Muppets creator’s items head to NYC museum
NEW YORK — The Muppets may have taken Manhattan, but they’re getting a spiffy new home in Queens.
Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie of “Sesame Street” fame, the stars of “Fraggle Rock” and other puppets, costumes and items from throughout Muppets creator Jim Henson’s career have been donated to the Museum of the Moving Image, which is building a new gallery to house them.
Encompassing almost 400 items ranging from original puppets to behind-the-scenes footage, the gift is a boon for the 25-year-old museum, which saw attendance skyrocket during a temporary exhibit in 2011 and 2012 of Henson’s work. And it fulfills a cherished goal for Henson’s widow and collaborator, Jane Henson, who died recently.
“She loved the Muppet characters as though they were part of her own family,” and the actual puppets themselves were very special to her, one of the couple’s daughters, Cheryl Henson, said at a news conference. “It was her dream to have these dear friends find a good home where they could be seen and enjoyed, and where new audiences could learn about the many facets of my father’s work.”
The exhibit is to open next year at the museum in Long Island City, across the East River from Midtown Manhattan. The city is chipping in $2.75 million toward the $5 million cost for a project it sees as furthering its goal of persuading more tourists to venture beyond Manhattan.
A puppeteer, screenwriter and producer, Henson introduced a raft of beloved and familiar characters during a career that spanned from the 1950s until his death in 1990. Some, including his Muppets and Fraggles, appeared in both TV shows and movies, among them 1984’s “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”
While being a shrewd and innovative businessman, “Jim Henson created indelible, memorable characters that live with us throughout a variety of media,” said Carl Goodman of the Museum of the Moving Image.
Ten Henson puppets from the 1950s TV show “Sam and Friends,” including the original version of Kermit the Frog, were donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2010. The Smithsonian already had a Kermit puppet from the “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show” era.