Jim Henson: The Timeline

Published: September 22, 2023
Categories: Feature, Fun Stuff

Part of J.D.’s Jim Henson Birthday Series
202020212022 – 2023

Hang a star upon the tree, it’s Jim Henson’s birthday again!

If there’s one thing everybody knows about me – and there is – it’s that I’m ToughPigs.com’s Master of Henson Holidays, which is why I write our September 24th article every year. The more important thing you should know about me is that my life happens to directly parallel that of ToughPigs’ founder, Danny Horn.

As I explained in my recent appearance on “Hubba-Wha?!”, from my early days as the publisher of the unfortunately-named Muppet fanzine MagaMuppet to my time as the owner of the also-unfortunately-named FundthePigs.com, I always find myself coincidentally in parallel development with Danny. But not this time! I am no longer in lockstep with Danny. Now I’m writing a sequel to a Danny article from 21 years ago. That’s totally different.

If you liked “Jim Henson: The Index”, you’ll love and/or tolerate “Jim Henson: The Timeline”! It’s the perfect way to celebrate all of Jim’s life at once! Feel free to cite this timeline as a source for your history paper or dissertation if your professor has a very, very, very good sense of humor.

The Early Years

Jim Henson as a baby, 1936


  • Jim Henson is born on the 24th of September in Leland, Mississippi.


  • Jim begins his career in puppetry and television on the local child labor exploitation show.


  • Sam and Friends premieres on WRC-TV and immediately makes waves, because that’s how TV signals were transmitted at the time.


  • Jim and Jane get married in May; soon honeymoon in Delaware, presumably note the state of the doggie daycares there.

The 1960s

Title card for 'The Cube'.


  • Lisa Henson premieres.
  • Jim graduates from the University of Maryland with knowledge of the alphabet and how to count to 20 that would come into play later.


  • Jim and Jane have another kid, make a habit of it.


  • Tales of the Tinkerdee airs, and The Muppets are basically never this entertaining again.


  • Rowlf begins his run as a regular on The Jimmy Dean Show, a national phenomenon that has largely been forgotten. That could change this weekend though. Lot of pressure on MOMI and Craig Shemin.


  • Time Piece premieres; part of this Academy Award nominated short was later shown on The Dick Cavett Show after its audience had just enjoyed 45 minutes of hilarious Muppet performances; audience chuckles politely, but sounds concerned.


  • The Muppets begin making regular appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and, like Elvis Presley had been a few years earlier, are so shocking that they are usually only shown from the waist up.


  • Cyclia Enterprises is incorporated; the project is soon deemed unprofitable after accounting for inflation.


  • Jim produces Youth 68; would have been funny if he’d done this in, like, 1957 or something.


  • Jim makes The Cube, peaks as a creator.
  • Jim writes the F word to notorious The Cube hater Mr. Dionne, peaks as a human.
  • Sesame Street begins its run as an innovative children’s program with two goals: to make Americans well-educated, and to make America not racist. The effect hasn’t kicked in yet, but to be fair, it’s only a kid show that was scientifically designed by researchers to be as compelling to children as possible (and has been shown to every single American child since infancy for over 50 years such that no sci-fi brainwashing technology could ever be as well-suited to influence the masses as this show has been). Obviously that can’t be expected to sway people.

The 1970s, Babyyyy


  • The Great Santa Claus Switch begins a tradition carried on later by The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show (1982) of talking a big game right out of the gate.


  • The Frog Prince airs, finally introducing the general public to Taminella Grinderfall, the character Jim had described years earlier as “probably our best character to date.”
  • Taminella is promptly retired, as though there was a new best character to date. Who the heck would that be, Jim? Frickin’ Featherstone??


  • Broadcast of The Muppets Valentine Show, the first of two pilots Jim produced (the second being The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence) to demonstrate what a prime time Muppet variety show would be like if its host had the personality of a wet Wheat Thin.


  • Jim survives a John Belushi ambush. An ambelushiush, if you will. Thank you.


  • The Muppet Show premieres, has its merits.


  • The Muppet Show becomes the most popular television program in the world; Sam the Eagle demonstrates for the American TV executives how to eat one’s hat.
Sam the Eagle eats his hat on 'The Muppet Show'.


  • With the release of The Muppet Movie, The Muppets answer the question “where does everyone know the characters from The Muppet Show from?” with the confident lie, “from Hollywood movies.” The public accepts this answer, thanks them, and gives them 65,000,000 US Dollars, making it the tenth highest-grossing film of the year.

Also in the 1970s

  • Don’t think I wouldn’t mention your favorite other 1970s Muppet thing! It’s the one you like! It’s objectively the best! Everyone says so. Everybody says your Muppet opinions are the best ones. I love you.

Chapter Four: Everything Kind of Starts to Roll Downhill Once the 1980s Begin, as Depicted in the Motion Picture Boogie Nights

Jim Henson poses with Caroll Spinney and a plastic cup in Bermuda.


  • Kermit the Frog and an audience of Hollywood’s biggest stars witness the robbery of Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher.


  • Jim gathers a few of his most trusted colleagues and friends to tell them of his dream for world peace, and they all laugh at him. He’s bringing peace to the world and they’re laughing.


  • I have been informed that ToughPigs has exceeded its allotment of snide remarks about The Dark Crystal.


  • Fraggle Rock premieres, is the first HBO original series, becomes the first American TV show broadcast in the Soviet Union, receives wide acclaim, and raises the question, “Who’s laughing now, Duncan Kenworthy? Your mom?”


  • I have to mention The Muppets Take Manhattan or Joe will fire me.


  • Production of Labyrinth begins.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • Jim demands a larger codpiece for David Bowie.
  • The studio reduces the size of the codpiece for David Bowie.


  • Labyrinth premieres. Fun fact: Carroll Spinney thought the reason it didn’t perform well at the box office was that audiences may have confused it for the fantasy film Legend, which came out the previous year. It happened to star Mia Sara, future wife of former Hoggle Brian Henson. Someday we’ll ask Brian how he feels about that, or, better yet, we won’t!
Ludo eyes Princess Diana.
Close up on Ludo eyeing Princess Diana.
Princess Diana looks weirded out by Ludo.



  • Jim Henson’s The Storyteller wins twelve awards, including two Hugos, two BAFTAs, and an Emmy; at this point, it would be a logical assumption that pairing this show with similar experiments and with The Muppets would make for Jim’s most popular show ever.



  • Jim delivers the incredible joke that Joe Raposo “was such a name-dropper, he was the only person that could work into a conversation all of the important people he’d seen in the last six months and Barbra Streisand’s telephone number”; what a legend.
  • Jim passes on May 16, 1990, and I don’t really have a cheeky response to that. It still hurts.

Epilogue: The Muppets Make a Great Christmas Movie and Some Really Cool Live Shows


  • The Muppets make a great Christmas movie and some really cool live shows.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from this big-picture overview of Jim’s life, it’s that successes and failures are equally hard to predict and hard to use as predictions. Maybe The Muppet Show shouldn’t have worked! Maybe The Jim Henson Hour should have!

At risk of sounding like Fortune Cookie Monster, your successes will be followed by setbacks and your setbacks will be followed by successes. It’s not linear! On this Henson Holiday, take a moment to consider how your life doesn’t make any freaking sense, and how that’s not always a bad thing. It might mean success is right around the corner.

Jim Henson surrounded by Muppets, smiling.

Or failure. It could always be failure.

Click here to fail on the ToughPigs forum!

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Written by JD Hansel

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