By Jim Fanning
Such Disney Legends as Julie Andrews and Elton John were among the many guest stars on The Muppet Show, but perhaps the most fascinating Disney Legend to trod the boards of the Muppet Theater was Wally Boag.
Master vaudevillian and king of comedy.
One of Walt Disney’s favorites, Wally was the comedic star of the long-running Golden Horseshoe Revue at Disneyland. Wally’s vaudevillian background and zany performing style made him a natural for the madcap show-biz shenanigans of The Muppet Show. In fact, Kermit the Frog introduces Wally as “master vaudevillian and king of comedy.”
Muppet designers transformed Wally’s set of bagpipes into a wacky bird-like creature . . .
It was another Disney Legend, Steve Martin—Steve had guested on The Muppet Show in 1977—who introduced Wally (Steve’s comedy mentor) to Jim Henson in 1980. A big Boag fan, Jim invited Wally to guest on the show, and soon the Frontierland funnyman was making balloon animals, spouting corny one-liners, and spitting out “teeth” as Pecos Bill, surrounded by Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog, and Annie Sue . . . and heckled, naturally, by Statler and Waldorf. For this episode, which aired May 9, 1981, the Muppet designers transformed Wally’s set of bagpipes—he purchased them back in 1947—into a wacky bird-like creature, and Wally kept the “bird pipes” intact ever after. Of course, Wally wasn’t the only future Disney Legend in that episode: there was also Jim Henson performing Kermit.
It’s no coincidence that both Jim and Walt Disney loved vaudeville—and that love was best expressed in their mutual admiration for Wally Boag.