The Muppets finally celebrate Halloween in a ghostly Disney+ special.
By Melissa Farthing, Copy Editor
Are you a fan of The Muppets? What about the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney parks across the world? Have you ever thought to yourself, “Man, it would be so cool if someone would combine these completely random things and make a TV movie out of them!”
If you answered yes to all of these questions, you’re in for a treat.
In May, Disney announced that a Muppets Halloween special based on the Haunted Mansion ride would be arriving on Disney+ in October 2021. I was surprised to learn that this is the first Halloween-themed Muppets movie. Plans for a Muppet Halloween film began in the 1990s but were continually canceled and revived, only to be canceled once again. After many years of production troubles, was the wait finally worth it?
I’d say, for the most part, yes! The special isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it’s a fun way to spend fifty minutes, especially if you enjoy either of these franchises.
For me, the strongest part of “Muppets Haunted Mansion” was the set design and special effects. The crew did a scary good job (pun intended) transporting the audience directly into the spooky setting. While the puppetry was great, the computer graphics and animation only enhanced the sinister wonder of the Haunted Mansion. The entire film was aesthetically pleasing and, if nothing else, would make a fine choice for a televised backdrop at a Halloween party.
I also appreciated the “Muppet-ness” of “Muppets Haunted Mansion.” It makes sense that the Muppets’ charm would be here, considering they are in the name! The special never got too creepy (perfect for kids!), and a lingering sense of silliness was always present. Some comedic bits I enjoyed were John Stamos’ appearance and Dr. Bunsen and Beaker complaining about how their cameo was shortened due to budget restraints. In true Muppet fashion, the live-action cast and guest stars brought impressive acting chops and had amazing chemistry with the Muppets. It was bittersweet seeing the late Ed Asner make a short appearance as one of the ghosts in the graveyard.
One negative of “Muppets Haunted Mansion” is that it is tailored to fans of either the Muppets, Haunted Mansion, or both. Again, it makes sense because the name of the special is literally the two franchises’ names combined. I was at a disadvantage because, while I am familiar with the Muppets and Haunted Mansion ride (I’ve ridden a grand total of one time), I’m not a fanatic of either. So I wasn’t in on the secret Easter eggs or references scattered throughout. Some things story-wise didn’t make sense to me, most likely because I don’t know the plot of the Haunted Mansion ride in depth. I highly doubt someone who doesn’t know the Muppets or Haunted Mansion well would enjoy this special.
A minor nitpick, but Kermit sounded very weird in this film. If you aren’t aware, Kermit’s original (after Jim Hensen) voice actor and puppeteer, Steve Whitmire, was fired a few years ago because of alleged unruly behavior. Although Kermit’s current voice actor, Matt Vogel, has been playing the iconic frog since 2017, there is something still “off” about Kermit’s tone. It isn’t as cheerful and crisp as I remember.
Overall, I found “Muppets Haunted Mansion” a pleasurable way to get into the Halloween spirit this year, but I probably won’t add it to my yearly watch list.