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Jim Henson

"Follow your enthusiasm.  It's something I've always believed in.  Find those parts of you life you enjoy the most.  Do what you enjoy doing." -Jim Henson

    Jim Henson was born on the twenty-forth day of September in the year 1936 in a small town in Mississippi.  Around 1946, Henson left Mississippi with his family and moved to a small suburb of Washington DC.  During high school, Henson started performing with puppets for a television station (WTOP).  He then attended college and (along with one of his classmates, Jane Nebel) started working for an NBC subsidiary television company performing his own puppets on a magazine show.  These puppets, which Henson called 'Muppets,' became very popular and soon received their own air time with the show of his own creation, "Sam and Friends" (1955-1961).  It is during this time that Henson marries Jane Nebel (1959).

    After "Sam and Friends" Henson began to pursue past interests, particularly film.  In 1964, Henson created the Academy-nominated Timepiece.  A surreal film regarding time in which Henson wrote, directed, produced and starred in.  He also made The Cube and Youth '68 which were aired in segments on NBC's "Experiments in Television."  Henson did not forget his ever-popular Muppets, whom by this time have a large following.  Henson produced three more made-for-TV movies starring the Muppets.  "Hey Cinderella!" (1968), "Tales from Muppetland- The Frog Prince" (1971), and "The Muppet Musicians of Bremen" (1972).  Henson continued to create some very interesting worlds and in the process create new ways/techniques to use puppetry.  Henson gained additional support when he found Jerry Juhl, Don Sahlin, and Frank Oz during the 1960's.

    Henson was soon asked to help create a new television program directed at pre-shcool children.  In 1970 "Sesame Street" aired for the first time and was a great success.  It soom became "the most important children's program in the history of television."  Henson then made more Muppet television specials, "Muppet Valentine Special" and "The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence" both made in 1974.  In 1975, Henson was asked to join a new comedy show called "Saturday Night Live."  Henson created all new adult puppets called Gorchs.  Unfortunately, the writers of SNL did not incorporate the Gorchs very well so they were taken out.  However, this was good news because during the same time Henson was given the chance to create an entire show just for the muppets.  Aired in 1976, "The Muppet Show" gained new ground.  It became the most widely watched sitcom throughout the world during the seventies.

    During the five years "The Muppet Show" was aired, Henson was constantly coming up with new ideas.  He began working with an English illustrator, Brian Froud, collaborating on ideas for a new film known today as The Dark Crystal.  He made two movies using the same characters from "The Muppet Show", The Muppet Movie (1979) and The Great Muppet Caper (1981).

    By 1981, Henson decided to concentrate more on his other ideas/interests and stopped taping new episodes for "The Muppet Show."  He began filming The Dark Crystal which encompassed all of Henson's techniques plus new mechanics he was starting to become involved with.  Jim Henson's Creature Shop was soon developed for such projects.  Released in 1982, The Dark Crystal did not do as well as hoped for in the theaters.  The good side to this was Henson was recognized for his special effects.  This lead Henson and the Creature Shop to take on special projects, such as the characters used in the film Dreamchild.  Henson continued to produce muppet television show/specials such as "The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show" in 1982 and "Fraggle Rock" in 1983.  In 1984 Henson released another Muppet film, Muppets Take Manhattan as well as the new cartoon "Muppet Babies."

    In 1986 Henson released another fantasy film: Labyrinth.  Starring David Bowie, this film also had the same outcome as The Dark Crystal.  Critics claimed the reason it did poorly in theaters was due to the seriousness/darkness of both films.  Although, today both The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth are cult-classics.  In 1987 Henson was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.  He continued to create new and exciting worlds for the rest of the eighties.  Shows such as "The Ghost of Faffner Hall," the animated version of "Fraggle Rock," as well as muppet guest appearences and specials.  Henson also conducted a much more dramatic use of puppetry and special effects shown in the television episodes of "The Storyteller" which ran from 1987 to 1989.

    From 1989 to 1990 Henson started to make another film under the direction of Nicholas Roeg.  The Witches, starring Angelica Houston, dealt with animitronics as well as puppetry.  Tragically, Henson did not live to see the final production.  On May 16,1990 Henson died of a rare bacterial infection.  This news devestated the Henson family (Jane and their five children Brian, Paul, Cheryl, Lisa and Heather), many friends as well as the millions of fans around the world.

"Jim truly cared about the world.  His work for the environment came from deep within..." -Bill Pardy (one of the Muppet writers)

    Today, through his family, the artwork started by Henson is now carried out through Jim Henson's Creature Shop, Jim Henson Productions and Jim Henson Pictures.  Shows such as "Muppet's Tonight", "The Wubbulous World of Dr. Suess", and the "Bear in the Blue House" and films such as The Adventures of Pinocchio and Buddy were created by these companies.

    Jim Henson brought such magic to television, movies and music.  It is so sad to think he is no longer with us, but then maybe he is not really gone, but within us all.

Some of Henson's Main Characters

Rowlf the Dog



Sam and Friends

King Ploobis

The Swedish Chef

Dr. Teeth

Mr. Waldorf

Muppet newscaster

Link Hogthrob

"Jim Henson reached his life goals in many ways.  He not only brought respect to the art of puppetry in the United States, but also appealed to the child in all of us as he gave us characters to love in common bond with people around the world.  In doing so, he not only left the world a better place, but will continue to have a positive impact for generations to come."  -Deanne Durrett

*Note: If you are looking for information on Jim Henson, here are some of the books I have read on Henson and his creations.   I have had several people contact me for information regarding Henson for book reports/research papers.  Please do your own reseach.... It will be much more rewarding and exciting if you read up on Henson yourself.  If you have read any books that you liked and are not listed let me know.  Thanks!
    Some of the books I have read on Henson are:

    The Importance of Jim Henson by Deanne Durrett
    The Art of the Muppets by Henson Associates
    Meet Jim Henson by Louise Gilkow
    Of Muppets and Men by Christopher Finch
    Jim Henson: The Works by Christopher Finch
    No Strings Attached: Jim Henson's Creature Shop

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