The Muppet Workshop is the classic name of the facility where Muppets are made by a group of designers and builders.
Around 1955, Jim Henson built the very first Kermit out of his mother's old, green, spring coat. He built the puppet in the kitchen of his parents home in Maryland. It wasn't until a few years later, after Jim and Jane Henson were married, that the first "official" Muppet Workshop was created. It was housed in the basement of the Hensons' home during the remaining years of Sam and Friends.
In 1963, the Hensons moved into offices on 53rd Street in New York City. Although the space was small, Don Sahlin found the time to create a complex system of lines and pulleys for seven mice who lived in the workshop. In the book Jim Henson: The Works, Dave Goelz recalls that Bonnie Erickson's boyfriend had saved the mice from laboratory experiments, and that eventually Sahlin's efforts grew to include an entire aerial highway for the critters that wove itself around the workshop: up and over chandeliers, through cupboards and desks, all made of clear plastic spheres and Slinky toys.
In 1977, the Workshop found a home in the newly acquired townhouse on East 69th Street. An article from the February 1980 issue of Interior Design described some changes made to the rear of the building to facilitate a two-story puppet assembly area. By 1981, the department was being led by Caroly Wilcox, and also employed Faz Fazakas, Lyle Conway, Marianne Harms, Ed Christie and Nomi Frederick.
In December 1985, the Workshop was relocated to a space consisting of three floors at 201 East 67th Street (on the corner of 3rd Ave). This location was featured during a live-by-satellite interview with Jim Henson on CBS This Morning in 1989. The same year, Henson gave a tour of the Workshop in "Secrets of the Muppets," which was filmed for The Jim Henson Hour.
From 1997 to 2004, Ed Christie served as the Muppet Workshop supervisor. In early 2002, the Workshop moved from the three-level space on East 67th Street back to the basement of the Townhouse on East 69th Street. This was the final location as "the Muppet Workshop" until Henson sold the Muppets to The Walt Disney Company.
Since Disney's purchase of the Muppets in 2004, Jim Henson's New York Workshop, as it is now known, has become a division of Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Still located in New York City, the workshop has moved to Long Island City, Queens, near the Kaufman Astoria Studios, where it is headed by Connie Peterson as Workshop Manager, and Jason Weber as Creative Supervisor.
Though the workshop is no longer responsible for the creation of Muppet characters, they continue to build the puppets required for Jim Henson Company productions as well as Sesame Street. The new, sans-"Muppet" name has also been alternatively credited as Jim Henson's Puppet Workshop and Jim Henson's New York Puppet Workshop.
During production on The Muppet Show, a workshop was set up near London. It was located in an L-shaped room adjacent to Studio D at ATV's Elstree Studios in Borehamwood. This shop was principally staffed by Muppet designers and builders from New York, and early on, almost everything needed for the show was built and maintained at this location. However, the work was eventually split up between the British and New York workshops, even with an increase in staff at Elstree.
“When I first got there, there were just four of us working till four in the morning every day. We were using a lot of live animals on the show at that time, and they always seemed to find their way into the shop, so you'd come in in the morning, after not much sleep, and find a piglet running round the floor, or a huge frog blinking at you from a workbench.”
The Muppet Workshop has collaborated on three books: The Muppets Make Puppets (1994), The Muppets Big Book of Crafts (1999) and Quilting with the Muppets (2000). Several toy kits were also released in conjunction with the Workshop as well as a collection of McDonald's Happy Meal toys. See: Muppet Workshop Merchandise.
- Muppet Studios and Offices, Richard Henry Behr Architect
- Sesamstrasse.de - Jim Henson's New York Workshop photo gallery (2013-01-01)