Jim Henson

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Jim Henson
Jim Henson (1989) headshot.jpg
Jim Henson at the 1989 Emmy Awards
James Maury Henson

(1936-09-24)September 24, 1936
DiedMay 16, 1990(1990-05-16) (aged 53)
Education University of Maryland, College Park (B.S., 1960)
OccupationPuppeteer, animator, cartoonist, voice actor, inventor, filmmaker, screenwriter
Years active1954–1990
Known for The Muppets
Sesame Street
Fraggle Rock
Home town Leland, Mississippi, U.S.
Hyattsville, Maryland, U.S.
Board member of Jim Henson Foundation
The Jim Henson Company (1958–90)
Jim Henson's Creature Shop (1979–90)
Jane Henson (m. 1959)
Children Brian Henson
Lisa Henson
John Henson
Heather Henson
Cheryl Henson
AwardsCourage Conscience Award
Emmy Award
Disney Legend Award

James Maury Henson (September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990) was an American puppeteer, animator, [2] cartoonist, voice actor, inventor, filmmaker, and screenwriter who achieved worldwide notice as the creator of The Muppets (1955–) and Fraggle Rock (1983–1987). He was born in Greenville, Mississippi and raised in Leland, Mississippi and Hyattsville, Maryland. [3]

The Muppets are an ensemble cast of puppet characters known for their absurdist, burlesque, and self-referential style of variety-sketch comedy. Created by Jim and Jane Henson in 1955, they are the namesake for the Disney media franchise that encompasses television, music, film, and other media associated with the characters.

<i>Fraggle Rock</i> American television series

Fraggle Rock is a Canadian-British-American children's puppet television series about interconnected societies of Muppet creatures, created by Jim Henson.

Greenville, Mississippi City in Mississippi, United States

Greenville is a city in, and the county seat of, Washington County, Mississippi, United States. The population was 34,400 at the 2010 census. It is located in the area of historic cotton plantations and culture known as the Mississippi Delta.


Henson began developing puppets in high school. He created Sam and Friends while he was a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park, a five-minute comedy puppet show that appeared on television. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in home economics, after which he produced coffee advertisements and developed some experimental films. He founded Muppets, Inc. in 1958, which became The Jim Henson Company.

Sam and Friends is an early live-action/puppet television show created by puppeteer Jim Henson and his eventual wife Jane Nebel. It was taped and aired twice daily as a local series in Washington, D.C., on WRC-TV in black and white, and later color, on weeknights from May 9, 1955, to December 15, 1961. Most of the original episodes were wiped after airing on TV. A few surviving episodes can be viewed at the Paley Center for Media but many can also be found on popular video sites like YouTube, such as those digitally archived by The Jim Henson Company. Some have been documented by either the Henson Archives or newspaper articles published while the show was still on air. Some fans who grew up watching Sam and Friends have posted comments online about some of the lost episodes which they remembered watching.

University of Maryland, College Park public research university in the city of College Park in Prince Georges County, Maryland

The University of Maryland, College Park is a public research university in College Park, Maryland. Founded in 1856, UMD is the flagship institution of the University System of Maryland, and is the largest university in both the state and the Washington metropolitan area, with more than 41,000 students representing all fifty states and 123 countries, and a global alumni network of over 360,000. Its twelve schools and colleges together offer over 200 degree-granting programs, including 92 undergraduate majors, 107 master's programs, and 83 doctoral programs. UMD is a member of the Association of American Universities and competes in intercollegiate athletics as a member of the Big Ten Conference.

The Jim Henson Company American entertainment company

The Jim Henson Company is an American entertainment company located in Los Angeles, California. The company is known for its innovations in the field of puppetry, particularly though the creation of the renowned Muppets characters; and is a leading producer of children’s and family entertainment.

Henson joined the children's educational television program Sesame Street where he helped to develop characters for the series. He also appeared on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live . He produced The Muppet Show in 1976, after scrapping plans for a Broadway show. He gained attention for his creations, particularly Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, and Ernie, and he was involved with Sesame Street for over 20 years. During the later years of his life, he also founded the Jim Henson Foundation and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. He won the Emmy Award twice for his involvement in The Storyteller and The Jim Henson Hour .

<i>Sesame Street</i> American childrens television program

Sesame Street is an American educational children's television series that combines live action, sketch comedy, animation and puppetry. It is produced by Sesame Workshop and was created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett. The program is known for its images communicated through the use of Jim Henson's Muppets, and includes short films, with humor and cultural references. The series premiered on November 10, 1969, to positive reviews, some controversy, and high viewership; it has aired on the U.S.'s national public television provider PBS since its debut, with its first run moving to premium channel HBO on January 16, 2016.

<i>Saturday Night Live</i> American late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show

Saturday Night Live (SNL) is an American late-night live television variety show created by Lorne Michaels and developed by Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title NBC's Saturday Night. The show's comedy sketches, which often parody contemporary culture and politics, are performed by a large and varying cast of repertory and newer cast members. Each episode is hosted by a celebrity guest, who usually delivers the opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast as with featured performances by a musical guest. An episode normally begins with a cold open sketch that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!", properly beginning the show.

<i>The Muppet Show</i> 1976–1981 TV series

The Muppet Show is a comedy television series created by Jim Henson and featuring the Muppets. The series originated as two pilot episodes produced by Henson for ABC in 1974 and 1975, respectively. While neither episode was moved forward as a series and other networks in the United States rejected Henson’s proposals, British producer Lew Grade expressed interest in the project and agreed to co-produce The Muppet Show for ATV. Five seasons, totalling 120 episodes, were broadcast on ATV and other ITV franchises in the UK and in first-run syndication in the US from 1976 to 1981. The programme was filmed at Elstree Studios, England.

Henson died suddenly in May 1990 at age 53 from toxic shock syndrome, an unexpected event that was widely lamented in the media and entertainment industry. [4] [5] In the weeks following his death, he was celebrated with a wave of tributes. He was posthumously inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991 and was selected to be one of the Disney Legends in 2011.

Toxic shock syndrome condition caused by bacterial toxins

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a condition caused by bacterial toxins. Symptoms may include fever, rash, skin peeling, and low blood pressure. There may also be symptoms related to the specific underlying infection such as mastitis, osteomyelitis, necrotising fasciitis, or pneumonia.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Entertainment hall of fame in Hollywood, Los Angeles

The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises more than 2,600 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California. The stars are permanent public monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry, bearing the names of a mix of musicians, actors, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters, and others. The Walk of Fame is administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and maintained by the self-financing Hollywood Historic Trust. It is a popular tourist destination, with a reported 10 million visitors in 2003. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce holds trademark rights to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Disney Legends award given by the Walt Disney Company

The Disney LegendsAwards is a hall of fame program that recognizes individuals who have made an extraordinary and integral contribution to The Walt Disney Company. Established in 1987, the honor was traditionally awarded annually during a special private ceremony; since 2009, it has been awarded biennially during Disney's D23 Expo.


Early life: 1936–61

Henson was born in Greenville, Mississippi on September 24, 1936, the younger of two children of Paul Ransom Henson (1904–1994), an agronomist for the United States Department of Agriculture, and his wife Betty Marcella (née  Brown, 1904–1972). [6] He was raised as a Christian Scientist and spent his early childhood in Leland, Mississippi before moving with his family to University Park, Maryland near Washington, DC in the late 1940s. [7] He remembered the arrival of the family's first television as "the biggest event of his adolescence", [8] being heavily influenced by radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and the early television puppets of Burr Tillstrom on Kukla, Fran and Ollie and Bil and Cora Baird. [8] He remained a Christian Scientist at least into his twenties when he taught Sunday School, but he wrote to a Christian Science church in 1975 to inform them that he was no longer a practicing member. [9] [10]

Christian Science Set of beliefs and practices belonging to the metaphysical family of new religious movements

Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices belonging to the metaphysical family of new religious movements. It was developed in 19th-century New England by Mary Baker Eddy, who argued in her 1875 book Science and Health that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone. The book became Christian Science's central text, along with the Bible, and by 2001 had sold over nine million copies.

University Park, Maryland Town in Maryland

University Park is a town in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. The population was 2,548 at the 2010 census.

Edgar Bergen American actor, radio performer, comedian and ventriloquist

Edgar John Bergen was an American actor, comedian and radio performer, best known for his proficiency in ventriloquism and his characters Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. He was also the father of actress Candice Bergen.

Henson began working for WTOP-TV (now WUSA-TV) in 1954 while attending Northwestern High School, creating puppets for a Saturday morning children's show called The Junior Morning Show. He enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park as a studio arts major upon graduation, thinking that he might become a commercial artist. [11] A puppetry class offered in the applied arts department introduced him to the craft and textiles courses in the College of home economics, and he graduated in 1960 with a bachelor of science degree in home economics. As a freshman, he created Sam and Friends , a five-minute puppet show for WRC-TV. The characters on Sam and Friends were forerunners of the Muppets, and the show included a prototype of Henson's most famous character Kermit the Frog. [12] He remained at WRC from 1954 to 1961.

WUSA (TV) CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.

WUSA, virtual and VHF digital channel 9, is a CBS-affiliated television station licensed to the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. The station is owned by Tegna Inc., and effectively serves as the flagship television property of the company. WUSA's studios and transmitter are located at Broadcast House on Wisconsin Avenue in the Tenleytown neighborhood on the northwestern side of Washington. WUSA is the largest CBS affiliate by market size that is not owned and operated by the network.

Northwestern High School (Hyattsville, Maryland) high school in Hyattsville, Maryland, United States

Northwestern High School is a public comprehensive and magnet high school. It is located in Hyattsville, Maryland in Prince George's County, less than a mile from the University of Maryland, College Park in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. It is part of the Prince George's County Public Schools system.

WRC-TV NBC TV station in Washington, D.C.

WRC-TV, virtual channel 4, is an NBC owned-and-operated television station licensed to the American capital city of Washington, District of Columbia. Owned by the NBC Owned Television Stations subsidiary of NBCUniversal, it is sister to Class A Telemundo owned-and-operated station WZDC-CD and regional sports network NBC Sports Washington. WRC-TV and WZDC-CD share studios and transmitter facilities on Nebraska Avenue in the Tenleytown neighborhood of northwest Washington.

In the show, Henson began experimenting with techniques that changed the way in which puppetry was used on television, including using the frame defined by the camera shot to allow the puppet performer to work from off-camera. He believed that television puppets needed to have "life and sensitivity" [13] and began making characters from flexible, fabric-covered foam rubber, allowing them to express a wider array of emotions at a time when many puppets were made of carved wood. [6] A marionette's arms are manipulated by strings, but Henson used rods to move his Muppets' arms, allowing greater control of expression. Additionally, he wanted the Muppet characters to "speak" more creatively than was possible for previous puppets, which had random mouth movements, so he used precise mouth movements to match the dialogue.

When Henson began work on Sam and Friends, he asked fellow University of Maryland senior Jane Nebel to assist him. The show was a financial success, but he began to have doubts about going into a career performing with puppets once he graduated. He spent several months in Europe, where he was inspired by European puppet performers who looked on their work as an art form. [14] He began dating Jane after his return to the United States.

Television and Muppets: 1961–69

Henson spent much of the next two decades working in commercials, talk shows, and children's projects before realizing his dream of the Muppets as "entertainment for everybody". [8] The popularity of his work on Sam and Friends in the late 1950s led to a series of guest appearances on network talk and variety shows. He appeared as a guest on many shows, including The Steve Allen Show , The Jack Paar Program , and The Ed Sullivan Show . (Sullivan introduced him as "Jim Newsom and his Puppets" on September 11, 1966.) These television broadcasts greatly increased his exposure, which led to hundreds of commercial appearances by Henson characters throughout the '60s.

Among the most popular of Henson's commercials was a series for the local Wilkins Coffee company in Washington, DC, [15] in which his Muppets were able to get away with a greater level of slapstick violence than might have been acceptable with human actors and eventually worked into many acts on The Muppet Show . In the first Wilkins ad, a Muppet named Wilkins is poised behind a cannon seen in profile. Another Muppet named Wontkins is in front of its barrel. Wilkins asks, "What do you think of Wilkins Coffee?" and Wontkins responds gruffly, "Never tasted it!" Wilkins fires the cannon and blows Wontkins away, then turns the cannon directly toward the viewer and ends the ad with, "Now, what do you think of Wilkins?" Henson later explained, "Till then, advertising agencies believed that the hard sell was the only way to get their message over on television. We took a very different approach. We tried to sell things by making people laugh." [16] The first seven-second commercial for Wilkins was an immediate hit and was syndicated and reshot by Henson for local coffee companies throughout the United States, [15] and he ultimately produced more than 300 coffee ads. [16]

In 1963, Henson and his wife moved to New York City where the newly formed Muppets, Inc. resided for some time, and Henson lived there until his death. Jane quit performing to raise their children, and Henson hired writer Jerry Juhl in 1961 and puppet performer Frank Oz in 1963 to replace her. [17] Henson credited them both with developing much of the humor and character of his Muppets. [18] He and Oz developed a close friendship and a performing partnership that lasted until Henson's death; their teamwork is particularly evident in their portrayals of Bert and Ernie, Kermit and Miss Piggy, and Kermit and Fozzie Bear. [19]

Henson's talk show appearances culminated when he devised Rowlf, a piano-playing anthropomorphic dog that became the first Muppet to make regular appearances on The Jimmy Dean Show . Henson was so grateful for this break that he offered Jimmy Dean a 40-percent interest in his production company, but Dean declined, stating that Henson deserved all the rewards for his own work, a decision of conscience that Dean never regretted. [20] From 1963 to 1966, Henson began exploring filmmaking and produced a series of experimental films. [3] [21] His nine-minute experimental film Time Piece was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1966. He produced The Cube in 1969. Around this time, he wrote the first drafts of a live-action movie script with Jerry Juhl which became Tale of Sand . The script remained in the Henson Company archives until it was adapted in the 2012 graphic novel Jim Henson's Tale of Sand.

Sesame Street: 1969

In 1969, television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and her staff at the Children's Television Workshop were impressed by the quality and creativity of the Henson-led team, so they asked Henson and staff to work full-time on Sesame Street , a children's program for public television that premiered on National Educational Television on November 10, 1969. Part of the show was set aside for a series of funny, colorful puppet characters living on Sesame Street, including Grover, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and Big Bird. Henson performed the characters of Ernie, game-show host Guy Smiley, and Kermit, who appeared as a roving television news reporter.

Henson's Muppets initially appeared separately from the realistic segments on the Street, but the show was revamped to integrate the two segments, placing much greater emphasis on Henson's work. Cooney frequently praised Henson's work, and PBS called him "the spark that ignited our fledgling broadcast service." [8] The success of Sesame Street also allowed him to stop producing commercials, and he said that "it was a pleasure to get out of that world". [15]

Henson was also involved in producing various shows and animation inserts during the first two seasons. He produced a series of counting films for the numbers 1 through 10 which always ended with a baker (voiced by Henson) falling down the stairs while carrying the featured number of desserts. He also worked on a variety of inserts for the numbers 2 through 12, including the films "Dollhouse", "Number Three Ball Film", the stop-motions "King of Eight", "Queen of Six", the cut-out animation "Eleven Cheer", and the computer animation "Nobody Counts To 10". He also directed the original "C Is For Cookie" and Tales from Muppetland, a short series of TV movie specials that were comic retellings of classic fairy tales aimed at a young audience and hosted by Kermit the Frog. The series included Hey, Cinderella! , The Frog Prince , and The Muppet Musicians of Bremen .

Expansion of audience: 1970–77

Henson, Oz, and his team were concerned that the company was becoming typecast solely as purveyors of children's entertainment, so they targeted an adult audience with a series of sketches on the first season of the late-night live television variety show Saturday Night Live . Eleven Land of Gorch sketches were aired between October 1975 and January 1976 on NBC, with four additional appearances in March, April, May, and September 1976. Henson liked Lorne Michaels' work and wanted to be a part of it, but he ultimately concluded that "what we were trying to do and what his writers could write for it never gelled". [15] The SNL writers were not comfortable writing for the characters, and they frequently disparaged Henson's creations; Michael O'Donoghue quipped, "I won't write for felt." [22]

Henson began developing a Broadway show and a weekly television series both featuring the Muppets. [15] The American networks rejected the series in 1976, believing that Muppets would appeal only to a child audience. Then Henson pitched the show to British impresario Lew Grade to finance the show. The show would be shot in the United Kingdom and syndicated worldwide. [14] That same year, he scrapped plans for his Broadway show and moved his creative team to England, where The Muppet Show began taping. The show featured Kermit as host and a variety of other characters, notably Miss Piggy, Gonzo the Great, and Fozzie Bear, along with other characters such as Animal. Henson's teammates sometimes compared his role to that of Kermit: a shy, gentle boss with "a whim of steel" [19] who ran things like "an explosion in a mattress factory." [23] Caroll Spinney was the puppet performer of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and he remembered that Henson would never say he didn't like something. "He would just go 'Hmm.'… And if he liked it, he would say, 'Lovely!'" [7] Henson recognized Kermit as an alter ego, though he thought that Kermit was bolder than he; he once said of the character, "He can say things I hold back." [24]

Transition to the big screen: 1979–82

The Muppets appeared in their first theatrical feature film The Muppet Movie in 1979. It was both a critical and financial success; [25] it made $65.2 million domestically and was the 61st highest-grossing film at the time. [26] Henson's idol Edgar Bergen died at age 75 during production of the film, and Henson dedicated it to his memory. Henson as Kermit sang "The Rainbow Connection", and it hit number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The Henson-directed The Great Muppet Caper (1981) followed, and Henson decided to end the Muppet Show to concentrate on making films, [6] though the Muppet characters continued to appear in TV movies and specials.

Henson also aided others in their work. The producers of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) asked him to aid make-up artist Stuart Freeborn in the creation and articulation of Yoda. He suggested that George Lucas use Frank Oz as the puppeteer and voice of Yoda, and Oz did so in it and the five subsequent Star Wars films. Lucas lobbied unsuccessfully to have Oz nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. [27]

Henson and producer George Lucas working on Labyrinth in 1986 Lucas - Henson - 1986.jpg
Henson and producer George Lucas working on Labyrinth in 1986

In 1982, Henson founded the Jim Henson Foundation to promote and develop the art of puppetry in the United States. Around that time, he began creating darker and more realistic fantasy films that did not feature the Muppets and displayed "a growing, brooding interest in mortality." [19] He co-directed The Dark Crystal (1982) with Frank Oz, "trying to go toward a sense of realism—toward a reality of creatures that are actually alive". [15] To provide a visual style distinct from the Muppets, the puppets in The Dark Crystal were based on conceptual artwork by Brian Froud, and it was a financial and critical success.

Oz directed The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) which grossed $25.5 million domestically and ranked one of the top 40 films of 1984. [28] Labyrinth (1986) was a fantasy that Henson directed by himself, but it was considered a commercial disappointment, despite some positive reviews; The New York Times called it "a fabulous film". [29] This demoralized Henson; his son Brian Henson described it as "the closest I've seen him to turning in on himself and getting quite depressed." [19] The film later became a cult classic. [30]

Final years: 1983–90

Henson continued creating children's television, such as Fraggle Rock and the animated Muppet Babies . He also continued to address darker, more mature themes with the folk tale and mythology oriented show The Storyteller (1988), which won an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program. The next year, he returned to television with The Jim Henson Hour which mixed lighthearted Muppet fare with more risqué material. It was critically well-received and won him another Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Variety or Music Program, but it was canceled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. Henson blamed its failure on NBC's constant rescheduling. [31]

In late 1989, Henson entered into negotiations to sell his company to The Walt Disney Company for almost $150 million, hoping that he would "be able to spend a lot more of my time on the creative side of things" with Disney handling business matters. [31] By 1990, he had completed production on the television special The Muppets at Walt Disney World and the Walt Disney World attraction Muppet*Vision 3D , and he was developing film ideas and a television series entitled Muppet High. [7]

Personal life

Henson married Jane Nebel in 1959, and their children are Lisa (b. 1960), Cheryl (b. 1961), Brian (b. 1963), John (1965–2014), [32] and Heather (b. 1970). [33] Henson and his wife separated in 1986, although they remained close for the rest of his life. [7] Jane said that Jim was so involved with his work that he had very little time to spend with her or their children. [7] All five of his children began working with Muppets at an early age, partly because "one of the best ways of being around him was to work with him", according to Cheryl. [13] [34]

Illness and death

Henson appeared with Kermit on The Arsenio Hall Show on May 4, 1990, and it was his final television appearance. He disclosed to his publicist that he was tired and had a sore throat, but he felt that it would soon go away. He then traveled to Ahoskie, North Carolina with his daughter Cheryl to visit his father and stepmother. They returned to their home in New York City the following day, and Henson cancelled a Muppet recording session that had been scheduled for May 14. [7] His estranged wife came to visit that night.

Henson was having trouble breathing at around 2 a.m. on May 15, and he began coughing up blood. He suggested to his wife that he might be dying, but he did not want to take time off from his schedule to visit a hospital. Two hours later, he agreed to be taken by taxi to the emergency room at New York Hospital in Manhattan. Shortly after admission, he stopped breathing, and an X-ray revealed that he had abscesses in his lungs as a result of a viral infection. He was placed on a ventilator, but he deteriorated over the next several hours, despite increasingly aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics.

Henson died at age 53 on May 16, 1990, just over 20 hours after being admitted to New York Hospital. Dr. David Gelmont announced that Henson had died from Streptococcus pneumoniae , an infection that causes bacterial pneumonia. [8] However, he confirmed on May 29 that Henson's immediate cause of death was organ dysfunction resulting from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome caused by Streptococcus pyogenes . [4] [5] News spread quickly and admirers of his work responded from around the world with tributes and condolences. Many of Henson's co-stars and directors from Sesame Street, the Muppets, and other works also shared their thoughts on his death. [35] On May 21, Henson's public memorial service was conducted in Manhattan at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Another was conducted on July 2 at St Paul's Cathedral in London. In accordance with Henson's wishes, no one in attendance wore black, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band finished the service by performing "When the Saints Go Marching In". Harry Belafonte sang "Turn the World Around", a song that he had debuted on The Muppet Show, as each member of the congregation waved a brightly colored foam butterfly attached to a puppet performer's rod. [36] [37] Later, Big Bird walked onto the stage and sang Kermit's signature song "Bein' Green". [38] Dave Goelz as Gonzo, Frank Oz, Kevin Clash, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, and Richard Hunt sang a medley of Henson's favorite songs in their characters' voices, ending with a performance of "Just One Person". [39] The funeral was described by Life as "an epic and almost unbearably moving event". [19] Henson was cremated and his ashes were scattered in 1992 near Taos in New Mexico. [40]


The Jim Henson Company and the Jim Henson Foundation continued after his death, producing new series and specials. Jim Henson's Creature Shop also continues to build creatures for a number of projects, including the television series Farscape and films such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and MirrorMask ; it is considered[ by whom? ] one of the most advanced and well respected special effects studios. Steve Whitmire joined the Muppets cast in 1978 and began performing Kermit the Frog six months after Henson's death. [41] He was dismissed from the Muppets cast in 2016, and Matt Vogel succeeded him as Kermit. [42]

On February 17, 2004, the Muppets and the Bear in the Big Blue House properties were sold to the Walt Disney Company, [43] [44] [45] and Sesame Workshop acquired the Sesame Street characters in 2000. [46]

One of Henson's last projects was the attraction Muppet*Vision 3D , which opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios on May 16, 1991, exactly one year after his death. The Jim Henson Company retains the Creature Shop; as well as the rest of its film and television library including Fraggle Rock, Farscape, The Dark Crystal , and Labyrinth . [47] Brian Jay Jones published a Henson biography on September 24, 2013, Henson's 77th birthday. [48]


Disney artists Joe Lanzisero and Tim Kirk drew this tribute of Mickey Mouse consoling Kermit the Frog, which appeared in the Summer 1990 issue of WD Eye, Walt Disney Imagineering's employee magazine. Mickeykermit.jpg
Disney artists Joe Lanzisero and Tim Kirk drew this tribute of Mickey Mouse consoling Kermit the Frog, which appeared in the Summer 1990 issue of WD Eye, Walt Disney Imagineering's employee magazine.



YearFilm Director Producer Writer Actor RoleNotes
1965 Time Piece YesYesYesYesMan
1979 The Muppet Movie NoYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Swedish Chef
Additional Muppets
1981 The Great Muppet Caper YesNoNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Swedish Chef
The Newsman
Additional Muppets
1982 The Dark Crystal YesYesYesYesJen
skeZok/The Ritual Master
skeSo/The Emperor
Puppeteering only
Co-directed with Frank Oz
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan NoYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Swedish Chef
The Newsman
Additional Muppets
Executive Producer
1985 Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird NoNoNoYesErnie
Kermit the Frog
1986 Labyrinth YesNoYesNo
1991 Muppet*Vision 3D YesNoNoYesKermit the Frog
The Swedish Chef
Link Hogthrob
Rowlf the Dog
Additional Muppets
3D film attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios


YearFilm Director Producer Writer Actor RoleNotes
1955–1961 Sam and Friends YesNoYesYesSam
Harry the Hipster
Kermit the Frog
Professor Madcliffe
Pierre the French Rat
Additional Muppets
1963–1966 The Jimmy Dean Show NoNoNoYes Rowlf the Dog
1969 The Cube YesYesYesNo
1969 Hey, Cinderella! YesNoNoYesKermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
1969–1990 Sesame Street YesNoYesYes Ernie
Kermit the Frog
Guy Smiley
Mahna Mahna
Captain Vegetable
Mr. Nose
The King
Harold Happy
Sammy the Snake
Additional Muppets
1971 The Frog Prince YesYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
1974 The Muppets Valentine Show YesYesNoYesWally
Kermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Additional Muppets
Executive Producer
1975 The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence YesYesYesYesNigel
George Washington
The Swedish Chef
Dr. Teeth
Kermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
1976–1981 The Muppet Show NoYesYesYes Kermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
The Swedish Chef
Link Hogthrob
The Newsman
Additional Muppets
1977 Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas YesYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Harvey Beaver
Howard Snake
Mayor Harrison Fox
Television film
1978 Christmas Eve on Sesame Street NoNoNoYesKermit the Frog
1983–1987 Fraggle Rock YesYesYesYesCantus the Minstrel
Convincing John
Executive Producer
1983 Big Bird in China NoNoNoYesErnieTelevision film
Don't Eat the Pictures NoNoNoYes
1985 Little Muppet Monsters NoNoNoYesKermit the Frog (live-action puppet only)
Dr. Teeth
1986 The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years NoYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
The Swedish Chef
Link Hogthrob
Harry the Hipster
Additional Muppets
Television film
Executive Producer
The Tale of the Bunny Picnic YesYesNoYesThe DogTelevision film
The Christmas Toy NoYesNoYesJack-in-the-Box
Kermit the Frog
1987–1988 The Storyteller NoYesNoNoExecutive Producer
1987 Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series NoYesNoNo
A Muppet Family Christmas NoYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Swedish Chef
The Newsman
Guy Smiley
Baby Kermit
Baby Rowlf
Additional Muppets
Television film
Executive Producer
1988Sing-Along, Dance-Along, Do-AlongNoYesNoYesRowlf the Dog
Kermit the Frog
Entry in the Play-Along Video series
Executive Producer
1988–1989 Muppet Babies NoYesNoNoExecutive Producer
1989 Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting NoYesNoYesErnie
Kermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
Television film
Executive Producer
The Jim Henson Hour YesYesNoYesHimself
Kermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Additional Muppets
Executive Producer
1990 The Earth Day Special YesNoNoYesKermit the Frogsegment: "Kermit the Frog"
The Muppets at Walt Disney World NoYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Link Hogthrob
The Swedish Chef
Television film
Executive Producer

Video games

1988Oscar's Letter PartyKermit the Frog
Let's Learn to Play TogetherErnie
1991Sesame Street NumbersErnie
Kermit the Frog [72]
Voice only
Sesame Street Letters

See also

Related Research Articles

Kermit the Frog Muppet character

Kermit the Frog is a Muppet character and Jim Henson's best-known creation. Introduced in 1955, Kermit serves as the straight man protagonist of numerous Muppet productions, most notably Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, as well as in other television series, films, specials, and public service announcements through the years. Henson originally performed Kermit until his death in 1990; Steve Whitmire performed Kermit from that time up until his dismissal from the role in 2016. Kermit is currently performed by Matt Vogel. He was also voiced by Frank Welker in Muppet Babies and occasionally in other animation projects, and is voiced by Matt Danner in the 2018 reboot of Muppet Babies.

Puppeteer person who manipulates a puppet in real time to create the illusion of life

A puppeteer is a person who manipulates an inanimate object that might be shaped like a human, animal or mythical creature, or another object to create the illusion that the puppet is "alive". The puppeteer may be visible to or hidden from the audience. A puppeteer can operate a puppet indirectly by the use of strings, rods, wires, electronics or directly by his or her own hands placed inside the puppet or holding it externally or any other part of the body- such as the legs. Some puppet styles require two or more puppeteers to work together to create a single puppet character.

The Jim Henson Hour is a television series that aired on NBC in 1989. It was developed as a showcase for The Jim Henson Company's various puppet creations, including the Muppet characters.

<i>Muppet Babies</i> (1984 TV series) television series

Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, commonly known by the shortened title Muppet Babies, is an American animated television series that aired from September 15, 1984 to November 2, 1991 on CBS. The show portrays childhood versions of the Muppets living together in a nursery under the care of a human woman identified only as Nanny, who appears in almost every episode, but her face is never visible; only the babies' view of her pink skirt, purple sweater, and distinctive green and white striped socks is shown. The idea of presenting the Muppets as children first appeared in a dream sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), released two months before Muppet Babies debuted, in which Miss Piggy imagined what it would be like if she and Kermit the Frog had grown up together.

Rowlf the Dog muppet

Rowlf the Dog is a Muppet character, a scruffy brown dog of indeterminate breed, though part Corgi, with a rounded black nose and long floppy ears. He was created and originally performed by Jim Henson. Rowlf is the Muppet Theatre's resident pianist, as well as one of the show's main cast members. Calm and wisecracking, his humor is characterized as deadpan and as such, is one of few Muppets who is rarely flustered by the show's prevalent mayhem. He is very easy going and a fan of classical music and musicals.

Steve Whitmire American puppeteer

Steven Lawrence Whitmire is an American puppeteer who has worked on The Muppets and Sesame Street. Beginning his involvement with the Muppets in 1978, Whitmire inherited the roles of Kermit the Frog and Ernie, after Jim Henson's death in 1990; he performed the characters until 2016 and 2014, respectively. As part of the Muppet cast, he has appeared in multiple feature films and television series, performing a variety of characters on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock and during such occupations has worked for The Jim Henson Company, Sesame Workshop, and The Muppets Studio.

<i>The Muppet Movie</i> 1979 film directed by James Frawley

The Muppet Movie is a 1979 musical road comedy film and the first theatrical film featuring the Muppets. Directed by James Frawley and produced by Jim Henson, the film's screenplay was conceived by The Muppet Show writers Jerry Juhl and Jack Burns. An American and British venture produced by Henson Associates and ITC Entertainment between the first half and the second half of The Muppet Show's third season, the film depicts Kermit the Frog as he embarks on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, California. Along the way, he encounters several of the Muppets—who all share the same ambition of finding success in professional show business—while being pursued by Doc Hopper, an evil restaurateur with intentions of employing Kermit as a spokesperson for his frog legs business.

Jim Henson Television is the television production arm of The Jim Henson Company. Jim Henson Television has developed many creative shows over the span of four decades.

<i>The Muppets Take Manhattan</i> 1984 film by Frank Oz

The Muppets Take Manhattan is a 1984 American musical comedy drama film directed by Frank Oz. It is the third of a series of live-action musical feature films starring Jim Henson's Muppets with special appearances by Art Carney, James Coco, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Linda Lavin, Liza Minnelli and Joan Rivers. The film was produced by Henson Associates and TriStar Pictures, and was filmed on location in New York City during the summer of 1983 and released theatrically the following summer. It was the first film to be directed solely by Oz, who previously co-directed The Dark Crystal with Henson.

Muppet*Vision 3D 3D Attraction starring the Muppets directed by Jim Henson

Muppet*Vision 3D is a 3D film attraction located at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Directed by Jim Henson, the attraction consists of a pre-show which then leads into Kermit the Frog guiding park guests on a tour through Muppet Studios, while the Muppets prepare their sketch acts to demonstrate their new breakthrough in 3D film technology. The show, however, completely unravels when Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's experimental 3D sprite, Waldo, causes mayhem during the next portion of the show.

The Muppets at Walt Disney World is a television special starring Jim Henson's Muppets at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The special aired on NBC as part of The Magical World of Disney on May 6, 1990, and turned out to be the last Muppets special that Henson would work on.

Jane Ann Henson was an American puppeteer and the wife of puppeteer Jim Henson.

<i>Emmet Otters Jug-Band Christmas</i> 1977 US TV special

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is a 1977 TV special based on the children's book of the same name by Russell Hoban. Directed by Jim Henson, it features a cast of Muppet characters. It was produced by The Jim Henson Company and premiered on CBC Television.

Timothy Lagasse is an American puppeteer, puppet designer, and filmmaker. He has worked on television programs and films for Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon, Disney XD, and HBO. He is known for playing the title character on Noggin's Oobi series, and Crash on Disney XD's Crash & Bernstein.

<i>The Land of Gorch</i> Recurring Saturday Night Live skit featuring Jim Hensons Muppets.

The Land of Gorch was a recurring skit that appeared in season one of the American comedy television program Saturday Night Live, featuring Jim Henson's Muppets. Prior to his work for children on Sesame Street, Henson had created puppetry work, including his show Sam and Friends, for adult audiences. His characters appeared regularly on the late-night comedy television programs, and The Ed Sullivan Show. After Sesame Street, Henson feared he would become typecast into working on children's television series. His talent agent Bernie Brillstein, who represented Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Lorne Michaels helped him transition to Saturday Night Live.

<i>The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson</i>

The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson is a one-hour special that aired on CBS on November 21, 1990. The program was a tribute to Muppet creator Jim Henson, who had died earlier in 1990 due to toxic shock syndrome caused by a streptococcus infection, and featured characters from The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and Sesame Street.


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Further reading

Preceded by
Performer of Kermit the Frog
Succeeded by
Steve Whitmire (1990–2016)
Preceded by
Performer of Ernie
1969–1990, posthumously 1990–1993
Succeeded by
Steve Whitmire (1993–2014)
Preceded by
Performer of Captain Vegetable
Succeeded by
Richard Hunt
Preceded by
Performer of The Muppet Newsman
Succeeded by
Jerry Nelson
Preceded by
Performer of Link Hogthrob
Succeeded by
Steve Whitmire
Preceded by
Performer of Rowlf the Dog
Succeeded by
Bill Barretta
Preceded by
Performer of The Swedish Chef
Succeeded by
David Rudman
Preceded by
Performer of Dr. Teeth
Succeeded by
John Kennedy
Preceded by
Performer of Mahna Manah
Succeeded by
Bill Barretta
Preceded by
Performer of Waldorf
Succeeded by
Dave Goelz
Preceded by
Performer of Guy Smiley
Succeeded by
Don Reardon