I was just on Muppet Central and most of the muppet fans there are not happy about this. However, as someone who is both a huge Disney and Muppet fan, I am pretty excited about this deal that was over 15 years in the making. I hope this means that we will see more of the Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, etc. on tv and elsewhere. And maybe, finally, that awesome Muppet ride-through attraction will come to MGM studios! I've been dreaming of that ride for years...
?Michael Eisner?s long-standing passion and respect for the Muppets gives me and my family even more confidence in Disney as a partner,? said Brian Henson
I just hope Brian knows what he's getting into. He seems to have a fair opinion of Eisner. Unless he's really talking about Roy, who has been meeting with the Henson family for some time now. Perhaps this is a sign of good things to come...
For those that would care to read the complete statement, here's the e-mail Disney staffers received just three hours ago:
From: Eisner, Michael [mailto:Michael.Eisner@disney.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2004 4:07 PM
Subject: 2/17/2004 - Kermit & Co.
Dear Fellow Employee:
I am pleased to share some very exciting news for our company, as today we announced an agreement to acquire the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House from The Jim Henson Company.
Disney and the Muppets have always represented a perfect fit, as both offer distinct and wonderful characters that are embraced by families around the world. Over the years, our two companies have undertaken a number of successful projects together, including the fantastic Muppet 3D attraction at Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's California Adventure, as well as several films and TV specials. Also, Bear in the Big Blue House has been a popular mainstay on Disney Channel. In 1990, we were in negotiations to acquire the Muppets when Jim Henson tragically died. Now, this marriage made in family entertainment heaven is finally proceeding to the altar.
Our company and the Henson Company have signed a binding purchase agreement and expect the transaction to close within two months, subject to receiving the necessary regulatory clearances. Just so you know, it will not include the "Sesame Street" characters, such as Big Bird and Elmo, which are separately owned by Sesame Workshop. The deal does include non-exclusive production and consulting agreements under which Henson will develop potential new programming featuring the "Muppets" and "Bear in the Big Blue House" for Disney.
This new relationship has added personal meaning for me, since I worked with Jim Henson on the very first Muppets TV special in the 1960s. It was obvious at the time that he was a creative genius and, as with another creative genius - Walt Disney - his creations continue to live on past him.
Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the Muppet gang are well-known and beloved around the world and will have an opportunity to be seen and loved by millions more well into the future through Disney's distribution channels at home and abroad, including home video, family television programming and consumer products, in addition to their existing theme park presence at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. We are honored that the Henson family has agreed to pass on to us the stewardship of these cherished characters. We are also pleased that this transaction puts us in a position to work with the Henson Company on future projects.
This great acquisition provides just one more indication of the strength and growth potential of The Walt Disney Company as well as the worldwide appeal of the extraordinary Disney family brand.
To clarify, Disney only owns the group of characters known as Muppets, which incidentally doesn't include Fraggle Rock, labyrinth or Dark Crystal. This is so wierd. The Jim Henson company will continue to exist independantly but they won't own Kermit? I can't imagine that's what Jim wanted. I would rather it was all or nothing.
Here's the official press release. A little more info than the Disney version.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE DISNEY CONTACTS: John W. Spelich 818-560-8543
Michelle Bergman The Walt Disney Company 818-560-8231
HENSON CONTACTS: Debbie McClellan
The Jim Henson Company
Kekst and Company
The Walt Disney Company and The Jim Henson Company Sign Agreement for Disney to buy the ?Muppets? and ?Bear in the Big Blue House?
Deal includes worldwide distribution and merchandising rights
BURBANK AND HOLLYWOOD, Calif., Feb. 17, 2004 - The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) and The Jim Henson Company today announced that they have entered into an agreement under which Disney will acquire the beloved ?Muppets? and ?Bear in the Big Blue House? properties from Henson.
The transaction includes all Muppet assets, including the Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal characters, the Muppet film and television library, and all associated copyrights and trademarks, as well as all the ?Bear in the Big Blue House? characters, television library, copyrights and trademarks. The parties have signed a binding purchase agreement and expect the transaction to close within two months, subject to receiving the necessary regulatory clearances. The transaction does not include the ?Sesame Street? characters, such as Big Bird and Elmo, which are separately owned by Sesame Workshop. The deal also includes non-exclusive production and consulting agreements under which Henson will develop potential new programming featuring the ?Muppets? and ?Bear in the Big Blue House? for Disney.
Brian Henson, who with his sister Lisa is co-chair and co-chief executive officer of The Jim Henson Company, said, ?This new and very important relationship will enable our two companies to combine our respective talents and resources in ways that will fully realize the tremendous potential of the Muppet and Bear franchises. Michael Eisner?s long-standing passion and respect for the Muppets gives me and my family even more confidence in Disney as a partner.?
Lisa Henson said, ?In the months before his death in 1990, my father Jim Henson pursued extensive discussions with The Walt Disney Company based on his strong belief that Disney would be a perfect home for the Muppets. As such, the deal we announced today is the realization of my father?s dream, and ensures that the Muppet characters will live, flourish and continue to delight audiences everywhere, forever. My brothers and sisters-Brian, Cheryl, John, Heather-and I are so proud to have the Muppets living under the same roof as Walt Disney?s own timeless characters. We could not possibly be more pleased.?
?Since the time I worked with Jim Henson on the first Muppets TV special in the 1960s, it was obvious to me that his characters would make a deep imprint on the hearts of families worldwide, and this announcement is the culmination of a long-time desire to welcome them into The Walt Disney Company,? said Michael Eisner, Disney chairman and chief executive officer.
?Kermit and Miss Piggy are well-known and beloved around the world and will have an opportunity to be seen and loved by millions more well into the future through Disney?s distribution channels at home and abroad, including home video, family television programming and consumer products, in addition to the existing theme park presence at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort. We are honored that the Henson family has agreed to pass on to us the stewardship of these cherished assets. We are also pleased that this transaction puts us in a position to work with the Henson company on future projects,? Mr. Eisner said.
Disney, which owns broadcast and cable networks reaching over 120 million households worldwide, operates or licenses theme parks on three continents, and offers home video and consumer products worldwide, is planning to re-launch the Muppets with new TV specials and series. Disney also expects to expand and enhance the global licensing and home video initiatives based on this new production for the Classic Muppets, the infant/preschool property Muppet Babies, and Bear in the Big Blue House.
The Jim Henson Company, which was purchased by the Henson family in July 2003 from the German media company EM.TV, will retain all other assets of the company including Jim Henson?s Creature Shop and ownership and rights to all other characters and entertainment properties in The Jim Henson Company?s extensive film and television library, including Fraggle Rock, Farscape, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Storyteller, The Hoobs, and various other properties. The Jim Henson Company will also actively pursue partnerships and other strategic arrangements to exploit these and other existing and new properties and to build their value over the long term.
FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS This press release contains various "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 regarding the proposed transaction between the The Walt Disney Company (the ?Company?) and The Jim Henson Company and involving risks and uncertainties related to the occurrence of future events. These forward-looking statements are based on management's current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about the current economic environment, the Company and its industry. Certain factors that could cause actual events not to occur as expressed in the forward-looking statement include, but are not limited to, (i) the failure to obtain the necessary antitrust or foreign regulatory clearances and (ii) satisfaction of various other closing conditions contained in the definitive asset purchase agreement. Other potential risks and uncertainties are discussed in the Company's reports and other documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission from time to time. The Walt Disney Company assumes no obligation to update the forward-looking information. Such forward looking statements are based upon many estimates and are inherently subject to significant economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies, many of which are beyond the control of management of the Company. Inclusion of such forward-looking statements herein should not be regarded as a representation by the Company that the statements will prove to be correct.
I have no clue what to think over any of this... I love the entire Muppet family. I've always thought they would be a perfect fit for Disney. I knew that the Jim Henson Co. needed help after they bought back the company themselves last year. But with all the turmoil at Disney right now... Is this Eisner's way of trying to save his job? "Hey, we may not have any new stuff from PIXAR anymore, but we have the entire Muppet library, and more people like Kermit than Woody..." Or is this being done now, when Disney is vulnerable and more likely to pay top dollar to Henson, with the Henson family hoping that two months from now, when the deal is complete, that Eisner is a memory? Aggh!!! To quote from "Peanuts," "I CAN"T STAND IT!!!"
so basically Disney bought the copyrights, the puppets and the already produced stuff in regards of the Bear and the Muppets. Hmmm ... so who is going to actually produce new stuff?
I mean, the statement includes:
The deal does include non-exclusive production and consulting agreements under which Henson will develop potential new programming featuring the "Muppets" and "Bear in the Big Blue House" for Disney.
I've read that the purchase of the Muppets was one of the ways Disney could make itself less interesting to Comcast, since the Muppets in recent years, for the most part, have not been very profitable (Hension sold them to the German company, who did "not much" with them, who sold them back to Henson for a huge loss).
Right, you are. However, don't be too surprised if Mike pulls a couple more "Kermits" out of his... er, hat... before Comcast can sweeten their offer.
Hey, isn't that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal (fifth-richest man on Earth *and* one of the largest investors in Apple) lurking in the wings waiting to make an appearance? Didn't he and Steve Jobs hook up just ten days ago for a long confab?
Oh well, perhaps the prince just wanted to put in his order for a gold iPod mini. You think?