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Mr. Henson's creations were best known to parents and their children as the nonhuman stars of the Public Broadcasting Service's "Sesame Street." The program, produced by the Children's Television Workshop, began its 21st season last fall.

Mr. Henson joined the "Sesame Street" show early on, and created the characters Bert and Ernie especially for the show. But his characters got off to a rocky start, and didn't seem to keep children's attention, Mr. Henson once told New York magazine. "We needed something extra to grab them."

The result was the 8-foot-tall Big Bird, the perennial 5-year-old whose image has become the show's lasting icon.

Other Henson creations for the show included Cookie Monster, whose love for sweets made him an instant favorite with preschoolers; the Count, a not-so-scary vampire who lives to enumerate; and Oscar the Grouch, the garbage-can-dwelling grump who comments acerbicly on life on the Street.

Mr. Henson also found success with several motion pictures featuring the Muppets, and in directing such projects as this year's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie.

Mr. Henson sold his creations to the Walt Disney Company last year for a reported $100 million.

"Jim Henson was an authentic American genius," Joan Ganz Cooney, the chairman and chief executive of the ctw said in a statement. "We are grief stricken."

"Fortunately for the children of the world, Jim Henson's work will live on."--gb

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