Jim Henson is one of the most widely known puppeteers in history. He was born September 24, 1936. In 1966, he was approached by public television producer Joan Ganz Cooney to create a family of characters for a new children’s television show that, through skits, songs and performances, would teach children more than just letters and numbers, but cooperation, understanding, tolerance and respect. He created a big bird, some blue monsters, a few strangely shaped people and a big grouch. Ernie and Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Cookie Monster and 8-foot-2 Big Bird continue to educate and delight the viewers of “Sesame Street” today, almost 40 years later. His other creations include TV shows “The Muppet Show” and “Fraggle Rock,” feature films “The Muppet Movie,” “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth.” He founded The Jim Henson Company, The Jim Henson Foundation, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Jim’s creative vision was responsible for what could be the most beloved and recognizable television characters of all time.
Jim Henson died unexpectedly on May 16, 1990. There were two memorial services held, one in New York City and one in London. In the final minutes of one of the services, six of the core Muppet performers sang, in their characters’ voices, a medley of Jim’s favorite songs, culminating in a performance of “Just One Person” that began with Richard Hunt singing alone, as Scooter. By the end of the song, the stage was filled with all the Muppet performers and their characters.
Life magazine described the memorial as “an epic and almost unbearably moving event.”
In August 2010, Jim’s original Kermit the Frog prototype puppet, along with other early Muppets, was donated to the Smithsonian Institution’s American History Museum by his widow Jane Henson. They will be on public display sometime in November.