September 27, 2005

Kermit the Frog Goes on ‘Tour’ in Disney Campaign

LOS ANGELES -- Kermit the Frog, perhaps the world's most famous amphibian, will embark on a worldwide "tour" next month to celebrate his 50 years in show business and re-launch the Muppets franchise as part of the Walt Disney Co., it was announced on Tuesday.

The green, fuzzy puppet character, who got his start in 1955 on the local Washington, D.C., television program, "Sam and Friends," was scheduled to appear on the Disney-owned ABC network's "Good Morning America" to kick off the promotion.

His first stop will be the small, west Texas town of Kermit on October 14, followed by visits to 50 destinations around the globe over the next 15 months, including the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Great Wall of China and even a Frog Leg Festival in Fellsmere, Florida.

The launch of Kermit's 50th anniversary tour coincides with several events aimed at drawing new attention to the Muppets brand, which was created by the late Jim Henson and acquired by Disney in April 2004.

Last month, Disney issued a DVD boxed set of the first season of the 1970s hit television series "The Muppet Show," and earlier this month Hyperion Publishing released "It's Not Easy Being Green and Other Things to Consider," a book of insights into the philosophy and humor of the Muppets.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a stamp honoring Henson and his creations, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the Swedish Chef.

Chris Curtin, general manager and vice president of the Muppets Holding Company, said the Disney-owned venture also is developing an "American Idol"-style "reality" TV series featuring Kermit and friends conducting a talent search "for the next Muppet."

Henson, who died of a bacterial infection in 1990 at the age of 54, originally constructed Kermit from the fabric of his mother's coat in the spring of 1955.

Kermit first appeared as more of a lizard-like creature on "Sam and Friends" but had fully evolved into a frog by the time he made his network TV debut on NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Steve Allen in the fall of 1956.

Fourteen years later, Henson brought Kermit and other Muppets to the landmark educational show "Sesame Street," where they became household names.

The success of "The Muppet Show," which premiered in 1976, led to Kermit and friends' motion picture debut in "The Muppet Movie" in 1979. Kermit has since gone on to star in six feature films, has appeared on the cover of Life magazine and received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002.