The Muppets debuted on the television program Sam and Friends, which aired from 1955 to 1961. After appearing on skits in several late night talk shows and advertising commercials during the 1960s, the Muppets began appearing on Sesame Street in 1969. The Muppets attained celebrity status and international recognition through their breakout roles in The Muppet Show (1976–1981), a primetime television series that garnered four Primetime Emmy Award wins and twenty-one nominations during its five-year run.
In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the Muppets diversified into theatrical feature films, including The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984). The Walt Disney Company began involvement with the Muppets in the late 1980s, seeking to acquire the characters from the Jim Henson Company. The Muppets continued their presence in television and film in the 1990s with The Jim Henson Hour (1989), Muppets Tonight (1996–98)—a series continuation of The Muppet Show—and three films, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), and Muppets from Space (1999).
Disney acquired the rights to the Muppets franchise in 2004, allowing the characters to gain broader public exposure than in previous years. Under Disney's control, the Muppets enjoyed revitalized success, starring in two films—The Muppets (2011) and Muppets Most Wanted (2014)—as well as a short-lived primetime television series on ABC.
Throughout their six decades of existence, the Muppets have been regarded as a staple of the entertainment industry and popular culture in the United States, receiving recognition from various cultural institutions and organizations, such as the American Film Institute, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Library of Congress, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Muppets were created by puppeteer Jim Henson in the 1950s, beginning with Kermit the Frog, who would become Henson's signature character. Originally conceived as characters aimed at an adult audience, Henson stated that the term "Muppet" had been created as an amalgamation of the words "marionette" and "puppet", but also claimed that it was actually a word he had coined. In 1955, the Muppets were introduced on Sam and Friends, a television program that aired on WRC-TV in Washington D.C. Conceptualized by Jim and eventual wife Jane Henson, the series was notable for being the first form of puppet media not to include a physical proscenium arch within which the characters are presented, relying instead on the natural framing of the television set through which the program was viewed.