The Muppets: Then vs. Now

This is about Jim Henson and the Muppets from past to present
January 04, 2010
In the world of film and television, every once in a while a person comes along and makes an ingenious form of entertainment. For example, Walt Disney changed animation forever with his Disney cartoons and films. Alfred Hitchcock changed films forever, with his brilliant vision that he would put into his films. Finally, Jim Henson changed the world of puppetry forever with his ingenious creation, The Muppets.

The Muppets have been around for over 50 years now. Jim Henson created The Muppets in the 1950's. He got his start in 1954, with the TV show The Junior Morning Show, where he performed Pierre the French Rat as well as other characters. However, the show didn't last long. It was soon cancelled. However, in 1955, Jim Henson got a new show entitled, Sam and Friends. The show would come on live, twice a day after the news. The show involved several puppets in comedy skits. Henson also used his Muppets in commercials, for different products, such as Wilkins Coffee.

Sam and Friends ended in 1961. Although, the show ended, it didn't stop Jim Henson from expanding the Muppets more. For example, the Muppets made many appearances on television. For example, Rowlf the Dog would make many appearance on The Jimmy Dean Show. Also, during this time, Henson met and hired two people who would become very important to Muppets, Inc., Frank Oz and Jerry Juhl. Henson's career was about to skyrocket. In 1968, Joan Ganz Cooney and the Children's Television Workshop asked Henson to make and perform Muppets in a new kid's show called, Sesame Street. Henson accepted the job. The show was about people and creatures who all live on Sesame Street and are close friends. The show also teaches kids about different things such as letters and numbers. The show premiered on November 10, 1969 and was a huge success. The show went on to become a classic kid's show. The show has been on the air for 40 years and still going on strong.

The 1970's proved to be a successful decade for The Muppets. While Sesame Street was a successful show, Henson was frustrated, because the Muppets were consider kid's entertainment, while Henson felt that the Muppets were for not only kids, but also adults. All that was about to change, though. Henson went to England to film a show with his Muppet characters outside of Sesame Street. This show became known as The Muppet Show. The Muppets involved were Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, and of course the most famous Muppet, Kermit the Frog. Many other Muppets were also involved. The show involved the Muppets trying to put on a variety show along with a guest star, but everything ended a comedic way. The show premiered in 1976, and became a huge success. In 1979, Henson decided to expand the Muppets to a whole another medium: film. That's when The Muppet Movie went into production. The film was somewhat of a prequel. It shows where Kermit was born and raised, dreaming of becoming famous. That's when he decides to go to Hollywood. On his way there, he meets his Muppet friends, such as Fozzie. The film premiered on June 22, 1979. The film was a box office and critical success.

In 1981, The Muppet Show was cancelled, but not because of bad ratings or anything, Henson just wanted to expand the Muppets more. He did so, by directing the next Muppet movie, The Great Muppet Caper. The film was about Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo being reporters for a U.S. newspaper. They go to England to find out more about a story, which involves a missing jewel. The film premiered on June 26, 1981 and did well both critically and commercially. In 1982, Henson began production on first of two fantasy films, the first being, The Dark Crystal. The film was about a thousand year old crystal that could end the word. The film premiered on December 17, 1982 and had modest success both critically and commercially. It was after this film that Jim Henson opened The Creature Shop, which made realistic puppets for outside productions on Jim Henson. In 1983, Henson started production on another Muppet show. The was entitled Fraggle Rock. The show was about the adventures of the various creatures known as fraggles in an underground world. The show premiered on January 10, 1983. The show became a huge success. In 1984, production started on yet another Muppet movie, entitled, The Muppets Take Manhattan. The film was about the Muppets going to New York City to try to sell their show on Broadway. The film was directed by Frank Oz. The film premiered on July 13, 1984. The film did well both at the box office and critically. By 1985, both Henson and the Children's Television Workshop, felt that Sesame Street, now deserved its own film treatment. That's when production started on Follow that Bird. The film was about Big Bird being adopted by a bird family far away from Sesame Street. When Big Bird, he soon realizes that he wants to go home. That's when he tries going back to Sesame Street on foot. At the same time, Big Bird's friends are looking for him, as well as two circus brothers, and adoption agent, Miss Finch. The film premiered on August 2, 1985. The film on moderate success both critically and commercially. In 1986, Jim Henson directed his second fantasy film, Labyrinth. The film was about a teenage girl who wishes for her little brother to be taken away from goblins. It happens for real, and the girl must save him. The film premiered on June 27, 1986. The film bombed at the box office and didn't do well with critics. On March 30, 1987, Fraggle Rock was cancelled. In late 1989, Henson sold his company and characters (aside from Sesame Street) to the Walt Disney Company. Henson even created an anthology series called The Jim Henson Hour. However, it was shortly cancelled after just 12 episodes.

On May 16, 1990, the world was shocked to find out that Jim Henson died from bacterial pneumonia. It was because of this that Disney would not acquire the Muppets until February 2004. Since Henson's death, the 1990's proved to be a drastic change for the Muppets. Also since his death, his son Brian took over the company. He started by directing the next Muppet movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol. The film was a Muppet adaptation of Charles Dicken's, A Christmas Carol. Muppeteer Steve Whitmire, took over the prestigious part of Kermit the Frog, as well as Henson's other characters that he performed. The film premiered on December 11, 1992. It had moderate success both critically and commercially. After the film was released, the Muppets had just mostly television appearances. However, in 1994, another Muppet show went into production, The Secret Life of Toys. The show was about toys that come to life when no one is around. The show was somewhat successful. However, the show was soon cancelled. Two years later in 1996, another Muppet show went into production, Muppets Tonight. The show was somewhat of a remake of The Muppet Show. It involved the Muppets trying to put on a variety show, along with a special guest. The show was successful. That same year, Sesame Street changed a lot. The main character was always Big Bird, now it was officially Elmo. He became so popular among little kids. He had his own 20 minute segment on Sesame Street, known as Elmo's World. Even the toy Tickle Me Elmo, sold millions around the world. However, fans of the old school Sesame Street, didn't like the current state of the show. Meanwhile, next year, in 1997, another Muppet show aired on Playhouse Disney, entitled, Bear In The Big Blue House. The show was a huge success. Also, in 1997, Brian Henson directed another Muppet movie. He directed Muppet Treasure Island. The film was a Muppet adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island. The film premiered on February 16, 1997. The film bombed both commercially and critically. In 1998, Muppets Tonight was cancelled. One year later in 1999, another Muppet movies was released, Muppets From Space. The film was about Gonzo tired of being called a "whatever", and finds out he's an alien. The film bombed both commercially and critically. That same year, another Sesame Street film was released, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. The film was about Elmo trying to get his blanket back, which fell into Grouchland. The film had moderate success with critics, but did poorly at the box office.

The 2000's has shown more changes with the Muppets. From 2000 'til 2001, the Muppets made only television appearances. Finally, in 2002, a new Muppet movie was made. However, this film was for TV only. The film was It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. The film was about Kermit and the gang trying to save the Muppet Theater. The film premiered on NBC around Christmas time of that year. It got decent ratings. That same year another Muppet film was made. This was a direct-to-video film entitled, Kermit's Swamp Years. The film was about a young Kermit growing up on a swamp with other frogs. In February 2004, The Walt Disney Company bought the company and characters of the Muppets. In 2005, another Muppet movie was released, this was a made-for-television film entitled, The Muppets Wizard of Oz. The film was a Muppet adaptation of the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. The film did not get good ratings when it aired on ABC. In May 2007, Bear In the Big Blue House was cancelled. Today, the Muppets are mostly seen on television, but certainly not as much as they used to. Of course there aren't many film appearances. Also, Sesame Street is far from it used to be. There are some future plans for the Muppets, such as a new Muppet show, movie, a sequel to The Dark Crystal, but only direct-to-video, and a Fraggle Rock movie. There's also a Jim Henson biopic in the works, which should be interesting, but would have to be done right.

To answer the question of "then vs. now", it's quite oblivious that "then" comes out on top. Back when the Muppets started up until Jim Henson's death. The Muppets were entertaining, funny, amazing, ingenious, etc. You know something, its been said that bacterial pneumonia killed Jim Henson, but in my opinion, I think selling the Muppets to Disney killed him. To me that was a big mistake. Even when he died, and Disney couldn't take over 'til 2004, Brian Henson didn't know what he was doing. Who in the world would think that an adaptation of old stories, would be successful? Certainly, not Jim Henson. Jim Henson, made great and original films with the Muppets, he wouldn't think twice about doing adaptations of old stories. Henson knew what worked with the audience and what didn't. Disney isn't doing the right things either. The only great thing they've done was release The Muppet Show on DVD. Other than that, Disney has ruined the Muppets. You know what needs to happen? Another production company who know Henson's vision like the back of their hand, should buy the Muppets. They also needs to go over to Disney and Brian Henson and say to them, "This is not how Jim Henson would've wanted it." Also, what's the deal with today's Sesame Street? It basically went from Sesame Street to "Elmo's Weight Loss Hour." Everything that happens revolves around Elmo and just about every minute talks about eating healthy. The show today looks like they're talking down to kids. Sure they're kids, but they're not stupid. Most kids know what's good and what's bad, it's common sense. Do you believe that the old school DVD's were rated for adults only, because apparently, kid's "wouldn't understand it?" Do they really think kids are that stupid? You've got to be kidding me. Jim Henson must be rolling in his grave right now, seeing the current state of his great creation. What does the future hold for the Muppets?

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