Jim Henson: Thought Differently from Sept 24, 1936 - May 16, 1990

On this day in 1990, Jim Henson passed away. He was the man behind the Muppets, and specifically the performer of Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, Doctor Teeth, the Swedish Chef, and Ernie (of Bert and Ernie). Jim Henson and Apple have crossed paths a few times, even though he passed away before the resurgence of Apple. You may recognize him from his Think Different poster, or you may recognize the Apple II that Doc had in his workshop on Fraggle Rock. And the initial ad for the sage colored iMac featured Kermit’s signature song "Bein Green" before the ad was pulled.

Drawing from Disney Employees sent to Muppet Studios after Jim Henson passed.

He was a creator who still has an impact today, not only because of people from Ricky Gervais to Toy Story and Up director Pete Docter who cite the Muppets as influences, but because lots of kids today still watch Sesame Street, the show he started in 1969 that continues worldwide today.

For those who don’t know, I’m a huge Muppet fan. I have been for a very long time, and I have photographic evidence to prove it:

Kelly and Bert and Ernie. Seriously.

I love the chance to talk about the Muppets and Jim and Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock because it’s a newsworthy event. One of my favorite quotes about him comes from Kermit who, when asked about Jim Henson said, "I don't know him, but I hear he has his hand in an awful lot of things around here." 

Jim Henson died just before CGI exploded into use everywhere, so he was one of the last to handcraft any sort of effect he needed. That shot of Kermit riding his bike in The Muppet Movie? They did that for real. And all the cool stuff that happens in The Dark Crystal is all “old school” movie magic too. I think it's that spirit that makes things like Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge (hosted by his son Brian) fun to watch. I wonder what he would have thought of how far computer effects could take things now.

There are loads of notable clips from his memorial service all over YouTube, including his fellow performers singing his favorite songs. But I’ve added the standout moment for you below, when Big Bird pays tribute to Kermit and Jim Henson both, singing "Bein Green."

I apologize in advance for whichever of these happens to you:

  • Suddenly very sweaty eyeballs
  • Someone chopping onions nearby
  • Something getting in your eye