The case of the missing muppet

It's a big weekend in Atlanta and you'll understand why when you hear these names: Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Big Bird.Jeremy Campbell has an early look.

ATLANTA -- It's a big weekend in Atlanta and you'll understand why when you hear these names. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Big Bird and dozens of others puppet pals are making their debut at the Worlds of Puppetry Museum opening at the Center for Puppetry Arts.

They're part of the largest collection of Jim Henson puppets in the world, now making its home in Atlanta.

"They bring back so many memories," said Cheryl Henson, daughter of Kermit's creator.

The museum features two galleries.

The Global Collection Gallery is a trans-continental experience showcasing 175 puppets and artifacts representing five continents.

PHOTOS | See the world's largest collection of Jim Henson puppets

The Henson Collection is a separate wing.

The center's 15,000-square-foot, $14 million expansion was paid for by donations.

 

However the Henson family donated the most precious items – Jim Henson's original hand-crafted creations.

"Some of these puppets have been packed away for thirty years," Henson said.

This collection earned the family stamp of approval. "I think that the Center for Puppetry Arts is doing a fantastic job of telling the whole story. I can say that my dad really cared about his puppets, and he did not give them away. He did not want them sold. One of the reasons we are doing this museum is because we had such an extensive collection of his work," Henson said.

However one puppet lost its way. You won't find it in the Henson Collection. It got lost in luggage traveling back from the overseas movie set of "Labyrinth."

Eventually, the lost puppet made its way to Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama.

That's where the "Hoggle" can be seen front and center in his own museum of found treasures.

Unclaimed Baggage Center obtained the Labyrinth star the same way it gets all these lost luggage items that are for sale in the store.

"We step in and purchase these bags sight unseen. We have no idea what we're getting," explained Brenda Cantrell.

The Hoggle was found 18 years ago inside an unmarked shipment from the airlines.

"We're opening this crate and going through the items, and there's this face staring back at somebody. That startled them quite a bit," Cantrell said.

He could have ended up on the sales floor with everything else. The store offers discount prices for high-end jewelry, handbags, shoes, books, clothing, ipads, and just about anything else you would imagine could be lost on a plane.

The store buys unclaimed luggage fair and square, only after the airlines search ninety days for the original owner. Usually a financial payout is offered by the airline before Unclaimed Baggage buys the bags.

"We have heard from the Henson production company a handful of times over the years since we've had him, and they just want to make sure that he's well taken care of," Cantrell said. "We had a master doll repair put him in his Broadway make up as I call it."

As a matter of policy, the Henson family attempts to archive all of its puppets. It's very rare for one to be out of the family's collection.

"You don't want to destroy them, but you don't want to put them in private hands either," Henson said.

If Unclaimed Baggage hadn't purchased the Hoggle's lost shipping container, this piece of movie history just may have been unknowingly destroyed.

"If we didn't buy it I don't know where it would end up," Cantrell said.

Instead the Hoggle is on display, free of charge. A lost treasure now found in Scottsboro, Alabama.

If you have comments or questions about Jeremy's story, you can reach him on his Facebook page or through his Twitter account.


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