As it turns out, Kermit the Frog wasn’t always so nice. In fact, an early version of the most-beloved Muppet was downright homicidal.
Hyattsville native Jim Henson was just starting his puppeteering career when he landed a gig producing commercials for D.C.’s own Wilkins Coffee. Rather than go for the traditional hard-sell, he decided to use humor.
The set-up for the ads was simple: A proto-Kermit named Wilkins asks a proto-Rowlf named Wontkins if he wants some Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins turns him down. Kermit then a) fires a cannon on him, b) punches him, c) drops him from a biplane, d) slams his head in a car hood, or, most astonishingly, e) puts him to death in an electric chair.
The seven-second ads were so successful that over 300 were made. Many were also remade for other regional coffee companies.
“In terms of popularity of commercials in the Washington area, we were the number one, most popular commercial,” Henson later recalled. “They got a lot of talk, and so then the advertising agency started syndicating them and they would sell them to a coffee company in Boston, another coffee company in New York.”
The ads are still funny, but it’s a bit jarring to see Kermit acting mean.