Jim Henson

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Jim Henson
NHS Jim Henson Display (cropped).jpg
Henson with two of his Muppets, Ernie and Kermit the Frog
Born
James Maury Henson

(1936-09-24)September 24, 1936
DiedMay 16, 1990(1990-05-16) (aged 53)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Alma mater University of Maryland, College Park (B.S., 1960)
Occupation
  • Puppeteer
  • animator
  • cartoonist
  • actor
  • inventor
  • composer
  • filmmaker
  • screenwriter
Years active1954–1990
Board member of Jim Henson Foundation
The Jim Henson Company (1958–1990)
Jim Henson's Creature Shop (1979–1990)
Spouse(s)
(m. 1959; sep.  1986)
Children Brian Henson
Lisa Henson
John Henson
Heather Henson
Cheryl Henson
AwardsCourage Conscience Award
Emmy Award
Disney Legend Award
Inkpot Award [2]

James Maury Henson (September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990) was an American puppeteer, animator, cartoonist, actor, inventor, composer, filmmaker and screenwriter, who achieved worldwide notice as the creator of The Muppets characters and Fraggle Rock (1983–1987); and as the director of The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986). He was born in Greenville, Mississippi, and raised in Leland, Mississippi, and University Park, Maryland. [3]

Contents

Henson began developing puppets in high school. He created Sam and Friends (1955–1961), a short-form comedy television program, while he was a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in home economics, after which he produced coffee advertisements and developed experimental films. In 1958, he co-founded Muppets, Inc., which became The Jim Henson Company.

In 1969, Henson joined the children's educational television program Sesame Street (1969–present) where he helped to develop characters for the series. He and his creative team also appeared on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live . He produced The Muppet Show (1976–1981) during this period. He won fame for his characters, particularly Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog and Ernie. During the later years of his life, he founded the Jim Henson Foundation and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. He won the Emmy Award twice for his involvement in The Storyteller (1987–1988) and The Jim Henson Hour (1989).

On May 16, 1990, Henson died in New York City at the age of 53 from bacterial pneumonia. [4] [5] His ashes were scattered near Taos, New Mexico in May 1992. In the weeks following his death, he was celebrated with a wave of tributes. He posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991, and was named a Disney Legend in 2011.

Biography

Early life: 1936–1960

Henson was born James Maury Henson on September 24, 1936, in Greenville, Mississippi, 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] Henson's older brother, Paul Ransom Henson, Jr. (1932–1956), died in a car crash on April 15, 1956. [7] 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. [8] He remembered the arrival of the family's first television as "the biggest event of his adolescence", [9] 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. [9] 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. [10]

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. 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.[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ]

Television and Muppets: 1961–1969

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". [9] 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, leading to hundreds of commercial appearances by Henson characters throughout the '60s.[ citation needed ] 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 .

Most of the Wilkins advertisements followed a similar formula. Two Muppets, in this case named Wilkins and Wontkins, would appear. Wilkins would extol the product, while Wontkins would respond to Wilkins in a gruff manner and do something that would cause Wilkins to retaliate physically; examples included Wontkins being shot with a cannon, struck in the head with a hammer or baseball bat, and having a pie thrown in his face. [16] The Jim Henson Company has posted a short selection of them. [17] 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." [18]

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, such as Community Coffee, Red Diamond Coffee, La Touraine Coffee, Nash's Coffee, and Jomar Instant coffee, [15] and he ultimately produced more than 300 coffee ads. [18] The characters were so successful in selling coffee that soon other companies began seeking them to promote their products, such as bakeries like Merita Breads, the service station chain Standard Oil of Ohio, and beverage bottlers such as Faygo.

Henson sold the rights to Wilkins and Wontkins to the Wilkins Company, who allowed marketing executive John T. Brady to sell the rights to some toymakers and film studios. However, in July 1992 Brady was sued by Jim Henson Productions for unfair competition in addition to copyright and trademark infringement. The Henson company claimed that Brady was incorrectly using Henson's name and likeness in their attempts to license the characters. [19]

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. [20] Henson credited them both with developing much of the humor and character of his Muppets. [21] 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. [22] In New York City, Henson formed a partnership with Bernie Brillstein, who managed Henson's career until the puppeteer's death. [23]

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. [24] From 1963 to 1966, Henson began exploring filmmaking and produced a series of experimental films. [3] [25] 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.[ citation needed ]

During this time, Henson continued to work with various companies who sought out his Muppets for advertising purposes. Among his clients were Wilson Meats, Royal Crown Cola, Claussen's Bread, La Choy, and Frito-Lay, which featured an early version of his character Cookie Monster to promote their Munchos line of potato snacks. Like the Wilkins Coffee ads of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the formula stayed fairly similar. For instance, one of the Claussen's commercials featured Kermit the Frog dangling from a window while a character named Mack asks him if he brought a loaf of the company's bread; when Kermit says he did not, Mack closes the window on Kermit's fingers and causes him to fall, suggesting he "drop down" to the grocery store to buy a loaf.

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." [9] 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" and "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 .[ citation needed ]

Expansion of audience: 1970–1978

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." [26]

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" [22] who ran things like "an explosion in a mattress factory." [27] Caroll Spinney was the puppet performer of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and he remembered that Henson would never say he did not like something. "He would just go 'Hmm.'... And if he liked it, he would say, 'Lovely!'" [8] 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." [28]

Transition to the big screen: 1979–1986

The Muppets appeared in their first theatrical feature film The Muppet Movie in 1979. It was both a critical and financial success; [29] it made $65.2 million domestically and was the 61st highest-grossing film at the time. [30] 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.[ citation needed ]

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. [31]

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." [22] 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.[ citation needed ]

Also in 1982, Henson co-founded Henson International Television with Peter Orton and Sophie Turner Laing as his partners. The company was a distribution company for children's, teens' and family television. [32]

Oz directed The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) which grossed $25.5 million domestically and ranked one of the top 40 films of 1984. [33] Labyrinth (1986) was a fantasy that Henson directed by himself, but—despite some positive reviews; The New York Times called it "a fabulous film"—it was a commercial disappointment. [34] 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." [22] The film later became a cult classic. [35]

Final years: 1987–1990

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. [36]

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. [36] By 1990, he had completed production on the television special The Muppets at Walt Disney World and the Disney-MGM Studios attraction Muppet*Vision 3D and he was developing film ideas and a television series entitled Muppet High. [8]

Personal life

Henson married Jane Nebel in 1959 and their children are Lisa (b. 1960), Cheryl (b. 1961), Brian (b. 1963), John (1965–2014), [37] and Heather (b. 1970). [38] Henson and his wife separated in 1986, although they remained close for the rest of his life. [8] Jane said that Jim was so involved with his work that he had very little time to spend with her or their children. [8] 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] [39] Henson was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. [40]

Illness and death

Henson appeared with Kermit on The Arsenio Hall Show on May 4, 1990. He disclosed to his publicist that he was tired and had a sore throat, but that he believed it would soon go away. On May 12, 1990, Henson 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, 1990. [8] His estranged wife came to visit that night.[ citation needed ]

Henson was having trouble breathing when he woke up at around 2:00 a.m. (EST) on May 15, 1990, and 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–Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Shortly after admission, he stopped breathing and was rushed into the intensive care unit. X-ray images of his chest revealed multiple abscesses in both of his lungs as a result of a previous bacterial infection. He was placed on a ventilator but quickly deteriorated over the next several hours despite increasingly aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics. Although the medicine killed off most of the infection, it had already weakened many of Henson's organs, [41] and he died at 1:21 a.m. the following morning.

Dr. David Gelmont announced that Henson had died from Streptococcus pneumoniae , an infection that causes bacterial pneumonia. [9] However, on May 29, 1990, Gelmont reclassified it as organ dysfunction resulting from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome caused by Streptococcus pyogenes . [4] [5] Gelmont noted Henson might have been saved had he chosen to undergo antibiotic treatment even just a few hours sooner. [42] Medical expert Lawrence D. Altman also stated Henson's death "may have shocked many Americans who believed that bacterial infections no longer could kill with such swiftness." [4]

News of Henson's death 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. [43] On May 21, 1990, Henson's public memorial service was conducted in Manhattan at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Another was conducted on July 2, 1990, 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. [44] [45] Later, Big Bird walked onto the stage and sang Kermit's signature song "Bein' Green". [46] 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". [47] The funeral was described by Life as "an epic and almost unbearably moving event". [22] Henson was cremated and in 1992, his ashes were scattered near Taos in New Mexico. [48]

Legacy

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 create characters and special effects for both Henson-related and outside projects. Steve Whitmire, who had joined the Muppets cast in 1978, began performing Kermit the Frog six months after Henson's death. [49] He was dismissed from the cast in October 2016, and Matt Vogel succeeded him in the role of Kermit. [50]

Sesame Workshop acquired the Sesame Street characters in 2000. [51] On February 17, 2004, the Muppets and the Bear in the Big Blue House properties were sold to the Walt Disney Company. [52] [53] [54]

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 . [55] Brian Jay Jones published Jim Henson: The Biography on September 24, 2013, Henson's 77th birthday. [56]

The moving-image collection of Jim Henson is held at the Academy Film Archive. The collection contains the film work of Jim Henson and the Jim Henson Company. [57]

Henson's characters are currently performed by Vogel (Kermit), Peter Linz (Ernie, Link Hogthrob), Eric Jacobson (Guy Smiley, The Newsman), Dave Goelz (Waldorf) and Bill Barretta (Rowlf, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth, Mahna Mahna).[ citation needed ]

A biopic film based on Henson's life, known as Muppet Man, has been in development at Walt Disney Pictures and The Jim Henson Company since 2010. In April 2021, it was reported that Michael Mitnick was hired to rewrite the screenplay, previously written by Aaron and Jordan Kandell. Lisa Henson will serve as producer. [58]

Tributes

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.

Filmography

Film

YearFilmDirectorProducerScreenwriterActorRoleNotes
1965 Time Piece YesYesYesYesManShort film
1979 The Muppet Movie NoYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Waldorf
Swedish Chef
Additional Muppets
1981 The Great Muppet Caper YesNoNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Waldorf
Swedish Chef
The Newsman
Additional Muppets
1982 The Dark Crystal YesYesYesYesJen
skekZok/The Ritual Master
skekSo/The Emperor
Puppeteering only
Co-directed with Frank Oz
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan NoYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Waldorf
Swedish Chef
The Newsman
Ernie
Additional Muppets
Executive Producer
1985 Into the Night NoNoNoYesMan on the phoneCameo
Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird NoNoNoYesErnie
Kermit the Frog
1986 Labyrinth YesNoYesNo
1990 The Witches NoYesNoNo
1991 Muppet*Vision 3D YesNoNoYesKermit the Frog
Waldorf
The Swedish Chef
3D film attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios, posthumous release

Television

YearFilmDirectorProducerScreenwriterActorRoleNotes
1954The Junior Morning ShowNoNoNoYesPierre the French Rat
Additional Muppets
aired on WTOP-TV
SaturdayNoNoNoYesAdditional Muppets
1955–1956Afternoon with IngaNoNoNoYesAdditional Muppetsaired on WRC-TV
1955In Our TownNoNoNoYesSam
Kermit
Yorick
Additional Muppets
1955–1961 Sam and Friends YesNoYesYesSam
Harry the Hipster
Kermit
Professor Madcliffe
Omar
Yorick
Pierre the French Rat
Additional Muppets
1956Footlight TheaterNoNoNoYesSam
Additional Muppets
1962Tales of the TinkerdeeNoYesYesYesKermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
Unaired
Pilot available on YouTube
1963–1966 The Jimmy Dean Show NoNoNoYes Rowlf the Dog
1969 The Cube YesYesYesNo
The Wizard of Id test pilotNoYesNoYesAdditional Muppets Pilot available on YouTube
Hey, Cinderella! YesNoNoYesKermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
1969–1990 Sesame Street YesNoYesYes Ernie
Kermit the Frog
Guy Smiley
Mahna Mahna
Dan
Henry
Lance
Captain Vegetable
Mr. Nose
The King
Stan
Harold Happy
Sammy the Snake
Additional Muppets
1970 The Muppets on Puppets NoYesNoYesHimself
Rowlf the Dog
Kermit
Additional Muppets
Executive Producer
Filmed in 1968
1971 The Frog Prince YesYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
1972 The Muppet Musicians of Bremen YesYesNoYesKermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
1974 The Muppets Valentine Show YesYesNoYesWally
Kermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Ernie
Additional Muppets
Executive Producer
1975 The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence YesYesYesYesNigel
George Washington
The Swedish Chef
Dr. Teeth
Waldorf
Kermit the Frog
Additional Muppets
1976–1981 The Muppet Show NoYesYesYes Kermit the Frog
Rowlf the Dog
Dr. Teeth
Waldorf
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
Ernie
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
Waldorf
The Swedish Chef
Link Hogthrob
Ernie
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
Waldorf
Swedish Chef
The Newsman
Ernie
Guy Smiley
Baby Kermit
Baby Rowlf
Additional Muppets
Television film
Executive Producer
1988Sing-Along, Dance-Along, Do-AlongNoYesNoYesRowlf the Dog
Penguins
Kermit the Frog
Entry in the Play-Along Video series
Executive Producer
1984–1991 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
Waldorf
Link Hogthrob
The Swedish Chef
Television special
Executive Producer

Video games

YearTitleRoleNotes
1988Oscar's Letter PartyKermit the Frog[ citation needed ]
Let's Learn to Play TogetherErnie[ citation needed ]
1991Sesame Street NumbersErnie
Kermit the Frog [89]
Voice only; Posthumous release
Sesame Street Letters

Related Research Articles

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<i>The Muppet Show</i> Variety television show created by Jim Henson

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 United Kingdom and in first-run syndication through CBS in the US from 1976 to 1981. The programme was taped at Elstree Studios, England.

Puppeteer

A puppeteer is a person who manipulates an inanimate object, called a puppet, to create the illusion that the puppet is alive. The puppet is often shaped like a human, animal, or legendary creature. 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.

<i>The Jim Henson Hour</i>

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

<i>Muppet Babies</i> (1984 TV 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.

Steve Whitmire American puppeteer

Steven Lawrence Whitmire is an American puppeteer, known primarily for his work 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 been employed by The Jim Henson Company, Sesame Workshop, and The Muppets Studio.

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 through the creation of Kermit the Frog and the Muppets characters. Brian Henson serves as chairman, while Lisa Henson serves as CEO. Since 2000, The Jim Henson Company is headquartered at the Jim Henson Company Lot, the historic former Charlie Chaplin Studios, in Hollywood.

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

The Muppet Movie is a 1979 British/American musical road comedy film directed by James Frawley and produced by Jim Henson. A co-production between the United Kingdom and the United States, it is the first theatrical film featuring the Muppets. The film was written by The Muppet Show writers Jerry Juhl and Jack Burns. Produced between the first and second half of The Muppet Show's third season, the film tells the origin story of the Muppets, as Kermit the Frog embarks on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, encountering several of the Muppets—who all share the same ambition of finding success in professional show business—along the way while being pursued by Doc Hopper, an evil restaurateur with intentions of employing Kermit as a spokesperson for his frog legs business.

<i>Sam and Friends</i> 1950s Washington DC puppet show

Sam and Friends is an American 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 never recorded, and some that were have been lost. A few surviving episodes can be viewed at the Paley Center for Media but many can also be found on video websites 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.

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

The Muppets Take Manhattan is a 1984 American musical comedy film directed by Frank Oz. It is the third theatrical film in The Muppets franchise. It features special appearances by Art Carney, James Coco, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Hines, Linda Lavin, and Joan Rivers. Filmed in New York City during the prior summer, it was released theatrically on July 13, 1984, by TriStar Pictures. A fantasy sequence in the film introduced the Muppet Babies, toddler versions of the lead Muppet characters.

Rizzo the Rat Muppet character

Rizzo the Rat is a Muppet character, created and originally performed by Steve Whitmire. He is a fictional rat who appeared on The Muppet Show and numerous films, with a starring role in the 1992 film The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Muppet*Vision 3D

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.

Matthew James Vogel is an American puppeteer and director. Vogel has worked for Sesame Workshop and The Muppets Studio. He has performed for the Muppets, Sesame Street, and Oobi. He has been the performer of Kermit the Frog since 2017 and the full-time performer of Big Bird since 2018.

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

The Muppets Studio

The Muppets Studio, LLC, formerly The Muppets Holding Company, LLC, is a wholly owned entertainment subsidiary of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, formed in 2004 through The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of The Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House intellectual properties from The Jim Henson Company.

<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.

Telling Stories with Tomie dePaola is a 2001 children's television series from The Jim Henson Company.

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Further reading

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Preceded by
None
Performer of Kermit the Frog
1955–1990
Succeeded by
Steve Whitmire
Preceded by
None
Performer of Ernie
1969–1990
Succeeded by
Steve Whitmire
Preceded by
None
Performer of Captain Vegetable
1982
Succeeded by
Richard Hunt
Preceded by
None
Performer of The Muppet Newsman
1976–1989
Succeeded by
Jerry Nelson
Preceded by
None
Performer of Link Hogthrob
1977–1990
Succeeded by
Steve Whitmire
Preceded by
None
Performer of Rowlf the Dog
1962–1990
Succeeded by
Bill Barretta
Preceded by
None
Performer of The Swedish Chef
1975–1990
Succeeded by
David Rudman
Preceded by
None
Performer of Dr. Teeth
1975–1990
Succeeded by
John Kennedy
Preceded by
None
Performer of Mahna Mahna
1969–1986
Succeeded by
Bill Barretta
Preceded by
None
Performer of Waldorf
1975–1990
Succeeded by
Dave Goelz
Preceded by
None
Performer of Guy Smiley
1969–1990
Succeeded by
Don Reardon