Arts & Culture

Inspirational! The Hunters and Taxidermists That Jim Henson Forced to Make the Muppets Are Finally Demanding Fair Recognition for Their Work

A recent lawsuit filed against the estate of Jim Henson, beloved producer of The Muppet Show,has accused the beloved creator — long thought to be a genius at procuring and manipulating obscure animal corpses — of outsourcing puppet craftsmanship to China and South America, where labor protection laws are scarce. 

The plaintiffs are requesting compensation for missed payments, as well as, in one instance, damages on behalf of a hunter who got his scalp ripped off by a bear (Henson wanted a real bear to play Fozzie for “authenticity”). Additionally, the plaintiffs have alleged that Henson directly wiped out Trinidad’s entire population of howler monkeys through his aggressive perfectionism, writing that the producer demanded and then discarded “several thousand gradually more horrific attempts at creating the creature we now refer to as ‘Elmo’,”causing a local extinction event, before ultimately using a rare New Caledonian red orangutan.

Henson is also suspected of cross-border trafficking: the court has questioned how Chinese and South American hunters could have acquired the rotting corpse of Big Bird, an ostrich thought to be native to the Australian outback.

Henson somehow got even stingier later in his career: the entity referred to  as ‘Snuffleupagus’ was apparently acquired during a drunken 1970 heist of the Natural History Museum because he was, in his biographer’s words, “too cheap to pay someone to shoot an elephant.” NYPD investigators have reopened investigations into the heist, and curators have since matched “Snuffy” to an infant mammoth previously housed in the museum’s Ice Age collection. Henson’s estate has refused to return the mammoth, citing “finders keepers, losers weepers” and adding “considering it’s been 30 years, it’s not like those idiots noticed it was missing anyway.”

Henson’s estate is countering that the contracted hunters and taxidermists often failed to do their jobs, for example when Henson requested that they shoot him on his deathbed and turn him into a giant muppet, they instead just shot him.

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