Looking Back at Henson’s History

September 27th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen
Today marks the 75th birthday of one of the greatest entertainers I know of, Jim Henson. Not many people in this world have had as great an impact on so many people throughout their lives as Jim Henson. Just think of how many generations of kids Henson influenced with Sesame Street and his other creations.

Looking back at Henson’s history and career, I’m amazed at the many zigs and zags he took to achieve his goal. Indeed, he did not begin with the exact formula for how he wanted his creations to evolve. We all know Kermit is the main character, Fozzie is his best friend, Miss Piggy is his girlfriend and Gonzo is a…. whatever.

But that’s not how they started. When Henson was getting his BA in home economics, he made puppets for a kids’ show called Sam and Friends where Kermit made his debut as a sort of lizard. It wasn’t until later when Henson was making Sesame Street that Kermit was revealed to actually be a frog.

Even the idea that adults could enjoy puppet shows as well as children was something that took time to develop. His goal to make puppets an acceptable form of entertainment for adults as well as children was a beacon in the fog that took years to achieve, and Henson had to do things he did not necessarily enjoy in order to get to that goal.

For example, before Sesame Street launched Henson’s work into the limelight, he used puppets for various commercials. The advertising industry was something he reputedly did not enjoy, but he did it in order to keep his business profitable  and moving. He exemplified the concept that it’s better to move toward something than it is to sit still and wait for someone else to make your dream come alive. Henson worked hard and waited patiently for the time his business could zigzag closer to his beacon in the fog.

Now, Henson’s Muppets live on and are still fulfilling Henson’s goal of making people happy and feel good despite his passing more than two decades ago. That’s the kind of legacy any zigzagger can be proud to have.

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