It feels great to see the Muppets in movies again. The Muppets, the first theatrical release in 12 years for Jim Henson’s beloved characters, was a huge success. Next year, the Muppets return with Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Tom Hiddleston, and friends for The Muppets…Again!. The spirit of Henson’s extraordinary creations is alive and well.
The famed puppeteer’s family just donated nearly 400 puppets, costumes, and other props to the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. The institution plans on opening a gallery devoted to Henson, who passed away in 1990, set to open in the winter of 2014-2015. We wanted to share our excitement over the news, so we created a list of fascinating facts and tidbits about Henson that reveal more about the man behind the Muppets — a kind, gentle, creative genius who brought his beautiful vision to life.
Jim was close to his maternal grandmother, Sarah Brown, who went by the nickname “Dear.” She was an artist and loved to paint. Dear convinced her creative grandson to pursue his dreams and share his vivid imagination with the world.
Henson first started performing with puppets during his senior year of high school for the puppet club. He also performed puppet acts on Washington, DC’s WTOP-TV Saturday morning program.
In college he created the puppet show Sam and Friends for WRC-TV, where he developed several techniques that would later be featured in The Muppets. Henson also created an early version of Kermit the Frog. He was paid only five dollars a show. Sam and Friends was also where Jim first worked closely with his future wife, Jane Nebel — a fellow University of Maryland student.
Shockingly, Henson was only nominated for one Academy Award. His 1965 short Time Piece was granted the Best Short Subject nomination for Live Action Subjects. It was screened at the Museum of Modern Art and starred Henson as a man racing against time.
The first Muppet Henson created (with Don Sahlin and Frank Oz) that rose to stardom was Rowlf the Dog, not Kermit. The brown mutt regularly appeared on The Jimmy Dean Show during the mid-1960s.
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