10 Surreal and Experimental Works by ‘Muppets’ Maestro Jim Henson

With a recent fan campaign asking The Academy to let The Muppets host the Oscars after that whole messy Brett Ratner debacle, and a new film on the way next week (the first one in twelve years!), we’d like to think that Jim Henson is watching and smiling. Before the puppeteer created his Muppets universe and the iconic characters of Sesame Street, the beloved artist was tripping everyone out with his experimental films and surreal commercials. Henson’s lesser-known works are tiny avant-garde masterpieces that are infused with the same humor, character, and vision as his enduring legacy. Past the break, dig into Henson’s mind-bending movies. Feel free to share your favorites below.

Wilkins Coffee Commercials

While Henson was making a place for himself in the puppet world throughout the ’60s with the creation of a successful live-action TV series, Sam and Friends — a pivotal work that started to transform the way we saw puppets (as expressive beings versus wooden objects) — he made a slew of commercials. The most famous of the bunch is for coffee company Wilkins, for which Henson developed an early Kermit puppet named Wilkins. His grumpy friend is amusingly dubbed Wontkins — who refuses to try the “rich … rich … double rich” cup of joe. In “retaliation,” Wilkins beats, shoots, drowns, stabs, and worse to get the puppet to submit to a taste. It’s darkly hilarious and was such a hit that coffee companies everywhere wanted a version of their own.