8/23-27/1965 – ‘Bob Miltenberger works for us – Rick too. Shoot 6 commercials for Wilson’s Meats and a sales film – shoot 8 commercials for Claussen’s Bread – All color.’

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

By the summer of 1965, Jim’s business was growing by leaps and bounds. Jane was busy with their four children, including a new-born, and the others, Jerry Juhl, Don Sahlin and Frank Oz were juggling to keep up with all the appearances, commercials, sales films, and the development of a Cinderella special. Jim’s other activities included developing Rowlf merchandise, work as a board member of the Puppeteers of America, creating a cow puppet that would work with Chroma-key for the Cloverland Dairy, and following up on interest in Time Piece. He would hire a couple of people in the fall to help in the office and on shoots, but that summer, he needed help fulfilling his commitments and called on his cousins, Barbara (aka Bob) and Rick Miltenberger to help out.

The Chicago-based Wilson’s Meat Company became an important client for Jim and launched his relationship with the Campbell-Mithun agency and their other advertiser, La Choy Chow Mein. Along with commercials featuring the characters Skip and Scoop in Wilkins style ID spots, Jim created two short films for the Wilson Company sales meetings highlighting the advertising campaigns and parodying the creative process. The first set of commercials and the first sales film was shot in August 1965. For the latter, Jim spoke reverently in voice-over about Muppets Incorporated while depicting scenes of a fictional shoot that seemed to be more of a wild party with music, girls and beer than a serious television production. It got great laughs from the sales force and led to a second campaign and an even more ambitious sales film the following year.

The work for the Carolina-based Claussen’s Bakery was a continuation of an ad campaign that had started the previous year with sixteen Wilkins-type commercials featuring Kermit and another character called Mac. The 1965 shoot, in color, would be for the final eight commercials for this advertiser and was featured the following January in Advertising Age.

See Skip and Scoop in a Wilson’s Meat commercial, 1966.

Jim’s list of commercials produced for the Wilson’s Meat Company in August, 1965.

Jim’s list of commercials produced for Claussen’s Bakery, 1964-1965.

Jim’s Claussen’s Bread ads featured in Advertising Age, January 17, 1966.

Jim’s storyboard panel for the Tower of Pisa Wilson’s Meat ad, 1966.

Skip and Scoop selling hot dogs for Briggs, a subsidiary of Wilson’s Meats, 1965.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

Topics: 08-August '65, 1965, Commercials, Time Piece | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8/20/1975 – ‘Received Silver Mermaid award for Frog Prince.’

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

When Jim made his second Tales from Muppetland special The Frog Prince in 1971, Kermit truly embraced his frog identity. He had acquired flippers for the special Hey Cinderella three years before after more than a decade sporting little, rounded feet, and he began introducing himself on camera as Kermit the Frog. And with his important role in the frog-themed Prince show, there was no going back. There were some adjustments over the years beyond the flippers – for a while in the mid-1960s, he wore a red shirt, and that is how he was presented in toy form by Ideal Toys in 1966. Kermit’s collar for the Tales of The Tinkerdee pilot in 1962 was crenulated. The triangular points came later in the decade – in the late ‘60s, he wore a single collar with thirteen points, and in the first seasons of Sesame Street, he wore a double collar. Throughout the early 70s, adjustments were made to the collar, but since the first episode of The Muppet Show in 1976, Kermit’s look, with a single eleven-point collar, has remained virtually unchanged.

As to the Silver Mermaid Award for The Frog Prince, this small silver replica of the famous statue in Copenhagen’s harbor was awarded to Jim at the First Fairytale Film Festival in Odense, Denmark in 1975. While the festival took place four years after the show first appeared on American television, this Scandinavian recognition hints at the international reputation Jim was starting to achieve as his work began to find its way across the ocean. The following year, when The Muppet Show hit the airwaves, it was immediately snapped up by broadcasters around the globe.

Read more about The Frog Prince

See Kermit in his double 13-point collar on The Tonight Show, March 18, 1975.

Jim with Yorick and the original round-footed Kermit, 1958.

Jim’s sketch of the original Kermit, c.1960.

Kermit with a crenulated collar, 1962.

Kermit as he appeared as a plush toy by Ideal with a Snerf, the Rowlf toy, Jim, and Rowlf, 1966.

Jim and Kermit sporting a 13-point collar, c. 1968.

Double-collared Kermit with the Goldie Hawn puppet, 1970.

Double-collared Kermit in The Frog Prince, 1971.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

Topics: 08-August '75, 1975, Honors, Muppet Show, Muppet Specials, Sesame Street | Tagged , , , , , , ,

8/17/1988 – ‘In Newcastle for VTR of pilot of Faffner Hall.’

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

According to Jocelyn Stevenson (co-creator and writer for Fraggle Rock), around 1980, she and Jim had dinner with record producer Milt Okun who mentioned that there was no general music education material for middle school children and thought the Muppets might take it on. Jim, an appreciator of all types of music, agreed and the Muppet music project went into development with Jocelyn at the lead. The original plan was very ambitious and was to include a series of videos, a television special, audio cassettes, books and even a specially-designed musical instrument. Research was done, meetings were held, but the project moved to the back burner for several years.

In 1987, the project was resurrected in the form of a television series, The Ghost of Faffner Hall with characters designed by Ron Mueck. Each episode featured a story about the ghost Fughetta Faffner in her great English mansion and her friends Mimi, Riff and the Wild Impresario as they attempted to foil the nefarious Farkas. Underneath each storyline was a music curriculum developed by Professor John Paynter, Head of the Department of Music at the University of York and his colleague, composer and music educator R. Murray Schafer. The puppet action was interrupted by live-action inserts featuring a wide variety of musicians and their work. Each episode featured two to four musical guests ranging from Dizzy Gillespie and Bobby McFerrin to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Los Lobos.

A co-production of Henson Associates and Tyne Tees Television, The Ghost of Faffner Hall was taped at Tyne Tees studio, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. In the US, the thirteen episodes aired on HBO in the fall of 1989. Though short-lived, the series had some universal and timeless themes: music is communication, music has the power to transform, and anyone can make music.

See Mark Knopfler on The Ghost of Faffner Hall.

Jim and The Ghost of Faffner Hall characters in an HBO promo shot, 1989.

Illustration of Fughetta from The Ghost of Faffner Hall by John Percival, based on design by Ron Mueck, 1989.

Illustration of The Wild Impresario from The Ghost of Faffner Hall by John Percival, based on design by Ron Mueck, 1989.

Set design idea by Ashley Wilkinson for musician insert of The Ghost of Faffner Hall.

On the set of The Ghost of Faffner Hall, 1989.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

Topics: 08-August '88, 1988, Ghost of Faffner Hall | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8/13/1974 – ‘Get final OK from ABC regarding deal – pilot – after school consultant and film development.’

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

The strong audience reception for Jim’s The Muppet Valentine Show got the attention of the executives at ABC, opening the door to a possible Muppet series. The January 30th, 1974 airdate was followed in March by a meeting between Martin Starger, then president of the network. After several months of negotiations, Jim signed an extensive agreement that covered a variety of projects. These included a one-off Muppet special, an option for a Muppet series, a “first-class half-hour After School Special”, treatments for a 90-minute prime-time “Movie of The Week”, and general exclusive services of the Muppets on ABC programming.

First order of business seemed to be the after school special; the following week, Jim had lunch with ABC executive (and current inspirational speaker/writer) Squire Rushnell to pitch his idea. The result was a special called Out to Lunch which combined the casts of Sesame Street and The Electric Company with Elliott Gould, Carol Burnett and Barbara Eden. It aired that December during the evening, rather than after school. According to Jim, “The basic idea of Out to Lunch is that the entire staff of ABC-TV goes out to lunch, and all these wild people break into the studio and take over. It’s really a parody of commercial television.”

Work also began in earnest on what would become The Muppet Show pilot. Starting with a script that Jim developed with Marshall Brickman for a Broadway-type revue called An Evening with The Muppets, the two worked with Sesame Street colleagues Jon Stone and Norman Stiles to write the pilot script. It was titled Sex and Violence with The Muppets (Jim’s effort to make it clear that he could work for adult audiences), but researchers at ABC got negative reactions so the show was promoted as The Muppet Show. Characters were created and some were tested out on an appearance on ABC’s Herb Alpert Show that October. Finally, on March 19, 1975, the pilot aired. ABC did not pursue its option for a series and by that summer, Jim had moved on to CBS, appearing on The Cher Show and pitching to executives there.

Grover, Elliott Gould, and Bert in Out To Lunch, 1974. Photo courtesy of ABC.

John Lovelady’s design for astronaut Rex for The Muppet Show pilot, 1974.

“Return to Beneath The Planet of The Pigs” still from The Muppet Show pilot, 1974.

ABC memo outlining results of survey taken about the potential title for The Muppet Show pilot, December 6, 1974.

New York Newsday TV guide, March 16, 1975, featuring the Seven Deadly Sins Pageant from The Muppet Show pilot.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

Topics: 08-August '74, 1974, Muppet Show, Muppet Specials, Sesame Street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

8/–/1961 – ‘Jerry joined us.’

Historical information provided by The Jim Henson Company Archivist:

The Puppeteers of America annual festival meant that each summer Jim was able to meet like-minded people and new talent. The first one he and his wife Jane attended was in 1960 in Detroit where they encountered one of Jim’s inspirations, Burr Tillstrom, known for his television show Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Through Burr, they met master puppet builder Don Sahlin who would come to work for Jim in 1962 and become instrumental in establishing the distinctive look of the Muppets.

The following June, at the festival in Asilomar, CA, Jim made perhaps his most important discoveries: Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz. With a second child on the way, Jane was stepping back from performing, and Jim was eager to find puppeteers to fill the void. Frank was still in high school so not available, but Jerry jumped at the opportunity and moved to Washington to work with Jim that August. Starting as a puppeteer, he quickly took on writing duties, an area where he would make his greatest contribution. Of the gradual change to writing exclusively, Juhl once quipped, “I did it for self-protection. . . I never rated much [as a puppeteer] – so I figured I’d better save my job by doing something else.”

In Jerry, Jim found an ideal collaborator. Their comic sensibilities and overall sense of decency matched well, and together they developed characters, stories and worlds. Jerry provided depth for Jim’s performances and chose the words to match Jim’s visual imagination. Together, they developed dozens of film and television ideas, co-writing dramas like The Cube, building relationships on Sesame Street, overseeing the anarchy of The Muppet Show, and collaborating on screenplays, specials, and live shows. When Jim wanted to create a show to teach peace and tolerance to children around the world, it was Jerry that he tapped to lead the development of Fraggle Rock. And after Jim’s passing in 1990, Jerry made sure the Muppets continued to speak their distinctive language of caring and comedy, bringing them into the 21st Century.

Learn more about Jerry Juhl and Jim during that first year.

Jerry Juhl in Berlin, 1962, in a photo taken by Jim.

Jim’s sketch of Jerry Juhl in Berlin, 1962.

Jim and Jerry Juhl on the set of a Wilson’s Meat commercial, 1964.

Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz on location during the Time Piece shoot, 1964.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

Topics: 08-August '61, 1961, Cube, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Show, Sesame Street | Tagged , , , , , , , ,