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Jim Henson, Disney Legend?

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by , 07-16-2011 at 12:58 PM
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Last month, Disney announced this year's Disney Legends Award winners. This annual honor, recognizing "the many individuals whose imagination, talents and dreams have created the Disney magic," will be presented once again during the D23 Expo in Anaheim.

This year's honorees range from the deserving (Jodi Benson, Paige O'Hara, Lea Salonga) to the long overdue (Guy Williams, Jack and Bonita Wrather). There's at least one I think is a bit premature (Anika Noni Rose, loved your work in The Princess and the Frog, but it's far too recent a movie to boost you to Legends status).

And then there's Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets.

Henson is a legend, make no mistake, but is he really a Disney Legend? His best work, creating the characters for Sesame Street and later The Muppet Show, was done years before the Muppets were even a blip on Disney's radar. It wasn't until 1989 that Henson began talking with Disney about acquiring Kermit, Miss Piggy and the gang. It appeared to be a done deal with Disney and Henson forming a creative partnership that would eventually produce MuppetVision 3D at the Disney theme parks plus several television specials. After Henson's sudden death in May 1990, however, the deal fell through. Disney kept MuppetVision 3D, but didn't buy the Muppets outright until 2004 (the Sesame Street Muppets remained the property of the Children's Television Workshop).

You can argue that since Henson completed the principal filming of MuppetVision 3D (that's his voice as Kermit), it's sufficient to qualify him as a Disney Legend. I think that's a bit of a stretch. Henson's legacy was with his own company and his famous creations, not with Disney. Disney's eventual ownership of the Muppets does nothing to change that.

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