Muppets creator's items head to NYC museum

Published On: May 22 2013 08:03:23 AM EDT
Updated On: May 22 2013 08:52:08 AM EDT

Jim Henson Prod.

1990: Jim Henson, the puppeteer and director best known as the creator of The Muppets, dies of organ failure resulting from a severe streptococcal infection at the age of 53 in New York City. As a puppeteer, Henson performed in various television programs, such as "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show," films such as "The Muppet Movie" and "The Great Muppet Caper," and created advanced puppets for projects like "Fraggle Rock," "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth."

NEW YORK CITY, Ny. -

The Muppets may have taken Manhattan, but they're getting a spiffy new home in Queens.

Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie of "Sesame Street" fame, the stars of "Fraggle Rock" and other puppets, costumes and items from throughout Muppets creator Jim Henson's career have been donated to the Museum of the Moving Image, which is building a new gallery to house them, the institution announced Tuesday.

Encompassing almost 400 items ranging from original puppets to behind-the-scenes footage, the gift is a boon for the 25-year-old museum, which saw attendance skyrocket in 2011 and 2012 during a temporary exhibit of Henson's work. And it fulfills a cherished goal for Henson's widow and collaborator, Jane Henson, who died last month at 78.

Encompassing almost 400 items ranging from original puppets to behind-the-scenes footage, the gift is a boon for the 25-year-old museum, which saw attendance skyrocket in 2011 and 2012 during a temporary exhibit of Henson's work. And it fulfills a cherished goal for Henson's widow and collaborator, Jane Henson, who died last month at 78.

The exhibit is to open next year at the museum in the Long Island City neighborhood, across the East River from midtown Manhattan. The city is chipping in $2.75 million toward the $5 million cost for a project it sees as furthering its goal of persuading more tourists to venture beyond Manhattan.

"The only major item that I know will not be represented is the Muppet that they made of me," Mayor Michael Bloomberg joked at the news conference, where he bantered with Miss Piggy about the city's film and television industry and reminisced about their joint work in the 2008 TV special "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa," which featured Bloomberg as himself.

"You were wonderful - almost lifelike," the porcine prima donna quipped Tuesday. (For the record, Bloomberg's personal Muppet has a nice home of its own, in a reading room at the mayor's Manhattan town house.)

A puppeteer, screenwriter and producer, Henson introduced a raft of beloved and familiar characters during a career that spanned from the 1950s until his death in 1990, at 53. Some, including his Muppets and Fraggles, appeared in both television shows and movies, among them the 1984 film "The Muppets Take Manhattan," which depicted the fuzzy crew striving to stage a Broadway musical.

While being a shrewd and innovative businessman, "Jim Henson created indelible, memorable characters that live with us throughout a variety of media," said Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image. Henson's career showed "that you can march to the beat of a different drummer and succeed in this world," Goodman said.

Ten Henson puppets from the 1950s TV show "Sam and Friends," including the original version of Kermit the Frog, were donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in 2010. The Smithsonian already had a Kermit puppet from the "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show" era.

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