NEW YORK — The Muppets may have taken Manhattan, but they’re getting a spiffy new home in Queens.
Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie of "Sesame Street" fame, the stars of "Fraggle Rock" and other puppets, costumes and items from throughout Muppets creator Jim Henson’s career have been donated to the Museum of the Moving Image, which is building a new gallery to house them, the institution announced Tuesday.
Encompassing almost 400 items ranging from original puppets to behind-the-scenes footage, the gift is a boon for the 25-year-old museum, which saw attendance skyrocket during a temporary exhibit in 2011 and 2012 of Henson’s work. And it fulfills a cherished goal for Henson’s widow and collaborator, Jane Henson, who died last month at 78.
"She loved the Muppet characters as though they were part of her own family," and the actual puppets themselves were very special to her, one of the couple’s daughters, Cheryl Henson, said at a news conference. "It was her dream to have these dear friends find a good home where they could be seen and enjoyed, and where new audiences could learn about the many facets of my father’s work."
The exhibit is to open next year at the museum in the Long Island City neighborhood, across the East River from midtown Manhattan. The city is chipping in $2.75 million toward the $5 million cost for a project it sees as furthering its goal of persuading more tourists to venture beyond Manhattan.
"The only major item that I know will not be represented is the Muppet that they made of me," Mayor Michael Bloomberg joked at the news conference, where he bantered with Miss Piggy about the city’s film and television industry and reminisced about their joint work in the 2008 TV special "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa," which featured Bloomberg as himself.
"You were wonderful — almost lifelike," the porcine prima donna quipped Tuesday. (For the record, Bloomberg’s personal Muppet has a nice home of its own, in a reading room at the mayor’s Manhattan town house.)
A puppeteer, screenwriter and producer, Henson introduced a raft of beloved and familiar characters during a career that spanned from the 1950s until his death in 1990, at 53. Some, including his Muppets and Fraggles, appeared in both television shows and movies — among them the 1984 film "The Muppets Take Manhattan," which depicted the fuzzy crew striving to stage a Broadway musical.
While being a shrewd and innovative businessman, "Jim Henson created indelible, memorable characters that live with us throughout a variety of media," said Carl Goodman, executive director of the Museum of the Moving Image. Henson’s career showed "that you can march to the beat of a different drummer and succeed in this world," Goodman said.