Jim Henson created the lovable Muppets, a troupe of fuzzy, goggle-eyed puppets who starred in TV shows and films beginning in the 1950s. Jim Henson's puppets began appearing on local television in Maryland in 1954, growing slowly in popularity for the next 15 years. The Muppets were part of the original cast of the children's TV show Sesame Street, launched in 1969; the show made stars of Henson creations like Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, and Big Bird. Henson's own syndicated TV series, The Muppet Show, was a major hit from 1976-81. Filled with silly jokes, bouncy musical numbers and famous guest stars, the show introduced the popular character Miss Piggy and led to movies including The Muppet Movie (1979, with cameos by Bob Hope, Orson Welles and others) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). Jim Henson made a deal to sell his company to the Walt Disney corporation in 1989; the deal fell through the next year, when Henson died suddenly of organ failure after an infection turned into fast-moving toxic shock syndrome. Jim Henson's family eventually did sell the rights to the Muppet characters to the Disney company, in 2004.
Jim Henson’s daughter, Lisa, became a producer and Hollywood executive… His son Brian Henson oversaw the Muppet empire after his father’s death… Film director Frank Oz was a longtime Muppeteer and provided the voice of Miss Piggy; Oz also was the voice behind Yoda in the Star Wars films… Jim Henson graduated from the University of Maryland in 1960. He met his wife, the former Jane Nebel, at the school. They were married in 1959. They separated in 1986 but never divorced… Muppets handled and voiced by Henson himself included Kermit, Ernie, Rowlf the dog and the Swedish Chef.