Disney Goes Gonzo for Muppets

Move over Mouse. A frog and a few of his friends are moving in. The Walt Disney Co. has acquired the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House properties from The Jim Henson Co. for an undisclosed sum. The deal was announced Tuesday evening and the sale is expected to close within two months.

Terms of the agreement give Disney all Muppet assets, including the characters Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal, as well as the Muppet film and television library and all associated copyrights and trademarks. In addition, then Mouse House will retain copyrights and trademarks to the Bear in the Big Blue House characters and television library.

Henson will develop potential new programming featuring the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House for Disney under the deal, which does not include Sesame Street characters separately owned by Sesame Workshop.

Brian Henson, who with his sister Lisa is co-chair and co-CEO of The Jim Henson Co., comments, “This new and very important relationship will enable our two companies to combine our respective talents and resources in ways that will fully realize the tremendous potential of the Muppet and Bear franchises. Michael Eisner’s long-standing passion and respect for the Muppets gives me and my family even more confidence in Disney as a partner.”

Lisa Henson adds, “In the months before his death in 1990, my father Jim Henson pursued extensive discussions with The Walt Disney Company based on his strong belief that Disney would be a perfect home for the Muppets. As such, the deal we announced today is the realization of my father’s dream, and ensures that the Muppet characters will live, flourish and continue to delight audiences everywhere, forever."

“Since the time I worked with Jim Henson on the first Muppets TV special in the 1960s, it was obvious to me that his characters would make a deep imprint on the hearts of families worldwide, and this announcement is the culmination of a long-time desire to welcome them into The Walt Disney Company,” says Disney chairman and CEO Michael Eisner.

The Henson family bought The Jim Henson Co. back from German media company EM.TV in July of 2003 and will retain all other assets of the company. Those include Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and other characters and entertainment properties such as Fraggle Rock, Farscape, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Storyteller and The Hoobs.