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The Muppet Workshop is the classic name of the facility where Muppets are made by a group of designers and builders.

History[]

Around 1955, Jim Henson built the very first Kermit out of his mother's old, green, spring coat. He built the puppet in the kitchen of his parents home in Maryland. It wasn't until a few years later, after Jim and Jane Henson were married, that the first "official" Muppet Workshop was created. It was housed in the basement of the Hensons' home during the remaining years of Sam and Friends.[1]

New York shops[]

TownhouseWorkshop-1980

A 1980 photograph of the workshop, as it operated in the Henson Townhouse, from The Art of the Muppets.

WissenSie-05

"The Muppets And Henson Associates" signage of the East 67th Street workshop

67St-Flippers

Kermit's flipper prints found in the pavement outside the former 201 East 67th Street location.

In 1963, Muppets, Inc. moved to New York City, and set up their new base of operations in the second floor of a townhouse at 303 East 53rd Street, just around the corner from the Henson's new apartment at Beekman Place.[2] Jim Henson's Red Book blog detailed the quarters thusly:

ÔÇťIt consisted of two rooms, a terrace, a small space for the secretary, and a bathroom. The front room facing the street served as the workshop, home to puppet and set building materials, JimÔÇÖs animation table, and Don Sahlin and his practical jokes. The back room looking onto the terrace housed Jerry JuhlÔÇÖs desk, an Ampex tape machine, JimÔÇÖs desk and big black Eames chair, a table for sharing lunches and ideas, and a papier-m├óch├ę moose head.[3]ÔÇŁ

Work began to expand in the late 1960s, with new productions on a bigger scale, more workshop staff, and the company rebranding as Henson Associates (HA!). In August 1968, the company and workshop relocated uptown to 227 East 67th Street.[4] Two floors were commandeered of the former carriage house, which would now house an expanded workshop space, an editing suite, and Jim's own office. A placard outside the building notified visitors:

ÔÇťHenson Associates and Muppets Inc. This sign will be replaced with a nice expensive one some day - maybe.[5]ÔÇŁ

As the workshop relocated in subsequent years, this address retained Jim's office, as well as various staffers from the production, accounting, and business departments.[6] A typical day at this workshop was captured by a German film crew for the 1975 documentary, Wissen Sie wo Ernie wohnt?

Although the space was small, Don Sahlin found the time to create a complex system of lines and pulleys for seven mice who lived in the workshop. In the book Jim Henson: The Works, Dave Goelz recalls that Bonnie Erickson's boyfriend had saved the mice from laboratory experiments, and that eventually Sahlin's efforts grew to include an entire aerial highway for the critters that wove itself around the workshop: up and over chandeliers, through cupboards and desks, all made of clear plastic spheres and Slinky toys.[7]

Within a few scant years, the workshop again began to expand beyond the size of their headquarters. Jim Henson signed a lease on March 28, 1973 for space right up the block at 201 East 67th Street (on the corner of 3rd Ave). The Muppet Workshop commandeered three floors of the building, officially moving in on May 18, 1974.[8][6] A pair of Kermit the Frog flipper prints were stamped into the cement outside the front door by Rollie Krewson.

In 1977, the Workshop found a home in the newly acquired townhouse on East 69th Street. An article from the February 1980 issue of Interior Design described some changes made to the rear of the building to facilitate a two-story puppet assembly area. By 1981, the department was being led by Caroly Wilcox, and also employed Faz Fazakas, Lyle Conway, Marianne Harms, Ed Christie and Nomi Frederick.[9]

The Workshop eventually relocated back to their three floors of 201 East 67th Street. This location was featured during a live-by-satellite interview with Jim Henson on CBS This Morning in 1989. The same year, Henson gave a tour of the Workshop in "Secrets of the Muppets," which was filmed for The Jim Henson Hour.

From 1997 to 2004, Ed Christie served as the Muppet Workshop supervisor. In early 2002, the Workshop moved from the three-level space on East 67th Street back to the basement of the Townhouse on East 69th Street. This was the final location as "the Muppet Workshop" until Henson sold the Muppets to The Walt Disney Company.

Since Disney's purchase of the Muppets in 2004, Jim Henson's New York Workshop, as it is now known, has become a division of Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Still located in New York City, the workshop has moved to Long Island City, Queens,[10] near the Kaufman Astoria Studios, where it is headed by Connie Peterson as Workshop Manager, and Jason Weber as Creative Supervisor. They share the space with the Jim Henson Company Archives.

Though the workshop is no longer responsible for the creation of Muppet characters (now handled by Puppet Heap), they continue to build the puppets required for Jim Henson Company productions as well as Sesame Street.[11] The new, sans-"Muppet" name has also been alternatively credited as Jim Henson's Puppet Workshop and Jim Henson's New York Puppet Workshop.

Elstree Studios[]

Elstreeworkshop

The Muppet Workshop at Elstree.

During production on The Muppet Show, a workshop was set up near London. It was located in an L-shaped room adjacent to Studio D at ATV's Elstree Studios in Borehamwood. This shop was principally staffed by Muppet designers and builders from New York,[12] and early on, almost everything needed for the show was built and maintained at this location. However, the work was eventually split up between the British and New York workshops, even with an increase in staff at Elstree.[13]

While the Muppet Workshop in New York had its mice, the Elstree shop was home to its own "infestation". Amy Van Gilder, who was in charge of the London workshop for four seasons,[14] recalled:

ÔÇťWhen I first got there, there were just four of us working till four in the morning every day. We were using a lot of live animals on the show at that time, and they always seemed to find their way into the shop, so you'd come in in the morning, after not much sleep, and find a piglet running round the floor, or a huge frog blinking at you from a workbench.[15]ÔÇŁ

The Elstree shop can be seen in the documentary Of Muppets and Men in a behind the scenes look of The Muppet ShowÔÇÖs creation. Supervisors during this time were Robert McCormack and Sara Paul.[16]

Merchandise[]

The Muppet Workshop has collaborated on three books: The Muppets Make Puppets! (1994), The Muppets Big Book of Crafts (1999) and Quilting with the Muppets (2000). Several toy kits were also released in conjunction with the Workshop as well as a collection of McDonald's Happy Meal toys. See: Muppet Workshop Merchandise.

Gallery[]

See also[]

Sources[]

External links[]

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