On February 8, 2001, Disneyland Resort opened their second theme park gate when Disney’s California Adventure opened right across from Disneyland. The theme park celebrates California culture, lifestyle and history. You can’t have a theme park about California and not celebrate Hollywood, right? Well, Disney’s California Adventure dedicated an area of the park to this with the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. The area featured dining and shopping as well as a few attractions carried over from Disney’s MGM Studios (now Disney Hollywood Studios), including of course Muppet*Vision 3D. One not-so-liked attraction in particular opened here, known as Superstar Limo.
Superstar Limo was a dark ride, similar to the ones found in Fantasyland like Peter Pan’s Flight or The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Purple “stretch limo” ride vehicles took guests through a cartoony version of Hollywood. Guests came across versions of cartoony renditions of celebrities (animated with moving arms or legs, but not Audio-Animatronics like typical Disney attractions), and a few puppet-forms featured on TV screens in both the attraction’s queue and on a monitor on the ride vehicle itself. Celebrities such as Tim Allen, Regis Philbin, Whoopi Goldberg and Cindy Crawford all made “appearances” as guests took a tour of Hollywood. The ride was written to the rider as Hollywood’s newest celebrity, visiting recognizable locations and situations on the way to their movie premiere, from Rodeo Drive to Bel Air to the Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
The ride was criticized from the start because of its lack of story and its depiction of celebrities. Over time, many of the “stars” featured in the ride had faded significantly. Rumors circulated that the ride was originally planned as a more exciting “paparazzi chase”, but that was deemed inappropriate after the death of Princess Diana in 1997. The ride’s unpopularity and criticism from guests led to its closure for “rehab” in January 2002, less than a year after it opened. It became the park’s first attraction to permanently close.
An intial “re-imagining” of the ride came soon after, when Imagineers proposed “Goofy’s Superstar Limo”, in which Goofy would replace the limo driver and the celebrities would be replaced by Disney characters. They hoped this would address guests’ concerns that DCA “has nothing for kids and no characters.” The ride would incorporate 100 Disney character figures taken from Disney stores. You read that right: 100 Disney characters included in a single ride experience. At the time, Disney Store chain was undergoing major re-theming and eliminating the large Disney character figures that appeared inside. The plan was to remove these figures from the stores and put them into Superstar Limo. Then September 11, 2001 occurred, and these plans were dropped.
Still, the ride needed a major change. In 2003, during the acquisition plans for Disney to purchase the Muppets, Imagineers began planning a new version of the ride featuring the Muppets. The concept was called “Miss Piggy’s Superstar Limo.” In this version, guests would board limos for a trip through a “Muppet-ized” version of Hollywood and conclude at a big premiere of a film starring Miss Piggy. The plan was for the ride system to remain the same as well as the ride vehicles and the track layout. The rest of the attraction would be demolished, including the cartoony sets and the caricature celebrity figures. Imagineers hoped to give this new version a sense of style and humor lacking in the original. The plan was to open this version of the ride and, if it proved popular enough, clone it in both the Florida and Paris parks.
Disney blogger Jim Hill shared a story of how Imagineers proposed announcing the ride’s “re-imagining” by placing a full page ad in Los Angeles newspapers which read, “Okay. We admit it. Superstar Limo is a really terrible ride. Not to worry, though. We’re going to fix this DCA attraction. In fact, we’ve got two of our best men working it right now.” Below this text would feature a picture of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. They planned to re-open the original attraction and insert Muppets into the ride one at a time, commenting on how lame the ride is, but sharing they would fix it up in no time. Imagine riding Superstar Limo as normal and coming across Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker in hardhats, measuring the room and sharing about how they are making refurbishments. The slow progression into the new Muppet-themed version of the ride would hopefully spark interest in guests riding the original ride again, hoping to see which Muppets show up this time.
After years of planning between “Mikey and Sulley and Boo Go Hollywood” or a west coast version of “Rock n Roller Coaster”, the ride re-opened in 2006 as “Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!” This ride utilized the same track layout as Superstar Limo, dressed and repositioned the celebrity figures as CDA agents, and reused and repainted the ride vehicles as taxi cabs.
So why did “Miss Piggy’s Superstar Limo” not come to fruition? Disney’s negotiating to purchase the Muppets was still a work in progress at the time. Also, Disney executives believed the Muppets were not popular anymore and would not drive attendance to the attraction to justify the millions of dollars needed for the update. Of course, Disney did eventually acquire the Muppets, but just imagine what this ride could have been! Maybe this is the kind of Muppet ride Disney Hollywood Studios needs in their “Muppet Courtyard.”
What do you think? Would you have ridden “Miss Piggy’s Superstar Limo”? What Disney ride would you re-theme to make into a Muppetized version?