The Muppets are an American ensemble cast of puppet characters known for an absurdist, burlesque, and self-referential style of variety-sketch comedy. Created by Jim Henson in 1955, they are the focus of a media franchise that encompasses television, film, music, and other media associated with the characters. Originally owned by the Jim Henson Company for nearly five decades, the franchise was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 2004. The Muppets originated in the short-form television series Sam and Friends, which aired on WRC-TV and in syndication from 1955 to 1961. Following appearances on late-night talk shows and in advertising during the 1960s, the Muppets began appearing on the PBS children's television program Sesame Street (1969–present) during their formative years and attained celebrity status and international recognition through The Muppet Show (1976–1981), their flagship sketch comedy television series that received four Primetime Emmy Award wins and 21 nominations during its five-year run. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Muppets diversified into theatrical films, including The Muppet Movie (1979); The Great Muppet Caper (1981); and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). Disney began involvement with them in the late 1980s, during which Henson entered negotiations to sell The Jim Henson Company. The Muppets continued their media presence on television with The Jim Henson Hour (1989) and Muppets Tonight (1996–98), both of which were similar in format to The Muppet Show, as well as the animated spinoff Muppet Babies (1984–91); three theatrical films: The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996) and Muppets from Space (1999); and the television film It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002). Disney acquired the Muppets from the Henson family in February 2004. Under Disney, subsequent projects included the television film The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005), the television special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (2008), two theatrical films: The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014), a primetime series (2015–2016), a reboot of Muppet Babies (2018–2022), the streaming television series Muppets Now (2020), the Halloween special Muppets Haunted Mansion (2021), and the streaming television series The Muppets Mayhem (2023). Throughout their nearly seven-decade existence, the Muppets have been regarded as a staple of the entertainment industry and popular culture in the United States and English-speaking areas around the world. They have been recognized by various cultural institutions and organizations, including the American Film Institute, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Library of Congress, and both Academies of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Television Arts and Sciences.

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