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He enrolled at the University of Maryland, College Park as a studio arts major upon graduation, thinking that he might become a commercial artist. The characters on Sam and Friends were forerunners of the Muppets , and the show included a prototype of Henson's most famous character Kermit the Frog. In the show, Henson began experimenting with techniques that changed the way in which puppetry was used on television, including using the frame defined by the camera shot to allow the puppet performer to work from off-camera. He believed that television puppets needed to have "life and sensitivity"  and began making characters from flexible, fabric-covered foam rubber , allowing them to express a wider array of emotions at a time when many puppets were made of carved wood. Additionally, he wanted the Muppet characters to "speak" more creatively than was possible for previous puppets, which had random mouth movements, so he used precise mouth movements to match the dialogue. The show was a financial success but, after graduating from college, he began to have doubts about going into a career performing with puppets. He spent several months in Europe, where he was inspired by European puppet performers who looked on their work as an art form. They were married in and had five children: This first national television broadcast greatly increased exposure, which led to hundreds of commercial appearances by Henson characters throughout the sixties. Among the most popular of Henson's commercials was a series for the local Wilkins Coffee company in Washington, D. In the first Wilkins ad, a Muppet named Wilkins is poised behind a cannon seen in profile. Another Muppet named Wontkins is in front of its barrel. Wilkins asks, "What do you think of Wilkins Coffee? We took a very different approach. We tried to sell things by making people laugh. Jane quit performing to raise their children. Henson hired writer Jerry Juhl in and puppet performer Frank Oz in to replace her. The year saw the production of The Cube , another Henson-produced experimental movie. Also around this time, the first drafts of a live-action experimental movie script were written with Jerry Juhl , which would eventually become Henson's last unproduced full-length screenplay, Tale of Sand. The script remained in the Henson Company archives until the screenplay was adapted in the graphic novel Jim Henson's Tale of Sand. Sesame Street In , television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and her staff at the Children's Television Workshop , impressed by the quality and creativity of the Henson-led team, asked Henson and staff to work full-time on Sesame Street , a visionary children's program for public television. This union of talents would become legendary in television entertainment. Part of the show was set aside for a series of funny, colorful, puppet characters living on the titular street. Henson performed the characters of Ernie, game-show host Guy Smiley , and Kermit, who appeared as a roving television news reporter. It was around this time that a frill was added around Kermit's neck to make him more frog-like. The collar was functional as well: At first, Henson's Muppets appeared separately from the realistic segments on the Street, but after a poor test-screening in Philadelphia , the show was revamped to integrate the two, placing much greater emphasis on Henson's work. He later remembered that "it was a pleasure to get out of that world". During the first, Henson produced a series of counting films for the numbers 1 through 10, which always ended with a baker voiced by Henson falling down the stairs while carrying the featured number of desserts. For seasons two to seven, Henson worked on a variety of inserts for the numbers 2 through 12, in a number of different styles, including film "Dollhouse", "Number Three Ball Film" , stop-motion "King of Eight", "Queen of Six" , cut-out animation "Eleven Cheer" , and computer animation "Nobody Counts To 10". He also directed the original C Is For Cookie. The series included Hey, Cinderella! Eleven Land of Gorch sketches, aired between October and January [inclusive], with four additional appearances in March, April, May, and September [of ]. Henson recalled that "I saw what [creator Lorne Michaels ] was going for and I really liked it and wanted to be a part of it, but somehow, what we were trying to do and what his writers could write for it never gelled. Then Henson pitched the show to British impresario Lew Grade to finance the show. The show would be shot in the United Kingdom and syndicated worldwide. The Muppet Show featured Kermit as host, and a variety of other memorable characters, notably Miss Piggy , Gonzo the Great , and Fozzie Bear , along with other characters such as Animal. He would just go 'Hmm. And if he liked it, he would say, 'Lovely! Transition to the big screen: In , a Henson-directed sequel, The Great Muppet Caper , followed, and Henson decided to end the still-popular Muppet Show to concentrate on making films. In addition to his own puppetry projects, Henson aided others in their work. The naturalistic, lifelike Yoda became one of the most popular characters of the Star Wars franchise. Around that time, he began creating darker and more realistic fantasy films that did not feature the Muppets and displayed "a growing, brooding interest in mortality. Despite some positive reviews The New York Times called it "a fabulous film" ,  the commercial failure of Labyrinth demoralized Henson to the point that son Brian Henson remembered the time of its release as being "the closest I've seen him to turning in on himself and getting quite depressed. Henson continued creating children's television, such as Fraggle Rock and the animated Muppet Babies. He also continued to sink into darker, mature themes with the folk tale and mythology-oriented show The Storyteller , which won an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program. The next year, he returned to television with The Jim Henson Hour , which mixed lighthearted Muppet fare with riskier material. The show was critically well-received and won him another Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Variety or Music Program, but it was canceled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. Henson blamed its failure on NBC 's constant rescheduling. At the time, he mentioned to his publicist that he was tired and had a sore throat, but felt that it would go away. While there, Henson consulted a doctor for what appeared to be flu-like symptoms. They returned to New York the following day, and an increasingly-ill Henson cancelled a Muppet recording session that had been scheduled for May In the early hours on Tuesday, May 15, Henson suffered a medical emergency; he was having trouble breathing and began coughing up blood. He suggested to his wife that he might be dying, but he did not want to take time from his schedule to visit a hospital. Two hours later, he finally agreed to be taken by taxi to New York Hospital in Manhattan , arriving there at 4: Shortly after arrival, he stopped breathing, and an X-ray revealed that he had abscesses in his lungs. He was placed on a ventilator, but his condition deteriorated rapidly over the next several hours, despite increasingly aggressive treatment with multiple antibiotics. After twenty hours in intensive care at the New York Hospital, Henson died at 1: He was 53 years old. News of his sudden and unexpected death spread quickly and fans from around the world responded with tributes and condolences. Many of Henson's co-stars and directors from Sesame Street, the Muppets, and other works also shared their thoughts on his death. Doctor David Gelmont first announced that Henson had died from Streptococcus pneumoniae , an infection that causes bacterial pneumonia. Harry Belafonte sang "Turn the World Around," a song that he had debuted on The Muppet Show, as each member of the congregation waved a brightly colored foam butterfly attached to a puppet performer's rod. Jim Henson's Creature Shop , founded by Henson, also continues to build creatures for a number of other films and series among them the television series Farscape and films such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and MirrorMask and is considered one of the most advanced and well respected special effects studios. As of , his eldest son Brian and eldest daughter Lisa are the co-chairs and co-CEOs of the company; his daughter Cheryl is the president of the foundation. Steve Whitmire , a veteran Muppet performer, began performing Kermit the Frog soon after Henson's death; and Ernie in Guy Smiley , in recent years, has been performed by Eric Jacobson ; and the role of Waldorf , in , was assumed by Dave Goelz. The role of Ernie was briefly assumed by Billy Barkhurst from , before Peter Linz began performing the character in As a result of this transaction, Sesame Workshop surrendered the rights to Kermit the Frog, who would no longer appear in most new material for Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop has since begun licensing the character of Kermit from Disney, allowing him to make a guest appearance on Sesame Street's fortieth season premiere in Only three other people have received this honor: Henson was posthumously inducted into the Walk of Fame in
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