Jim Henson
American puppeteer
Jim Henson
James Maury "Jim" Henson was an American puppeteer, best known as the creator of The Muppets. As a puppeteer, Henson performed in various television programs, such as Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, films such as The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper, and created advanced puppets for projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth.
Biography
Jim Henson's personal information overview.
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Photo Albums
Popular photos of Jim Henson
News
News abour Jim Henson from around the web
THE NEW SEASON | MOVIES; October Release Schedule
NYTimes - over 5 years
OCTOBER Oct. 5 HELL AND BACK AGAIN Danfung Dennis’s documentary follows Nathan Harris, a 25-year-old Marine sergeant, as he returns to life in small town North Carolina after being seriously wounded in Afghanistan. Oct. 6 THE NINE MUSES The British filmmaker John Akomfrah combines Greek mythology, views of the Alaskan landscape, archival
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Spare Times: For Children, for Sept. 16-22
NYTimes - over 5 years
NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL PRESENTS ‘DOLPHIN TALE’ It sounds like shameless Hollywood schmaltz: A critically injured young dolphin, facing almost certain death, recovers miraculously when medical research intended for disabled humans leads to a prosthesis for her amputated tail. Yes, it’s a movie. But
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NYTimes article
Spare Times: For Children, for Sept. 2-8
NYTimes - over 5 years
NEW YORK CITY UNICYCLE FESTIVAL Most of us spend a good part of our lives navigating the world on wheels: three when we’re little, two when we’re older, and of course the ubiquitous four. But only the truly skilled can get around on just one. Those extraordinary talents will have their day — actually three — this weekend,
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Archaia Turning Unproduced Jim Henson Screenplay Into Graphic Novel - Film School Rejects
Google News - over 5 years
Of course, the dust is shinier when it's collecting on something from the brilliant mind of Jim Henson. According to LA Weekly, Archaia (which just scored Eisner Awards for two of its titles) has converted Henson's A Tale of Sand script (which he wrote
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On DVD: Just give in to Muppet mania - National Post (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Muppets creator Jim Henson may have died two decades ago, but that hasn't stopped Miss Piggy, Kermit and the rest of the gang from living on — two new releases of classics on Blu-ray are set to usher in the latest theatrical outing in November
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THE TEXAS TRIBUNE; Despite His Current Vehemence on Taxes, Perry Has a More Nuanced Record
NYTimes - over 5 years
To hear him tell it on the presidential campaign trail, Gov. Rick Perry has never met a tax increase he liked. But at home, over a political career that reaches back to the oil price shocks of the 1980s, Mr. Perry has embraced billions of dollars worth of them -- including a $528 million tax increase approved in 1990, after he defected to the
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Oh, Naughty Muppets. What Would Jim Henson Think of You Now?W - Huffington Post (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
While it shows porn-loving monsters, sluts and gays, Stuffed and Unstrung is not a satire of The Children's Television workshop but something of an homage to puppet visionary Jim Henson. Created by his son, Brian Henson, the show features The Jim
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Archaia Brings 'Lost' Jim Henson Screenplay to Life with A Tale of Sand - LA Weekly (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
On November 16, one week before Thanksgiving and the release of The Muppets, the Los Angeles-based comic book company will unleash A Tale of Sand, a new graphic novel based on a "lost" screenplay written by Jim Henson and writing partner Jerry Juhl
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Come 'Unstrung' with funny improv puppet antics - San Francisco Examiner
Google News - over 5 years
(Courtesy photo) Maybe I got lucky on the opening night of the improvisational puppet show “Stuffed and Unstrung,” created by Brian Henson (son of famed Muppet master Jim Henson) and improv talent Patrick Bristow, who emcees. Given the lightning-quick
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The Muppets Musically Clean Up Their Theater In D23 Footage - Cinema Blend
Google News - over 5 years
The first time the Jim Henson creations have been on the big screen in more than a decade, the movie should be pure joy for kids and adults alike and today, during the D23 “Inside the Walt Disney Studios” presentation, we got our first extended look at ... -
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And a Frog Shall Lead Them: Henson's Legacy
NYTimes - over 5 years
COOKIE MONSTER has an important lesson for Don Draper. If you're wondering what a fuzzy blue Muppet, adored by millions of children, could possibly have to do with the debonair protagonist of television's ''Mad Men,'' you'll have to visit the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Its new exhibition ''Jim Henson's Fantastic World'' shows
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And a Frog Shall Lead Them: Henson's Legacy - New York Times
Google News - over 5 years
Kermit the Frog welcomes visitors to “Jim Henson's Fantastic World” at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. More Photos » By LAUREL GRAEBER COOKIE MONSTER has an important lesson for Don Draper. The latest on the arts, coverage of live
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Henson Puppets Will Reenact Pop Culture on 'History Of' - Reuters
Google News - over 5 years
On Monday, Bunim/Murray and Henson Alternative -- the adult arm of the Jim Henson Company -- announced that it will co-produce "History Of," an irreverent scripted program in which pop-culture events will be re-enacted by Henson puppets
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Spare Times: For Children, for Aug. 12-18
NYTimes - over 5 years
‘WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SPACE?’ On Wednesday scores of children will dress potatoes at the Eventi Hotel in Chelsea. But don’t expect butter, sour cream or other condiments. This project isn’t gastronomical but astronomical. “ The American Society of Mechanical Engineers will have kids working on designing their own
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Spare Times: For Children, for Aug. 5-11
NYTimes - over 5 years
MACY’S FISHING CLINICS First the bad news: Prospect Park no longer holds a five-day fishing contest for children. But here’s the good news: The park offers young anglers two fishing clinics every Saturday for most of the summer. You do the math (even if it is school vacation). Macy’s Fishing Clinics (the Macy’s Foundation
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Spare Times: For Children, for July 29-31
NYTimes - over 5 years
‘THE LITTLE FARM SHOW’ Only a brave woman would denounce a McDonald’s meal in a room full of children. But that’s what Tannis Kowalchuk will do on Sunday at the Living Room, where she and Brett Keyser will perform “The Little Farm Show.” Children don’t often consider where their food comes from, Ms.
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Corrections
NYTimes - over 5 years
A report in the Nocturnalist column on Saturday misidentified the material used to create a puppet of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that made an appearance at an exhibition of Jim Henson's work at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Muppets, in general, are made of fleece, foam, fake fur and fabric. A spokeswoman for The Jim Henson Company
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Jim Henson
    FIFTIES
  • 1990
    Age 53
    The image of a growing number of performers singing "Just One Person" was recreated for the 1990 television special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson and inspired screenwriter Richard Curtis, who attended the London service, to write the growing-orchestra wedding scene of his 2003 film Love Actually.
    More Details Hide Details The Jim Henson Company and the Jim Henson Foundation continued after his death, producing new series and specials. Jim Henson's Creature Shop, founded by Henson, also continues to build creatures for a large number of other films and series (e.g. the science-fiction production Farscape, the film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the movie MirrorMask) and is considered one of the most advanced and well-respected creators of film creatures. His son Brian and daughter Lisa are currently the co-chairs and co-CEOs of the company; his daughter Cheryl is the president of the foundation. Steve Whitmire, a veteran member of the Muppet puppeteering crew, has assumed the roles of Kermit the Frog and Ernie, the most famous characters formerly played by Jim Henson. Whitmire also assumed the roles of Link Hogthrob, from the "Pigs in Space" "Muppet Show" sketch, starting with the video game "Muppets Racemania" from 2000, as well as The Muppet Newsman, starting in 2008, with Muppet.com viral online videos. Muppeteer veteran Bill Barretta has taken over for Henson's fairly deeper voiced roles, such as the Swedish Chef, Mahna Mahna, Rowlf the Dog, and Dr. Teeth. Guy Smiley, in recent years, has been taken over by Eric Jacobson, and the role of Waldorf, in 1992, was assumed by Muppet performer veteran Dave Goelz. As of 2014, Ernie is now performed by Sesame Street puppeteer Billy Barkhurst.
    Less than 24 hours later on May 16, 1990, Henson died at the age of 53.
    More Details Hide Details The official cause of death was first reported as Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterial infection that causes bacterial pneumonia. It was later classified as organ failure resulting from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome (caused by Streptococcus pyogenes). S. pyogenes is the bacterial species that causes strep throat, scarlet fever, and rheumatic fever. It can also cause other infections. On May 21, Henson's public memorial service was conducted in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Another was conducted on July 2 at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. In accordance with Henson's will, 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 he had debuted on The Muppet Show, as each member of the congregation waved, with a puppet performer's rod, an individual, brightly colored foam butterfly. Later, Big Bird, performed by Caroll Spinney, walked out onto the stage and sang Kermit the Frog's signature song, "Bein' Green".
    On May 12, 1990, Henson traveled to Ahoskie, North Carolina, with his daughter Cheryl, to visit his father and stepmother.
    More Details Hide Details They both returned to New York on May 13, and Henson cancelled a Muppet recording session scheduled for May 14. That night, Henson's wife Jane, from whom he was separated, came to visit for the last time. Hours later, on May 15, Henson was having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He suggested to his wife that he might be dying, but did not want to take time from his schedule to visit a hospital. Jane later stated that while Henson's Christian Science upbringing "affected his general thinking", it did not have any influence on his postponement of medical treatment, and still later told People magazine that his avoidance was likely due to his desire not to be a bother to anyone. His stepmother and others also denied rumors that Henson's Christian Science beliefs might have contributed to his death, as Henson had ceased practicing in his early 20s.
    On May 4, 1990, Henson appeared with Kermit on The Arsenio Hall Show, one of his last television appearances.
    More Details Hide Details At the time, he mentioned to his publicist that he was tired and had a sore throat, but felt that it would go away.
    During production of his 1990 projects Henson traveled continuously.
    More Details Hide Details By late Spring, Henson began to experience recurring flu-like symptoms.
    By 1990, he had completed production on a television special, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and a Disney World (later Disney California Adventure Park as well) attraction, Jim Henson's Muppet*Vision 3D, and was developing film ideas and a television series titled Muppet High.
    More Details Hide Details He also made a Disney show called Little Mermaid's Island. In the late 1980s, Henson worked with illustrator / designer William Stout on a feature film starring animatronic dinosaurs with the working title of The Natural History Project. In 1991, news stories written around the premiere of The Jim Henson Company-produced Dinosaurs sitcom highlighted the show's connection to Henson. "Jim Henson dreamed up the show's basic concept about three years ago," said a New York Times article in April 1991. 'He wanted it to be a sitcom with a pretty standard structure, with the biggest differences being that it's a family of dinosaurs and their society has this strange toxic life style,' said son Brian Henson. But until The Simpsons took off, said Alex Rockwell, a vice president of the Henson organization, 'people thought it was a crazy idea.' A New Yorker article said that Henson continued to work on a dinosaur project (presumably the Dinosaurs concept) until the "last months of his life."
    Though Henson would often downplay his role in Sesame Streets success, Cooney frequently praised Jim's work and, in 1990, the Public Broadcasting Service called him "the spark that ignited our fledgling broadcast service."
    More Details Hide Details The success of Sesame Street also allowed Henson to stop producing commercials. He later remembered that "it was a pleasure to get out of that world". In addition to creating and performing Muppet characters, Henson was involved in producing various shows and animation insets during the first two seasons. During the first, Henson 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. For seasons two to seven, Henson worked on a variety of inserts for the numbers 2 through 12, in a number of different styles, including film ("Dollhouse", "Number Three Ball Film"), stop-motion ("King of Eight", "Queen of Six"), cut-out animation ("Eleven Cheer"), and computer animation ("Nobody Counts To 10"). Jim Henson also directed the original C Is For Cookie.
  • 1989
    Age 52
    In late 1989, Henson entered into negotiations to sell his company to The Walt Disney Company for almost $150 million, hoping that, with Disney handling business matters, he would "be able to spend a lot more of my time on the creative side of things."
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  • FORTIES
  • 1986
    Age 49
    However, 1986's Labyrinth, a Crystal-like fantasy that Henson directed by himself, was considered (in part due to its cost) a commercial disappointment.
    More Details Hide Details Despite some positive reviews (The New York Times called it "a fabulous film"), the commercial failure of Labyrinth demoralized Henson to the point that son Brian Henson remembered the time of its release as being "the closest I've seen him to turning in on himself and getting quite depressed." The film later became a cult classic. Henson and his wife separated the same year, although they remained close for the rest of his life. Jane later said that Jim was so involved with his work that he had very little time to spend with her or their children. All five of his children began working with Muppets at an early age, partly because, as Cheryl Henson remembered, "one of the best ways of being around him was to work with him." Though he was still engaged in creating children's television, such as the successful eighties shows Fraggle Rock and the animated Muppet Babies, Henson continued to explore darker, 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, Henson returned to television with The Jim Henson Hour, which mixed lighthearted Muppet fare with riskier material. The show was critically well received and won Henson another Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Variety or Music Program, but was canceled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. Henson blamed its failure on NBC's constant rescheduling.
  • 1982
    Age 45
    With 1982's The Dark Crystal, which he co-directed with Frank Oz and co-wrote, Henson said he was "trying to go toward a sense of realism—toward a reality of creatures that are actually alive where it's not so much a symbol of the thing, but you're trying to present the thing itself." To provide a visual style distinct from the Muppets, the puppets in The Dark Crystal were based on conceptual artwork by Brian Froud. The Dark Crystal was a financial and critical success and, a year later, the Muppet-starring The Muppets Take Manhattan (directed by Frank Oz) did fair box-office business, grossing $25.5 million domestically and ranking as one of the top 40 films of 1984.
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    In 1982, Henson founded the Jim Henson Foundation to promote and develop the art of puppetry in the United States.
    More Details Hide Details 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."
  • 1979
    Age 42
    In addition to his own puppetry projects, Henson aided others in their work. In 1979, he was asked by the producers of the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back to aid make-up artist Stuart Freeborn in the creation and articulation of enigmatic Jedi Master Yoda.
    More Details Hide Details Henson suggested to Star Wars creator George Lucas, himself a Muppets fan, that he use Frank Oz as the puppeteer and voice of Yoda. Oz voiced Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and each of the four subsequent Star Wars films. The naturalistic, lifelike Yoda became one of the most popular characters of the Star Wars franchise. Lucas even lobbied unsuccessfully to have Oz nominated for a Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
  • 1977
    Age 40
    In 1977, Henson produced the one-hour television special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas for HBO, which was based on the Russell Hoban story of the same name.
    More Details Hide Details Three years after the start of The Muppet Show, the Muppets appeared in their first theatrical feature film The Muppet Movie. The movie was both a critical and financial success; it made US$65.2 million domestically and was at the time the 61st highest-grossing film ever made. A song from the film, The Rainbow Connection, sung by Henson as Kermit, hit number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Academy Award for Best Original Song. In 1981, a Henson-directed sequel, The Great Muppet Caper, followed, and Henson decided to end the still-popular Muppet Show to concentrate on making films. From time to time, the Muppet characters continued to appear in made-for-TV-movies and television specials.
  • THIRTIES
  • 1969
    Age 32
    The year 1969 saw the production of The Cube, another Henson-produced experimental movie.
    More Details Hide Details Also around this time, the first drafts of a live-action experimental movie script were written with Jerry Juhl, which would eventually become Henson's last unproduced full-length screenplay, Tale of Sand. The script remained in the Henson Company archives until the screenplay was adapted in the 2012 graphic novel, Jim Henson's Tale of Sand. In 1969, television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and her staff at the Children's Television Workshop, impressed by the quality and creativity of the Henson-led team, asked Henson and staff to work full-time on Sesame Street, a visionary children's program for public television. This union of talents would become legendary in television entertainment. Part of the show was set aside for a series of funny, colorful, puppet characters living on the titular street. These included Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Big Bird. Henson performed the characters of Ernie, game-show host Guy Smiley, and Kermit, who appeared as a roving television news reporter. It was around this time that a frill was added around Kermit's neck to make him more frog-like. The collar was functional as well: it covered the joint where the Muppet's neck and body met.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1966
    Age 29
    His nine-minute experimental film, Time Piece, was nominated for an Academy Award for Live Action Short Film in 1966.
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  • 1963
    Age 26
    From 1963 to 1966, Henson began exploring film-making and produced a series of experimental films.
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  • 1961
    Age 24
    Henson hired writer Jerry Juhl in 1961 and puppet performer Frank Oz in 1963 to replace her.
    More Details Hide Details Henson later credited both with developing much of the humor and character of his Muppets. Henson and Oz developed a close friendship and a performing partnership that lasted 27 years; their teamwork is particularly evident in their portrayals of the characters of Bert and Ernie, Kermit and Miss Piggy, and Kermit and Fozzie Bear. Henson's 1960s talk show appearances culminated when he devised Rowlf, a piano-playing anthropomorphic dog. Rowlf became the first Muppet to make regular appearances on a network show, The Jimmy Dean Show. Henson was so grateful for this break that he offered Jimmy Dean a 40% interest in his production company, but Dean declined stating that Henson deserved all the rewards for his own work, a decision of conscience Dean never regretted.
  • 1959
    Age 22
    They were married in 1959 and had five children, Lisa (b. 1960), Cheryl (b. 1961), Brian (b. 1963), John (b. 1965, d. 2014), and Heather (b. 1970).
    More Details Hide Details Despite the success of Sam and Friends, Henson spent much of the next two decades working in commercials, talk shows, and children's projects before being able to realize his dream of the Muppets as "entertainment for everybody". The popularity of his work on Sam and Friends in the late fifties led to a series of guest appearances on network talk and variety shows. Henson himself appeared as a guest on many shows, including The Steve Allen Show, The Jack Paar Program and The Ed Sullivan Show (although on his appearance on the Sept 11, 1966, episode of the show — released to DVD on 2011 as part of a collection of episodes featuring the Rolling Stones—Sullivan mis-introduced Henson as "Jim Newsom and his Puppets"). This first national television broadcast greatly increased exposure, which led to hundreds of commercial appearances by Henson characters throughout the sixties.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1954
    Age 17
    Henson would remain at WRC for seven years from 1954 to 1961.
    More Details Hide Details In the show, he began experimenting with techniques that would change the way puppetry had been used on television, including using the frame defined by the camera shot to allow the puppet performer to work from off-camera. Believing that television puppets needed to have "life and sensitivity," Henson 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. A marionette's arms are manipulated by strings, but Henson used rods to move his Muppets' arms, allowing greater control of expression. Additionally, Henson wanted the Muppet characters to "speak" more creatively than was possible for previous puppets—which had seemed to have 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 sophomore Jane Nebel to assist him. The show was a financial success, but after graduating from college, Henson began to have doubts about going into a career performing with puppets. He wandered off to Europe for several months, where he was inspired by European puppet performances which look on their work as an art form. Upon Henson's return to the United States, he and Jane began dating.
    In 1954, while attending Northwestern High School, he began working for WTOP-TV (now WUSA-TV), creating puppets for a Saturday morning children's show called The Junior Morning Show.
    More Details Hide Details After graduating from high school, Henson enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park, as a studio arts major, thinking he might become a commercial artist. 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 BS in home economics. As a freshman, he had been asked to create Sam and Friends, a five-minute puppet show for WRC-TV. The characters on Sam and Friends were forerunners of Muppets, and the show included a prototype of Henson's most famous character: Kermit the Frog.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1936
    Born
    Born in Greenville, Mississippi on September 24, 1936, Henson was the younger of two children of Paul Ransom Henson (1904–1994), an agronomist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and his wife, Betty Marcella (1904–1972).
    More Details Hide Details 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, D.C., in the late 1940s. He later remembered the arrival of the family's first television as "the biggest event of his adolescence," having been 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. He remained a Christian Scientist at least into his twenties when he would teach Sunday School but fifteen years before he died he wrote to a Christian Science church to inform them he was no longer a practicing member.
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