Today marks the 21st anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. I did a little reading on him today and came across 21 facts I found to be pretty interesting.
Above: “Joe Lanzisero and Tim Kirk of Disney made this after Jim Henson died.” – [Mike Mitchell]
1. He named Kermit the Frog after a childhood friend from Mississippi.
2. He created the original Kermit using a turquoise ladies’ coat his mother had discarded and two ping-pong balls for eyes.
3. He was approached by his friend George Lucas to play the role of Yoda in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. He declined and recommended fellow puppeteer Frank Oz for the part.
4. He first introduced the character Kermit (not as a frog, but a lizard-like character) on his first show, Sam and Friends.
5. He attended the University of Maryland, where a statue was dedicated in his honor on September 24, 2003.
6. Wanting to focus on the creative side and less on the business side of production, he entered into talks with Michael Eisner to sell his company and characters (minus Sesame Street) to the Walt Disney Company. Unfortunately, he died the weekend before the sale went through. The deal was finalized in 2004.
7. He was featured in Boyz II Men’s video for “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” (2:03)
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze was dedicated to him.
9. Henson is honored both as himself and as Kermit the Frog on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The only other person to share this honor is Mel Blanc, the voice actor of Bugs Bunny.
10. He coined the term “muppets” as a meld of “marionettes” and “puppets”.
11. He was one of the first to use puppets with moving mouths instead of puppets whose heads bobbed when they talked.
12. The first movie he saw was The Wizard of Oz.
13. One of his first puppets was Pierre the French Rat.
14. He was pictured on a USA 37¢ commemorative stamp issued in September 2005.
15. The Muppets themselves were given an opportunity to pay tribute to their creator in The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson.
16. Rowlf the Dog was one of the first muppets to get Henson nationwide attention by appearing regularly on The Jimmy Dean Show from 1963 to 1966.
17. He had a hit single, singing “Rubber Duckie” as Ernie. It stayed on the Billboard Top 40 chart for pop/rock for seven weeks, peaking at number 16.
18. An extensive collection of his work, “The Jim Henson Works,” can be viewed from computers in the UMD libraries.
19. He made enough money doing commercials in college that he was able to drive his own Rolls-Royce to his college graduation.
20. He died at the age of 53 from streptococcus pneumonia.
21. Per his request, no one wore black to his funeral.
Below: The muppeteers and their muppets perform a medley of Jim Henson’s favorite songs at his funeral, ending in a performance of “Just One Person”.