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Young At Heart: Hensonís Career Takes Off
Sesame Street has been a tremendous success, with over 4,000 episodes aired over 35 years. Despite the fact that it was a huge hit, Henson had difficulty finding a network that was willing to give him his own show targeted to adults. Finally, in 1976, British producer Lew Grade gave Henson the chance he needed; Grade provided the financing for Henson to create The Muppet Show. A regular show featuring Hensonís cast of Muppets, it was well received and ran for five years. At its peak, over 235 million people around the world were tuning in each week to watch The Muppet Show. In all, Henson created over 2,000 unique Muppet characters. They became so popular both with children and adults that celebrities were eager to appear on shows with his Muppets.
Throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Henson also worked on a number of other films and TV projects. In the late 1960s, he produced a series of experimental films, one of which was nominated for an Academy Award for Live Action Short Film. In 1975, Henson began writing Muppet sketches for Saturday Night Live, but this was cancelled after just eleven sketches.
He went on to direct a number of small made-for-TV movies featuring the Muppets, including Tales from Muppetland and The Frog Prince, as well as 1979ís The Muppet Movie. He also continued creating childrenís shows for TV, including Fraggle Rock and Muppet Babies. Apart from the Muppets, Henson involved himself with such other films as The Empire Strikes Back, contributing his puppeteer skills to the creation of Jedi Master Yoda. He also produced 1982ís The Dark Crystal and 1986ís Labyrinth, with George Lucas.
In 1979, Henson founded Jim Hensonís Creature Shop, which focused on building creatures for other films, including Farscape, Doctor Dolittle, and The Hitchhikerís Guide to the Galaxy. The company has since become one of the most well-respected in the industry for the creation of fantastical characters, aliens and unique costumes. The company won two Academy Awards for its role in the film Babe.
Three years later, after realizing the immense success he had achieved, Henson decided to give back. He created the Jim Henson Foundation to help promote and develop the art of puppetry throughout America. Though he died of severe pneumonia in 1990, Hensonís contribution to puppeteering and childhoods everywhere continues to live on. Today, The Jim Henson Company is run by Hensonís five children.
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