It’s time to talk about that most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational man: Jim Henson.
Over the course of his legendary career, screenwriter, producer, and puppeteer Jim Henson created some beloved characters that have transcended film and TV to become cultural icons. Kermit the Frog, Big Bird, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie–unforgettable personalities all born from Henson’s genius that have won over generations of children and adults.
So today, on the 25th anniversary of Henson’s death, we’re celebrating the life of a man who brought the Muppets to the world.
Growing up in Greenville, Mississippi, Henson’s main source of inspiration was puppeteer Burr Tillstrom, who created the TV show Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Henson took to puppetry with a style of his own, landing a bi-weekly show on NBC called Sam and Friends when he was just a freshman at the University of Maryland in 1955. That same year he launched the Jim Henson Company.
Fast-forward to 1969 when Henson and his band of merry Muppets joined Sesame Street, which revolutionized educational programming and catapulted Henson’s career to its undeniable pinnacle: The Muppet Show.
The Muppet Show premiered in 1976, and during its five-season run it pulled in 235 million viewers in more than 100 countries and earned four Primetime Emmy Awards. The Muppets’ popularity has failed to diminish over the years with feature films including The Muppet Movie (1979), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), The Muppets (2011), and Muppets Most Wanted (2014); the Emmy Award-winning animated TV cartoon Muppet Babies (1984), and now ABC’s upcoming mockumentary sitcom The Muppets premiering later this year.
Henson’s creations have tapped into a childlike wonder in audiences worldwide, and it’s only a testament to Henson’s creative genius that these characters continue to do so, all these many years later.