Jim Henson was born on September 24, 1936, in Greenville, Mississippi. He moved to Maryland in fifth grade and throughout his childhood had a strong interest in both art and television. His grandmother was very supportive of his interests and constantly encouraged him to use his imagination.
In 1954 Jim started in television performing puppets on a local channel’s Saturday morning program. The next year, while studying at the University of Maryland, he was given a five-minute show called Sam and Friends which aired twice a day. This show introduced the first Muppets, marionette puppets. The success of this show led him to many appearances on shows such as The Today Show and The Steve Allen Show. During this time Jim began making many humorous commercials for sponsors. With weekly appearances on these shows, Jim asked for the help of a puppet maker name Don Sahlin and a puppeteer name Frank Oz.
“From 1964 to 1969 Henson produced several experimental films.” In the mid-60’s Jim was asked to create characters to populate a new children’s show, Sesame Street. It was here where he made some of his most famous characters such as Ernie and Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, and Big Bird. On this show Jim produced over two dozen shorts to teach counting and other basics.
Soon after his fame on Sesame Street Jim, after promoting the idea for The Muppet Show for years, finally received backing to produce. On this show the most famous Muppet of all, Kermit the Frog, was introduced along with Miss Piggy, Rizzo the Rat, Rowlf the Dog, Fozzie Bear, and of course Gonzo the Whatever. The Muppet Show became the most widely viewed television program in the world. From this show many movies and spin-off television shows have been produced. Jim Henson died in 1990 from pneumonia right after his last project for Muppet Vision 3-D, an attraction for Disney World, and right before he was going to sell his company to Disney Studios. Today his son runs and owns the Henson Company.
Jim Henson possessed many lovable qualities about him but his most important characteristic was his creativity. Jim Henson created characters that were out of this world and quite unexpected. Jim Henson also had an extraordinary sense of humor, which attracted young and old to his television shows. Jim Henson once said, “Nobody creates a fad. It just happens. People love going along with the idea of a beautiful pig. It’s like a conspiracy.”
These qualities will definitely serve society greatly in the next one thousand years. Jim Henson’s creativity will inspire writers and producers to do the same. This will allow them to attract many viewers of a broad range of ages. Jim Henson’s humor will also influence the next millennium of people. His humor will teach people stuck in a world of seriousness to have a light heart and to laugh once in a while. I believe Jim Henson has taught everyone an important lesson, that no matter how tough life gets, you can always find a bit of little humor in it.
“Henson, Jim.” Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. 1999 ed.,
Wilmeth, Don B. “Henson, Jim.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 1996 ed., 191.