The long-awaited permanent Jim Henson exhibition is set to open at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, but drama over one of the late puppeteer’s most iconic characters is putting a damper on it. The Jim Henson Exhibition opens Saturday, July 22 at the Queens-based museum, and it will be the museum’s first gallery dedicated to a single artist, according to the Times-Ledger.
The tribute to the Muppets pioneer will feature nearly 300 objects, including 47 of his world famous Muppets, including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, The Swedish Chef, Elmo and Big Bird. There will also be rare character sketches on display, as well as storyboards, scripts, and costumes from Henson’s movies and TV shows. Many of the items on display were donated by the Henson family.
The Jim Henson Exhibition will be housed in a new gallery space funded by a fundraising campaign and the City of New York. It will explore Henson’s groundbreaking work for film and TV, showcasing how he and his team brought to life the worlds of The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. But the joy of the exhibition opening is being overshadowed by real-life drama in the Muppets world.
Jim Henson died unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1990 at the age of 53, and his family was not only tasked with an unspeakable loss, but also the job of finding replacements for some of the characters he voiced. Jim Henson provided the voice of some of his most famous Muppet characters, including Kermit the Frog, Ernie, and Rowlf the Dog. According to the Hollywood Reporter, when Henson died, his family hand picked voice actor Steve Whitmire to take over the role of the beloved Muppet frog, a role Henson had assumed since the character’s creation in 1955.
For nearly 30 years, Whitmore was Kermit the Frog, so many fans were shocked when Disney announced last week that Matt Vogel would replace Whitmire. Whitmire took to his blog to reveal he had been fired by Disney in October, and the longtime puppeteer wrote that he was “devastated to have failed in my duty to my hero [Henson].” Muppet Studios’ latest statement on the subject reveals that the termination was due to “Steve’s repeated unacceptable business conduct over a period of many years.”
Sadly, this whole Muppets mess has taken from the happy news that the permanent Jim Henson Exhibition, more than five years in the making, is finally happening. Muppets fans are sad that the Kermit controversy has tainted the long-awaited tribute to Henson.
For more on the Jim Henson Exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image, see the video below.
[Featured Image Michael Tweed/AP Images]