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The Jim Henson Company logo
Henson Studio

The Jim Henson Company Lot

The Jim Henson Company (also known at various times as Muppets, Inc., Henson Associates, and Jim Henson Productions) is an American entertainment company, a leading producer of children's and family entertainment, and best known as the creator of the renowned Muppets characters.

Founded in 1958 by Jim Henson, the company has produced such successful television series as The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Farscape, as well as creating the Muppet characters for the Sesame Workshop children's series, Sesame Street. Henson has also produced motion pictures including The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. The company also operates Jim Henson's Creature Shop, a puppet, animatronics, and visual effects workshop.

The Henson Company entered a merger agreement with The Walt Disney Company in 1989, but the deal fell through after founder Jim Henson's death in 1990, and the company was subsequently taken over by the Henson family. In 2000, Henson was sold to German media company EM.TV & Merchandising AG, but after EM.TV's stock collapsed, the company was sold back to the Henson family in 2003. In 2004, Henson sold the rights to the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House to The Walt Disney Company, but retains the rest of its characters, program library, and assets.

History[]

1958–1990: Founding and Jim Henson's Leadership[]

Jim Henson Idea Man (43)

Jim Henson

Jimsmickey

Henson at the company's New York headquarters.

Jim Henson and his performing partner and future wife Jane Nebel officially founded Muppets Inc. in 1958, three years after the debut of Sam and Friends. Aside from Sam and Friends, the majority of work that the company had until 1969 was creating characters for various commercials, variety show appearances, and a few meeting films for various companies (the company would produce its own Muppet Meeting Films from 1975 through 1993). In 1969, the company started creating characters for the popular children's show Sesame Street.

One of the company's first characters to be seen regularly on national television was Rowlf the Dog, who was initially created for Purina Dog Chow commercials and soon became famous when he became a regular character on The Jimmy Dean Show from 1963-1966. During this time, the show's host, Jimmy Dean, was given an opportunity to own forty percent of the company. However, Dean turned the offer down because he didn't feel that he had earned it.[1]

For many years, Jim Henson had tried to sell several different shows to the major networks, all of which turned them down. Some ideas (such as Tales of the Tinkerdee) were made as unaired pilots, and some (such as The Zoocus) were never produced. Then, in 1976, Jim Henson was able to produce The Muppet Show for syndication. The success of The Muppet Show led to many movies, specials, videos, and more. The Muppet Show was originally owned by the British company ITC, but Jim Henson later purchased the rights to the show.

In the early 1980s, Jim Henson also formed Jim Henson's Creature Shop, which would go on to create characters for shows such as The StoryTeller, Farscape, and Dinosaurs; and movies such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. It was also during the 1980s that Jim Henson produced new television series such as Fraggle Rock and The Jim Henson Hour.

In August 1989, Jim Henson entered negotiations to sell the company to The Walt Disney Company for a reported $150 million. The deal was to include the entire Henson operation, except for the rights to the Sesame Street characters. However, on May 16, 1990, Henson passed away unexpectedly, before the deal was completed. The two companies resumed negotiations, but after Disney and the Henson family failed to reach an accord, the merger was called off in December 1990, and Henson remained an independent company.

1991–1999: Life after Jim Henson and Brian Henson's Leadership[]

BH

CEO and Chairman Brian Henson with Kermit and Clifford

Following Jim Henson's death, the Henson family assumed management of the company, and Brian Henson was named president, chairman, and CEO in January 1991.[2] In the following years, Henson entered into deals with several companies, including television rights to the Henson library with Disney Channel and Nickelodeon; a record label with BMG Kidz; and a home media label with Buena Vista Home Video. In 1995, Henson entered into an agreement with ABC to produce primetime television series, leading to Muppets Tonight and Aliens in the Family.

Following the releases of The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island by Walt Disney Pictures, Henson formed Jim Henson Pictures with Sony Pictures Entertainment. In 1998, the company signed a deal with Columbia TriStar Home Video to launch Jim Henson Home Entertainment.

In 1999, the Jim Henson Company, along with Hallmark Entertainment, held partial interests in two cable channels, The Kermit Channel (which was broadcast in Asia) and The Odyssey Channel (which was broadcast in the United States). In 2001, after Crown Media (the cable operator controlled by Hallmark Cards) gained full control of the network, Odyssey was relaunched as The Hallmark Channel.

2000–2004: Sales and Reacquisition[]

Hensonfamily

Company owners in 2003: Cheryl, Brian, Lisa, John and Heather Henson.

In 2000, Jim Henson's children sold the entire company (including the Sesame Street characters) to German media company EM.TV & Merchandising AG for $680 million. In June of that year, EM.TV sold its stakes in the Odyssey and Kermit networks to Crown Media in exchange for an 8.2% stake in Crown Media. In late 2000, after EM.TV subsequently experienced major financial problems, it sold the rights to the Sesame Street Muppets and Henson's interest in the Noggin cable network to Sesame Workshop, and by the spring of 2001, just one year after buying the company, EM.TV had officially put the remainder of The Jim Henson Company up for sale. The Walt Disney Company, HIT Entertainment, TV mogul Haim Saban,[3] Classic Media,[4] Entertainment Rights, Viacom, and a management-led buyout headed by then-Henson CEO Charles Rivkin, were among the parties who showed interest in buying the Henson company.

In November 1999, the Hensons purchased the Charlie Chaplin Studios for $12.5-million to serve as the new home of the Company. After an extensive remodel, the company officially made the studio its new home on May 1, 2000.[5][6]

In December of 2002, a deal was announced in which EM.TV would sell a 49.9% stake in Henson to an investment group led by Dean Valentine, a former executive at Disney and at UPN. However in March 2003, the deal fell through, and the search for a new buyer resumed. On May 7, 2003, the Henson family, led by Brian Henson, re-acquired the Jim Henson Company from EM.TV for $84 million, and the company was once again independent.

In 2004, almost one year after ownership of the Henson company was returned to the family's hands, The Jim Henson Company sold the rights to the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House characters to The Walt Disney Company, who now control the Muppets through the wholly-owned subsidiary The Muppets Studio (formerly Muppets Holding Company LLC).

2004–present: Life after the Muppets and Lisa Henson's Leadership[]

Brian-Lisa-Henson

Chairman Brian Henson and CEO Lisa Henson with Gobo and Red Fraggle

Since regaining its independence, Henson has expanded its family entertainment portfolio, producing children's television series such as Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train for PBS Kids, and Pajanimals for Sprout. The company also launched its adult comedy banner Henson Alternative in 2005, which includes the touring puppet improv show "Stuffed and Unstrung," the R-rated feature film The Happytime Murders, and various TV and web series. With digital streaming coming into prominence, Henson has developed original series across several streaming services, including The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance for Netflix, Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock for Apple TV+, and Earth to Ned for Disney+.

Through its partnership with Archaia Entertainment, the Jim Henson Company has developed comic books and graphic novels based on several established properties, including Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and The Storyteller. The stories for two unproduced Henson projects, Tale of Sand and The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, were adapted into graphic novels.

In addition to the Creature Shop and its extensive character catalogue and library, Henson also runs Henson Recording Studios, one of the leading music recording facilities in the industry.

Company Names[]

CertificateOfIncorporation

Certificate of Incorporation for Muppets, Inc.

According to documents retrieved from the District of Columbia Archives, Articles of Incorporation for Muppets, Inc. were filed September 10, 1958 in Washington, D.C. by agents acting for Jim Henson and Jane Nebel. The Certificate of Incorporation was granted November 20th of that year. Not until the corporation filed its first annual report in 1959 did the names of Jim Henson and Jane Nebel appear in the city's archives.

Following the Hensons' move to New York, a confusing array of names were used for the company, including "Uppity Muppets Corp.," "Muppets Inc. (New York)," "Henson Associates, Inc.," "Jim Henson Productions," and "The Jim Henson Company." At times, two or more names seem to have been used concurrently, as evidenced by information retrieved from the New York State Division of Corporations.

The timeline of names for the company is as follows:

  • Muppets Inc., 1958-1968
  • Henson Associates (ha!), 1968–1989[7]
  • Jim Henson Productions, 1987-1997[7]
  • The Jim Henson Company, 1997-present[7]

Subsidiaries, brands and labels[]

In 1968 when the company changed the name from Muppets Inc. to Henson Associates, Jim Henson named the various units of the company with playful acronyms: [8]

  • ha! β€” Henson Associates
  • he! β€” Henson Enterprises
  • hi! β€” Henson International
  • ho! β€” Henson Organization
  • hum! β€” Henson Universal Music
  • hop! β€” Henson Organization Publishing
  • hit! β€” Henson International Television

Locations[]

Headquarters:

Production Locations:

Corporate Leadership[]

The Jim Henson Company is independently owned and operated by the four adult children of Jim Henson--Brian, Lisa, Cheryl, and Heather--who all also sit on the company's board of directors. Sibling and fellow co-owner John Henson sat on the board until his death in February 2014.

As of May 2024, the company's executive roster is as follows:[9]

  • Lisa Henson, CEO & President
  • Chris Lytton, COO & Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Affairs
  • Halle Stanford, President of Television
  • Nicole Goldman, Executive Vice President of Branding
  • Joe Henderson, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Administration
  • Matt Shim, Executive Vice President, Financial Operations and Accounting
  • Debra Shapiro, Senior Vice President Business and Legal Affairs
  • Peter Brooke, Creative Supervisor for Jim Henson's Creature Shop
  • Melissa Segal, Head of Global Consumer Products
  • Tara Billik, Vice President, Feature Films
  • Faryal Ganjehei, Vice President of Studio Operations, Henson Recording Studio
  • Kerry Novick, Vice President, Global Distribution
  • Howard Sharp, Vice President of Administration
  • Karen Falk, Archives Director
  • Kourtney Day, Senior Director of New Business Development, Jim Henson's Creature Shop

The board of directors includes: Brian Henson (chairman), Harvey S. Gettleson, Cheryl Henson, Heather Henson, Lisa Henson, John Hyde, and Robin Russell.[10]

See also[]

Sources[]

External links[]

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