Had he not sadly passed away in 1990, Jim Henson would be 77 today. But his work lives on, and with a new movie due out next year, The Muppets are continuing to entertain new generations. Today we're celebrating Jim Henson by sharing some amazing facts about his most famous creation: Kermit the Frog.
He was made out of a coat
The early days of the Muppets were not glamorous and puppets were often crafted with whatever materials were readily available. The original Kermit was made out of an old coat belonging to Jim Henson's mother. His eyes, as you might have guessed, were Ping Pong balls.
He wasn't originally a frog
In his early appearances on the locally broadcast TV show 'Sam and Friends,' Kermit was a creature of indeterminate species. He didn't become a frog until at least 10 years later. Johnny Carson may have been the first person to identify Kermit as a frog on television.
He wasn't the original star of 'The Muppet Show'
Two pilots were produced in the process of developing 'The Muppet Show,' but neither one had a frog at the helm. Kermit appeared in both 'The Muppets Valentine Show' and 'The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence,' but only in secondary roles. Fortunately for the frog's career, neither Wally of the Valentine's Day special nor Nigel of 'Sex and Violence' worked out as hosts, so Kermit ended up with the gig.
His date of birth is a mystery
Kermit was "born" in 1955, the year of his creation and television debut. But the day of the year on which the frog celebrates another year of life has never been clear.
May 9th, the day 'Sam and Friends' debuted, is frequently cited as Kermit's birthday, but other dates have been suggested, including September 24th (Jim Henson's birthday) and February 29th (Leap Year Day).
Kermit has yet to put the controversy to rest, but whatever day he celebrates, he looks pretty good for a 58-year-old frog.
His puppeteers have the same birthday
Jim Henson was born on September 24th, 1936. After his untimely death in 1990, puppeteer Steve Whitmire was selected to replace Henson as the sole performer of Kermit. By sheer coincidence, Steve Whitmire's birthday is September 24th, 1959.
He has a big family
Though we know very little about most of his family (aside from his nephew Robin), Kermit has mentioned his numerous siblings on multiple occasions. The exact number seems to vary greatly, but is a least 2,000. Either Kermit's family is still growing or even he loses count of his various brothers and sisters.
This is true of most Muppets, with a few exceptions. A puppeteer usually operates the puppet's head and mouth with his or her dominant hand while the other hand operates the puppet's hand or arm. Since most people are right-handed, most Muppets are left-handed.
What is unusual is that Kermit has five fingers. Most Muppets have only four.
He has an honorary degree
That's "Doctor the Frog" to you! Kermit's degree comes from Southampton College, which awarded him what is probably the world's only doctorate in Amphibious Letters. Kermit also gave the commencement address for Southampton's class of 1996. You can read the transcript on Muppet Wiki.
Different countries have their own ways of saying his name. Often it's just "Kermit" plus the local translation of "the Frog." In France, he goes by "Kermit la grenouille." "Kermit der Frosch" is his German name, while Italians call him "Kermit il ranocchio."
But some countries give him a different name entirely. Mexico knows Kermie as "La Rana René," while Brazilians call him "Caco o Sapo." In Spain, he goes by "La Rana Gustavo."
He and Miss Piggy might be married
This depends on how you interpret the final scene in 'The Muppets Take Manhattan.' There is a wedding between Kermit and Miss Piggy at the end of the film, but it's not clear if it's between the real Kermit and Piggy or just the characters with the same names who they play in the movie.
Piggy has since claimed that their nuptials were real, but Kermit says it was just a movie. Their dialogue in 2011's 'The Muppets' seems to indicate that the two were never wed. Guess we'll have til 'Muppets Most Wanted' to find out.