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The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson

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Celebratehenson

Promotional photo for the special

Celebratehensonjustoneperson

The Muppets sing Just One Person in honor of their creator.

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The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson aired on CBS on November 21, 1990.

This one-hour special, "a tribute to a man and his imagination," celebrates the life and career of Jim Henson. The retrospective includes appearances by celebrity guests, a variety of clips from Henson's television and film work, and candid, behind-the-scenes footage of Henson working with his creative team.

As the program begins, Fozzie Bear receives a postcard from Kermit the Frog, who asks him to prepare a lavish production number in tribute to Henson. But Fozzie and the other Muppets don't know who Henson is, and feel ill-equipped to give him a fitting tribute. Carol Burnett, John Denver, Ray Charles, Steven Spielberg, Harry Belafonte, and Henson's friend and close collaborator, Frank Oz, offer via film their impressions of Henson and reminisce about working with him and the characters that he invented, which helps the Muppets to learn more about him.

Topics discussed include Henson's collaboration with the Children's Television Workshop on Sesame Street; the universal message of Kermit's theme song, "It's Not Easy Bein' Green;" the grand scope of Henson's imagination, innovations, and artistry, evident in his design of various "creatures;" his concern for world issues; and the international appeal of Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock.

A short biographical film includes home movies of Henson in his youth; clips of early versions of the Muppets on the local Washington, D.C., television series Sam and Friends and on a Wilkins Coffee commercial; and excerpts from Henson's experimental film, Timepiece, which received an Oscar nomination in 1965.

Clips feature Burnett, John Cleese, Charles Durning, John Hurt, Dabney Coleman, Ted Koppel interviewing Kermit on ABC News Special: Wall Street and the Economy, and other performers with the Muppets.

Toward the conclusion of the program, while they are finally ready for the Jim Henson tribute production number which includes a Dixieland band, a tap dancing whoopee cushion (and his wife, Joy Buzzer), Vikings and marching accountants, Fozzie finds a stack of letters addressed to Kermit from Henson's fans, who offer their condolences about Henson's death.

Fozzie: (reading) 'I feel very sorry that your best friend Jim died.'
Everyone is stunned.
Gonzo: Jim died? But we were just starting to get to 
know him!

The sentiments expressed in the letters help the Muppets to realize the importance of Henson and his work. Fozzie is discouraged, saying that "when you know how much people loved him," they can't do a proper tribute to Jim. Robin encourages him saying that maybe Jim is still "inside us, believing in us," and sings "Just One Person" to prove it. The others gradually join in (as well as various Fraggles and Sesame Street Muppets) for the finale. Afterwards, Kermit (now performed by Steve Whitmire) finally appears to congratulate them on a job well done, saying that he knew the others could do the tribute for Jim. He then asks if they have "something silly" to end it with, and Fozzie shouts exuberantly for them to cue the production number. As the Muppets dance around, Kermit thanks the viewers for being with them for their very special tribute and they'll be seeing them soon for more Muppet stuff because "That's the way the boss would want it."

Finale

Background performers in the final number include Duncan Kenworthy and Craig Shemin operating Statler and Waldorf respectively. Also in the back row with them were Cheryl Henson and Bill Prady.[1]

Characters:

Animal, Beaker, Bean Bunny, Beauregard, Bert, Big Bird, Bunsen Honeydew, Camilla the Chicken, Clifford, Elmo, Ernie, Floyd Pepper, Fozzie Bear, Gobo Fraggle, Gonzo, Grundgetta, Janice, Lew Zealand, Miss Piggy, Mokey Fraggle, Prairie Dawn, Robin the Frog, Rowlf, Sam the Eagle, Scooter, Statler, Telly Monster, Waldorf, Wembley Fraggle, Zoot

Notes

  • This is one of the last productions in which Richard Hunt performed Scooter and Janice. Following Hunt's death in 1992, Scooter would not be seen for most of the 90's. His next appearance would be in 1999's Muppets from Space where he was voiced by Richard's brother Adam Hunt. Janice still made background appearances in subsequent productions but didn't speak until 2002's It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie where she was performed by Brian Henson (who also briefly played Scooter).
  • The set was meant to represent a studio, reminiscent of The Muppet Show's backstage, but combined with elements of the Muppet Central set from The Jim Henson Hour, including the numerous television monitors surrounding the set.[2]
  • As aired on CBS, the montage of Jim's early work included a Wilkin's Coffee commercial (cannon). A later "International" version replaces this clip with the climax to the Coffee Break Machine sketch, where the prototypical Cookie Monster explodes after eating a computer.
  • Kermit's dialogue is re-dubbed in later airings (still voiced by Whitmire with an electronically deepened vocal).
  • In a "Read More About It" segment after the credits, Gonzo recommends the books Moving Right Along by Guy and Brad Gilchrist, and Of Muppets and Men: The Making of the Muppet Show by Christopher Finch.

Credits

Awards

The script received a Writer's Guild of America award in 1992. The awards ceremony also included its own tribute to Jim Henson.[3]

Sources

  1. Muppets, Music & Magic discussion panel, August 2007
  2. A Jim Henson Celebration synopsis
  3. NYTimes

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