Jim Henson leaves quite a legacy

Posted October 2, 2013 at 11:53 am

BABBLING BROOKS column–Express Editor Kim Brooks

Random fact: On Sept. 24, Jim Henson would have been 77 years old.

The famed puppeteer would have celebrated his birthday if he hadn’t passed away on May 16, 1990, at the young age of 53, after a strep throat infection. Sadly, his wife passed away earlier this year after a battle with cancer.

Anyone under the age of 23 probably has no clue who Jim Henson is or what his legacy is all about.

He was a pioneer for children’s television shows and movies. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy his work.

If you’ve heard of The Muppets, “Sesame Street” or “Fraggle Rock,” then you at least know of Henson’s original work.

He created these characters, giving life to and a voice to hand-operated puppets.

Henson created The Muppets in the mid-1950s. The word “muppet” is the merging of “marionette” and “puppet.” These characters were controlled by a series of wires and strings, hence “marionette.” People also manually controlled them, which is where “puppet” comes into play.

The first ever Muppet Henson created should not come as a surprise to many, Kermit the Frog, one of the most popular and recognizable Muppets to date. The small, green frog’s claim to fame, aside from being voiced by Henson himself, is his tune “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”

Interesting tidbit about The Muppets: A special series of Muppets, called The Land of Gorch, appeared in several segments on the first season of Saturday Night Live from 1975-76. SNL Executive Producer, Lorne Michaels, described these Muppets as the ones who could stay up late. The Muppets’ sketches were written by SNL writers, while the Muppets were controlled by Henson’s puppeteers.

Henson left so many memorable characters behind, aside from Kermit the Frog: Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, Scooter, Beaker, the Swedish Chef Rizzo the Rat, Rowlf the Dog and many more.

The Muppets have appeared in numerous movies before Henson’s death, and have gone on to make new movies for kids today. Their films span from 1979 to their newest release expected in March of 2014.

As a kid, some of my favorite movies were those featuring The Muppets.

Disney has since purchased the rights to Henson’s Muppets franchise. They’ve produced two movies as of 2014, bringing the characters back to life for an all new generation to enjoy.

Henson’s legacy hit “Sesame Street” is also still educating and entertaining children today. The series just started its 44th season, which is seen on Iowa Public television (PBS).

For years, these characters have been teaching children about colors, numbers, the alphabet, opposites, manners and so much more. They’ve introduced new characters here and there over the years, all mirroring Henson’s vision of making learning fun for all.

“Sesame Street” is broadcast in more than 140 countries around the world today. Shows you just how successful Henson legacy is today.

Ask yourself if you watched these shows growing up. Did your kids watch them? Do your grandkids now enjoy them as well? Henson’s dream spans several generations today, as his ideas are not only on TV, but available as movies and seen online.

Jim Henson is still alive in many aspects of entertainment today.