SuperGrover22 wrote in yesterday with a Why For question:
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I just finished reading your review of Brian Jay Jones' "Jim Henson: The
." Can you please explain why Michael Eisner seemed so eager to
get his hands on the Sesame Street Muppets? Disney had all of its own
characters plus it was about to acquire all of the classic Muppets. Wasn't that
enough? Why For did Eisner keep trying to persuade Henson to hand over the
Sesame Street Muppets as well?
You've got to remember that The Walt Disney Company was
initially trying to make this deal with Henson Associates back in the late
Summer / early Fall of 1989. This was just before "The Little
" opened in theaters. And Michael Eisner had no idea that this Ron
Clements / John Musker movie would then usher in the Second Golden Age of
Disney Animation. Which would then give the Company plenty of new characters to
populate its theme parks with, not to mention providing inspiration for all
manner of new merch for the Disney Stores.
More to the point, it would be another 22 years before the Company would launch
its highly successful Disney Junior programming block. Which then led to the
creation of the Disney Junior channel. And given that Mouse House managers knew
that there were billions to be made off of catering to the pre-school &
toddler crowd ... Well, that's why Eisner kept circling back on Sesame
Street. Hoping against hope that Henson could
eventually be persuaded to sell his half of the Children's Television Workshop
to the Mouse House.
And speaking of Sesame Street
... This past weekend, Nancy and I journeyed to Langhorne,
PA so that we could then check out Sesame
Place's annual holiday offering, "A Very
Furry Christmas." As we walked through this toddler-friendly theme park
Photo by Nancy Stadler
... it's easy to see why Eisner was eager to get his mitts
on the Sesame Street Muppets. Because when it comes to the 3-to-5 year-old set,
these characters are rock stars.
I mean, everywhere we went in these theme park on Saturday
night, we saw (to borrow a phrase from Mel Torme's holiday classic, "The
Christmas Song"), "tiny tots with their eyes all a-glow." Not
because it was bitterly cold that night. But -- rather -- because these kids
were now face-to-face with full-sized versions of their favorite Sesame Street
Muppets. Much beloved characters like Bert & Ernie ...
... Oscar the Grouch ...
... and Cookie Monster.
And speaking of Cookie Monster ... Cookie will soon be
serving as the host of a brand-new land which is currently under construction
at Sesame Place. Cookie's Monster
Land (which is due to open in May
of 2014) will feature five new attractions themed around the Sesame
Street monsters. With my favorite of the bunch
being Oscar's Rotten Rusty Rockets. That sounds like a nice, safe ride to place
your child on, doesn't it?
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Entertainment / Sesame Workshop. All rights reserved
Anyway ... Getting back to "A Very Furry
Christmas" at Sesame Place:
I have to admit that it was kind of cool to get to see Sesame Street all
decorated for the holidays.
Photo by Jim Hill
And as I watched all of these little kids excitedly experiencing
all of the low-tech pleasures to be found at this theme park, items like
ringing the bell on that fire truck which is parked at Sesame Street Engine No.
... or climbing aboard a very Muppet-y looking steed over at the Sunny Day
... or choosing which car to ride in over at Elmo's Flyin'
Which fish would you choose? The
Angel Fish or the Cat Fish? Photo by Jim Hill
It was a reminder that not everything in the theme park
world has to be a super-deluxe E Ticket Plus like Harry Potter and the
Forbidden Journey and/or Radiator Springs Racer. Especially when you're catering
to the 3-to-5 year-old crowd, there's a lot to be said for being just simple
& straight-forward. Giving kids this size the chance to do something exciting
with Mom & Dad like zooming off into space aboard Elmo's Blast Off.
Given how cold it was this past Saturday night, Nancy and I
took shelter in Mr. Hooper's Emporium. And since this was the largest shop at Sesame
Place, there was -- as you might expect -- a wide
variety of Muppet-related merchandise. And some of the retail displays inside
of this store were kind of clever, like this rather beleaguered-looking bunch
But as 8 p.m.
approached, it was time once more to brave the cold. Head back outside and then
chose a primo spot along the boulevard ...
... for it was just about time for Sesame
Place's Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade
Of course, given that this is a very kid-friendly theme
park, Sesame Place's
Neighborhood Street Parade was a very kid-friendly parade. Which made lots of
stops along the way so that children could then come off the sidewalk and interact
with their favorite Sesame Street
characters like Abby Cadabby, ...
... Big Bird & Barkley.
But as the last float full of characters rolled backstage ...
... Big Bird came on the park-wide PA system to say that it was 'way past his
bed-time, which is why it was now time for everyone to exit Sesame Place. He
was then followed by Oscar, who said "You heard the turkey. Now
So after taking one last photo in front of the "A Very Furry
Christmas" photo spot ...
... and then taking a moment to "Ooh" &
"Aah" at Sesame Place's 1-2-3 Christmas Tree ...
... it was then time to head for home and then dream about
all the fun that these folks will have in 2014 when Cookie's Monster
Land opens at Sesame
Mind you, if you're not willing to wait 'til May for your next
Sesame Place fix, "A Very Furry
Christmas" will be presented on selected nights now through December 31st.
Oh, one final thing: I have to admit that it was kind of
ironic to see the Sesame Street portion of this theme park all lit up with
colored lights ...
... Given that -- if Michael Eisner had had his way back in
the late 1980s / early 1990s and then persuaded Jim Henson to sell his share of
the Sesame Street Muppets to The Walt Disney Company ... Well, what Eisner had wanted
to do was transform Disney's Hollywood Studios' Streets of America into the
theme park equivalent of Sesame Street. So that this second Muppet-themed area
could then be located right next door to Muppet Studios.
And given that (at least for now, anyway) this portion of
DHS is home to the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights ...
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Inc. All rights reserved
... this corner of Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park
probably looks an awfully lot like it would have (i.e., an urban environment
all lit up with holiday decorations) if Michael had only be able to get Jim to
sell his half of the Sesame Street Muppets to Disney.
If you're still looking for that perfect gift for Grandma, Aunt Pat or Uncle Earle pleaseclick on the banner below. If you do that ... well, JimHillMedia.com then gets a teeny,tiny chunk of whatever you spend at Amazon.comThanks and Happy Holidays!
I'm glad that the Sesame Street characters are not owned by Disney. They deserve to live on forever on public television.
Thanks Jim for reminding people that not every attraction has to be a huge thrill ride to be entertaining.
On a related note, I'm looking forward to Muppets Most Wanted. It's good to see the Muppet Show characters in the limelight again.
We took our 4 year old on Sunday 11/24.... other than being REALLY cold, he had a great time. To put a Disney spin on it, we got to see the Imagination Movers in concert. It was a great intimate show with one of the Movers (Scott) taking some time to perform right next to my son and letting him 'play' his guitar as well! Because of the weather, we didn't stay too long, so it's good for us the tickets include a 2nd visit, so we can go another weekend (if we get a warm spell).
In somewhat defense of Eisner...it's Sesame Street! You're buying the company that owns the Sesame Street Muppets, but they don't want to include Sesame! I mean, I get it. But I also get Jim's position that Sesame's kind of a "holy place"--an educational show produced by a separate nonprofit org. for public TV--and he doesn't want them mixed up with Disney, as awesome as he thought Disney would be for the rest of his characters.
My question is, among many others regarding Disney, Henson & CTW and their corporate happenings, how come Disney wouldn't get the Sesame Street Muppets, but EM.TV (Henson's former German parent) did? In 1990, Jim wanted his stake in Sesame to not be included in the Disney deal, but in 2000, the Henson kids were more than happy to bundle Elmo along with Kermit, Farscape, and everything else and send them off to Munich?
And one thing that's always confused me. You said Jim didn't want to sell his "half" of Sesame to Disney. It's my understanding that Jim Henson (and/or the Henson Company, if there's a difference) owned the rights to the Sesame Muppets, but merchandising revenue to those characters were split between Henson and CTW. Thus EM.TV, in late 2000, selling the complete rights to those characters to Sesame Workshop when they were nearing collapse. (I'd seriously love to know what the Hensons thought about that, good or bad.) I wish the recent Henson bio got into this corporate stuff more, although I completely understand why because it's a biography of Mr. Jim Henson, not the corporate history of The Jim Henson Company, especially post-Jim. I just wonder if in Brian Jay Jones' research, he got any more insight into Henson's corporate dealings, especially from 2000-2004, a tumultuous period.