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Muppet make-over: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy reintroduced this fall

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So when Disney bought the Muppets from Henson's heirs in 2004 for $68 million, the long slog to bring Kermit and the gang back meant testing the waters to determine if the Muppets still have cultural relevance.

The result: viral videos of the Muppets parodying R-rated movies, such as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Hangover Part II," and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" music video; some of the Muppets stepping into the ring on WWE's "Monday Night Raw"; and a compilation CD featuring classic Muppet songs covered by bands like My Morning Jacket and Andrew Bird.

"Sesame Street," Henson's flagship creation, which is launching its 42nd season this fall, is also expanding its appeal beyond its target preschool demographic: Last year Cookie Monster guest-hosted "Saturday Night Live" with Jeff Bridges; this spring Elmo sang a controversial duet with Katy Perry; and the show launched a YouTube channel geared for adult nostalgia featuring classic clips and celebrity cameos.

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