It worked for Chipmunks. So why can’t Muppets live on after the loss of their idiosyncratic creator — thanks to his young son? Just as Ross Bagdasarian Jr. revived his father’s ’50s rodents for a new generation of kids, 29-year-old Brian Henson is bringing back Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and their beloved felt friends two years after originator Jim Henson died of a strep infection at age 53. As CEO and president of Jim Henson Productions, Brian is overseeing an ambitious Muppet revival, from the recent holiday movie The Muppet Christmas Carol (which Brian directed) to the introduction of Jim Henson Video, which will start releasing old Muppet films and TV shows at the end of this month.
The making of The Muppet Christmas Carol was for Henson part of his continuing grieving process. ”That we could carry on was a tribute,” he says. ”I’m not following in my father’s footsteps so much as following his lead. Creatively, he always took pride in that he never knew what he was going to do that year, and that’s what I want to do, too.”
That hasn’t stopped him from planning several ambitious puppet productions for the next few years, including a screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Into the Woods and a new version of Pinocchio to be made in collaboration with Francis Ford Coppola. To do it all, Henson commutes regularly between London, where his wife, clothing designer Ellis Flyte, lives, and Los Angeles, where he produces the company’s two current television series, Dinosaurs (ABC) and Dog City (Fox Children’s Network).
Makes you wonder, for Beany and Cecil’s sake, whether there’s a Bob Clampett Jr. out there.