The Jim Henson Company is an American company founded in 1958 by puppeteer Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. The company is now run by his children - Cheryl, Brian, Lisa, John, and Heather; Brian and Lisa serve as co-chairs and co-CEOs. While the Muppets helped the company gain worldwide acclaim in family entertainment for more than four decades, the company sold those characters to the Walt Disney Company in 2004.
Jim Henson formed Muppets Inc. in 1958, three years after Sam and Friends debuted. Aside from Sam and Friends, the majority of work that the company had until 1969 was creating characters for various commercials, variety show appearances, and a few meeting films for various companies (the company would produce its own Muppet Meeting Films from 1975 through 1999). In 1969, the company started creating characters for the popular children’s show Sesame Street.
One of the company's first characters to be seen regularly on national television was Rowlf the Dog, who was initially created for Purina Dog Chow commercials and soon became famous when he became a regular character on The Jimmy Dean Show from 1963-1966. During this time, the show's host, Jimmy Dean, was given an opportunity to own forty percent of the company. However, Dean turned the offer down because he didn't feel that he had earned it.
For many years, Jim Henson had tried to sell several different shows to the major networks, all of which turned them down. Some ideas were made as unaired pilots, and some were never produced. Then, in 1976, Jim Henson was able to produce The Muppet Show for syndication. The success of The Muppet Show led to many movies, specials, videos, and more. The Muppet Show was originally owned by the British company ITC, but Jim Henson later purchased the rights to the show.
In the early 1980s, Jim Henson also formed Jim Henson's Creature Shop, which produced characters for shows such as The StoryTeller, Farscape, and Dinosaurs; and movies such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. It was also during the 1980s that Jim Henson produced new television series such as Fraggle Rock and The Jim Henson Hour.
In 1990, Jim Henson was in negotiations to sell the company to the Walt Disney Company, but Jim Henson died during the week that he was supposed to sign the contract, and his family decided to keep the company private. It was also during the 1990s that Jim Henson produced new television series such as CityKids, The Secret Life of Toys, Jim Henson's Animal Show, Animal Jam and others.
In 2000, Jim Henson's children sold the company to the German media company, EM.TV. In early 2001, after EM.TV subsequently experienced major financial problems, the Jim Henson Company was put up for sale. That year, EM.TV sold the company's ownership of the Sesame Street Muppets to Sesame Workshop. The Walt Disney Company, HIT Entertainment, Haim Saban, Classic Media, Sesame Workshop, and Sony were among the companies who showed interested in owning the company. However, it was Henson's children who bought back the company in 2003.
In 2004, the Jim Henson Company sold the rights to the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House characters to the Walt Disney Company, who control the Muppets through the wholly owned subsidiary the Muppets Studio, LLC. The Walt Disney Company now owns all Muppet-related trademarks, including the word "Muppet." However, also, due to this purchase, Sesame Workshop lost the rights to Kermit the Frog, and he can no longer appear in any new Sesame Street material.
Jim Henson's Creature ShopEdit
Jim Henson's Creature Shop provides digital visual effects, animatronic creatures, animation and soft puppets to the international film, television, online and advertising industries. Based in Los Angeles and New York with satellite shop capabilities internationally, the Shop is known for designing and building some of the world's best known characters including Elmo from "Sesame Street," Miss Piggy from "The Muppet Show," the Baby from "Dinosaurs," Rygel from "Farscape," and the Skeksis from "The Dark Crystal." The shop is responsible for developmenting the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio, a patented control system technology that enables performers to physically puppeteer and voice computer generated characters in real time.
The Creature Shop builds and maintains the numerous puppets for the company's various Henson Alternative productions - such as Puppet Up! - Uncensored, Late Night Buffet with Augie and Del and Tinseltown.
Henson is currently producing and developing new family-oriented productions. These productions include Sid the Science Kid, Pajanimals, Unstable Fables, Dinosaur Train, and The Doozers. Henson is also working to revive some of their existing franchises with a feature-length Fraggle Rock movie also in development.
Fantasy & Sci FiEdit
The Jim Henson Company is working on several fantasy and sci fi projects with the aid of Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Several of these projects are based on existing franchises, including a sequel to The Dark Crystal titled Power of the Dark Crystal and a series of webisodes based on Farscape. In March 2008, the company launched The Sam Plenty Cavalcade of Action! Show Plus Singing!, a comedic web series created by Puppet Up! performer Paul Rugg.
- Main article: Henson Alternative
Since 2005, the company has developed more mature comedy content under the name Henson Alternative. The first of these projects included Puppet Up! - Uncensored, a live improv show which has toured the globe and performs monthly in Hollywood. The show has since been featured in a television special, a web series on TBS.com, and an exclusive museum film. The show has since spawned the New York stage show Stuffed and Unstrung which takes the comedy of Puppet Up! to a new technological level. The company piloted a possible late night talk show titled Late Night Buffet for TBS; and a sitcom titled Tinseltown for the LOGO Network. Henson has since partnered with Warner Bros's Studio 2.0 to create several original web series, including The Simian Undercover Detective Squad and Alt/Reality. A third Henson Alternative web project, Mann-ster, is in development for Microsoft's Zune Network. Henson is also developing a feature film, Happytime Murders, for release under the Henson Alternative banner.
- ↑ Craig McDonald Interview with Jimmy Dean
- ↑ Yahoo News "Billionaire Saban wants to buy the Muppets" 10/8/02
- ↑ Reuters "Sesame Workshop and Sony join forces with Classic Media to acquire Henson" 5/6/03