Rumor Mill: Could a Muppets-Themed Restaurant be Comimg to Disney’s Hollywood Studios?
Over the past four years, The Muppets has had a resurgence in popularity among fans. Of course, they’ve always had a core audience with the classic The Muppet Show, their movies such as The Muppets Christmas Carol & Muppet Treasure Island, and MuppetVision 3D at both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. But when Disney released a new movie in 2011, The Muppets, which starred Jason Segal and Amy Adams, fresh life was brought to the characters and showed Disney they were still popular and relevant. The film was followed up with a sequel, Muppets Most Wanted (2014), and there is even a new The Muppets TV series on ABC which is doing very well. So of course, questions have surfaced about the future of MuppetVision 3D and the Muppets area itself. Would the attraction get a new film? Could the land finally be fully realized? Or does the new popularity not even hold a flame to the imminent Star Wars land which was coming after only a matter of time when Disney aquired Lucasfilm in 2012.
Now you may ask, how does a new restaurant tie into all of this? Well for that answer, one needs to look back on the history of Disney with The Muppets. Back when Michael Eisner was CEO of The Walt Disney Co, a partnership came about with Jim Henson. The first ever Muppets attraction was a live show titled Here Come The Muppets at the then Disney’s MGM Studios. It was located in Animation Courtyard in the theater which now holds Voyage of The Little Mermaid. The show was not exactly successful, lasting just over a year. But that didn’t stop Disney. Shortly before its demise, Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3D opened in 1991. The show was a success. Plans were also in the pipeline to expand it into a Muppets Land at the park. Another attraction was to be built, this time a ride. It would be a Muppets version of The Great Movie Ride with different Muppets portraying the iconic scenes. There was also talk of two restaurants, one would be a table service and the other a quick service. The concepts seemed very fun and I’m sure would’ve been popular among Guests. The table service would have been a restaurant owned by Gonzo, who at the time of dinner would’ve somehow gotten stuck in the air vents in the ceiling and Guests would be able to hear him crawling around above them. And the quick service restaurant was said to have been Swedish Chef’s own restaurant. But regrettably, none of this happened.
Jim Henson sadly passed away in 1990 before any other plans could be finalized for future projects, making MuppetVision the last project Henson ever worked on. Unfortunately, Eisner continued to pressure the Henson family during this time period about the contracts. He still needed a signature to move forward on all that was planned. Not surprisingly, this made the family extremely unhappy and they decided to no longer allow Disney to do anything else with The Muppets inside the parks. (The movies we’ve come to know and love were still made, however.) This disastrous ending resulted in what we have now in The Muppets area; a moderately popular table service restaurant named Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, which is quite delicious, a Toy Story themed quick service restaurant, which is highly out of place, two character meet & greets, and theming that clearly started out as a Muppets-esque area and then dropped off a cliff. And any chance of expansion wouldn’t come for 13 years when Disney acquired The Muppets in 2004. So where would this supposed new Muppets restaurant go? There’s a pretty clear answer.The biggest eye sore to ever present itself at Disney’s MGM/Hollywood Studios is the quick service restaurant, Pizza Planet. Located right across from MuppetVision 3D, Pizza Planet first opened as Toy Story’s Pizza Planet. It was a half-hearted attempt at trying to capitalize on the popular Toy Story series from Pixar. The restaurant has as minimal theming as possible with only a facade of the Pizza Planet we know so well from Toy Story hanging on the wall inside reminding us what could’ve/should’ve been, some mildly cute theming where Guests purchase their food, and the Green Aliens hanging from the ceiling. The eatery does contain arcade games, but not even one is space themed or has the Green Aliens available to win. To top it off, the food is mediocre. But what makes the least amount of sense is its location! It sticks out like a sore thumb in its Muppet Courtyard. When Pixar Place opened in 2008, Disney added insult to injury by only removing the Toy Story name above Pizza Planet, claiming it was to help avoid confusion with the new land. But sorry Disney, it’s still extremely confusing!! Many were hoping the restaurant would finally be re-themed, since it made no sense to have a Toy Story restaurant outside of Pixar Place. Alas, it has remained the same for the past seven years, but that could be changing soon.
Pizza Planet is set to close January 11, 2016 for what seems to be a refurbishment since it is set to re-open late 2016. Now, this could just be a simple refurbishment for the restaurant, since I can’t remember the last time it had any work done to it. Or it could be so much more.
When Star Wars land was announced, a crucial detail was left out; just where exactly it is going to be placed. Much speculation suggested The Muppets area’s days were numbered since moving lateral made more sense than moving toward the front of the park where Echo Lake and Indiana Jones sit. We know this is the final year for The Osborne Lights, which means Streets of America is going away. So, quite possibly, The Muppets could be safe! And with Toy Story land also on the way, it now makes even LESS sense to have a Toy Story restaurant outside of Pixar Place/Toy Story land. Therefore, it can be speculated that we may finally be getting our Muppets restaurant we’ve been waiting for since 1991.
Now, take all of this with a grain of salt. While it is possible that Pizza Planet could be getting a makeover, it’s not a guarantee. If it was, this wouldn’t be listed as My Two Cents. There’s still a chance the entire Muppets area is going away completely for Star Wars land, which is set to begin construction in early 2016. Hearing this, you may ask, why go down for refurbishment if it’s closing soon anyway? Don’t be fooled. The same thing happened to The Studio Backlot Tour last year. It went down for refurb in early 2014 and opened back up for only a few months before shuttering in September of the same year.
On the other side of things, let’s say Star Wars land expands to where Streets of America is now, or even more interesting, BEHIND the Muppets area since according to permit plans, Disney will be expanding the back side of the park outward, replacing the “main entrance” toll plaza that currently resides there. If either is the case, it’ll be fun to speculate over the next couple of months what exactly the restaurant’s theme will be turned into.
Could we get the Swedish Chef restaurant which was supposed to be there from the beginning? Or something completely new and original! Could Disney surprise us and give Guests a more immersive and fully realized Muppets area? Whatever happens, I think we can all agree that Pizza Planet needs to leave the Muppets area. After all, theme parks have become all about that immersive experience now and mixing Toy Story with the Muppets just doesn’t fit!
Would you be excited to see a new Muppets restaurant come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Which characters would you like to see involved with the quick service restaurant?