Disney+ Review: Muppets Haunted Mansion
Sometimes, a concept sounds so good on paper that you almost live in fear that it’ll disappoint you in the end.
Then, on rare occasions, you discover the opposite. Something proves to be even better than you’d hoped. And that’s the case with what I’m about to discuss.
Let’s go dancing in the moonlight with the Muppets as Disney marries its intellectual properties in Muppets Haunted Mansion, a delight in every way.
What Is Muppets Haunted Mansion?
In February of 2004, The Walt Disney Company acquired the Muppets (and Bear in the Blue House) from a frequent collaborator, The Jim Henson Company.
Since then, Disney has tried repeatedly to infuse the Muppets brand so that it will connect with modern audiences.
Over the past 10 years alone, Disney has released two blockbuster movies and three mostly disappointing television series.
In 2011, The Muppets, with Jason Segel and Amy Adams, succeeded beyond anybody’s wildest dreams.
The quick follow-up, Muppets Most Wanted, didn’t return either star, instead senselessly rebooting with Tina Fey and Ty Burrell. It disappointed.
So, Disney’s ABC took a different approach by creating a series akin to a late-night talk show version of The Office, only with Muppets as the talent.
This series lasted only one season, but it did deliver this comedic masterpiece first:
Afterward, Disney rebooted Muppet Babies on Disney Channel and then released six episodes of a new series on Disney+.
Only the 2011 movie would qualify as a success, but Disney loves these characters so much. So, it keeps trying to find the new magic formula.
With Muppets Haunted Mansion, the company finally achieved that goal.
This film meshes Muppets characters from the beloved Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland and other theme parks around the world.
When I first learned of this project’s existence, my first thought was, “That’s the content I want from Disney+.”
The service is still finding its legs after less than two years of existence.
I’ve ached for more theme park-related content, and this 52-minute mini-movie definitely counts.
Why Are the Muppets at Haunted Mansion?
The 2011 Muppets movie and the one-season Muppets TV series on ABC each did something quite well.
Both projects juggled multiple Muppets, inserting them into the proceedings perfectly without any of them wearing out their welcome.
I don’t live and die with the Muppets the way that my wife does. A little bit of Miss Piggy goes a long way for me. She’s a lot.
Take it from moi: When walking arm in arm with a frog, make sure your sleeves are water resistant. Either that, or have a great dry cleaner on retainer. pic.twitter.com/WcdrH9cjuq
— Miss Piggy (@MissPiggy) September 15, 2021
Conversely, I could watch Animal playing the drums all day. I’m all about Electric Mayhem, but those Muppets are supporting players.
The lead characters here are Gonzo the Great and Pepe the King Prawn.
If you’d given me 20 guesses, I wouldn’t have come up with those names. Even so, within moments, I understood the choices.
The conceit of Muppets Haunted Mansion involves a limo ride to an exclusive party.
Gonzo and Pepe have rented a limo to visit a private mansion that’s hosting a lifetime fear challenge. It’s an annual event that’s more significant this year.
Apparently, 100 years ago, on this night, the Great MacGuffin vanished. So Gonzo goes there to prove he’s a performer on the level of the Great MacGuffin.
Pepe comes along because he thinks he’ll meet plenty of celebrities. He thinks that will impress a date.
Right off the bat, his recent texts indicate that he’s NOT a lothario. Haunted Mansion fans can already guess where this is going.
Meanwhile, Kermit and the gang spend this night, which is Halloween, wearing hilarious costumes. Gonzo picks fame over friends, which is essential to the story.
Also, I won’t spoil any of the costumes, but at least two of the ideas are sublime.
The Story of Muppets Haunted Mansion
As a Disney fan, you’ve almost certainly ridden Haunted Mansion at some point.
This story plays on the premise that it’s a real place that Gonzo and Pepe encounter and then explore.
Their first host is a ghost…yes, that one. This Ghost Host recites dialogue that’s familiar to everyone before he takes the duo to a room.
This room stretches.
You can already tell where this is going. Muppets Haunted Mansion follows the structure of the attraction quite carefully, save for one exception.
Since the grounds are on the way to the mansion, Gonzo and Pepe walk through the graveyard first.
After that, Haunted Mansion can call out the setting for each additional scene.
Guests continue to arrive for our swinging wake. 👻 Let's hear it for spectacular spectres @jeanniemai, @officialDannyT, @ChrissyMetz, @thesheertruth, and @alfonso_ribeiro! #MuppetsHauntedMansion, an Original Special, starts streaming October 8 only on @DisneyPlus. #Hallowstream pic.twitter.com/lFbeXnxke7
— The Muppets (@TheMuppets) September 13, 2021
The production crew has created detailed, realistic-looking versions of the Ballroom, the Attic, and other familiar sights from the attraction.
Frankly, the production values are so high that I’m now amped to watch the upcoming movie reboot of Haunted Mansion.
CGI technology has come a looooong way since the 2003 Eddie Murphy movie. You’ll appreciate that as you watch this sensational story.
The best part for Muppets fans involves the paintings, statues, and tombstones from the attraction.
— Disney+ (@disneyplus) October 8, 2021
Random Muppets appear at unlikely moments. So, if you’re aware of the Muppets character library, you’ll get a kick out of these throwaway gags.
They definitely add to the story, especially when Madame Pigota needs some accompanying music to summon the spirits.
The overall premise here is that Gonzo and Pepe must overcome their lesser demons.
Otherwise, these two will join the 999 other Happy Haunts at the mansion…permanently.
Gonzo’s story arc stems from self-worth, but Pepe’s entertains me more. Admittedly, it’s pure fluff, but I don’t care.
His one weakness plays into my favorite part of the Haunted Mansion ride: the Attic!
My Review of Muppets Haunted Mansion
Disney packs a lot into 50 minutes. Kermit and Miss Piggy oddly don’t factor into much of it, but I’m happy for that.
I mean, Kermit, dude. It’s okay to get out of a toxic relationship. In fact, we encourage it these days! So don’t wear a costume that makes you miserable!
Still, that Halloween party isn’t the focus of this story. Once Gonzo and Pepe enter the Haunted Mansion, the outside world fades away.
That’s the right decision, as Muppets Haunted Mansion turns into a prolonged celebration of the marvelous ride.
Fittingly, the mini-movie vacillates between spooky and silly. Whenever there’s a spare moment, a Muppet will appear in an unexpected, delightful way.
Somehow, this bit of stunt casting makes all the Haunts seem Happier. Whether it’s Janice the musician or Sam Eagle, their presence just feels right.
Fittingly, Uncle Deadly even makes a cameo. If any Muppet should live at the Haunted Mansion, it’s him.
Overall, Muppets Haunted Mansion marries the fan service concepts of the Muppets’ greatest hits and a comedic visit to the Haunted Mansion.
I was kind of in awe of the whole thing. This 50-minute short film is everything that I want Disney+ to be.
Give me more of this, Disney! It’s an A+ production!