It's been decades since visionary Jim Henson first created the Muppets, yet today his lovable creations are as popular as ever.
But for as much time as the Muppets have spent in the spotlight, there's still a lot you don't know about Henson's clever creations. From the first national Muppet "star" to the materials that created the Kermit prototype, here are 19 things you probably don't know about The Muppets.
1. Jim Henson created The Muppets in 1955, making them nearly 60 years old!
2. Henson coined the term "Muppet," but it is not a combination of the words "marionette" and "puppet" -- a belief that was once supported by Henson himself. Rather, it has been reported that Henson just liked the sound of the word.
3. A key factor for the Muppets success is that Henson's realization that TV would allow him to put the puppets front and center, while still hiding the puppeteers. With the camera focused on the muppets, the camera operators could easily keep the puppeteers out of the frame.
4. Kermit was originally a lizard-like creature, and made several television appearances in that guise. Kermit became Kermit the Frog shortly before "Sesame Street" began.
5. Kermit the Frog is the most famous Muppet creation, and Henson performed Kermit until his death in May 1990. Since Henson's passing, Steve Whitmore has played Kermit.
6. The Muppets first appeared on the live-action/puppet television show "Sam and Friends," which aired on a local Washington D.C. channel from 1955 to 1961. Not surprisingly, the show was created by Henson and his eventual wife, Jane.
7. The Muppets rose to fame after appearing on "Sesame Street" in 1969, coinciding with the educational show's debut that Henson helped design.
8. The Muppets are usually created from various types of foam and then covered with fur, fleece, or other felt-like material to give them their colorful appearance.
9. Puppeteers take up to a year to slowly develop their Muppet's personality traits and voice, and will often even be "test-driven" by other puppeteers to find the perfect human-Muppet match.
10. Henson died the weekend he was reportedly going to sell The Muppets and his entire company to Disney for approximately $150 million.
11. It wasn't until 2004 that Disney eventually purchased the rights to The Muppets.
12. In 2006, Kermit the Frog was credited as the author of the self-help guide "Before You Leap: A Frog's Eye View of Life's Greatest Lessons" -- an "autobiography" written from the perspective of the Muppet himself.
13. The first Kermit was made from Henson's mother's old coat, and two halves of a ping-pong ball were used for his eyes.
14. Disney extensively re-branded the Muppet franchise beginning in 2008 in anticipation of "The Muppets," a reboot from Jason Segel that was met with critical and commercial success.
15. Rowlf the Dog, one of the original Muppets, was actually the first Muppet to appear regularly on network television. Rowlf was featured as Jimmy Dean's sidekick on "The Jimmy Dean Show" in the 1960s.
16. Upon Henson's death, Rowlf the Dog went into (partial) retirement as a tribute to his creator. As a memorial, Rowlf can be seen in "Muppet Treasure Island" (1996) and "Muppets from Space" (1999), and purposefully has no speaking parts. It was only in 2011's "The Muppets" that Rowlf spoke again.
17. Muppets creator Jim Henson was originally offered the role of Yoda for "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back," but he declined and suggested fellow puppeteer and actor Frank Oz.
18. Henson reportedly based his early Muppet designs on drawings in "Pogo," a comic strip by Walt Kelly.
19. A Muppet named Harry the Hipster appeared opposite Kermit in "Sam and Friends." Word is still out on whether or not he was the first hipster.
Editor's Note: Oops. Although the origin of word "muppet" has been debated over the years, multiple reliable sources state that it is not a combination of the words "marionette" and "puppet." We've changed the information in Fact No. 2 to reflect that.
[Sources: IMDb, Wikipedia]
Photo by Getty