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JHC a former shell of its former self now adays?

Discussion in 'Henson Alternative' started by a_Mickey_Muppet, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I don't think HiT or Lionsgate were ever partnered with Henson to make the Fraggle Rock movie. They just had the video rights. It is a little sad how Henson STILL hasn't been able to get the Fraggle Rock movie or Dark Crystal prequel released, considering those properties are quite popular, and in an age where '80s nostalgia is big. Then again, I think the Fraggle Rock movie has changed hands distributor-wise because of disagreements over using "edgy" humor (or at least the writer had disagreements over that, don't know what Henson's point of view on the subject was).

    Of course, if Henson hadn't sold the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House franchises, we probably wouldn't have gotten so much Fraggle Rock stuff (we probably would have gotten DVDs). During Henson's last few years of Muppet ownership their main focus seemed to be on the Muppets. Bear in the Big Blue House, the Creature Shop, Sesame Street, and to a certain extent whatever television shows were in production at the time. Columbia Home Video never released any Fraggle Rock videos (not sure if it was because of Columbia or Henson), and Palisades turned down the prospects of making Fraggle Rock figures because of lack of retailer support (though it seems there were quite a few Fraggle plush and DVDs at the time, or maybe that was after the sale). Once the Muppets were out of Henson's hands, they were suddenly getting Fraggle Rock on DVD, and have slowly gotten out more Fraggle merchandise and rebuilt the puppets for new appearances. And Henson seems to have also slowly put out more of its older titles that hadn't gotten much attention in years... I'd like to say that the company paid attention again to Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (even though it had been on DVD before then), and slowly more '80s and early '90s Henson productions were being released on DVD, and by now more obscure titles (like Doozer Music and Peek-A-Boo) are available digitally. There's still stuff Henson owns that haven't had releases since 2004, like Billy Bunny's Animal Songs, Aliens in the Family, and Family Rules.

    When Disney bought the Muppets and I heard about what they got the distribution rights to, I was excited. Disney owns its own home video company and a number of TV channels (Henson always had to partner with other video distributors and cable channels). I figured that all that Muppet stuff would be widely available, whether on DVD or on The Disney Channel/ABC Family/ABC. I can't remember if it was becoming rare at the time for old programs to be rebroadcast heavily (and now it seems older shows are making a comeback). It's a little surprising that more of the stuff Henson retains the rights to have been released on video than what Disney got the rights to. But maybe it helps that the majority of what Henson retains don't require music clearances while the majority of what Disney got do require clearances.

    Henson had usually retained the rights to all characters it created as well as retaining television distribution of the majority of its shows, but needed to parter with other companies for other things. Henson needed to partner with Hallmark for The Odyssey Channel and Kermit Channel, I assume they needed other companies to distribute the various Muppet video games and software, other companies needed to release Muppet albums, and Henson always needed a major film distributor to release its films (even if Henson did eventually get the rights back for some films), and of course while Henson has had many video labels, it always needed a more major video company to distribute them. And it seems these deals rarely last more than five years (the Columbia Home Video deal seems to have been the longest, lasting from 1998-2004, coincidentally ending when Disney got the Muppets and Bear). I wonder why these contracts weren't renewed after five years (I can see Columbia being disinterested in renewing when they could no longer release Muppet or Bear videos).
    LaniArianna likes this.
  2. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I've often wondered about what rights Henson (and now Disney) had in regards to all of the productions that were distributed by other companies. I know Henson retained the rights to all characters created for the productions, and possibly other things. Not sure about songs or scripts (I've always noticed the end credits to Follow That Bird list Warner Bros., not CTW, as the sole copyright holder of the script, not sure off-hand if that applies to all the other Henson movies). Legal documents regarding the 2004 deal were posted online earlier this year, and there is a part that notes that Henson held no copyright to MTM, MFS, or Rocky Mountain Holiday. There were also lists of Muppet entertainment properties and retained entertainment properties, I just recently realized that neither specifically said they were distribution rights but obviously were (unless I'm wrong)... The list of Muppet entertainement properties first listed everything Henson had the distribution rights to, and then a smaller list of properties that were held by other companies, though that fact wasn't listed there (it even listed the Muppet movies that Disney always held the copyright to). And then the list of Henson retained properties listed everything the company retains the distribution rights to, with no listing of properties that other companies own the distribution rights to (no mention of Dog City, Dinosaurs, The Witches, or Buddy), though it does list Labyrinth, which Sony has the distribution rights to (I've also noticed the credits for Being Elmo mention the movie belongs to Henson, with no mention of Sony or Tri-Star Pictures).

    And I wonder about the productions distributed by other companies. There's hardly a Muppet or Henson retrospective that doesn't represent The Muppets Take Manhattan in some way (it makes sense for the post-Henson films to not be represented in a biography or documentary on Jim Henson since those came after he died). I think the CNN People's Profiles documentary is the only Jim Henson documentary to not include any clips from MTM, not sure if it was because of ownership (that same documentary does have clips from Labyrinth which is also owned by Sony) or not (that documentary was rushed). Maybe it's just me but I feel like The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson has more clips from MTM than any of the other movies.

    Additionally, when Palisades had the movie license, that included the films Henson didn't own (I wonder if different distribution played a part in the license). Muppet Race Mania not only has tracks based on the first six movies, but also clips from all six (I guess it was easier to include clips from MTM and MFS since Sony owns the distribution rights to those and is the company that makes Playstation systems). The Muppet Show 25th anniversary album features songs from each of the first six movie soundtracks, regardless of whether the film was owned by Henson, Disney, or Sony, and that album was released by Rhino Records, which I'm sure isn't an affiliate of Disney or Sony (then again, does Sony own that recording of I'm Going to Go Back There Someday, which is on the MFS soundtrack but not in the film itself?).

    It's also interesting how the distribution rights to most of the video releases reverted back to Henson after the various distribution deals were over (does that apply to the Unstable Fables?). It doesn't apply to Kermit's Swamp Years, and I'm not sure whether it applies to the Muppet babies Video Storybook series or the IneractiVision releases, but it applies to pretty much all the other direct-to-video releases.
  3. pezbalubah

    pezbalubah Well-Known Member

    I'm not a fan of CG, but you have to admit Dinosaur Train and Sid the Science Kid are performance based digital puppetry which Henson developed with Waldo C Graphic. Both of these shows are the most popular Henson show since Bear in the Big Blue House. On the flip side, they're doing HA shows for adults which involve puppetry for adults which the Muppets were intended to be for.
  4. BoyRaisin2

    BoyRaisin2 Well-Known Member

    Well, it's tough. Henson has always been "The Muppets" and then "everything else." "The Muppets" was just another term of "The Jim Henson Company," just as the "Mouse" is a term for Disney. When Disney planned to buy it in 1990 or when EM.TV bought it in 2000 or when the other companies wanted to buy it after EM.TV, the focus was, of course, the Muppets. Fraggle Rock and Labyrinth are cool too, but mainly it was Kermit and Piggy. The evergreens. Shockingly to everyone, the Muppets--specifically--were sold to Disney.

    It's almost 10 years later, and to their credit, Henson's still independent! Many of the companies who were actually looking to buy Henson from EM.TV--Classic Media, HIT Entertainment, Entertainment Rights--have since been bought out. Of course they were bigger companies so maybe there was more to buy.

    On the bright side, Henson does have several successful children's shows on the air. They've had several video/digital distributors for their library in the past decade, but they have been good at getting their library on DVD, iTunes, and so forth. And the Chaplin lot seems spiffy.

    What works against them is their inability to get some things done. They've tried to and have formally announced their intentions to make Fraggle Rock and Dark Crystal movies several times, but they seem dead in the water. It's to the point that I don't even care. Muppets and Sesame are controlled by other companies (and doing just fine), but Henson is still defined by those brands, and hasn't done anything to fill that void. The only seem thing they seem to have a handle on graphic novels and improv shows. Boy, if anything has kept Henson in the public eye even marginally, it's those improv shows. It's a little sad, at least for me. Not to judge the quality of the improv shows, but for the home of The Muppets, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock, and later Bear in the Big Blue House and Farscape, it's "Stuffed and Unstrung" that defines the company now. But heck, if they're successful.

    I would really love to know why Disney didn't buy the whole company. At least new Muppet productions would be produced under the Jim Henson unit of The Walt Disney Company. The recent Henson bio went into great detail about the original Disney merger (my favorite chapter, I must admit). Man, I would love to know the details of EM.TV's buyout of Henson in 2000 to Disney's purchase of 2004, 'cause--folowing here on the forum at that time--it was just so bizarre.

    Obviously, the Muppets are--or were--the golden goose of Henson, and I never imagined the Henson characters being split up. Disney bought "Star Wars," but they didn't just buy "Star Wars," they bought Lucasfilm! Not the case with the Muppets. I still get a sort of kick (mixed with frustration) looking round the web and seeing how many people think "Henson owns the Muppets," or "Disney owns the Muppets, therefore they must own Henson" or some sort of variation. The Chick-fil-A situation brought that into focus, 'cause every story referenced Kermit and Piggy or Bert and Ernie, characters that are no longer owned by The Jim Henson Company, weird as that sounds. Or going to the Red Book. and seeing them blog about their history, mostly featuring characters they don't own.

    Henson is probably stable and all, but they seriously need to expand. 'Cause, as Brian Henson said at the time of the EM.TV deal, if it was hard for independent companies like theirs to thrive in this changing industry back in 2000, it must be somethin' in 2014. And this is a Henson without Kermit or Big Bird.

    Rant over. :fanatic:
  5. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    The main problem is the unwillingness of other companies to want to work with Henson. It's great that they're still independent, but last time I checked, unless you're a major studio, you need a partnership with another company... sometimes multiple ones, to have the funds to make and release a movie. And a good percentage of the time, even if you're a major studio. The Fraggle Rock movie was screwed over by Weinstein. What they did to their animated releases was shameful, and a good indication of what they'd do to the FR movie. Now some other company cheaply bought the rights to the film, if only for the reason to just buy a bunch of cheap movie rights to do nothing with. Henson was dealt a terrible hand there, and it's not really their fault.
  6. Peace

    Peace Active Member

    Well, lately they do seem to be developing more original shows, I think they're on the rise again.

    We have the Creature Shop Challenge coming up, which, in addition to letting someone work with the Henson Co. (plus prize money) it also seems to be a way of advertising the company and what they do - reminding people about the Henson company itself - not just the shadow of the Muppets.
  7. Xerus

    Xerus Well-Known Member

    The Jim Henson company did make a traditional puppet series for kids called, Pajanimals. I thought it was a clever series with original characters.

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