Listen to a binaural recording of MuppetVision 3D from 1994
“Coming Soon: Muppet Studios”
That’s what the sign on the construction wall said that was visible from the Backlot Tour Trams. Disney and Jim Henson were in talks to transfer the rights to the Muppets and despite the lack of a contract, construction was in full swing. For any kid growing up in the ’70s and ’80s this was an exciting idea as we grew up in love with both companies. The idea of them working together was full of promise.
Rumors spread of two attractions: a 3D movie and a parody of the Great Movie Ride, both starring The Muppets. There was also talk of a Muppet-themed restaurant but the details were scarce. When the construction walls came down and the area opened to us fans, the only surviving piece was MuppetVision 3D. Apparently discussions began to unravel and with Jim Henson’s untimely passing the value of the deal was questioned. (The blog Sparks of Imagination has a rendering of how the area was supposed to look, something I’d never seen before!) The building across the street, which apparently was supposed to hold the restaurant, became a space to display props and costumes from random Disney-produced movies and television shows. This was eventually moved to the new Backstage Tours tram exit and the space is now the Pizza Planet restaurant.
So MuppetVision it was. And it was great! The preshow in the queue utilizing banks of three televisions was hilarious. Aside: the rumor was that the preshow was actually whipped together in a day after Disney asked Henson for it — apparently the Muppet creators had forgot about making a preshow, which they had also done when putting together the “Here Come the Muppets” stage show.
The main show is to me the epitome of what WDI was able to produce in the ’90s: a unique combination of 3D film, practical special effects, audioanimatronics and surround sound. The attention to detail is phenomenal. If you have the time and travel companions that can tolerate it, make a point of just one time sitting in the front row and only watch the penguin orchestra. They are constantly active, reacting to the show and to each other. It’s stunning.
Anyway, onto the recording. This one is a little different than other recordings of the show that you may have already heard in that it was recorded binaurally. The idea is that you use two microphones spaced similarly to the natural distance between the human ear so that the sound captured reproduces the three dimensional space. This technique was used in the Disney-MGM attraction Soundsations in the Monster Sound Show post-show area and as a person who messed around a bit with audio the idea was intriguing. One problem: binaural microphones at that time cost $10,000. Needless to say, that was way out of my budget. But for $5 I was able to take a foam head made for displaying wigs and cut out the ear locations to snuggly fit the RadioShack microphones that I was already using to record sounds in the parks. For the next couple of years “The Head” and I made the rounds through the parks, attracting a bit of curiosity along the way.
This recording was made sometime in either late 1993 or 1994.
Sony MZ-1 MiniDisc recorder
2 Radio Shack 33-1089 omni mics