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A Tour of the Jim Henson Studios

Feb 09, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Where in the world would you be able to find a picture of Miss Piggy gracing the wall of a Lady’s restroom, if you had to try? If you haven’t guessed by now, that particularly unique place would be here in Los Angeles–at the Jim Henson Studios.

Getting the inside scoop on PBS’s Wilson & Ditch children television program, was only one of many features included during my recent visit to the Jim Henson Studios.

Yours truly, got the red carpet treatment by among other things, receiving a tour of the Jim Henson Studios.

Originally owned by Charlie Chaplin, the studio lot was once an orange grove. After its construction stated in 1917, his brand new studio opened the following year. Because the neighbors were worried about having a motion picture studio next door to their homes, the outside of the studio was made to look like the other houses in the neighborhood.

Jim Henson Studios

Kermit graces the entrance to the Jim Henson Studios

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin still welcomes Visitors

When it’s compared to such larger studios such as Sony or Paramount Pictures, the Jim Henson Studios may be physically much smaller, but the others pale in comparison, because the Jim Henson Studios is a unique and special place, where its legacy, lore, and legend in the annals of cinematic history are still being made and filmed here:

Chaplin filmed several of his great movies at this studio between 1918 through 1952, including such classics as "Gold Rush" in 1925 and "The Great Dictator" in 1939. On occasion, Chaplin also rented his studio out; for example, Greta Garbo shot her final screen test at Chaplin Studios in May of 1949. Source: The Historic Jim Henson Company Lot

Kermit

In case you didn’t know, Jim Henson, the founder of Henson Studios is the creator of the Muppets, which according to Henson, was a word created by combining the words "Marionette" and "Puppet."

Many well known Muppets characters include, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Ernie, and a plethora of many other Jim Henson’s Muppets characters.

To get an idea of the potency of Jim Henson and his studio, here’s a short list of their programs:

  • Fraggle Rock: The Movie (2011, distributed by The Weinstein Company)
  • The Sam Plenty Cavalcade of Action Show Plus Singing! (2008-present)
  • Jim Henson Outtakes (2008-Present)
  • Unstable Fables (2008-2009)
  • The Skrumps (2007)
  • Frances (2006)
  • MirrorMask (2005)
  • The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005)
  • Play with Me Sesame (2002-2003)
  • It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002)
  • Kermit’s Swamp Years (2002)
  • The Hoobs (2000-2002)
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Construction Site (1999-)
  • Farscape (1999-2003)
  • Mopatop’s Shop (1999-2002)
  • Elmo in Grouchland (1999)
  • Muppets From Space (1999)
  • Brats of the Lost Nebula (1998)
  • Buddy (1997; co-production with American Zoetrope)
  • Bear in the Big Blue House (1997-2003)
  • Muppets Tonight (1996-1998)
  • Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
  • The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss (1996-1998)
  • Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
  • Secret Life of Toys (1994)
  • CityKids (1993-1994)
  • Dog City (1992-1994)
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
  • Dinosaurs (1991-1994)
  • "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Series" (1990-1993)
  • The Witches (1990)
  • Jim Henson’s Mother Goose Stories
  • Jim Henson’s Pajanimals
  • The Jim Henson Hour (1989)
  • A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
  • Puppetman (1987)
  • The Storyteller (1987)
  • The Christmas Toy (1986)
  • Labyrinth (1986; co-production with Lucasfilm)
  • The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986)
  • Follow that Bird (1985)
  • Little Muppet Monsters (1985)
  • Muppet Babies (1984-1992)
  • The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
  • Fraggle Rock (1983-1987)
  • The Dark Crystal (1982)
  • The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The Muppet Show (1976-1981)
  • Sesame Street (1969-2001) (A production of Sesame Workshop(2001-present)).  Source: Wikipedia

In the reception lobby of the Jim Henson Studios, there’s a “small display,” laying testimony to a fact which few may be aware:

Many of the Jim Henson Studio productions and programs were, and are award winning–as acknowledged and recognized by their peers from the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Award Case

And this is only a small representation of their work.

Along with their headliner programs, the Jim Henson Studios grew larger thorough their collaboration with other movie producers and directors to create characters which was to become the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.

For example, here’s one of their main characters from Dr. Doolittle:

Chipmunk

The Jim Henson Studios has had several owners, including Red Skelton, CBS, (Raymond Burr, star of Perry Mason who actually lived at the studio), and in 1966, A&M Records bought the property. Over the years, the lot has changed, but the main character of it remains status-quo.

On February 6, 1969, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Board designated the studio a historical cultural monument. Then, in 1999, the Henson family bought it, remodeled it a bit, but nonetheless kept all its natural charm.

As time passes by, with new Independent Studios, Film Festivals, and an ever expanding studio eco-system, the Jim Henson Studio is thriving as never before. Even by “Industry Standards,” and life in the fast lane “Hollywood” world, people still visit the Henson studios around the clock.

Although it’s not open to everyone, we wanted to “virtually open” it for you, which is why I thought our readers would enjoy a peek into Hollywood legend, history, and heritage; and also into its current happenings.

After all, Travelin’ Local and not seeing Ms. Piggy, could turn out to be a serious lost opportunity of epic proportions, of which, neither I nor Miss Piggy could or would ever allow.

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Entertainment, Family, Film, Hollywood, SoCal
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