I remember where I was 20 years ago when I heard Jim Henson had passed away. I was still in middle school, only 14 years old, and I was at my Aunt’s house. I also vividly remember Sammy Davis Jr. dying on the same day, though he didn’t have anywhere close to the influence over my generation the way Henson did.
Naturally, I was upset. Henson was only 53 years old. What he accomplished, particularly with Sesame Street, is a phenomenon that will last for decades.
Considering what the Muppets have been through over the last 20 years, however, I’m not so certain they will have the lasting impact beyond these generations, though they’re really trying. Perhaps I’ll be wrong, but not since the original Muppet Show and the first three Muppet films have they really made a splash on pop culture. Getting the Webby Award for Bohemian Rhapsody is hardly a major step forward.
It makes you wonder what else Henson would have done had he lived. Certainly, the company wouldn’t have been sold to a German business a while back (though I believe the return sale proved to be money-making). Certainly Henson wouldn’t have approved of Pepe the King Prawn being added to the mix. Perhaps the Dark Crystal II would’ve already been made, as well as other imaginative movies like Labyrinth.
One thing is for sure. It’s been 20 years and I’m still mourning his loss.