The Muppets may have a wide variety of specials, some fantastic and others not-so-great, but as far as I am aware, this is their first and only horror-centric spin. Based upon the Disney ride The Haunted Mansion, this new special (aptly titled Muppets Haunted Mansion) taps into horror and family elements simultaneously. It utilizes nearly every Muppet character new and old (however brief, as several are simple cameos), including Walter and Rowlf the Dog, to fill its ghostly roster of kooky characters. Toss in energetic musical numbers, and you get a Muppet-fueled mixture of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Beetlejuice, and pure unfiltered Disney magic!
The 49-minute special, in essence, is the Gonzo and Pepe the Prawn show! While the rest of the Muppets are having the Halloween party of their lives, Gonzo and Pepe are in a limo on the way to a decidedly different type of celebration. Tonight marks the 100th anniversary of the disappearance of legendary magician, The Great MacGuffin. A Halloween “fear challenge,” set in the mansion where MacGuffin is said to have vanished, is underway. Gonzo’s fascination with this magician drives his arrival at the mansion, where weird things start happening before they even set foot inside. Will they survive the night, or will they “remain here forever?”
Muppets Haunted Mansion is chock-full of meta humor, as well as hilarious references to all manner of horror movies and various projects. I never thought I would clock a reference to The Shining in a Muppet project, but here we are! A screaming goat steals the spotlight more than once. A major moment with a suit of armor is an effective jump scare that actually got me good! As far as the Disney ride itself is concerned, the singing statues, changing portraits, stretching room, and extravagant ballroom number are all intact, featuring a signature Muppet spin.
The plethora of celebrity cameos and fun musical numbers are a signature element of The Muppets, and thankfully they are here too. My favorite of the bunch was Darren Criss as the Caretaker; his song where he literally pleads “on bended knee” not to wake up the dead in the graveyard is one of this film’s high points. Taraji P. Henson channels Beetlejuice as ghost bride Constance Hatchaway. Will Arnett’s “Ghost Host” is also a total joy, and he appears the most frequently out of the celebrity roles. The humor is on point, and for any fan of Muppets, fear not—this is better than several of the Christmas specials. Disney amusement park devotees will be over the moon for this excellent special.
Muppets Haunted Mansion invites you to face your fears, as it premieres exclusively on Disney+ this Friday, October 8th.