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henson shuts down the new york muppet workshop

Discussion in 'Muppet Headlines' started by silverbolt101, Jun 30, 2002.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    While some of the Sesame employees left voluntarily or ahem "retired" more than a year-ago (as budgets were tight after the 180 million buyout for the Sesame characters), resignations and layoffs have been slowly occuring within Henson for months. Some left the company voluntarily not wanting to see any more friends forced to leave.

    These changes effect some departments more than others, but they are some of the most creative and hard-working individuals in the business. It's always sad to see people who worked with Jim during the Muppets heyday forced to move on or retire.
  2. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I have a feeling that EMTV is going to blame this on the economy and not their crash. It's big business, and someone always shifts the blaime! It's a real shame, and it may nail the lid on the coffin of the proposed New Muppet Show!
  3. BlueFrackle

    BlueFrackle Well-Known Member


    Who ya calling a Heavy Weight ?


    See ya
  4. matleo

    matleo Well-Known Member

    This meshes with some things I've heard/seen/know. It doesn't come as a shock, but it does come as a disappointment. For thise of you who don't know the Jim Henson Foundation is no longer part of Jim Henson Prod and was kicked out of the NY office when EMTV bought the company. I also have a friend who interviewed with the costume shop about 8 months ago and said that the person she had interviewd with said soemthing about not being there much longer but couldn't remember who she had spoken too. My guess is it was Polly Smith.

    I sense dark times ahead....very dark times.

  5. Treelo

    Treelo Well-Known Member

    The news is indeed true, although I was told that the staff would be cut down to about five or six - not three. I hope I'm correct here.

    I was also told the full staff would remain until August.

    It is sad news - it makes me wish there was a bit less "business" in show business.
  6. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    I guess I have been waiting for official confirmation, but this seems to be true. I don't know who to be upset at? Could this be some sort of liquidiation in hopes to sell off Henson to a corporation wanting more control? Whatever happens I hope Henson finds security in the company that buys them...soon I hope. A sale would mean more work for puppeteers at least.

    All this info is harder to choke down than a Denny's breakfast. These are truly sad times for Henson. "I hope that something better comes along."
  7. Luke

    Luke Well-Known Member

    I have to take issue with this one and say that in a way it's false. The Jim Henson Foundation was not 'kicked' out of anywhere. As the foundation is a family thing, and not sold as part of the company - it doesn't entitle them to use office space that belongs to EMTV for free. I would guess they probably had the choice to rent the rooms or leave of their own accord.

    You've got to realise it was Henson's children who decided to sell the company, nobody put a gun to their head and said they had to. I know lots of Henson employee's will be mighty upset with current developments and quite rightly so, but the blame doesn't really lie with EMTV, they only have so much money - and they are looking after the main interests first.
  8. matleo

    matleo Well-Known Member

    You may be right Luke. My information on that was pretty second/third/fourth-hand. So I don't know what happened with the foundation exactly. the version "I heard' was they were asked to leave. Any insdiers around here may know more.

  9. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    There's a store here called Shoe Source. Maybe you can get one there. What color do you like? Size? Want heels or no?

  10. FER SURE

    FER SURE Well-Known Member

    After being semi-absent from this board for awhile I come back to see this horribly disheartening news.

    I have to say that I have always looked up to Polly Smith. Polly is like a costuming goddess. Looking back upon all the years and incredible costumes she has created I am shocked that they would make the desicion to "let her go." I truly admire her body of work, creativity, and loayalty.

    This is a sad turn of events for the people of the Muppet Workshop. Most of them have given a large part of their lives and creative talents to the Jim Henson Co. I personally know the feeling of giving your all to a corparation and then being spurned. It was not fun and turned out to be a very trying time in my life.

    I find this desicion personally wrong on so many levels. It is a sad event to see a corporation built on family and entertainment no longer entertaining the idea of family.
  11. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    YIKES!! I just realized when you said that...that's one of the reasons I'm not so big about the Disney name!!

    :( Henson's starting down that road, too????


    good grief!
  12. Chad Kermit

    Chad Kermit Well-Known Member

    Do they have a puppet building workshop in the Chaplin Studios? Seems strange that they are doing this cutback now when it looks like Muppet productions are increasing. Also, one has to wonder how this will translate into changes in the Muppet look down the line. I know they have a well documented history and paterns.

    It's always behind the scenes people who often get the shaft first. Disney had animators striking at one time during the studios early prime. Signs read "We're Men Not Mice". Then I think he started paying them more and rightly so. Perhaps the new increased presence of the Muppets will bring some of these people back eventually.

  13. matleo

    matleo Well-Known Member

    Hmmm.....apathy is not the same as turning away in disgust.

    (It's a line from HAIR or at least a version of HAIR that I saw once.)

    Truthfully, I haven't my thoughts on this news little in this thread (and I think most of us have posted little in this thread) cause we don't know what to say. Even now, I'm finding it difficult. I think what someone said about the Henson organization being a 'family' and to be losing a part of that family is one of the worst parts. For the fans, we are losing distant relatives who have helped to shape characters that are a part of our childhoods and part of our lives. I wish there were something that we as fans could do, but I think we all know there is little likelihood. I hope that whatever the future holds for the Henson builders, our distant friends, it is both wamr and bright and that the days are full of sunshine. I hit a rough time myself recently and a puppeteer friend offered me this as comfort. I pas it on to any Henson employees who may read it....

    "When the great control rod in the sky closes a door on you, look forthe window that it surely left open."

  14. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member


    I agree with you. They ARE important to the fabric of culture around the world. The main creators of all the things we have held dear and important for so many years. It's a sad thing, I know there is absolutely nothing we can do at all.

    I have to wonder if it didn't happen because of the sale of the company and they had to do it to make the price cheaper?

    Who knows. Hopefully, it'll bring the price down enough that Rivkin can get control back FOR the JHC.

    or at least maybe I can afford it...

  15. Chad Kermit

    Chad Kermit Well-Known Member

    Does anyone know, if the Henson's plan on investing any of their own millions back into the company if a management buyout happens. Are they considered one of the outside investors with the buy-back plan? Not that I want to sound harsh, but the Henson children got their pockets well padded with the EM deal despite the stock bombing. Half of the $600 million plus was in cash. I know it's hard for an indie to compete in the corporate world but looks like they ended up treating their employees not much different. Ones that had worked their long before they cut their teeth in the business/film world have lost their jobs and being part of the Henson culture.

    I remember right after the deal with EM Brian flew to the various henson offices to reassure staff or their benifits and employment. Of course, a company going bust changes all that. I can only imagine that all the layoffs were part of the reason Brian departed his post besides wanting a more active career in directing.

    Do we think any of these people will be brought back once cash flow is better? Or will they want to come back? Or is this a way of cutting the bottom-line for good.

    I know overall the Henson kids may be great people but a little bit of me thinks that greed overshadowed their judgement. They knew they were being way over paid for when sold. Even without Rizzo around a rat could be detected in the guize of EM. TV.

    Agree or disagree, those are my feelings on the topic. Hopefully the new era on the horizon is a brighter one.

  16. Well it has begun as of last friday the first of the workshop lay offs left the workshop for the last time.in the coming weeks more will follow.To bad no one in L.A. knews what they were doing.And to top it all off, the company didnt even have the courtesy to send out an internal memo to all the henson employees letting them know what was happening and thanking the workshop veterans for there 20 some odd years of hard work ,loyalty,and dedication to the JIM HENSON COMPANY, and all of the productions they were involved with.shame on you Charlie Rivkin and the rest of the corporate hoard. :mad:
  17. radionate

    radionate Well-Known Member

    This is just breaking my heart. It just seems like the end of an era, and I don't think any of the magic is ever going to be re-captured. As a kid, I dreamed of one day being able to walk around the workshop and see where all the magic started. To pull out a drawer and see monster parts, or see someone sewing a new gown for Piggy. Alas, that dream will now never happen.

    Will Henson be shutting down the NYC offices next? If they do, what will happen to the stained glass window of Bert, Ernie, Frank, and Jim? What will become of the mural. I'm sure there are some incredible things hidden away in the workshop, I only hope they find way to perserve them for generations to come. If David Letterman, CBS, and the crew of the Ed Sullivan Theater can keep the pipes that Jim decorated (it was in the Ed Sullivan Theater wasn't it?), then I only hope that the new tenants of the workshop have the same respect, and honor the tradition of an era now long gone.

    To everyone in the workshop, my thoughts are with you. May you continue to find employement as fullfilling as rewarding as the so many years you gave to the JHC, and may you forever know the impact you had on so many throughout the years.

    Thank you.
  18. Luke

    Luke Well-Known Member

    From what i've heard, the Henson's couldn't believe their luck when the EMTV deal worked out - i think they were laughing to be honest. Especially as EMTV actually bought a lot less than they thought they were getting when it came down to rights, and also the power to make dramatic changes. Apparently EMTV have found it hard to control JHC anyway intially because of the German/American divide so it doesn't suprise me to see all this stuff happening now they've founf their feet.

    I don't think the Rivkin buyout is considered a serious option unless EMTV goes bust or something - it would totally suprise me. I actually think the company would be far more likely split up into pieces and sold off before that happened, because they'd likely get a bit more money. Apparently Rivkin's mystery backer is a German bank anyway and the German business world isn't that strong right now. Whoever mentioned the Henson kids pockets being lined - they are not really longer much to do with JHC so unlikely they would use that cash to fund a management buyout. I've always thought it likely they might just buy the Muppet characters but then they're smart and just because the brand is doing well in the 25th anniversary year doesn't really mean there won't be more quiet periods in the future.

    As i think Foz (Kevin) asked, i don't think closing the workshop means they'd drastically accept any lesser sale price - it's more to do with the fact they don't have that great need to keep the NY workshop going. They have the Creature Shop in London, and also could easily begin to have outside sources create the puppets, and there isn't that much work for the guys right now. The Henson Company hasn't had much money for a long time now - they have been allowed to keep the licensing end up, but all programme distribution is now done directly by EMTV in Germany and Henson don't (as far as i'm aware) see much of the money. The profits from all the 25th anniversary stuff won't come in until the middle of next year so that doesn't help much - especially with new projects to fund right now. To top it all off - EMTV is more or less on the rocks, and trying to get more out of the Henson Company rather than actually giving them any money so times are pretty desperate. I think JHC has quite a lot of debts on top of this too.

    So yeah it must have had a lot to do with laying off as many staff as they could, saving on office space, and saving on resources. I suspect a split of the Creature Shop, like the Sesame Muppets, is also soon to come. I wouldn't think that EMTV is the big bad wolf in all of this though - i think a lot of the staff are very disatisfied with Rivkins performance, and i certainly don't think his hands are the best the company could be in once there is some kind of sale. People have begun to see him as the head of the 'family' and thats very far from the truth - the whole family aspect of Henson was pretty much lost once the kids took the money and left ----- but then i'm sure there are a few things they know right now that WE don't, so they will have their reasons and i can totally understand that.
  19. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I agree completely Luke, I think it is not fair to judge the Henson kids or EMTV without knowing all the circumstances we're not privy to as fans. It does cetainly seem that the EMTV deal was a very bad one for the company, but from what I have heard from various sources the company has not been completely stable financially over the past ten years.

    In fact, I think it is a testament to the Henson family that the company wasn't gobbled up by a bigger studio years ago when so many others have.

    Hopefully someone with deep pockets and a real interest in perserving the characters will by the company whole and it won't be sold off piecemeal.
  20. Rowlfdude

    Rowlfdude Member

    "If David Letterman, CBS, and the crew of the Ed Sullivan Theater can keep the pipes that Jim decorated (it was in the Ed Sullivan Theater wasn't it?)"

    Actually, Jim painted the pipes before an appearence on the Jack Paar show on NBC and now the studio space is occupied by Conan O'Brian.


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