Ever since Disney first bought the Muppets it seemed as if they struggled with how to re-invigorate them back into the modern day world. For people my age or older (I’m 38) I remember each week sitting on the couch with my mother, brother and sister watching The Muppet Show (the end credits where Zoot blows his horn and looks into it always scared me for some reason). I watched the re-runs on Nickelodeon in the 1990′s, and even bought the Time Life DVDS, which wasn’t the complete seasons, just to get some of the episodes on DVD. But when Disney bought them, they were in a sticky situation: introducing these characters to a whole new generation of kids. For those children who had parents who were into The Muppets and taught them who they were, they did the job for Disney, and of course, Sesame St. helped a bit with Kermit the Frog being on it, but Disney still had work to do.
For a time in 2008 they had a show on The Disney Channel called Studio DC: Almost Live, where The Muppets and stars of The Disney Channel would put on a form of variety show, but it never really caught on and honestly wasn’t that good. But as least Disney was trying. Still they had the Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3-D show in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (originally opened when the park was named Disney-MGM Studios on May 16th, 1991) that was a help and occasionally The Disney Store would sell new Muppet merchandise, and several of the full seasons of The Muppet Show were finally released on DVD. Then in 2011 The Muppets finally got their break when Disney released their first movie since 1999′s Muppets From Space, with a movie simply titled The Muppets.
The movie performed well, adding new merchandise for The Disney Store to carry based off the movie, and a sequel was announced that is due out in 2014 titled Muppets Most Wanted. While we wait for the new Muppet movie to come out, Disney has kept busy making new merchandise, and even keeping the Muppets front and center by having Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal and a few chickens appear on the Season Four opener of The Disney Channel’s show Good Luck Charlie.
But it was this past Saturday, while at a Barnes & Noble Book Store with my wife and sister that I saw this little guy as a toy that made me smile and want to write this blog.
That’s right folks, it’s none other than Mahna-Mahna himself. While the name of this character, and the song he sings, was actually based on a song by Italian singer Umilioni and was originally spelt “Mah Na Mah Na”, Jim Henson created his Mahna-Mahna first as a sketch as a shaggy little guy, who first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1970 with two pink creatures called “Snouths” (a mixture of the words snout and mouth) who sang with him. Mahna-Mahna would next appear on Season One, episode one of The Muppet Show in 1977 with special guest star Juliet Prowse. Jim Henson would provide the scat-singing voice of Mahna-Mahna like he did on The Ed Sullivan Show, while the Snouths were vocally performed by Frank Oz. The bit was hilarious and once inside your head, that song sticks around for quite some time.
Seeing the Pop toy of Mahna-Mahna made me quite happy, not because I like the character, which I do, but that Disney is still making new Muppet merchandise, and using characters that only fans would recognize. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to see a Mahna-Mahna figure. So, to that I say, keep up the great work Disney, and keep those Muppet products and movies rolling along, the more you make, the more kids will get a chance to learn about these guys and that means the more we can look forward to.
However, with rumors circulating that Hollywood Studios might be getting a Star Wars themed-land to the park, it makes me worried. In the current space of Star Tours, there just isn’t enough space to build an entire land. If they go behind Star Tours that would be Muppet territory, and that could result in them knocking down Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3-D, one of the very final things Jim Henson voiced Kermit as (his other final performance as Kermit was in 1990 in a TV movie titled The Muppets at Walt Disney World). I would hate to see this final performance of Jim Henson lost to Orlando visitors, but, if Disney is this serious about making The Muppets a house-hold name again, perhaps they could just rebuild the theatre somewhere else if they knock it down, or, better yet, build the Star Wars land in the parking area expanding the park size.
I just won’t worry about that for now and just be glad that we got ourselves a Mahna-Mahna figure (which The Disney Stores doesn’t seem to be carrying anymore for some reason) and look forward to Muppets Most Wanted next year.
Until then, I remain,