John Henson, son of Muppets creator, dies

By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer

Sweetums muppet
Sweetums is a gentle giant, but look at how small Kermit the Frog looks in comparison!

John Henson, son of Muppets creator Jim Henson, passed away today at age 48. Following in his father’s footsteps, John was a puppeteer himself. From 1990-2005, he played the large, hairy ogre muppet named Sweetums, who’s much taller than the other Muppet and human co-stars. Sadly, Jim also died at a young age as well, at 53 years old on May 16, 1990.

Jim first invented the comedy puppets in 1955, and they aired on a local channel from 1955-1961. In the 1960s, they appeared on skits and several late night talk shows, until their big break in 1969 on Sesame Street as Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Grover, and Cookie Monster.

Once Jim’s lovable creations took off in popularity, puppets like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, and Swedish Chef became classic children’s characters. Then, from 1976-1981, The Muppet Show produced by Jim ran as a five-series and 120-episode television show.

To this day, the Muppets have been used in everything from cartoons to movies. John performed as Sweetums in several of the Muppet films, like Muppet Treasure Island (1996), It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005).

Sweetums is often a frightening character, towering at a height of about nine feet tall. However, despite being a big hairy ogre, he’s actually super friendly and harmless.

Images courtesy of Jim Henson Productions and Disney.