Jim Who?

Mike Funyak, Contributor

With the resurgence of Disney’s new movie, The Muppets, it’s hard to believe that anyone would forget who The Muppets are.

How could anyone forget Kermit and his gang or even The Rainbow Connection? Disney not only brought The Muppets back to a new generation of viewers but honor the man who created them Jim Henson.

Arguably one of the most famous names in television and film, Jim Henson left this world with a huge impact. The name Jim Henson might not ring a bell to you but if you hear the name Sesame Street or The Muppets, you most likely recall a fond memory.

While in college, Henson started a local TV show titled Sam and Friends. Sam and Friends would introduce Jim Henson and his puppets to the world. An early version of Kermit The Frog also appeared on the show.

With the success of Sam and Friends, Henson was asked to produce commercials for Wilkins Coffee as well as perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. Henson was later asked to be a part of The Jimmy Dean Show. Henson agreed and created a puppet called Rowlf the Dog for the show. This would be the first Muppet to be on a network show regularly and receive national fame.

In 1969, the Children’s Television Workshop asked Henson to work on a show they were creating. Thus Sesame Street was born and starred Henson’s creatures Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, and Grover. With the success of Sesame Street, Lorne Michaels, creator of Saturday Night Live or SNL asked Henson to perform on his show.

With the help of fellow friend and puppeteer Frank Oz, the team performed on the show numerous times in the first year of SNL. After the success on SNL, Henson created the idea of The Muppet Show. From 1976 to 1981, The Muppet Show became a household name.

The Muppet Show featured many characters: Kermit The Frog, Miss Piggy, The Great Gonzo, Fozzie the Bear, The Swedish Chief, Rowlf the Dog, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and assistant Beaker, and most notably the old men from the balcony, Statler and Waldorf.

The success of The Muppet show led to three feature films staring The Muppets, as well as a string of other successful shows and feature films. Henson later created shows such as Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies, The Storyteller, and films such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. But what made Jim Henson more successful was his continuous work on creating puppets. Frank Oz and Jim Henson created the famous puppet for Yoda in the Star Wars films, which Frank Oz performed and provided the voice.

With the establishing on the Jim Henson Creature Shop, Henson worked with outside film and TV projects to creature characters.

Sadly on May 16, 1990, Jim Henson passed away and left a long lasting legacy. Even with the death of a legend, Jim Henson’s creations lived on. Sesame Street is still producing new episodes, The Jim Henson Company, now run by his children, is still producing new shows, movies, characters, and The Muppets live on with the Walt Disney Company.

In 2011, the Walt Disney Company named Jim Henson a Disney Legend. Not everyone is able to earn the rank of a legend or pioneer but Jim Henson notably did. Jim Henson brought and still d today brings smiles and laughter to all ages. Everyone wants to make the world a better place and without a doubt, Jim Henson did. For more information on Jim Henson, visit Henson.com