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inspiring people : JIm Henson

The puppet master

 © Getty Images

James Maury Henson, best known as Jim Henson was an American puppeteer, animator, cartoonist, voice actor, inventor, filmmaker, and screenwriter who achieved worldwide notice as the creator of The Muppets.

The man behind the Muppets was born on 24th September 1936, in Greenville, Mississippi. He began working as a puppeteer in college, creating characters like Kermit the Frog. He worked as a producer on Sesame Street, a popular kids' show that launched in 1969, and created The Muppet Show in 1976. The Muppet Movie, the first of many movies featuring Henson's famous characters, appeared in 1979. Henson received several accolades for his work, including Emmys, Grammys and a Peabody Award. He died of pneumonia on 16th May 1990.

Henson was drawn to the arts from a young age, encouraged by his maternal grandmother. Well before his teen years, he was performing puppetry for audiences, including his fellow Cub Scouts. A major influence of his childhood was TV puppeteer Burr Tillstrom, of the show Kukla, Fran and Ollie.

In 1955 he began performing with his puppets on a local Washington, D.C. Saturday morning TV program while he was still in high school. Three years after, he scored a local Emmy Award and founded the Jim Henson Company. His hit series The Muppet Show , with Kermit the frog as the host, premiered in 1976. Soon after, superstar guest hosts came aboard, including Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Vincent Price and Steve Martin. In the 1980s, Henson’s show reached a staggering 235 million viewers in more than 100 countries and earned three Emmy Awards.  

Henson also experimented with short films, including 1965's Academy Award-nominated Time Piece. A few years after,he produce the now-classic children's show Sesame Street with various original characters, including Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Snuffulupagus and Elmo.

In the 1980s, he produced The Muppet Movie and developed the TV series Fraggle Rock, The Jim Henson Hour and Jim Henson's The Storyteller. Other major motion pictures followed, too, including 1982’s The Dark Crystal, a groundbreaking film mixing puppetry and animatronics, and 1986’s Labyrinth, which was produced by George Lucas and starred David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly.

In 1982, Jim Henson and his daughter Cheryl founded the Jim Henson Foundation, which is committed to supporting American puppet theatre and run today by Cheryl.

Henson’s last project was Muppet*Vision 3D, a multimedia attraction installed at Disney theme parks in California and Florida. On 16th May 1990, following a brief and unexpected bout of streptococcus pneumonia, Henson died in Manhattan at the age of 53. His moving yet celebratory funeral included a musical puppet performance.

Jim Henson's legacy as a director, producer, writer, puppeteer and innovator has continued for decades to come, due in no small part to his wife Jane Henson. In 1992, she established the Jim Henson Legacy, dedicated to preserving and perpetuating her late husband's contributions to the world.

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The man behind the Muppets 

Jim Henson : The Biography by Brian Jay Jones 

The Jim Henson Foundation




1.Kermit the frog with creator Jim Henson © Getty Images

2.Jim Henson with characters from “Fraggle Rock" © The Jim Henson Company

3.Jim Henson with creatures from The Dark Crystal © The Jim Henson Company