Muppet Mania!

The Museum of the Moving Image is celebrating the wonderful world of Jim Henson with a permanent and expanded retrospective and historical exhibition of his groundbreaking work in television and film.

Muppet Exhibit 1

Kermit the Frog greets you as you enter the exhibit. Note the photo of Jim Henson working with him. His headband microphone appears at right.

A gentle soul and prolific creator, Henson forged a new path in entertainment through the use of puppetry that appealed to both children and adults. Conceiving of and inventing characters with human-like qualities that resonated with viewers, he found himself an Emmy winner at the early age of 18.

Throughout his career he sought to develop new ways of using puppetry to engage, entertain, and educate with intelligence and humor. From the early days of television, his iconic characters appeared in commercials, television specials and late night talk shows (for five years in the 1960’s he appeared no less than 25 times on The Tonight Show—Johnny Carson was a big fan!).

Eventually, he landed on the idea of Sesame Street, creating the ubiquitous characters that American children grew up with, from Oscar the Grouch to Big Bird to Elmo. Sesame Street changed the course of educational television for children and ushered in a way to reach a broad audience and provide a pre-school education to all.

From here, he moved into prime time television, creating The Muppet Show, a perennial favorite and a huge hit, exemplified by the fact that every major star of the period wanted to be a guest on the series. Giving the audience a wide range of zany characters, the show was a comical delight and birthed the infamous romantic relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, the glamourous star.

Muppet Exhibit 10

A Skeksis from The Dark Crystal.

Always looking for new ways to innovate his craft, Henson moved on to film work and produced a series of Muppet movies as well as more serious, dramatic pieces such as Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. These innovative projects allowed him to experiment and refine new technologies such as radio controlled puppetry, devise expansive set design and heighten cinematography.

Muppet Exhibit 2

My young friend Naomi working with a Muppet at one of the interactive stations. This one allows you to see yourself working with a Muppet on camera.

Henson is greatly missed; his unique talent and humanity entertained audiences for many decades and it was with tremendous sadness that his death from pneumonia at the age of 53 was announced in 1990. He left behind a tremendous legacy and his beloved body of work continues to entertain and inspire audiences to this day.

Muppet Exhibit 3

Two early creations made from flexible tubing which gave them an instant ability to move in comical ways.

Muppet Exhibit 4

Product tie-in: An early television commercial for milk featured Henson’s Muppets. The product provided a matching plastic puppet that children could play with.

Muppet Exhibit 5

Commercials featuring Chun-King’s Dragon made a big impression on home cooks preparing Chinese food at home!

Muppet Exhibit 6

This video still shows Rowlf the Dog, who first appeared as a regular on The Jimmy Dean show in the 1960’s.

Muppet Exhibit 7

Fan favorite Big Bird!

Muppet Exhibit 8

The Muppet Show’s perennial old grumps Statler and Waldorf.

Muppet Exhibit 9

A complex set design for the film The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Muppet Exhibit 11

Kermit’s paramour, Miss Piggy, ready for the alter!