Muppets Haunted Mansion was a fun and entertaining special. It plays with traditional Halloween/spooky stories, pays homage to its namesake (the Haunted Mansion ride at various Disney parks), and shares an important message.
Muppets Haunted Mansion opens with Gonzo and Pepé en route to a 100th-anniversary commemoration of the disappearance of the Great MacGuffin, Gonzo’s favorite magician. Along with the commemoration is a “Fear Challenge” to stay the night in the Haunted Mansion, the mansion from which the Great MacGuffin disappeared. Pepé is under the impression this is a Hollywood party with important people, and Gonzo is excited to show he is fearless and maintains his self-title of the Great Gonzo. Meanwhile, the other Muppets are holding their own Halloween party elsewhere.
As with all Muppets projects, a song and dance number are not far away. Arriving at the Haunted Mansion, Gonzo and Pepé enter the graveyard, where a caretaker (Darren Criss) breaks into song and begs the duo not to wake the ghosts. Making their way to the mansion, Gonzo and Pepé are met by the looming, creepy host (Will Arnett) and enlightened about the challenge: if they cannot escape their fears, they cannot escape the mansion and will be forced to reside there for eternity.
The two make their way through the mansion where Pepé finds Juan Stanz-most (John Stamos) in the VIP room and Gonzo asks Miss Pigota (Miss Piggy) to contact someone from the great beyond. They join the mansion ghosts in a dinner and show – in a Beauty and the Beast style scene. Think “Be Our Guests” but with a darker premise: “We tell jokes. I do tricks with my deadly candlesticks.”
Pepé and Gonzo eventually become separated. Pepé finds himself entranced by the beautiful bride (Taraji P. Henson), who is surrounded by the ghosts of her husband’s past. Husbands she presumably killed, that is. Gonzo must make his way to Room 999, a room “no one has dared enter.” (The Haunted Mansion attraction has “999 happy haunts.”) Once he enters and is locked in the room, he must face himself.
He realizes that he does have fears, but recognizing those fears is ultimately what lets him out of the room and the mansion. Gonzo saves Pepé from the grasp of the murderous bride, and lands in the graveyard as the caretaker are carving their headstones. Upon leaving the mansion, the two are given farewells by the host, who tells Gonzo, “You faced your fear. And that is the greatest act of all.”
Muppets Haunted Mansion had all the hallmark Muppet characteristics. Cheesy puns: When Kermit the Frog’s ghost character was asked how he got there, he responded with “I croaked.” The aforementioned song and dance numbers. Breaking the fourth wall: As Miss Pigota, Miss Piggy complains about being put in a “fishbowl” for such a small part in “this special.”
Goofs by the Muppets: a pair of ghoulish Muppets kept missing their “dun dun dun” cues and acknowledging that fact. It was also ripe with various special guests, including Yvette Nicole Brown, Craig Robinson, Alfonso Riberio, Chrissy Metz, and Ed Asner among many others. The special also featured key references to the famed ride, mimicking the style and design. It also had a valuable message, relevant not just to children or families, but to whoever might need to hear it. Facing one’s fears is the key to life, even if they are terrifying. Not doing so keeps one trapped. Facing them unlocks a new world.
Muppets Haunted Mansion is now streaming on Disney+.
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