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Why wasn't there a longer video deal in the 1980s?

Discussion in 'Muppet Merchandise' started by minor muppetz, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Recently, I've noticed that, in the US, before Jim Henson's death in 1990 pretty much all video deals were short-lived and seemed to focus on a single type of video. In other countries, companies such as Virgin Video and Palace released more productions on video (including some specials that haven't been released on VHS in the US or even on DVD). After Jim Henson's death, pretty much all video deals were long-term.

    Does anybody seem to know why this might have been? Could the company have just not been interested in grouping all the Jim Henson Productions under one label/company?

    The first Henson video releases were the Muppet Home Video releases, distributed by the Walt Disney Company. This only included four specials based on children's stories and two Fraggle Rock compilations (one of which was the only release by the Muppet Music Home Video label, but still used a Muppet Home Video opening logo sequence).

    Then there was the Jim Henson's Muppet Video series by Playhouse Video, containing ten Muppet Show compilations. Of course Playhouse was the childrens division of CBS/FOX, which at the time at the video rights to the first three Muppet movies, so in a way the same company released ten compilations and the movies. Too bad the movies weren't released under the Muppet Video label as well.

    And during that time HBO Home Video released several Fraggle Rock videos, though considering HBO broadcast the show, it makes a bit of sense that HBO released the videos then (maybe that was part of the initial contract).

    And then in the late-1980s, Kids Klassics released the Muppet Babies Video Storybook releases, which began in either 1986 or 1987 (and McDonald Home Video released episodes of the show at some point in the late-1980s), Lorimar released the Jim Henson's Play-Along Video series in 1988, and also in 1988 You're the Director and Muppet Madness were released for the Interactivision console (since that was basically a video game console it makes sense for a different company to make it; there weren't many VHS-based game systems).

    After Henson's death, the company had many long-term video deals, with Buena Vista (Jim Henson Video), Columbia Home Video (Jim Henson Home Entertainment), Hit! (also Jim Henson Home Entertainment, though the main company got more emphasis than the Henson label), and Lionsgate (which hasn't used any special video label for it's Henson releases).
  2. Daffney

    Daffney Active Member

    A very good question.

    Really, I think Jim had certain projects/properties intended for different companies. (See, Playhouse had Muppet Show compilations, Kids Klassics had the Muppet Babies storybooks, Lorimar had the Play-Along Videos, and Disney had four specials).

    The planned Disney deal would've had all properties together, but it never came to be.

    CBS/FOX had the first two Muppet films under license from ITC (this dates back when ITC licensed their films to Magnetic Video, which was at the time owned by Fox). CBS co-owned TriStar Pictures during the time of MTM. Putting the Muppet Video label on the films would've complicated matters.
  3. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I don't know how it would have complicated matters (though I think CBS/Fox already released the first two movies by the time the Playhouse Videos were released). I am a little surprised, though; I would have thought Henson bought the distribution rights by then. Maybe that's why the Muppet Video label only included TMS compilations and no additional Henson productions.
  4. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Now that I think about it, does anybody know if the Muppet Home Video releases were out of print by the time Playhouse started releasing compilations?

    Man, thinking about these 1980s video labels/deals makes me wish for Jim Henson's Red Book to have some sort of entry on them soon. There's probably not much to say about the Muppet Home Video line (which was just the Tales from MuppetLand specials and Fraggle Rock compilations), but pretty much all other 1980s video releases included some new footage.

    Recently I reread Jim Hill's 2001 article concerning Jim Henson's desire to sell to Disney. I don't know if this is true or just gossip, but it was said that Henson had to cancel/buy out all Muppet merchandise deals when negotiating with Disney. I wonder if that's when all those videos went out of print. In the same article it was said that before his death Jim Henson kept trying to get Muppet video deals... Considering there were plenty of Muppet video releases back then, I wonder if it meant he wanted to get more existing productions released.
  5. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Well, the site recently did an entry on the Playhouse and Play-Along Videos (the entry was on the Playhouse videos, but the article focused more on the Play-Along tapes). http://www.henson.com/jimsredbook/2011/10/01/101-21984/
  6. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I recently found an HBO Video copy of a Fraggle Rock video (I think it was Wembly's water episode... Difficult to remember the full title at this hour), and when looking at the box (I didn't purchase it), I noticed in the bottom corner what looked like the Muppet Home Video logo from the very early 1980s, only it said "Muppet Video" instead of "Muppet Home Video". Very interesting.
  7. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Thinking more about it, I wonder why whenever The Jim Henson Company has a video distribution deal, it only lasts a short time. Buena Vista Home Video had Jim Henson Video from 1993-1996 (actually I think that deal ended in 1997, but there weren't any Jim Henson Video releases that year), then Columbia had the rights from 1998-2004 (I think that's the longest amount of time a video company had the rights to the majority of Henson properties), Hit! had the rights from 2005-2009, Lionsgate had it from 2009-2012 (a rather short time compared to others, though Lionsgate did own Hit before "gaining" the Henson video rights), and now another company has the video rights to Jim Henson's family library.

    Other video companies that control the video rights to properties they otherwise don't own seem to have the rights longer. Not sure if Paramount actually owned the distribution rights to the Peanuts specials, but they did put out the videos for almost a decade before Warner got the video rights. And for the most part all companies that had the video rights to Sesame Street had them for a sizeable amount of time, though it seems most of those companies ended their license because they either ended or dropped their children's divisions.

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