Legacy Content

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by Ken Pellman (archives)
February 19, 2004
Ken analyzes the Disney-Henson deal.

Kenversations™ - Gonzo For Disney

Everyone knows of those couples.

You know what kind of couple I'm talking about. They have this brief, intense romance, spawn children, and then they realize that they aren't getting along…that they are different…that, although they have some of the same talents and goals, they just don't mesh all that well. However, for the better or worse, they are now in each other's life, even if they can't make it official.

They interact, fight, and flirt for years and years, one of them gets married to someone else briefly, that marriage falls apart…and finally...finally the couple gets married.

The Walt Disney Company and the Muppets of the Jim Henson Company are finally trying the knot, or so it seems they will. It looked like the entire Jim Henson Company was going to "become one" with The Walt Disney Company back at the end of the 1980s, and then things fell apart after they were already making TV shows and movies together, after they had a stage show at Disney-MGM Studios and an attraction being developed for that same park.

I grew up enjoying the work of both companies, both of which had been helmed by insanely creative and talented men. I watched the Wonderful World of Disney and I watched The Muppet Show. I saw "Pinocchio" in the theaters and I saw "The Muppet Movie" and "The Great Muppet Caper", too.

But as Walt Disney once humbly said to Ray Bradbury, they couldn't work together because they were both geniuses and they'd end up killing each other.

When Disney first tried to acquire the entire Jim Henson Company, Jim Henson was still alive, leading and performing. It pains me to say that time has not been kind to the band of Muppets that I grew up with in the absence of their father. While there have been other Henson successes like the institution known as Sesame Street, which might as well be called "Elmo! Elmo! Elmo!", and Bear in the Big Blue House, the actual Muppet gang seems to have gotten to the point where they might be cast on The Surreal Life, along with Pauly Shore and Andrew Dice Clay.

Still, for Gen Xer like me, the Muppets are one of the most significant childhood icons and certainly among the biggest aspects of Jim Henson's legacy.

Evidently Jim Henson's children trust Eisner and the Company will be more respectful and constructively productive with that part of their father's legacy than Roy Disney believes Eisner & Co. have been with his father and uncle's - and it is his uncle's name the corporation carries and invokes. Perhaps they felt the need to redeem one of the last major business decisions their father made. Maybe they just needed the money. I have no way of knowing right now.

This isn't the same deal Eisner made with Jim, even accounting for the loss of Jim as a performer.

This deal gives the Company control of The Bear in the Big Blue House, which is featured on The Disney Channel and at the Resorts, and, of course, the Muppets. This doesn't include the entire Jim Henson Company or assets like the Creature Shop, "Fraggle Rock, Farscape, 'Dark Crystal', 'Labyrinth', 'Storyteller', The Hoobs, and various other properties".

Back when Disney was buying the whole thing, including, supposedly, the services of Jim Henson for ten years, there were some controversial plans kicked around to put MuppetVision 4-D where the Walt Disney Story Featuring Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was playing in Disneyland Park, to have a stage show at what is now Fantasyland Theatre, a parade, Kermit Floral at the park entrance instead of Mickey Floral, a "Kermit green" Matterhorn, and "Piggy pink" Fantasyland.

Doesn't that all sound...lovely?

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