Jim Henson, creator of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and the other Muppets who entertained and educated millions of preschoolers around the world, died on this day in 1990. Here are 5 things you may not know about Jim Henson and his Muppets...
Kermit Wasn't Originally A Frog
In the early days of the Muppets, the character Kermit was not a frog. His body was made out of Jim Henson’s mother’s old coat, and his eyes were made out of ping pong balls. He was introduced in 1955 on the show Sam and Friends with roundish feet instead of flippers and no collar. He was more turquoise than his signature green. As Jim Henson described: "all the characters in those days were abstract"; Kermit was simply a lizard-like creature, and was not a specific species. According to Jim Henson himself, Kermit officially became a frog in the 1971 TV special The Frog Prince.
Cookie Monster's Real Name is Sid. The original Cookie Monster went by the name Wheel-Steeler and was used in a 1966 snack-food commercial by General Foods Canada, complete with a full set of sharp teeth. Although the ad never aired, Cookie Monster reappeared a few years later, minus the sharp teeth, on “Sesame Street.” Instead of stuffing his mouth with food snacks, he switched to cookies. His signature song, "C Is For Cookie", was first aired during the 1971–72 season, and became one of the best-known songs from Sesame Street. In a song in 2004, Cookie Monster revealed that, before he ate his first cookie, his name was Sid.
Rowlf the Dog Was the First Famous Muppet Rowlf originally appeared in a commercial for Purina Dog Chow and in 1963 became an addition to “The Jimmy Dean Show.” Rowlf was so popular he received tons of fan mail, even more than the star of the show. This made Rowlf the first national celebrity among the Muppets.
Kermit Testified in Front of Congress It might be hard to imagine puppets mixing with politics, but it happens more often than you might think. For example, in 1989 Big Bird met with several congressmen on Capitol Hill, and discussed the issue of competition in children’s educational television. In 2002, Elmo testified in front of Congress, in order to urge for more funding for music education in schools. Those two characters were created by Jim Henson, so it might not be surprising that Muppet characters have also had a chance to testify in front of Congress. In 2000, Kermit the Frog appeared at a press event to support The Shambala Wild Animal Protection Act, a proposed amendment to the United States Animal Welfare Act introduced to the U.S. Congress by Representative Tom Lantos of California's 12th congressional district.
The Majority of The Muppets Are Left Handed Puppeteers must use their dominant hand to control a puppet’s head and mouth while the other controls the arms and hands. Since most of the puppeteers are right-handed this means many of the Muppets are the opposite and are left-handed.