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Podcast 0049: Muppets meet the Haunted Mansion

This month on Dispodopolis, we discuss the Muppets Haunted Mansion special on Disney+. This special was a much-anticipated show for those that love anything and everything Haunted Mansion and Muppets. It came out with a bang, and those entrenched in the world of The Muppets and dad jokes were in love with this rendition. It was a much-needed family special that brought parents and their children together and gave us a mental break from the divide in media entertainment. Media today has rarely created a piece that works for small children and their parents, and the Muppets have always been about entertaining the whole family. This special also reconnected us to the great music that has filled the Muppet movies over the years. I don't know why I was taken back when they began to break into song. Of course, they did. This is the seventies Muppets I grew up with in my childhood.

Pepe and Gonzo walking down the hallway in the Haunted Mansion in the Muppets Haunted Mansion
Pepe and Gonzo walking down the hallway in the Haunted Mansion

The story seemed a little forced but is filled with gags, jokes, cameos, and all the characters you love from the Muppets. The story centered around Gonzo and his ability to go through life without fear. His sidekick for his journey is Pepe the King Prawn. Pepe is eternally optimistic and sees himself as a grade-A celebrity. Pepe believes the night will be filled with stars and merriment. Gonzo is there to solve the mystery of what happened to The Great MacGuffin. True to Muppet style, even The Great MacGuffin is a pun that leans on a story plot term created by Angus MacPhail and made popular by Alfred Hitchcock. It is an object, device, or event necessary to the plot and the character's motivation but truly is insignificant in itself. Angus McPhail used it in his screenplay "The Maltese Falcon." The Maltese Falcon is the quintessential MacGuffin object.

Pepe and Gonzo with The Great MacGuffin as their Ghost Host in the Muppets Haunted Mansion
Pepe and Gonzo with The Great MacGuffin as their Ghost Host

The Great MacGuffin is why the whole evening unfolds and sets the timeline in motion. As Gonzo spends his night trying to solve the mystery and eclipse whatever trials he must face, Pepe spends his evening looking for fame and falling under the trances of the bride. The story runs you through the many rooms and vignettes of the Haunted Mansion itself. There are small moments of jump scares, probably some of my favorite moments. There are also a few moments that trap Gonzo and Pepe into a future they need to escape. Gonzo is the hero that saves himself and must then go and save his friend, Pepe.

The Caretaker, Darren Criss, showing Pepe and Gonzo their future in the cemetery in the Muppets Haunted Mansion
The Caretaker, Darren Criss, showing Pepe and Gonzo their future in the cemetery.

Two of my favorite moments are the cameo of John Stamos and his interaction with Pepe along with the graveyard serenade. The twist on John Stamos' appearance is unexpected and filled with comic relief. The graveyard musical is a wonderful beginning that welcomes you back into a true Muppet musical. The cameos that filled the graveyard and the stories they represented are pulled from the Haunted Mansion's cemetery and stories that fill the mansion. Another storyline that helped those that love to dive deep into the Haunted Mansion is the appearance of Kim Irvine. Kim Irvine is part of a Disney legend family, and her mother is the original face and voice of Madame Leota, the fortune teller in the seance room.

One fun fact Fiona wanted to point out was that in the stretching room, you only see three of the portraits represented. We learned from an interview with Kirk Thatcher and Kelly Young, two of the creators of the special on Mousetalgia that was intentional because they read that the woman sitting on her husband's tombstone is the bride you see in the Haunted Mansion. If they had represented that portrait in the beginning, they feel like they would have given away one of the storylines too early in the special. The bride plays a significant role in the storyline and becomes entwined with Pepe.

The Ballroom scene with a host of Muppet characters in the Muppets Haunted Mansion
The Ballroom scene with a host of Muppet characters

When the special was first released, it shot up with excellent reviews and high praise on Rotten Tomatoes. Since then, it has settled down to a more reasonable rating with 73% approval by critics and a 60% from the audience. You can view the trailer on YouTube and judge for yourself whether this is something that will be entertaining for your family. It is definitely for a younger family with kids from seven to eleven. My kids were a little bit too old to enjoy this special, and it was a little too intense for Fiona. Fiona has been dealing with her fears of mortality, and this storyline skirts around those conversations. Gonzo has to deal with his fear of being alone and coming to his demise alone. He learns that his greatest fear is losing his friends and learns he should have spent his evening with his friends at the annual Halloween party.

Disney tried to embrace this special online and carried the nostalgia into their parks. At Disneyland, they created a Downtown Disney vignette to take selfies and share on social media. They also created a curated exhibit located at the entrance and foyer to the Great Moments with Abraham Lincoln and next to the Disneyana store. The presentation went beyond a few props from the movie and celebrated the lesser-known artwork that helped create the Haunted Mansion. The artwork presented was created over the two decades that the Imagineers worked and collaborated on the storyline for the Haunted Mansion. You can see how they borrowed and worked together to create an attraction that has become part of Disney culture and allure. Online you can check out all the extras that were created for the D23 website. You can check out interviews with Miss Piggy, Pepe, and Gonzo on the Inside Disney podcast.

Before discussing the Muppets Haunted Mansion special, we discuss what easter egg we would like to see in the Haunted Mansion that is influenced by the Muppets Haunted Mansion special. We discuss which characters we would like to see as a cameo and what special effects we think would be fun to see in the Haunted Mansion. What easter egg would you like to see in the Haunted Mansion? Please send us an email at Please enjoy our latest podcast, Dispodopolis.

We would love to hear from you and your family. If you have any comments, questions, or fun and fancy-free thoughts, email us at

Images from: Dispodopolis, Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Archives, Disney+, and D23

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