Kermit the Frog sings about how hard it is to be green, but Disney (NYSE:DIS) is turning to its Muppets franchise to see if it can drag its Disney World attendance out of the red. The world's leading theme park operator announced on Thursday that it will be bringing a Muppets-themed show to its most popular theme park.
The Muppets Present... Great Moments in American History will debut at the Magic Kingdom in October. The live show will take place in the park's Liberty Square area, just outside of the iconic Hall of Presidents attraction. The timing may be fitting -- just ahead of the 2016 presidential election -- but the show will continue long after the ballots have been counted.
The attraction isn't entirely a surprise. Disney World blog WDWNT broke the rumor a month ago, proposing that a recent refurbishment of Liberty Square's Heritage House was to pave the way for Muppets that would be performing a history-themed show from its second-story windows.
It's not the only Disney World park getting an infusion of Muppets revelry this fall. Going from the resort's busiest park to its least visited one, PizzeRizzo -- themed to The Muppets' Rizzo the Rat -- will take over the old Pizza Planet restaurant and video game arcade at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
It's time to put on make up
Disney has spent billions over the past decade acquiring Pixar, Lucasfilm, and Marvel. Those deals have armed the media giant with some of the popular characters in entertainment. That's the kind of ammo that will naturally prove popular at its theme parks. Disney's Hollywood Studios is working on lands themed to Pixar's Toy Story and Lucasfilm's Star Wars. Out in California, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy will be part of the Tower of Terror makeover at Disney's California Adventure next year.
However, long before all of those deals were brokered, Disney spent a lot less to buy The Muppets characters from Jim Henson's estate. It didn't seem like much of a deal in 2004 when Disney had other things to worry about. However, it's only natural for Disney to dig back into its vault to breathe new life into the classic characters.
Disney-owned ABC revived the franchise as a primetime show during last year's fall season. Now we're getting a pizzeria in one park and a live puppetry show in another. It may seem bittersweet. ABC cancelled the show two months ago given the poor ratings after the initial spike in interest, but don't be surprised if it comes back now that there are more dedicated attractions to refresh the property to tens of millions of annual Disney World guests.
Disney World itself can use the boost. Attendance surprisingly declined during the March quarter, and the combination of sharply higher ticket prices and sluggish international tourism trends likely weighed on the June quarter. Disney's bigger content acquisitions may pay off in the coming years, but it's now up to The Muppets to see if they can boost theme park attendance later this year.