Jim Henson’s First Commercials

In 1957, Jim Henson was approached by a Washington, D.C. coffee company to produce commercials for Wilkins Coffee. The local stations only had ten seconds for station identification, so the Muppet commercials had to be lightning-fast — essentially, eight seconds for the commercial pitch and a two-second shot of the product.

From 1957 to 1961, Henson made 179 commercials for Wilkins Coffee […] The ads were so successful and well-liked that they sparked a series of remakes for companies in other local markets throughout the 1960s.

The ads starred the cheerful Wilkins, who liked Wilkins Coffee, and the grumpy Wontkins, who hated it. Wilkins would often do serious harm to Wontkins in the ads — blowing him up, stabbing him with a knife, and smashing him with a club, among many other violent acts.


Once I get past the crazy violence all I can think of is: goddam that’s a lot of variations on a theme!

What if, in the next thing I make, I forced myself to make 100 different versions of the thing? The value of each idea goes down, but the cumulative effect is much different.

More interesting to me is whether or not I could even come up with 100 versions of anything. Seems like a hell of a task.