Weekly Muppeteer Wednesdays: Brian Henson

Today’s Weekly Muppeteer Wednesday post was written by our friend Tom Stroud.


November 30, 1962

Notable Muppets…
Sal Minella, Dr. Phil van Nueter, Seymour, Hoggle, Storyteller’s Dog

Brian Henson was Jim and Jane Henson’s third child, born in November of 1962. He made several cameo appearences on Sesame Street as a young boy, most notably in the “Number Song Series” where he can be seen counting three peas and eight ping-pong balls. He was also the builder of the original Muppet penguin for an episode of The Muppet Show. As he aged, he began working more and more with the Muppets. In The Great Muppet Caper he was instrumental in the carrying out of the bicycle sequence, creating and operating the special rigging device used to allow the Muppets to ride bicycles. He also spent a summer working at Sesame Place, where he met future Muppeteer Bill Barretta, in a story that has become almost a kind of legend in Muppet fandom.

During the 1980’s, Brian began to work outside of  The Jim Henson Company, preforming Jack Pumpkinhead in the film Return To Oz and Audrey II in the Frank Oz directed Little Shop of Horrors. Brian worked often with the Creature Shop, preforming Hoggle in Labyrinth and the reccuring role of the Dog in The StoryTeller. He also appeared in The Christmas Toy, as Cruiser, a taxi-driver toy, and appeared occasionally on Dinosaurs.

After Jim Henson’s death in 1990, Brian took over The Jim Henson Company as president, chairman, and CEO in 1991. Brian’s work with the Muppets grew as well, directing The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, as well as various episodes of Muppets Tonight. When reruns of The Muppet Show aired on the Odyssey network he recorded  several introductions that were played in front of them.

On Muppets Tonight, he also became one of the core Muppet performers with characters such as Dr. Phil van Nueter, Seymour, and Sal Minella, his most popular character. These characters have not appeared for some time, although Sal did have a cameo in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but he was not performed by Brian. Brian also performed Scooter, Janice, and the Newsman in a few appearances in the early 2000’s.

In recent years, Brian’s role with the Muppets and Disney has dissipated as he focuses most of his energy on projects with The Jim Henson Company. He is currently executive producer of the Henson-produced Sid the Science Kid and has directed several episodes, but his brainchild is the popular Henson Alternative series Puppet Up! and Stuffed and Unstrung which features Brian and many Henson puppeteers as they put on improvisational shows live in front of an audience.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

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