August 28, 1989 – CEO Michael Eisner and Jim Henson Announce Disney’s Plan to Acquire Henson Associates
“I think hooking up with the Disney company creates such a wonderful force.” – Jim Henson.
On August 28, 1989, Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Jim Henson announced a deal for Disney’s acquisition of Henson Associates. The deal included all characters owned by Henson Associates, excluding the characters from Sesame Street (owned then by the Children’s Television Workshop, now owned by Sesame Workshop). Although the purchase price was not disclosed to the public, it was estimated that the price was about $150 million. The news was announced on an episode of ABC’s Good Morning America by both Eisner and Henson, which was then followed by a news conference at Disney-MGM Studios. The acquisition plan included Henson producing movies, television shows, Disney Channel specials featuring the characters, and attractions for the theme parks. Disney would not only acquire the Henson library, including all Muppet films and special films such as Labyrinth, but would also have exclusive rights to merchandising, publishing, and anything else related to the Muppet characters.
Unfortunately, the plans fell through after Henson’s death in 1990, with Disney and the Henson family clashing over terms. Although the Jim Henson Company was sold to a German corporation called EM.TV, the company bought itself back in 2003, and a new set of negotiations with Disney was opened in 2004. In February of that year, Disney successfully purchased the Muppets and characters of The Bear in the Big Blue House.