Nintendo arrives at Universal as we openly plead for more Muppets at Disney World

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Nintendo arrives at Universal as we openly plead for more Muppets at Disney World

From our public begging to add more Muppets to Disney Parks to the new Nintendo merchandise you gotta know about, here's this week's news.

Muppets Haunted Mansion

Welcome to Theme Park News, This week, we're discussing Universal Studios Hollywood's new Nintendo store and an open letter begging for a certain someone to appear more often in the parks. From popcorn buckets to the return of COVID-19 updates, here's this week's news ...

Grand Opening of Muppet*Vision 3D

A PUBLIC PLEA FOR MORE MUPPETS, PLEASE

As part of Disney's Planet Possible Earth Month initiative, EPCOT rather cheekily invited Kermit the Frog in to encourage fans to keep things green. Standing in front of Spaceship Earth, turning its (100 percent LED!) lighting the preferred color of both Mother Nature and our beloved frog, I realized something — well, two things.

First, that Los Angeles went from a 96-degree hellscape to a windy tundra nearly overnight and we gotta take care of this climate crisis, and second? Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, and, yes, Kermit, are the obvious and inevitable future of Disney Parks.

I know, I know, we're still out here struggling to get Encanto to Disney World in a major way, but I stand firm on my belief that every corner of Disney's theme parks need to be infused with the magic and mayhem of The Muppets.

Why? Because, simply put, the Muppets make everything better. Muppets Haunted Mansion was an absolute delight, one that could only have been improved by higher volumes of merchandise and interactivity within the parks. Liberty Square was renewed (and, frankly, brought to life) by their rousing pre-pandemic performances of The Muppets Present: Great Moments in American History. Seasonal appearances, like that exuberant caroling set at Disneyland's Merriest Nights celebration, were met with packed-in crowds and unparalleled glee, while even the thinnest of thematic overlays at Epcot's Regal Eagle Smokehouse and Hollywood Studios' PizzeRizzo breathe joy and storytelling into locations that, without, would merely become a pedestrian stop for a middling cheese pizza.

PizzeRizzo Restaurant At Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Fans often lament when intellectual property is added inside these hallowed spaces, but I am begging to shove these characters into every facet of my vacation like it's 2014 and the only song that exists in America is "Let It Go." Give me entire corners of merchandise stores lined with silly hats and bakeries with pink cupcakes sporting Miss Piggy toppers and curly tails! Make them the unofficial mascots of EPCOT and sell plush toys of them dressed in those retro costumes Mickey and Minnie once wore — or, better yet, Haunted Mansion's employee costumes.

Mickey, Minnie, and the gang have their fair share of time in the sun at Disney's theme parks, but they'll never relate to parkgoers the way The Muppets and their individual, irreverent personalities do. I don't mean to threaten the mouse in his own house; he is, after all, domestic royalty, but Mickey & Friends live in their own world while Muppets live in ours — a massive distinction that allows for a universe of possibility within the berm.

Sure, there's already a Muppets attraction and, ahem, loosely themed land at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. I'm just saying we should be doubling — nay, tripling — the amount of Muppets experiences in Disney's theme parks to will them into becoming the next great set of Disneyland and Disney World characters.

The Muppets' resurgence is a story often told on-screen, but the path towards renewed mainstream commercial success is not in theaters or on TV but on the ground. Newer projects like The Muppets, ABC's primetime sitcom in the style of The Office only lasted one season, and Muppets Now was far from a Disney+ smash hit, but that only proves new TV shows aren't going to be what moves the needle. These people-powered creatures thrive smack dab within the fandom, lore, and theming of Disney's own vacation destinations. Similar to the parks-to-Disney+ programming we're seeing with forthcoming projects like Tower of Terror and Society of Explorers and Adventurers, The Muppets could provide a reverse pipeline for boosted viewing on Disney+ spurred by their appearances within Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. Like seeing Kermit on vacation? Boy, are you going to enjoy the decades-worth of content that's streaming online!

Jungle Cruise, after all, has become one of the most in-demand rides at Walt Disney World right now following the name recognition of the 2021 film; what could adding Gonzo to an attraction do for Disney+'s 118 episodes of The Muppet Show? (I can all but guarantee that Miss Piggy's day rate is far lower than that of Dwayne Johnson.)

The Muppets channel Disney fan nostalgia while also having television, film, and most importantly: meme appeal. They're a product that can be immediately plopped into the parks without any hefty backstory, and I think Disney is starting to understand that. Nuimos and Wishables, two sub-$20 product lines that have garnered relative popularity, have their own Muppets lines. Kermit has popped up on the company's TikTok for inspirational holiday greetings and drumlines alongside cast members and D23 Destination D, a 2021 fan convention, sold a bevy of merchandise themed to the crew's in-park attractions. Rizzo, Beaker, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem — they're essentially free in-house talent, under the purview of Walt Disney Imagineering and wholly owned by the company since 2004, that can and should be used everywhere. (It's like the studio system back in the day, but much cuter.)

They are a time-tested franchise representative of the individualism and true-to-yourself personality traits we should all strive for. They're universally beloved, multigenerational and if we're going full hog on intellectual property, we may as well throw Link Hogthrob in there for good measure.

And, at the end of the day, there's just no good reason not to.

Super Nintendo World GETTY

THEME PARK SHOPPING GETS A 1UP

Super Nintendo World is landing at Universal Studios Hollywood next year, but there's now something to satiate all Mario and Luigi fans until that day comes. The Feature Presentation shop on the park's lower lot has officially been transformed into a Super Nintendo World shopping experience, complete with tees, hats and plush toys. Quirky items like puffy character hats and themed headbands from Universal Studios Japan, which debuted the video game-inspired theme park land back in 2021, have not yet arrived, and some shelves are filled with more generic toys and kits available outside the parks, but we can't wait to see more land-exclusive souvenirs debut when Super Nintendo World opens next year.

AND... WE'RE BACK WITH A COVID UPDATE.

We had a good run this time! But, alas, the BA.2 Omicron variant has arrived and so has the return of our weekly COVID-19 update. That variant is rising in Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel, following nearly a month of decline. There has been a "substantial increase" in COVID found in nearby sewage water since the beginning of March, and cases have been rising in Florida, increasing 34 percent with a daily average of 1670 new cases, according to The New York Times.

Cases are rising in California but deaths and hospitalizations remain stable in Los Angeles County, where the average number of new cases over the past week has increased 23 percent from the week prior. Orange County's caseload is also up 12 percent over the past week, according to the Los Angeles Times. Stay safe out there!

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