Celebrate Jim Henson’s Birthday with a Look at My Favorite Muppets and Beyond

Dresden's Puppet TheaterToday is the birthday of one of my heroes: Jim Henson. From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a puppeteer. I made silly puppets out of my mother’s padded bras, made incredibly detailed faces out of my brown paper lunch sacks, and at the end of the day I turned every dirty sock into a character. I loved the idea of something coming from nothing.

When I was five or six, my mother started buying me actual toy hand puppets and I was over the moon with happiness. For Christmas, Santa brought me a puppet theater. By the time I was in middle school, I was working at the local PBS station doing small bits as a puppet artist. I saw every Jim Henson film, every TV special, and studied every movement.

Soon my passion for puppetry was replaced with a passion for theater, and I ended up putting down hand puppets and picking up scripts of Shakespeare and Ibsen. But I have always felt the connection of theater in both arts and have been thankful for the stepping stones.

Jim Henson introduced so many of us to new worlds. Through him, it was possible for frogs to not only ride bicycles but to also fall in love with pigs in haute couture. It was possible for dogs to play the piano and bears to tell jokes. It was also possible for people to interact in this world. I remember thinking: “Well if I don’t end up as a puppeteer on The Muppet Show, I could be a special guest star!”

This summer I took my son to see his first live puppet performance. Jim Henson’s youngest daughter, Heather, was in town for a Puppet Festival and I wanted him to experience the magic, beyond what he knows from episodes of Sesame Street or reruns of The Muppet Show I show him on You Tube. I will confess to getting weepy when Heather introduced herself. It was a two degrees moment for me. My son was in total awe watching the performance of Ibex puppetry, and while I have no idea if he will ever take an interest in the craft the same way I did, I am thankful that such special theater exists.

Jim Henson passed away suddenly on May 16, 1990. Today I celebrate his birth.

Celebrate Jim Henson’s Birthday With a Look at My Favorite Muppets and Beyond:

  • Jim Henson and the Muppets 1 of 11
    henson

    Happy birthday to Jim Henson: a man who helped shape so many of our childhoods and continues to inspire children everywhere. You are missed, but you are never forgotten. 

     

    Image Credit: Wikimedia

  • Kermit 2 of 11
    kermit

    When we think of Jim, don't we all think of Kermit? If you want to wrap yourself in the magic of Jim, you must watch this rare interview of Jim and Kermit on The Arsenio Hall Show. Twelve days after this interview Jim passed away.

    Watch the video here!

     

    Image Credit: Muppet Wiki

  • Dr. Teeth 3 of 11
    Celebrate Jim Henson With a Look at My Favorite Muppets

    Oh man, is Dr. Teeth cool or what?! I feel like Dr. Teeth sometimes has a rep for being into alternative enjoyment substances, but this muppet was always working ... always bringing the music. Dr. Teeth had to keep Animal in check! He just knew the best way to make things happen was to keep calm and carry on. 

     

    Image Credit: Muppet Wiki

  • Rowlf the Dog 4 of 11
    rowlf

    Rowlf was one of the first famous muppets. He was created to appear in a Purina dog food commercial in 1962 and then was cast to be a sidekick on The Jimmy Dean Show. I adore him because he always believes in keeping the band together, and that everything can be solved with a heartfelt song.

     

    Image Credit: Muppet Wiki

  • Guy Smiley 5 of 11
    guy

    I always loved the character of Guy Smiley, such a stand-up kind of guy. When I was trying to conceive, I once nicknamed one of the sperm donors from the sperm bank "Guy Smiley" because he remarked that he liked game shows on his essay. 

     

    Image Credit: Muppet Wiki

  • Ernie 6 of 11
    ernie

    One of my all time favorite muppets EVER is Ernie. When I think of Ernie, I think about kindness and love. I think about laughing and rubber duckies. One of the hardest things for me about newer episodes of Sesame Street is the fact that Bert and Ernie have now become claymation over puppetry.

    Watch the original rubber duckie video here! 

     

    Image Credits: Muppet Wiki, Muppet Wiki 

  • The Swedish Chef 7 of 11
    chef

    Don't tell me you haven't dipped into an impression of the Swedish Chef while preparing a meal for your kid. I have always loved the silliness. And the newer videos created by the Muppet Studio are BRILLIANT — they make my son and I laugh nonstop. The video with the Swedish Chef making popcorn is our favorite. 

     

    Image Credit: Muppet Wiki

  • Mahna Mahna 8 of 11
    mahna

    Before I introduced my son to Sesame Street or Pigs in Space, I brought him into the world of Mahna Mahna. This routine and these performers are the perfect silly for young viewers to see the whimsy of puppeteering. When's the last time you watched Mahna Mahna?

     

    Image Credit: Muppet Wiki

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 9 of 11
    turtles

    The last puppet project Jim worked on before he passed away was the film version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Actors wore suits that were mechanically controlled by puppeteers off screen. During filming, Jim is said to have regretted his decision to have his creature shop get involved with the project as he found the storyline too violent. The film was released after his death. When the sequel to TMNT came out, Henson's family was upset to discover that a tribute to Henson was included in the opening credits. People magazine says, the family was unhappy "because it implies that Henson's experience on the original Ninja Turtles movie was a rewarding one."

     

    Image Credit: Wikimedia, Henson

  • Jim Henson and his family 10 of 11
    henson-family

    Jim Henson was a family man. After his death, his children took over the family business. All five children inherited Jim Henson Productions Inc. (The youngest daughter, Heather, sits on Jim's shoulders.)

     

    Image Credit: Muppet Wiki

  • Heather Henson puppets 11 of 11
    henson-daughter-show

    At the end of the summer my son and I enjoyed an amazing experience of puppetry presented by Jim Henson's youngest daughter, Heather. Celebration of Flight used Ibex puppetry and it was truly magical. You can watch some of the show in a brief home movie. 

     

    Image Credit: Dresden Shumaker

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