Muppets on Disney's menu after deal with Henson

MUMBAI: Now Mickey and Minnie Mouse will have the likes of Kermit and Miss Piggy for company. Walt Disney and The Jim Henson Company have announced an agreement under which Disney will acquire the Muppets and Bear in the Big Blue House properties from Henson.

Disney had spent the best part of the past 14 years pursuing the muppets. However, negotiations had fallen through after the company's founder Jim Henson died. A company release states that the transaction includes all Muppet assets, including the above mentioned Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal characters, the Muppet film and television library as well as all the "Bear in the Big Blue House" characters, the television library.

Both parties expect the transaction to close within two months, subject to receiving the necessary regulatory clearances. The transaction however 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.

Disney is planning to re-launch the Muppets with new television 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.

Disney chairman, CEO Michael Eisner added, "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. This announcement is the culmination of a long-time desire to welcome them into pour cmpany. Kermit and Miss Piggy are well-known and beloved around the world and will have an opportunity to be seen 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. All this is in addition to the existing theme park presence at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort."

German media company EM.TV had bought The Jim Henson Company in February 2000 for $680 million. It was then sold back last year for $78 million.

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