12/25/1978 – ‘I don’t appear on cover of TIME – but big spread.’

With the tremendous success of The Muppet Show and the production of The Muppet Movie in 1978, Time magazine planned a cover story about Jim Henson and his creations. The Christmas-dated issue was to feature Jim surrounded by Muppets as a newsstand draw and would have been the first Time cover for the Muppets since 1970 when Big Bird was featured. Photos were taken and mock-ups were sent to Henson Associates; all were excited by the prospect of such great exposure and recognition. John Skow’s six-page article inside detailed the global reach of the Muppets and described their success in what would become the most quoted passage from all of Henson press coverage – Skow breathlessly exclaimed that The Muppet Show, “…is almost certainly the most popular television entertainment now being produced on earth. The Muppet series is seen by at least 235 million people in 106 countries.”

The presses were ready to roll when President Jimmy Carter announced that after thirty years of “bellicose estrangement”, the United States and Communist China would establish normal diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979. A huge accomplishment in international diplomacy for the President, the news merited a cover and took precedence over the examination of our shared popular culture. While the Muppets retained their six-page spread inside, Kermit’s smiling face was relegated to the upper right hand corner of the cover. Nonetheless, Jim’s was enormously gratified with the celebratory press in such a visible publication – and his public relations staff was thrilled to have such quotable text.

Jim and the gang pose for the Time magazine cover, 1978.

Time magazine cover, December 25, 1978.

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

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