Hollywood Insider - News Entertainment & Culture

Substance & Meaningful Entertainment

Against Gossip & Scandal

Independent Media Network

Global Stories From Local Perspective

Factual Culture News

The Hollywood Insider Jim Henson and Muppets

Jim Henson is a man who needs no introduction. He’s a household name, famous for his intricate puppets and his creative genius. Throughout the late 20th century, he captivated people worldwide with fun characters and innovations in puppetry that could only be thought up by someone as gifted and ingenious as Henson himself. He brought smiles to millions of faces, and his work has forever left an impact on the world of entertainment as a whole. 

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Muppets ever since childhood; I remember putting Muppet movies on VHS on repeat, and the characters have always been a joy to watch. Reflecting on the work of Jim Henson is a fitting way to honor his legacy, so I’d like to take a look back at his works in the world of puppetry and the impact they have left. Henson was a busy man who was constantly working; For any Henson fanatics, you might know every show or movie on this list to a better degree than even I could describe. There may also be others who have only heard of his two biggest contributions, ‘The Muppet Show’ and ‘Sesame Street.’ And to both these groups, I tip my cap to you. Let’s celebrate the legacy left by the late, great Jim Henson with a look back at six of his most prominent works.

Things to do: 

  1. Subscribe to The Hollywood Insider’s YouTube Channel, by clicking here. 
  2. Limited Time Offer – FREE Subscription to The Hollywood Insider
  3. Click here to read more on The Hollywood Insider’s vision, values and mission statement here – Media has the responsibility to better our world – The Hollywood Insider fully focuses on substance and meaningful entertainment, against gossip and scandal, by combining entertainment, education, and philanthropy.

1959: ‘Sam and Friends’

In 1955, Jim Henson was a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park as a studio arts major. With a love for puppetry since childhood, he switched his major over to home economics, where he could learn more about the art of making puppets. Looking to scratch his creative itch, he worked as a performer for WRC-TV, the local NBC-owned television station for Washington D.C., where they showed interest in his work. They hired him and his partner (and later wife) Jane Nebel to create a short five-minute segment to air between the nightly news and ‘The Tonight Show.’ With this, he created ‘Sam and Friends.

Sam and Friends’ allowed Jim Henson to experiment with puppetry on television, finding innovative ways to make them come to life on the small screen. The show mostly involved the titular Sam and his friends lip-syncing to various songs and Henson learned to add humor and puns into his work as time went on. The puppets used for the show were the precursor to the Muppets we know and love today, with one member of the supporting cast being an unrefined version of Kermit the Frog, who was only a lizard-like character here. ‘Sam and Friends’ proved to be successful and ran on weeknights from May 1955 to December 1961, until Henson left WRC-TV for greater things.

WATCH THE TRAILER of the Film and the Revolution: ‘Can I Go Home Now?’ The Children Around the World Continue to Ask the question

1969: ‘Sesame Street’

Sesame Street’ was a turning point for Jim Henson and his fledgling team. In the 1960s, television producer Joan Ganz Cooney was looking to develop a children’s program by the name of ‘Sesame Street’ that could mix the addicting aspects of TV with educating kids. By this time, Henson and his new company, Muppets, Inc., were gaining recognition for their work in creating commercials and appearing on variety shows. They created commercials for companies like Wilkins Coffee, Frito-Lay, and others that would show different Muppets using the slapstick violence they would soon be known for. Henson’s work caught the attention of Cooney, who was impressed with his work and offered for him and his team to work on the show full-time. Henson, while hesitant to work on ‘Sesame Street’ due to a feared perception of the Muppets being only children’s entertainment, eventually agreed.

Henson’s work on ‘Sesame Street’ soon turned out to be the key to success for the show. With Muppets like Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch, the show changed children’s education forever with its simple but effective method of taking a school curriculum and mixing it with puppetry. All of this adds up to a show that has left an impact on kids worldwide and gave Jim Henson the kick he needed to leave commercials behind and begin a career in the industry.

Related article: MUST WATCH – The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s Love Letter to Black Lives Matter – VIDEO

Related article: Why Queen Elizabeth II Is One Of The Greatest Monarchs | Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of United Queendom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (Video Insight)

Related article: All Best Actor/Actress Speeches From The Beginning Of Oscars 1929-2019 | Hollywood Insider

1976: ‘The Muppet Show’

The most famous and acclaimed of his works, however, is ‘The Muppet Show.’ After ‘Sesame Street’ brought his Muppets wider recognition, it came with a downside. Now, his Muppets were seen only as children’s entertainment, something Henson was against. To combat this, he released two specials with the Muppets that are considered pilots for the series, ‘The Muppets Valentine Show’ and ‘The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.’ Neither of these were ordered into series. By 1975, Henson was hired to work on the first season of the fledgling ‘Saturday Night Live,’ where he produced multiple fantasy-comedy skits titled ‘The Land of Gorch.’ These proved to be unsuccessful and the SNL staff was not fond of these skits, and they were eventually dropped.

Related article: EVOLUTION: Every Ryan Gosling Role From 1995 to 2020, All Performances Exceptionally Poignant

Related article: EVOLUTION: Every Henry Cavill Role From 2001 to 2021, All Performances Exceptionally Poignant

Related article: Why the World Needs ‘The Muppets’

Related article: Karli Is The New Muppet – “Sesame Street” Introduces Foster Care Character to Display “Part-Time” Families

But even with the failure that ‘Land of Gorch’ ended up being, working on ‘Saturday Night Live’ proved to be beneficial to Henson, as it gave him the knowledge on how to run a weekly live show. He used this knowledge to help him start ‘The Muppet Show’ in 1976, which premiered to critical and commercial success. ‘The Muppet Show’ was a musical variety show hosted by the one and only Kermit the Frog, who would struggle to keep in line with the crazy antics of the other Muppets as well as the celebrity guest stars each week. This show popularized the Muppet characters we know today as well as the Muppets’ tradition of working with multiple guest stars. It solidified the brand as more than just children’s entertainment but for people of all ages. ‘The Muppet Show’ ran for 5 seasons and 120 episodes until 1981, when Henson decided to move on to something else: movies.

Related article: In-Depth Analysis | The Unexpected Queerness of ‘Bob’s Burgers’: Why the Show is an Animated Ally

Related article: EVOLUTION: Every Chris Evans Role From 1997 to 2020, All Performances Exceptionally Poignant

Related article: Looking Back at the 10 Best Super Bowl Commercials in 50 Years

1982: ‘The Dark Crystal’

By 1978, the Muppets were a huge success. Everyone loved seeing Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the gang along with their hilarious brand of comedy. Henson decided to take them to the big screen, and he created ‘The Muppet Movie,’ which was released to positive reviews in 1979. Still, Henson wanted more. He began thinking of new ideas, ones that were unrelated to the Muppets, and that’s where ‘The Dark Crystal’ was born.

The Dark Crystal’ was co-directed by Henson and his longtime friend and puppeteer Frank Oz, and follows a group of elvish creatures called Gelflings as they try to fight back against the powerful Skeksis (bird-like monsters) by fixing a broken crystal. Henson was partially inspired by his own ‘Land of Gorch’ skits and decided to take the concept of an alien world even further. A creatively ambitious idea, ‘The Dark Crystal’ proved to be a financial success. While reviews at the time were mixed, the film has gained a more positive reception over time, as people praise Henson and Oz’s creativity and ambition in crafting this new world.

Related article: Understanding the Star Wars Timeline

Related article: A Tribute to Francis Ford Coppola: One of Cinema’s Unforgettable Directors | ‘Megalopolis’, ‘The Godfather’ & More

Related article: #metoo Revolution: Powerful Questions That Need Answers

Related article: FACT-CHECKED Series: Timothee Chalamet and 32 Facts about The Young Superstar

Related article: SNL 10-to-1 Sketches: A Showcase for the Weird and Zany | Saturday Night Live

1983: ‘Fraggle Rock’

In 1983, Jim Henson released ‘Fraggle Rock,’ a children’s television show about different types of creatures, the Fraggles, the Doozers, and the Gorges, and their interactions with one another. The show was meant to focus on the differences between the creatures and how they are all beneficial to each other, an allegory for race in the real world. This allowed the show to deal with topics such as racial identity, social conflict, prejudice, and more in a way that’s easy for kids to understand. But even so, ‘Fraggle Rock’ never dumbed its message down or made its lessons extremely blatant; rather, it highlighted how actions have consequences and the general difficulties of life. 

This was Henson’s goal, and this is what made the show so popular. When it premiered, it was given positive reviews for its fun, colorful world and its tackling of real-world issues. Jim Henson also designed the show specifically for it to be released internationally so other countries could have their version of the show that wasn’t just dubbed or subtitled. This allowed kids from all over the world to see the same show in their language, which allowed for a larger reach for the show and more children able to learn the lessons that ‘Fraggle Rock’ was teaching them. The show ran for 5 seasons until 1987, the same length of time as ‘The Muppet Show.

Related article: Top 10 South Park Characters | Who Makes the Cut? Kenny, Chef, Butters, Towelie, Eric?

Related article: Here Are the Top 5 Sketch Shows: From ‘The Muppet Show’ to ‘Saturday Night Live’

Related article: Cancelled Shows: So Why is Netflix Cancelling their TV Shows Much Quicker Now?

1986: ‘Labyrinth’

One of Jim Henson’s most ambitious works was the 1986 musical fantasy film ‘Labyrinth.’ Directed by the man himself and starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie, the film follows Sarah (Connelly) as she navigates a gigantic maze to find her baby step-brother, who has been stolen by Jareth (Bowie), the king of the goblins. The film came about after ‘The Dark Crystal,’ when Henson decided he wanted to do something less dark but just as creative. Unlike ‘Crystal,’ he also wanted to include a mix of human cast and puppets and was able to convince David Bowie to play the lead antagonist as well as create original music for the film.

Labyrinth’ premiered in June 1986 and was sadly a critical and commercial failure. You’d think that the idea of David Bowie starring in a film with the Muppets would be enough to draw people in, but the film just wasn’t appealing enough to the general public. Reception was more divided, with critics either loving or hating the story and the performances. Still, the film was enough to launch the career of Connelly, and years later, the film has been re-evaluated and appreciated more as a cult classic, similar to ‘The Dark Crystal.’ The initial reception to the film negatively affected Henson, who was demoralized by the outcome. Still, Henson went on to make more works with the Muppets until he died in 1990, and his work is now all seen as groundbreaking creatively. Henson made many other works besides these six shows and movies, and nobody could ever replicate the genius mind that is Jim Henson.

By Ben Ross 

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

More Interesting Stories From The Hollywood Insider

Want GUARANTEED SUCCESS? Remove these ten words from your vocabulary | Transform your life INSTANTLY

A Tribute to Martin Scorsese: A Complete Analysis of the Life and Career of the Man Who Lives and Breathes Cinema 

Do you know the hidden messages in ‘Call Me By Your Name’? Find out behind the scenes facts in the full commentary and In-depth analysis of the cinematic masterpiece

A Tribute To The Academy Awards: All Best Actor/Actress Speeches From The Beginning Of Oscars 1929-2019 | From Rami Malek, Leonardo DiCaprio To Denzel Washington, Halle Berry & Beyond | From Olivia Colman, Meryl Streep To Bette Davis & Beyond

In the 32nd Year Of His Career, Keanu Reeves’ Face Continues To Reign After Launching Movies Earning Over $4.3 Billion In Total – “John Wick”, “Toy Story 4”, “Matrix”, And Many More

Website It Up