Brian Henson was the third child of Jim and Jane Henson. As a child, he made several cameo appearances in Sesame Street segments, notably counting three peas, eight ping-pong balls, and various types of coins in the "Number Song Series." His first Sesame Street cameo, however, was in a film in which he and another boy play in the sand, pretending to be vehicles. As he got older, he built the very first Muppet Penguin puppet for an episode of The Muppet Show. During a summer break from high school, he assisted in the bicycle sequence from The Great Muppet Caper. He helped create and operate a special rigging device that was created to allow the Muppets to ride bicycles, since he was skilled in the use of marionette puppets. A few years later, he operated a marionette of Scooter riding a bicycle in The Muppets Take Manhattan.
During the 1980s, Henson wanted to make a name for himself and find work without his father's help. He performed Jack Pumpkinhead in Return to Oz, operated special effects in Santa Claus: The Movie, and was a principal performer for the Audrey II puppet in Little Shop of Horrors, controlling mouth movement while others performed the lips and vines. In an 2013 interview, Henson discussed the difference between working on Return to Oz and working on a Muppet movie:
Creature Shop involvement
In 1986, Brian Henson performed the voice and face movements of Hoggle in Labyrinth. He then performed the regular role of Dog on The StoryTeller and The StoryTeller: Greek Myths. He also performed occasionally on Dinosaurs.
Henson Company involvement
In 1990, after the death of Jim Henson and the dissolution of the company's planned merger with The Walt Disney Company, Brian, along with his other siblings, took over operations of The Jim Henson Company.
In January 1991, at the age of 27, Brian was named President, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of the Henson Company.
In 1995, the Henson Company created the Office of the President and longtime Henson executive Charles Rivkin became President and Chief Operating Officer, while Brian became President and Chief Executive Officer.
After the sale to EM.TV in 2000, Brian became chairman until he resigned in 2002. One year later, he led his siblings in the re-acquisition of the Henson Company from EM.TV.
Brian Henson has produced many Henson series, and he directed select episodes of Mother Goose Stories, Dinosaurs, Muppets Tonight, and Farscape. He also directed The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island.
Brian Henson became one of the core Muppet performers starting with Muppets Tonight, where his roles included Sal Minella, Seymour the Elephant, Nigel the Director, and Dr. Phil van Neuter. In the Behind-the-scenes feature on the Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story DVD, Brian Henson refers to Bill Barretta as his "performing partner", and together they performed such duos as Seymour and Pepe, and Johnny Fiama and Sal. Barretta also normally performed the hands of Dr. Phil van Neuter, and in Episode 103 of Muppets Tonight, Henson's character Sal had a run-in with Barretta's Bobo the Bear, in which Sal was hurled from the building for continually referring to Bobo as "butt-head."
Although Dr. Phil van Neuter was occasionally used after Muppets Tonight, Henson's only character from that series that continued to appear regularly was Sal, who appeared in Muppets from Space, It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, The Muppets Wizard of Oz, and other productions through the late 2000s.
At the 2001 live show, The Muppet Show Live, Brian Henson finally took over one of his father's characters, the Newsman. In It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Henson took over two of Richard Hunt's characters, Scooter and Janice. Henson would perform these two characters again, along with the Newsman, in the video game Muppets Party Cruise.
In 1999, Brian Henson appeared in a series of introductions that were recorded especially for The Muppet Show reruns on the Odyssey Network. He also recorded audio commentary for the original DVD releases of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, and he appeared in some features on the DVD releases Dinosaurs: The Complete First and Second Seasons and Dinosaurs: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons (providing audio commentary on the latter).
Henson also directed Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars in 2004. He performed Augustus Pfiffle in Late Night Buffet with Augie and Del, a puppet-hosted, improvisational talk show, in which he has joined once again with Bill Barretta, who performed co-host Delbert Kastle. He is also involved with Puppet Up!. In 2007, Barretta and Henson wrote, produced, and directed LOGO's Tinseltown, and they performed the puppets of Bobby Vegan and Samson Knight. He also directed and is executive producer of Sid the Science Kid. Henson was the lead judge of the reality series Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge. He also directed the Henson Company puppet movie The Happytime Murders.
Muppet/Creature Shop puppeteering credits
- Muppet Characters: Dr. Phil van Neuter, Sal Minella, Seymour, Elvises, Nigel, Andy Pig (Muppet Classic Theater only), Scooter (It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Muppets Party Cruise), Janice (It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Muppets Party Cruise), Sheep (Muppet Classic Theater), The Newsman (The Muppet Show Live, Muppets Party Cruise), Whatnots (Muppets Tonight)
- The Muppet Movie: right-handing Fozzie Bear
- The Christmas Toy: Cruiser
- Labyrinth: Hoggle, Goblins
- The StoryTeller: Dog, Griffin ("The Luck Child")
- The Jim Henson Hour: Ultragorgon, Dog the Dinosaur
- The StoryTeller: Greek Myths: Dog
- Dinosaurs: Arthur Rizzic, Aubrey Molehill, Ethyl (body, seasons 1-2), Grapdelite, Art Nielsen
- 1993 Royal Variety Performance: Bossman
- D23 Expo 2011, performer in "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" (as character resembling Yorick)
- Late Night Buffet with Augie and Del: Augustus Pfiffle
- Puppet Up!
- That Puppet Game Show
- The Happytime Murders
- Mother Goose Stories
- The Muppet Christmas Carol
- "Kokomo" music video
- Muppet Treasure Island
- Muppets Tonight
- Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story
- MasterCard commercial
- Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars
- Nightmares & Dreamscapes ("Battleground")
- Frances (select episodes)
- The Skrumps ("Dance Without Feet" music video)
- Sid the Science Kid
- The Happytime Murders
- Muppet Classic Theater (1994) - Executive Producer
- Muppets on Wheels (1995) - Executive Producer
- Yes, I Can (1995) - Executive Producer
- Things That Fly (1996) - Executive Producer
- Aliens in the Family (1996) - Executive Producer
- Bear in the Big Blue House (1997) - Executive Producer
- The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999) - Executive Producer
- That Puppet Game Show (2013) - Executive Producer
- Earth to Ned (2020) - Executive Producer
Awards & honors
- Won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Children's Program for Mother Goose Stories
- Won the Scientific and Engineering Award for the development of the Henson Performance Control System (Shared with: Faz Fazakas, Dave Housman, Peter Miller, and John Stephenson)
- Won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program for: Muppets Tonight.
- Brian Henson on the Henson Alternative Wiki
- Brian Henson on the Henson Digital Puppetry Wiki
- IGN Interview
- Entertainment Weekly interview
- Jim Henson's Red Book (11/3/2011)
- Davis, Michael Street Gang, page 163
- Henson, Brian Brian Henson Introduction for Episode 304: Gilda Radner
- Finch, Christopher. Jim Henson: The Works. 1993.
- Jim's Red Book entry
- Plume, Ken.Interview with Ken Plume, August 2000
- Plume, Ken. Interview with Ken Plume, August 2000.
- D23 Web Extra: 23 Questions with Brian Henson
- Jim Henson's Red Book 5/1/1987 - 'Brian and Kevin doing 2 week workshop in London'