After a 14-year courtship, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy are finally getting married — to Mickey Mouse. Actually, Mickey is buying the Muppets outright. In a deal announced Tuesday, Disney said it was buying the rights to the characters from ”The Muppet Show,” the various Muppet movies, and the kiddie show ”Bear in the Big Blue House” from the Henson family, heirs to Muppet creator Jim Henson. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Disney had made overtures to buy the Muppets 14 years ago, but the deal fell through with Henson’s unexpected death in 1990. Over the next several years, Disney entered into partnerships with the Muppeteers, resulting in a Disney World 3-D film attraction and a number of theatrical features (like ”Muppet Treasure Island.”). The family sold the rights to Germany’s EM.TV in 2000, then bought back the rights in 2003 to all but the ”Sesame Street” Muppets, which EM.TV had sold to the PBS series’ producers. (That’s why Big Bird and Elmo aren’t part of the new Disney deal.)
No word on how Disney’s Muppet acquisition will affect the hostile takeover bid being mounted against the Mouse House by cable giant Comcast. (On Tuesday, Disney’s board formally rejected the buyout offer.) But Kermit and Piggy were probably pleased, given the response from their corporate caretakers. ”We have been very impressed by how the Disney company treats its own characters,” Jim Henson Company co-CEO Lisa Henson said in a statement. ”We feel if the Muppets are treated with as much care in the long term as Walt Disney’s characters are, we will have properly served the legacy.”