by Heather Phares
Cute and quirky with songs to match, Jim Henson's Muppets have been responsible for over three decades of children's entertainment that isn't just for kids. Alongside Sesame Street, which was aimed at younger children and also created many iconic kids' TV characters, the Muppets who appeared on The Muppet Show and in the Muppets' films had a more sophisticated, wittier look and sense of humor. Artist/puppeteer Henson created a rough version of the most famous Muppet, Kermit the Frog, in 1955 for Sam and Friends, a Washington, D.C.-area children's show for which he was a puppet designer; by the time The Muppet Show began in 1976, the Muppets were a full cast of characters -- including Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Rowlf the Dog, and the Muppet band, Dr. Teeth & the Electric Mayhem -- and their mix of sophisticated puppetry and music was already in place. Along with Henson, the Muppets' main original puppeteers and voices included Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz.
In 1976, the soundtrack to their 1972 version of The Frog Prince became one of the Muppets' first albums. In 1978, a Muppet Show soundtrack arrived, featuring classic Muppets songs like "Mah Nah Mah Nah," "Bein' Green," and the show's theme; 1979's The Muppet Movie, 1981's The Great Muppet Caper, and 1984's The Muppets Take Manhattan also featured songs that rivaled the quality of any "real" musicals of the time, including the wonderful "Rainbow Connection." The soundtrack to 1988's The Ghost of Haffner Hall featured the Chieftains' Paddy Moloney and was the final Muppet production before Henson's death in 1990 from pneumonia. Henson's son Brian stepped in as Kermit's voice and the Muppets franchise continued with productions like 1992's The Muppet Christmas Carol, 1995's Kermit Unpigged, 1996's Muppet Treasure Island, and 2005's The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. The Muppet Babies' animated shows and movies also had soundtracks, including Muppet Babies: Rock It to the Stars.