Biography: Television Success
The success of Sam and Friends led to guest appearances on such national network programs as The Steve Allen Show, The Jack Paar Show and The Today Show. Henson also began making hundreds of humorous commercials for sponsors throughout the country. Having established a group of talented collaborators, he continued to pursue his career in puppetry and filmmaking. Between 1964 and 1969, Jim produced several experimental films including the award-winning Time Piece, Youth '68, and The Cube.
In 1969, Henson unveiled a family of characters to populate Sesame Street, the groundbreaking children’s show made for public television. These characters—Ernie and Bert, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Cookie Monster and Big Bird among them—continue to entertain and educate today. Sesame Street demonstrated the Muppets' undeniable appeal to children, but Henson strongly believed these characters could entertain a much wider family audience. After years of trying to sell the idea for The Muppet Show in the U.S., Henson finally received backing from a London-based television producer, Lord Lew Grade. In 1975 production began, and in 1976 the world was introduced to a new family of unforgettable characters, such as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, The Great Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, among others. Hosted by Kermit the Frog, and accompanied by the musical meanderings of Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem Band, the Muppets were joined each week by an international pantheon of guest stars, from Gene Kelly and Rudolph Nureyev to Steve Martin and John Cleese. The success of The Muppet Show led to Hollywood, where the Muppets starred in six feature films: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets From Space.
A highlight of Sesame Street was the short films Jim and his colleagues created to teach children to count, such as the stop-motion piece "The King of Eight" from 1970.
Photo courtesy of The Jim Henson Company. TM & © 2007 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.
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