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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Remembering Jim Henson


September 24th, 2009 would have been Jim Henson’s 73rd birthday. His name is almost as recognizable as Walt Disney and his contribution to the world of film and even, in an indirect manner, to our Orlando theme parks has continued on since his tragic death on May 16th, 1990. He was only 53 years old when a strange case of Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome, a bacterial infection, took over his body and caused his organs to fail. On that day the entire creative world and the millions of fans Jim Henson gained through his work with the Muppets and Sesame Street mourned the tragic loss of this creative genius.

There was a lot Jim Henson did that the general public might not realize. He’s usually immediately grouped with the Muppets and rightfully so. Who doesn’t love Oscar the Grouch or Kermit the Frog? But Jim Henson’s genius expanded throughout a number of movies and even to a galaxy far, far away. Henson designed Muppets which lead to movies like Muppets Take Manhattan, the show Fraggle Rock and the popular animated series Muppet Babies.

Henson was also responsible for creating one of the most beloved sci-fi puppets of all time: Yoda from the Star Wars series. Henson helped George Lucas’ team create Yoda and help with the puppeteering of the little green Jedi Master before he went CGI in the additional three prequels to the films. It was Jim Henson who suggested Frank Oz be Yoda’s puppeteer and voice. Thanks to Henson. Lucas selected Oz to voice one of the most memorable film characters of all time.

Singing was yet another thing Henson dabbled in. Though he wasn’t out playing rock concerts, the song “The Rainbow Connection,” which he performed using his Kermit the Frog voice, was #25 on the Billboard Top 100 and still considered a favorite children’s song today. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop continues on and his company is now run by his children, who loved going on set with their dad and learning the ropes of puppeteering when they were young and Henson still lead the way. His legacy lives on through the Muppets, Sesame Street, Star Wars and movies like The Dark Crystal and The Labyrinth. If you want your dose of Muppet madness, head to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to checkout Muppetvision 3D.
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