorry folks, but Muppet Labs seems to have been temporarily, uh,  ____ __.”
  4. “Is there anything Bean can do in the final number?” “Gosh, maybe Be– Maybe Bean can ___ ___ ___ ________!”
  5. “Working the projector is a good friend of ours, the Swedish Chef. Chef, everything okay?” “___ ____ _____ ____ ______ _-___ ____!”

You know all the cues. You’re ready for Fozzie’s flower. You obligingly turn around to look at the Chef. You know which props Sweetums will be carrying (flashlight, then firebucket, for those of you that flunked the quiz).

Let’s talk about that Sweetums for a moment. He’s the live performer who gets to enter the show on three separate occasions. First to look for Bean, then to put out the fire in the orchestra, and then right at the very end, where he gets to say “Wow! What an explosion!”

There’s just one problem with this last Sweetums. He’s standing in front of the orchestra pit, jabbering to the audience while robo-Kermit pilots a firetruck into the gaping hole where the screen once stood, after Chef blasts the theater apart with the cannon (I told you there were spoilers).

But in spite of the all the smoke and Kermit being all 3-D at the end of a rescue ladder, what goes unnoticed is the second Sweetums.

Finkle and Einhorn!

Finkle and Einhorn!

Admittedly, you can’t tell jack squat from that poor screen capture, but in real life, that amorphous blob is clearly visible as Sweetums, standing outside the theater among the casual tourists who have just had their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Walt Disney World turned upside down by a bunch of puppet terrorists. It’s much more tempting to notice Pluto, who is also outside in walk-around form. Or maybe the old style Disney World balloons. Or the fact that it is daytime outside the theater, but you’re watching the show at night while waiting for Fantasmic. But regardless, Sweetums is in two places at once. So which one is the real Sweetums?

By the way, a few comments had mentioned this on a previous Muppet Vision post I wrote nearly four years ago, but I only just got around to noticing it myself. And I wanted to make sure everyone else got a chance to see it. Just in case you have an Uncle Dave.


Comments (15)

  1. The answers to your test are as follows:

    1) “Lady”
    2) “Mostly America”
    3) “Sucked up”
    4) “Set off the fireworks”
    5) “Hey, der hoppen-hoppen, der machinen is gooin der fløomy-fløomy!”

  2. I just find it weird how not only do they blow a hole in the wall, they also seem to open a time portal to the early 90’s

  3. ohhhh wait.. ok now wait a second, i never remember the sweetums in the theater at the the end… so hmm, was that changed later on?

    • He’s been in the theater at the end for a long time, but I can’t be 100% sure about whether he has always been there. He has a line like “Wow, what an explosion! Everyone okay?” followed by Waldorf and Statler saying “We surrender! We surrender!”

      But I truly have no memory of the firetruck prop being in the exit area. Or perhaps only a vague memory. I definitely recall the Dip mobile from Who Framed Roger Rabbit at the Looney Bin store from the tram tour. I’m going to go watch your 1991 clip right now!

      • Ha, so apparently you haven’t posted that clip yet! But also, somehow I didn’t make the connection that you were the one who restored that 1972 WDW film recently. That was outstanding work. I spent a long time geeking out over it. Get that MuppetVision clip up!

        • The retro WDW clip (see… clever screen name there as well) is outstanding!

          Nice job on that… I hope to see many more. I especially enjoyed the 20K clips as I used to work it and have very fond memories of the parks at that time.

          • Ok here is the clip from ’91 – http://youtu.be/fM1DeAnW2nc It doesn’t show the fire truck but you can see all the other muppet stuff

            Thanks for the comments on the 1972 film restoration, we released a 1975 restoration today, its up on our site…

          • That’s fantastic! I remember that stage very well. I saw the live show exactly once.

      • Shane…. Yup, the fire truck was there (for a long toem really) and made the end effect of the blown out wall MUCH better.

        When that slowly got pieced apart and taken away I was sad as it really hurt one of the details that made the show strong.

        None of that affects that he coudl not be in two places at once… but the truck out there was a cool detail and I actually think many people “got it” based on the comments you would hear.

  4. Well this magic may actually be a bit of a leftover from days gone by than a case of sweetums bending the time continum… Let look a bit deeper at this; towards the end, the film comes off the projector, so you aren’t watching the film anymore. You’re supposed to be watching the muppets live. Anyway, the chef blows a hole in the wall of the theater and you are supposed to be looking out at the park, that is the Disney MGM Studios. Cue the music, Kermit on the fire engine comes in from the wreckage, apologizes for the mess, and you exit into an area (now where phineas & ferb and McQueen/Mater are) that had that very fire engine along with all other sorts of props from the film. I have a short video clip of this area from 1991, the fire engine was moved to the boneyard and probably has since rusted away.

    Because the end was supposed to be the present day, having Sweetums in that clip makes complete sense because he was there in the theater with you, why couldn’t he be behind the theater? Of course, then this opens up pandora’s box, how then did he interact with the characters in the film… and how could the spirit of 3D possibly interact with the film if he was reality? This could be that Muppet Vision 3-D is really a stretch of reality and film, blending the two together in a live video feed presentation that uses actual film to produce a lifelike experience that blurs reality and interaction between two dimensions. Maybe you need to investigate that too! 🙂

    Anyway, the illusion of the hole being blown in the theater wall looked out to the park was probably lost by many and is now a relic, not matching up with the themeing outside that has since changed. Part of me thinks that Kermit used to say “Enjoy the rest of your day here at the Disney MGM Studios”, now it is a generic enjoy the rest of your day or something to that effect. My 2 cents…

  5. I was meeting Mickey at Town Square Theater once and was behind a father and son who happened to FaceTime the mother/daughter pair who happened to be in Epcot. The only issue was that the mother and daughter were meeting Mickey at the Character spot in Future World. It was quite awkward.

    • The evils of Apple!

  6. It’s one of those things that once you see, you cannot unsee.

    • Yeah, someone on Twitter mentioned that since the whole thing went digital, it’s much more noticeable. Which begs the question… Are any other movies in WDW still using traditional film projectors? It seems like they’ve all been upgraded over the years.

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