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Disneyland intros roving animatronic Muppets; Mickey and friends fear pink slips

Evan Blass
03.02.07
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The happiest place on Earth (Disneyland, not Las Vegas during CES) just got a little happier this week, thanks to a new exhibit called the Muppet Mobile Laboratory that roams the park and delights visitors with inane banter and sprays of water. Probably having nothing to do with the fact that the human costumed characters like to videotape themselves in suggestive poses while still in uniform, Disney decided to eschew flesh and bone for metal and silicon when it tasked the Imagineering studio with whipping up California Adventure's newest residents, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his always chipper, possibly speed-addicted friend Beaker. The two wacky companions approach groups of visitors in their remotely-controlled, cartoonish rocket ship, and thanks to operators monitoring embedded cameras, microphones, and speakers, are able to to carry on eerily-realistic conversations that incorporate actual traits of the audience members. The L.A. Times reminds us that the MML is only the latest in a long line of animatronic entertainers, from the Enchanted Tiki Room and Mr. Lincoln in the 60's to Lucky the Dinosaur and Crush the Turtle in the new millennium -- but Honeydew and Tweaker Beaker are the first that can be modified to entertain in almost any environment. Disney expects the new tech -- which enables remote operation from as far away as Glendale -- to eventually expand its stable of characters to include some of the Muppets who are too small to be played by actors (as opposed to mice, dogs, and ducks, which are just the right size), so next time the kids finally wear you down and win another trip to the Magic Kingdom, at least you'll be able to pass the time by chasing around little Chip 'n Dales or wirelessly hacking Kermit to tell the kiddies what he really thinks of that flaky pig.

Update: Now with video! Check it out after the break. Big thanks to commenter John and YouTube member JLOatesIII.

[Photo credit: L.A. Times, thanks Armando S.]

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