The Jim Henson Company an American entertainment organization, traces its origins to the founding of Muppets, Inc. in 1958 by puppeteer Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets. The Muppets helped the company gain worldwide acclaim in family entertainment for more than four decades.
Jim and Jane Henson formed Muppets Inc. in 1958, three years after Sam and Friends debuted. Aside from Sam and Friends, the majority of work that the company had until 1969 was creating characters for various commercials, variety show appearances, and a few meeting films for various companies (the company would produce its own meeting films from 1965 to 1996). In 1969, the company started creating characters and more than 20 short films for the popular children's show Sesame Street.
One of the company's first characters to be seen regularly on national television was Rowlf the Dog, who was initially created for Purina Dog Chow commercials and soon became famous when he became a regular character on The Jimmy Dean Show from 1963–66. During this time, the show's host, Jimmy Dean, was given an opportunity to own forty percent of the company. However, Dean turned the offer down because he didn't feel that he had earned it.
For many years, Jim Henson had tried to sell several different shows to the major American networks, all of which turned them down. Some ideas (such as "Tales of The Tinkerdee") were made as unaired pilots, and some (such as "The Zoocus") were never produced. Then, in 1976, British media mogul Lew Grade approached Jim Henson to produce a weekly show based in England, which became The Muppet Show broadcast on ATV. The success of The Muppet Show led to many movies, specials, videos, and more. The Muppet Show was originally owned by the British company ITC, but Jim Henson later purchased the rights to the show.
In the early 1980s, Jim Henson also formed Jim Henson's Creature Shop, which produced characters for shows such as The Storyteller, Farscape, and Dinosaurs; and movies such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. It was also during the 1980s that Jim Henson produced new television series such as Fraggle Rock and The Jim Henson Hour.
In 1990, Jim Henson was in negotiations to sell the company to The Walt Disney Company, but Henson died during the week that he was supposed to sign the contract, and his family decided to have the company keep the rights to the characters. In 1999, the Jim Henson Company had partial interests in two cable channels, The Kermit Channel (which was broadcast in Asia) and Odyssey Network (which was broadcast in the USA). Hallmark also co-owned these networks. Both networks were later renamed to the Hallmark Channel.
In 2000, Jim Henson’s children sold the company to the German media company, EM.TV. In early 2001, after EM.TV subsequently experienced major financial problems, the Jim Henson Company was put up for sale. That year, EM.TV sold the company's ownership of the Sesame Street Muppets to Sesame Workshop and sold the company's ownership of the Odyssey Channel and the Kermit Channel. The Walt Disney Company, HIT Entertainment, Haim Saban, Classic Media, Sesame Workshop, and Sony were among the companies who showed interested in owning the company.
In December of 2002, a deal was announced in which EM.TV would sell a 49.9% stake in Henson to an investment group led by Dean Valentine, a former executive at Disney and UPN. However in March 2003, the deal fell through, and it was Henson's children who bought back the company in May 2003. In 2004, almost one year after ownership of the Henson company was returned to the family’s hands, the Jim Henson Company sold the rights to The Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House characters to The Walt Disney Company, who control the Muppets through the wholly owned subsidiary The Muppets Studio, LLC. The Walt Disney Company now owns all Muppet-related trademarks, including the word “Muppet”. In the teaser for "Stuffed and Unstrung", the characters of Bobby Vegan and Samson Knight made it clear that they weren't Muppets.
While the company no longer owns any of The Muppets characters, the scenes featuring the fictional "Muppet Studios" in The Muppets were filmed at Jim Henson Studios. As of 2011[update], Jim Henson's children Brian, Lisa, Cheryl, John and Heather run the company: Brian and Lisa serve as co-chairs and co-CEOs. Charlie Chaplin built the Charlie Chaplin Studios – later the Jim Henson Company Studios in 2000 – at La Brea Avenue in Hollywood in late 1917 and sold them in 1953. The site once housed A&M Records.
- Henson.com - Official website