Jane Henson, wife of the pioneering Jim, died aged 78 at her home in Connecticut. She helped to design some of the best known Muppets including Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
What the pair did was to build up a group of misfit characters in a show called Sam and Friends in the late 1950s which was the precursor to what we now know as the Muppets. In the 70s The Muppets started to take shape and the rest as they say is history. Everyone always credits Jim with the vision but from reading about the couple it was a joint effort, in the early days at least.
I think it must be a great thing to be able to bring pure uncynical joy to people in the way they did. The Muppets have always had a heart as big as Sweetums and are never afraid to show it, I’m not embarrassed to say I’ve often had a wee tear in my eye at Muppet movies. Thankfully when Disney and Jason Segel didn’t try to alter or modernise the brand when they made the most recent film in 2011. Along with all the rest of the adults in the room there was a moment of genuine happiness when Kermit returned to the big screen in silhouette at the gates to his house; this is where they belong. There were also several nods to the past and you could hear the audible intake of breath from adults in the room when the picture of Kermit and Jim appeared as grown men tried not to cry in front of their kids.
A great script and songs combined with some of the most memorable cloth characters like Fozzie, Gonzo and Animal has put the Muppets back where they belong – in the hearts and minds of a new generation of kids. Having grown up with them on TV and watched all the movies several times, I’m glad I can now share that joy with my own kids. The combination of heart and humour is a rare thing these days, too often there is an edge or a tongue-in-cheek approach to these types of films, but the Muppets are timeless and came back into our lives like they’d never been away.
The new film “The Muppets…again” is being made right now in London with Ricky Gervais as the human co-star, and as much as I love Ricky’s work I just hope it keeps the traditions and heart of the Muppet brand in tact to keep this franchise alive for another thirty years.