The Jim Henson Company

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The Jim Henson Company
Formerly
Muppets, Inc.
Henson Associates, Inc.
Jim Henson Productions, Inc.
Private
IndustryEntertainment
FoundedNovember 20, 1958; 61 years ago (1958-11-20)
FoundersJim and Jane Henson
HeadquartersJim Henson Company Lot, ,
Key people
Brian Henson
(Chairman)
Lisa Henson
(President & CEO)
ProductsPuppetry, Animation, Computer graphics, Digital puppetry, Entertainment
OwnerHenson family
ParentIndependent
(1958–2000, 2003–present)
EM.TV & Merchandising AG
(2000–2003)
DivisionsJim Henson's Creature Shop
Henson Recording Studios
Henson Alternative
Websitewww.henson.com

The Jim Henson Company (formerly known as Muppets, Inc., Henson Associates, Inc., and Jim Henson Productions, Inc.; colloquial: Henson) is an American entertainment company located in Los Angeles, California. The company is known for its innovations in the field of puppetry, particularly through the creation of the renowned Muppets characters.[1]

The company was established in 1958 by puppeteers Jim and Jane Henson,[2] and is currently independently owned and operated by their children. Henson has produced many successful television series, including The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and Bear in the Big Blue House; as well, the company designed the Muppet characters for the long-running Sesame Street.

The company has also produced theatrical films, including The Muppet Movie (1979), The Dark Crystal (1982) and Labyrinth (1986). Henson also operates Jim Henson's Creature Shop, an animatronics and visual effects studio which has created characters and effects for both Henson productions and outside projects.[3] In 1989, the company entered merger negotiations with The Walt Disney Company, which were canceled following Jim Henson's death in 1990.

Subsequently, control of the company was assumed by Henson's children: Lisa, Cheryl, Brian, John, and Heather. In 2000, Henson was sold to German media company EM.TV & Merchandising AG; by the end of that year, however, EM.TV's stock collapsed, and the Henson family re-acquired the company in 2003. In the interim, EM.TV sold the rights to the Sesame Street Muppets to Sesame Workshop in 2000.[4]

In 2004, Henson sold the rights to The Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House to The Walt Disney Company, but retains the remainder of its characters, program library, and assets. As of 2019, Brian, Lisa, Cheryl, and Heather Henson run the company. Jane Henson died in April 2013, and John Henson died in February 2014.

Brian Henson serves as chairman, while Lisa Henson serves as CEO. Since 2000, The Jim Henson Company is headquartered at the Jim Henson Company Lot, the historic former Charlie Chaplin Studios, in Hollywood.

History[edit]

1958 to 1990[edit]

Jim and Jane Henson officially founded Muppets, Inc. on November 20, 1958, three years after Sam and Friends debuted on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. Aside from Sam and Friends, the majority of its work until 1969 was in advertising; appearances on late-night talk shows; and short “meeting films” primarily for enterprise use, produced from 1965 to 1996. In 1968, the company began designing characters and producing short films for the fledgling Sesame Street, which premiered on NET (succeeded by PBS) in November 1969.

One of the company's first characters to appear regularly on television, Rowlf the Dog, originated in commercials for Purina Dog Chow and became a regular character on The Jimmy Dean Show from 1963 to 1966. During this time, the show's host, Jimmy Dean, refused an opportunity to own 40% of the company, assuming that he did not attain that right. Jim Henson also pitched several different projects to the major American television networks, to little avail. Some ideas became unaired pilots, while others were never produced.

In 1976, producer Lew Grade approached Henson to produce a weekly series in Grade's native United Kingdom; this series became The Muppet Show, produced by Associated Television (ATV) for the ITV network. The success of The Muppet Show led to the Muppets becoming an enduring media franchise. Another company controlled by Grade, ITC Entertainment, originally owned The Muppet Show, among other Henson productions, but Henson acquired the rights to these productions in the 1980s. During this time, Henson formed Jim Henson's Creature Shop, a special effects studio partially responsible for the films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth; and television series The Storyteller, Farscape, and Dinosaurs.

Later in his life, Henson produced Fraggle Rock and The Jim Henson Hour. In August 1989, Henson and Disney CEO Michael Eisner began merger discussions reportedly valued at $150 million, which also included a fifteen-year contract for Henson's personal "creative services."[5] However, the deal did not include the rights to the Sesame Street characters, which were owned by Henson, although merchandising revenue was split between Henson and the Children's Television Workshop.

Also during the negotiations, management of the company's Henson International Television distribution unit based in the UK purchased their unit from the company, leading to the establishment of HIT Entertainment.[6] On May 16, 1990, as negotiations continued, Jim Henson died of toxic shock syndrome. Following Henson's death, neither Disney nor Jim Henson Productions could come to an accord. Negotiations officially ended in December 1990, and Henson remained an independent company.[7][8]

1991 to 1999[edit]

The Henson family assumed management of the company, and Brian Henson was named president, chairman, and CEO in January 1991.[9] In the following years, Henson entered into deals with several companies, including television rights to the Henson library with Disney Channel and Nickelodeon; a record label with BMG Kidz; and a home media label with Buena Vista Home Video.[10] In 1995, Henson entered into an agreement with ABC to produce primetime television series, leading to Muppets Tonight and Aliens in the Family.

Following the releases of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island by Walt Disney Pictures, Henson formed Jim Henson Pictures with Sony Pictures Entertainment. By 1999, Henson held partial interests in two cable channels: The Kermit Channel (broadcasting in Asia) and Odyssey Network (broadcasting in the United States), both jointly owned with Hallmark Entertainment. After Hallmark (through Crown Media Holdings) assumed full ownership of these networks, the Kermit Channel was discontinued and Odyssey was renamed the Hallmark Channel.

2000 to 2004[edit]

In 2000, the Henson family sold the company to the German media company EM.TV & Merchandising AG, for $680 million.[11][12] That summer, EM.TV sold Henson's stakes in the Odyssey and Kermit cable channels in exchange for an 8.2% stake in Hallmark-controlled Crown Media Holdings.[13] By the end of 2000, after EM.TV subsequently experienced major financial problems, EM.TV sold the company's ownership of the Sesame Street Muppets and Henson's small interest in the Noggin television network to Sesame Workshop,[14] and by early 2001, Henson itself was marked for sale.[15] The Walt Disney Company,[16] Viacom,[17] HIT Entertainment,[18] Aol Time Warner,[19] Haim Saban,[20] Classic Media,[21] as well as Henson management, among others, were all parties reportedly interested in acquiring the company.

In December 2002, a deal was announced in which EM.TV would sell a 49.9% stake in Henson to an investment group led by Dean Valentine, a former executive at Disney and UPN.[22] However, in March 2003, the deal was canceled, citing financial issues on Valentine's part.[23] In May 2003, EM.TV was reportedly nearing an agreement to sell Henson to a consortium between Classic Media and Sesame Workshop (with financing from Sony Pictures Entertainment),[24] until the Henson family re-acquired the company for a closing price of $84 million.[25]

In February 2004, Henson sold the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House to The Walt Disney Company,[26] who subsequently formed The Muppets Studio (known at that time as The Muppets Holding Company). The term “Muppet”, likewise, became a legal trademark of Disney; Sesame Workshop retains permission to use the term for its Sesame Street characters under license.

2004 to present[edit]

On April 1, 2004, Henson and HIT Entertainment agreed to a five-year global distribution and production deal which included distribution of 440 hours of the company's remaining library including Fraggle Rock, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, The Hoobs and Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories.[27] After that deal expired, Henson entered similar agreements with Lionsgate Home Entertainment and Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment. As well, the company became involved with computer animated projects, including the direct-to-video Unstable Fables series; Sid the Science Kid; Dinosaur Train; and Splash and Bubbles, as well as the puppet series Pajanimals.

Henson later formed Henson Alternative, which specializes in adult content, including the live shows known alternatively as Puppet Improv, Puppet Up!, and Stuffed and Unstrung. Current projects in development include The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a prequel to The Dark Crystal; and a Fraggle Rock film. In recent years, the Fraggle Rock characters have made several appearances, usually at special events. The characters appeared with Ben Folds Five in the music video for "Do It Anyway"; and in 2013, Gobo and Red Fraggle hosted a Fraggle Rock marathon on the Hub Network.

Staff[edit]

Henson Family[edit]

Leadership[edit]

  • Peter Schube – President and COO of The Jim Henson Company.
  • Lori Don – Executive Vice President and CFO of The Jim Henson Company.
  • Richard Goldsmith – Executive Vice President, Global Distribution, and International Consumer Projects.
  • Joe Henderson – Executive Vice President, Worldwide Administration.
  • Stephanie Schroeder – Executive Vice President, Business Affairs & Legal.
  • Halle Stanford – Executive Vice President of Children's Entertainment.
  • Nicole Goldman – Senior Vice President, Marketing and Publicity.
  • Karen Lee Arbeeny – Vice President, Business Operations, Global Distribution.
  • Faryal Ganjehei – Vice President and Studio Operations at the Henson Recording Studio.
  • Anna Jordan Douglass – Vice President, Digital Development & Interactive Media.
  • Howard Sharp – Vice President of Administration.
  • Peter Brooke – Creative Supervisor at Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

Other staff members[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Films[edit]

Title Date Production partner(s) Distributor
As Muppets Inc.
Time Piece 1965 N/A Pathé Contemporary Films
The Cube February 23, 1969 N/A NBC
As Henson Associates
The Muppet Movie
  • May 31, 1979 (1979-05-31) (United Kingdom)
  • June 22, 1979 (1979-06-22) (United States)
ITC Entertainment Associated Film Distribution[a]
The Great Muppet Caper
  • July 30, 1981 (1981-07-30) (United Kingdom)
  • June 26, 1981 (1981-06-26) (United States)
Universal Pictures[b]
The Dark Crystal
  • December 17, 1982 (1982-12-17) (United States)
  • February 17, 1983 (1983-02-17) (United Kingdom)
The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • July 13, 1984 (1984-07-13)
N/A TriStar Pictures
Labyrinth
  • June 27, 1986 (1986-06-27) (United States)
  • December 2, 1986 (1986-12-02) (United Kingdom)
Lucasfilm Ltd.
As Jim Henson Productions
The Witches
  • May 25, 1990 (1990-05-25) (United States)
  • August 24, 1990 (1990-08-24) (United Kingdom)
Lorimar Film Entertainment Warner Bros.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
  • December 11, 1992 (1992-12-11)
Walt Disney Pictures Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Muppet Treasure Island
  • February 16, 1996 (1996-02-16)
As Jim Henson Pictures
Buddy
  • June 6, 1997 (1997-06-06) (North America)
  • May 23, 1997 (1997-05-23) (New Zealand)
Sony Pictures Releasing
Muppets from Space July 14, 1999 Columbia Pictures
The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland October 1, 1999
Rat October 6, 2000 Universal Focus Universal Pictures
Good Boy! October 10, 2003 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer MGM Distribution Co.
As The Jim Henson Company
Five Children and It
Isle of Man Film Commission
Davis Films
UK Film Council
Endgame Entertainment
Capitol Films
MirrorMask September 30, 2005 Destination Films Samuel Goldwyn Films (USA)
Tartan Films (UK)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • October 6, 2014 (2014-10-06) (El Capitan Theatre)
  • October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10) (United States)
Walt Disney Pictures
21 Laps Entertainment
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
The Star
Columbia Pictures
Sony Pictures Animation[30]
Franklin Entertainment
Walden Media
Affirm Films
Sony Pictures Releasing
Pinocchio[31] 2021 ShadowMachine
Double Dare You Productions
Netflix

Television[edit]

From 1969 to 2001, Henson was contracted to design and create Muppet characters for Sesame Street. With the exception of occasional appearances in the Muppets franchise, the characters were used exclusively for Sesame Street, but Henson legally owned these characters prior to their acquisition by Sesame Workshop. The only exception was Kermit the Frog, who was featured in other projects prior to Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop retains the rights to use any Sesame Street footage featuring the character.

The sale ended any direct affiliation between The Muppets and Sesame Street, although the series retains use of the term "Muppet" under license from The Walt Disney Company. Many of the puppeteers continue to perform with both The Muppets and Sesame Street franchises. While no longer owning the Sesame Street characters, Henson continues to design them.[32] This list excludes pre-2001 Sesame Street co-productions outside the United States.

Direct to video[edit]

  • Jim Henson Play-Along Video (1988)
    • Hey, You're As Funny as Fozzie Bear: A Comedy Show Starring Fozzie Bear and You.
    • Sing-Along, Dance-Along, Do-Along: Rowlf teaches kids about musical styles.
    • Wow, You're a Cartoonist!
    • Neat Stuff... To Know and Do
    • Jim Henson's Mother Goose Stories (1987–90)
    • Peek-A-Boo, A Big Surprise for Little People[40]
  • Muppet Sing Alongs
  • Muppet Classic Theater (1994)
  • "Jim Henson's Preschool Collection"
    • "Muppets on Wheels" (1995)
    • "Yes, I Can Learn" (1995)
    • "Yes, I Can Help" (1995)[43]
  • Kermit's Swamp Years (2002)
  • Unstable Fables trilogy (2008)

Theme parks[edit]

Web content[edit]

Henson Alternative[edit]

The following list contains projects of The Jim Henson Company under its Henson Alternative banner:

Other productions[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The film's distribution rights were purchased by The Jim Henson Company from ITC Entertainment in August 1984.[28] The film rights were then transferred to Walt Disney Studios upon their parent company's acquisition of the Muppets franchise in 2004.[29] Currently, Universal Pictures, due to prior contractual obligations with the former Associated Film Distribution and ITC, handles theatrical distribution, but the film’s ownership and copyright stands with The Walt Disney Company, and current home media releases label the film as a Walt Disney Pictures presentation.
  2. ^ The film's distribution rights were purchased by The Jim Henson Company from ITC Entertainment in August 1984.[28] The rights were then transferred to Walt Disney Studios upon their parent company's acquisition of the Muppets franchise in 2004. The film has since been subsequently released as a Walt Disney Pictures release.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gritten, David (1990-08-19). "The Next Muppetmeister?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  2. ^ Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography (2013). p. 75.
  3. ^ Eller, Claudia; Philips, Chuck (1995-05-12). "Sony Nears Deal With Jim Henson Productions". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  4. ^ "Sesame Street". Archived from the original on 2014-05-15. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
  5. ^ Swansburg, John (December 6, 2013). "Muppet Man". The New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  6. ^ "HIT Entertainment PLC History". Company Profiles. fundinguniverse.com. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  7. ^ Zonana, Victor F. (1991-04-18). "Henson Heirs Allege Disney Is Illegally Using Muppets". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  8. ^ Citron, Alan (1990-12-14). "Miss Piggy and Friends Won't Get Together With Mickey and Minnie". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  9. ^ Willman, David (1992-07-26). "Jim Henson's Children Put Together a String of Big Deals to Keep Alive". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  10. ^ Stevenson, Richard W. (December 19, 1991). COMPANY NEWS; In Thaw, Henson and Disney Strike Deal on Home Videos. New York Times.
  11. ^ "Muppet Central News - Germany's EM.TV buys Henson for $680 million". muppetcentral.com. February 21, 2000. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  12. ^ Hofmeister, Sallie (2000-02-22). "German Firm to Buy Henson for $680 Million". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  13. ^ "Muppet Central News - EM.TV swaps Odyssey for Crown Media". muppetcentral.com. July 26, 2000. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  14. ^ "Muppet Central News - Sesame Workshop gains character control from EM.TV". muppetcentral.com. December 4, 2000. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  15. ^ "Muppet Central News - EM.TV officially says Henson will be sold". muppetcentral.com. March 13, 2001. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  16. ^ "Muppet Central News - Eisner watches for Muppets chance". muppetcentral.com. January 30, 2001. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  17. ^ "Muppet Central News - Viacom is next in line for Henson". muppetcentral.com. January 31, 2001. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  18. ^ "Muppet Central News - Is Bob the Builder eyeing Miss Piggy?". muppetcentral.com. February 1, 2001. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  19. ^ "Muppet Central News - AOL Time Warner may buy Henson for $400 million". muppetcentral.com. March 12, 2001. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  20. ^ "Muppet Central News - Billionaire Saban wants to buy the Muppets". muppetcentral.com. October 8, 2002. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  21. ^ "Muppet Central News - Four suitors are in pursuit of Henson". muppetcentral.com. December 6, 2002. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  22. ^ "Muppet Central News - EM.TV to sell 49.9% of Henson to Dean Valentine". muppetcentral.com. December 24, 2002. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  23. ^ "Muppet Central News - EM.TV calls off sale of Muppets to Dean Valentine". muppetcentral.com. March 7, 2003. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  24. ^ "Muppet Central News - Hensons began pursuit of company two weeks ago". muppetcentral.com. May 8, 2003. Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  25. ^ Verrier, Richard (2003-05-08). "Muppets Returning to Hensons' Hands". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
  26. ^ Barnes, Brooks (18 September 2008). "Fuzzy Renaissance". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
  27. ^ Rossingh, Danielle (April 2, 2004). "HIT seals deal for Henson catalogue". Telegraph. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  28. ^ a b Jay Jones, Brian (2013). "Chapter 12: Twists and Turns". Jim Henson: The Biography. Ballantine Books (Random House). pp. 374–375. ISBN 978-0345526113.
  29. ^ Thompson, Simon (July 25, 2019). "Remembering 'The Muppet Movie' At 40 With Gonzo". Forbes. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  30. ^ "Film releases". Variety Insight. Retrieved November 11, 2017.
  31. ^ Lang, Brent (October 22, 2018). "Guillermo del Toro Directing 'Pinocchio' for Netflix". Variety. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  32. ^ James, Meg (February 18, 2004). "Kermit Is Now Part of Magic Kingdom". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  33. ^ Petski, Denise (May 18, 2017). "'The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance': Jim Henson Prequel Series Set At Netflix". Deadline.com. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  34. ^ Hibberd, James (17 December 2018). "Netflix's The Dark Crystal prequel reveals first photos, huge voice cast". Entertainment Weekly.
  35. ^ Petski, Denise (October 25, 2019). "Disney+ Teams With Jim Henson Co. On New Puppet Talk Show". Deadline. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  36. ^ "Jim Henson Co. Sets New Puppet Talk Show at Disney+ (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  37. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 19, 2019). "'The Storyteller' Reimagining In Works by Neil Gaiman, Jim Henson Co. & Fremantle". Deadline.com. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  38. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (December 9, 2016). "'Top Puppet': NBC Orders Reality Special From 'The Voice' Producers, Muppet Creators & Craig Ferguson". Deadline.com. Retrieved 19 May 2017.
  39. ^ "'Lore Olympus': Webtoon And The Jim Henson Company Will Partner For YA Animated Series'". Deadline.com. October 10, 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  40. ^ Videos. Muppet Collectibles . Muppet Central.com. Accessed on November 25, 2013.
  41. ^ Zad, Martie. "Muppet Group Offers Eight New Songs." The Washington Post. 1993. HighBeam Research. (November 25, 2013).
  42. ^ Maes, Nancy. (March 7, 1996) Tish Hinojosa's Music Bridges Two Cultures. Chicago Tribune. Accessed on November 26, 2013.
  43. ^ Martie Zad. (July 2, 1995) "Muppets, Kids Join in Series For Preschoolers." The Washington Post. 1995. HighBeam Research. Accessed on November 26, 2013.
  44. ^ Knapp, JD (July 1, 2017). "STX Sets Dates for 'Molly's Game' and 'Happytime Murders'". Variety. Retrieved July 10, 2017.

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