Disney is making dreams come true by bringing back Muppet Babies for a reboot on its Disney Junior channel. But as our own Erik Adams pointed out when the revival was first announced back in 2016, the nature of those dreams is questionable, given the new, computer-generated characters seem to have registered their permanent address in the Uncanny Valley. Now, as the promised “early 2018" release date looms, Disney Jr. has introduced a new Muppet Baby to the gang: Summer the Penguin. (Get it?)
This new character is cartoonish enough to mitigate the existential nausea brought on by the uncanny realism of the other nouveau Muppet Babies’ anatomy—as Erik put it, “This image is off-putting because it wants us to think that Baby Kermit has bones”—while still evoking another contemporary nightmare: The environmental threat of climate change. Why doesn’t Summer live in the Antarctic anymore, kids? Could it be because her home has melted into the ocean, devastated by the long-term effects of the gas in your mom’s SUV, a disaster handed to you by your parents that may be too late to stop before it renders large swaths of the earth uninhabitable by the time you’re old enough to have children of your own?
Besides, there are already penguins in the Muppet-verse. As anyone raised on The Muppet Show—i.e. the parents Disney is hoping park their offspring in front of this show out of intergenerational brand recognition—knows, penguins were Muppets creator Jim Henson’s favorite form of cannon fodder on The Muppet Show, and have made regular appearances on Sesame Street beginning in the ‘90s, usually paling around with Elmo. Regular, black-and-white penguins without ponytails, or bones. Rest easy, kids!