Walt Disney World has announced that the Muppets will be joining the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival as part of an experiment with tasty flavors at the Brew-Wing Lab. This post shares all of the details, plus our predictions about what this could actually be and what it probably isn’t.
Let’s start with the news from Walt Disney World. The 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is right around the corner, and today, we’re excited to share more details – including a brand-new experience that brings a whole new meaning to molecular gastronomy.
Guests can take a culinary tour across six continents at this celebration of cuisine from around the world during the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, held from July 27 to November 18, 2023. Enjoy delectable Global Marketplaces, fresh new merchandise, nightly live entertainment, and more–there’s so much for guests of all ages to enjoy.
The big news today is that Flavorful Fun is Brew-Wing at Odyssey Pavilion.
Don your lab coats and prepare to experiment with delicious flavors as Brew-Wing Lab at the Odyssey invites guests on a flavorful adventure, featuring the culinary creations – and madcap mishaps – of Muppet Labs! Here’s a preview video that Walt Disney World shared:
That’s right – Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his faithful assistant, Beaker, of Muppet Labs will welcome you to their taste-testing headquarters, where the inventive duo are busy creating scientific snacks and mind-blowing beverages.
You’ll have a chance to sample some of their kooky concoctions like the Unnecessarily Spicy, Yet Extremely Tasty Scotch Bonnet Pepper-Curry Wings, or the Pickle Milkshake. Consider it a flavor experiment in the name of science!
Walt Disney World revealed other minor details about the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, but this is far and away the most interesting and exciting announcement, so we want to jump right into the commentary. As huge fans of the Muppets, we were immediately and incredibly excited by this news.
Then we started thinking about what it might (and might not) be from a realistic perspective.
For starters, this is going to be as part of the Brew-Wing Global Marketplace in the Odyssey pavilion. It’s not a huge surprise that this booth is returning to this location–despite being completely unambitious, it was a crowd-pleaser the last couple of years.
However, putting this brand-new Muppet Labs “experience” (the word Walt Disney World used to describe it) does present some significant limitations. While it’s the biggest of the Global Marketplaces, the Odyssey pavilion is not particularly large, and there isn’t much space for an experiential element to the lab experiments.
Although I’d love to be wrong, I can’t imagine that Walt Disney World will have the actual characters up at one of the counters where food and drinks are served. All of that space is needed, and is conducive to serving guests quickly and efficiently.
One potential option is setting up a stage in the center of seating area and having Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker perform experiments from an elevated position where guests can watch. The Odyssey was previously used for seminar sessions at past EPCOT festivals, so that could work.
For those who need help visualizing, just imagine Sonny Eclipse at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, but with puppets and far less seating. Very similar idea.
If Walt Disney World does opt to go that route, I hope they move out the merchandise and everything else from the floor of the Odyssey to maximize the available seating. The first half of the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival will be during the hottest months of the year in Central Florida, making the Odyssey seating area incredibly popular even without entertainment.
Add the Muppet Labs and that’ll only increase demand while potentially decreasing available seating. No experimenting necessary to know the outcome of that. It’s a recipe for long lines to enter the Odyssey, having to hover around for a table, or eating on top of a trash can.
Another possibility is that Walt Disney World plans on reviving the Muppet Mobile Lab. For those who never caught this elusive experiment in person, the Muppet Mobile Lab is/was part of Imagineering’s Living Characters Initiative. It was a roving vehicle with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker coming to life thanks to Audio-Animatronics and remote-controlled puppeteering technology. It was, in a word, awesome.
The Muppet Mobile Lab was essentially atmospheric and interactive entertainment, with Walt Disney World guests taking part in the experiments and hijinks of the dynamic duo. The vehicle created by Dr. Honeydew and Beaker was quite the contraption, having a ton of moving parts, effects, and gags. It was basically Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor but in three-dimensional and outdoor form.
The Muppet Mobile Lab was every bit as cool as it sounds, and the interactivity was off the charts. The Muppets characters engaged with guests organically, and were incredibly responsive. It was always fun and funny. I would hazard a guess that guest satisfaction for the Muppet Mobile Lab was quite high, and that’s not just my bias as a Muppets fan talking.
The Muppet Mobile Lab was weird and eye-catching, always managing to draw a crowd. Unlike other atmospheric entertainment, people didn’t pause for a few seconds before moving on–the audience always got progressively larger with the Muppet Mobile Lab. It was also quite elusive, but we were lucky to catch it multiple times at EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If my photo EXIF data is correct, we last saw it in very early in 2017.
I think the Muppet Mobile Lab was retired sometime shortly after that. Why, I do not know. That’s about par for the course with the Living Character Initiative. (This is a big part of why we’ve been cynical about Imagineering’s recent robot tests.) All of those free-roaming creatures were impressive and relatively short-lived. They were tested in the U.S. parks, then moved to Hong Kong Disneyland, and were prematurely retired.
Muppet Mobile Lab actually had the longest run of the bunch, with a reprisal at Walt Disney World after its international tour. Assuming the contraption still exists, it could be brought back to the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival and impress guests. It would still hold up and wow in 2023.
This actually isn’t the first time we’ve speculated about the return of the Muppet Mobile Lab at EPCOT. Back around this same time in 2017, DisneyAuditions.com posted a listing seeking comedic actors to portray wide-eyed and naïve scientific interns. Set in a laboratory environment, the warm and friendly ‘intern’ was to enthusiastically support various interactive audience experiences. Performers should have experience in interactive improvisational performance and must project a warm and inviting persona.
That turned out to be for Light Lab, which was a booth that debuted for the 2017 Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT. It was housed in the now-demolished Innoventions (but don’t worry, they’re rebuilding pretty much the exact same thing ~4 years after demolish it!) and was a cute little offering.
Initially, there was a bit of a show element to the booth, but I’d be surprised if they actually ever cast performers for those roles. It seemed like regular Cast Members who simply got into the ‘eclectic scientist doing experiments’ position. Over time, that show element seemed to disappear, presumably because the Light Lab was really popular and always had a long line to enter. This was in spite of the food being basic and the drinks being glorified sugar water.
This isn’t just a long and rambling trip down memory lane. It’s a possible blueprint for the Brew-Wing booth at the Odyssey pavilion. The food being basic and drinks that are glorified sugar water is a given, so they’ll definitely nail that part.
Rather than featuring Dr. Honeydew and Beaker inside the Odyssey, they could roam around via the Muppet Mobile Lab outside. The booth itself would simply be themed to the Muppets and science. For that, Walt Disney World could recycle the approach used for the Light Lab booth, darkening the windows and making the Odyssey a reprieve from the sun and hot weather.
It has been 6 years since the Light Lab was last a thing, and it very much was in the visual style of the old Innoventions building. Modernizing the booth a bit, perhaps using Guardians of the Galaxy or TRON as inspiration would make sense, or even just using weird and eclectic visuals from the Muppets. Really, anything could work. It could be quirky or earnest in its approach to science and culinary experiments.
Personally, I think this approach makes the most sense from a logistics and operational perspective. With the entertainment or ‘experience’ component outdoors, there’s only so long it’ll last and guests won’t linger around waiting for the next performance due to the heat.
If it’s inside the Odyssey pavilion, the air-conditioning and seats could be overly enticing, and make it a mild nightmare. (If you think I’m overthinking this and it won’t actually be that bad, I’d direct your attention to the lines to enter the AP “Lounge” at EPCOT last month, which was literally just an unused seating area at Sunshine Seasons!)
With all of this said, my actual fear here is that this won’t actually have an entertainment component at all, that Walt Disney World was using the word “experience” a bit too liberally, and it’ll simply be the normal Brew-Wing booth, but with more creative names and a bit of light window-dressing. That would be a huge disappointment.
I’m optimistic, though. Imagineering did a pretty good job with the Figment and Orange Bird initiatives in the Odyssey for the first two EPCOT festivals of the year. Here’s hoping that guest response to those was really positive, and they’ve decided to take things up a notch!
In other news, Walt Disney World revealed that there will be more than 25 Global Marketplaces including returning favorites such as The Fry Basket, Flavors from Fire, Canada, India and Spain marketplaces.
Also coming later in Fall 2023, the Walt Disney World culinary team will add four new Global Marketplaces to commemorate the Disney100 celebration: Char & Chop, Wine & Wedge, Bubbles & Brine and Swirled Showcase.
It appears that these booths will have delayed openings, which is a familiar pattern from the last few years. Previously, this was due to lower crowds at the start of the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival as compared to October through mid-November. For 2023, we’re wondering if the delayed opening of CommuniCore Hall and Plaza might be playing a part. Either way, we’ll have more on menus very soon, so stay tuned!
Any theories as to what the Muppet Labs “experience” at the Brew-Wing booth will be? Looking forward to the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival? Did you attend the event in any of the last few summers or falls? Think that it’ll benefit from being shorter and more focused, or are you disappointed that you’ll miss it during your summer vacation? Any hopes for Global Marketplace booths or menu items? Think any of the other demonstrations or seminars will return? Any tips you want to share to make the most of the experience? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!