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Two must read Jim Henson articles

Discussion in 'On the Web' started by FISH'N'WOLFE, Apr 13, 2005.


    FISH'N'WOLFE New Member

    I don't know how many people have seen these before, but when I came across them by accident I thought they were definitely worth reading and wanted to share them with everyone here.


    Muppeteer Henson vocal on video violence.

    By Hal Drake, S&S senior writer
    Pacific edition, Friday, August 8, 1986

    TOKYO — Muppeteer Jim Henson, whose fantasy-world characters changed the face of television, says it could stand more change and should stop using violence as a crutch to prop up viewer interest.

    "The violence on television bothers me more than anything," said Henson, who came to Tokyo to publicize his newest full-length movie and to oversee a fingers-crossed trial run of "Fraggle Rock" on Japanese TV.

    As the creator of "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show" sees it, television could be a force for global good, the reason he's trying to get foreign producers to work with his crew on "Fraggle Rock."

    INTERNATIONAL FRIENDSHIP and cross-cultural understanding at the kiddy-show level? To Henson, that's no fantasy and "Fraggle Rock" could be the key.

    "This is a place where you can begin to do it. ...

    "We were trying to design a show that would work very internationally," Henson told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, "a show for this whole world marketplace and a world audience. ... It is basically an entertainment fun show but the thought behind it relates to people getting along in the world, understanding each other's cultures (and) points of view."

    "Fraggle Rock" has been running daily on NHK, a government-owned network, to test viewer response. That show starts with live characters, Doc and his dog, who discover a hole in the floor of their workshop — the doorway to a world "inhabited by all these silly creatures called Fraggles."

    One of them, Traveling Matt, is a mustached, comically inquisitive explorer who puts on a sun helmet and safari shorts to venture from his underfloor world into the real one.

    "As he went around, he'd misinterpret everything. ... He went to San Francisco and we shot a Traveling Matt on the wharf there."

    MATT SAW FISHERMEN fixing nets and reported that they were strange beings who made holes, sewed them together, then took them out on boats and threw them away.

    "It's saying, look, if you don't know what's going on, you can radically misinterpret what some other people are doing," Henson said.

    It's a subtle dig at a child's awareness, he allows, but still the first step toward teaching the young to know and understand different cultures.

    And he feels it would be a drastic improvement over the violence that buffets all TV viewers, young and old.

    "It's something that I feel we really overdo a great deal in the States," Henson said.

    "It's not only the kid shows but the adult shows because the kids are watching the adult shows just as much."

    Arguments that TV detective dramas are no more violent than fairy tales or Punch and Judy shows are lost on Henson.

    "At this moment, people are seeing the thousands of murders that ... the average television viewer sees every year," Henson said.

    "And this is just way out of perspective. I think that it shows a great lack of responsibility on the part of broadcasters and on the part of the producers and directors. It's all of us. And I think we have to change it."

    Henson said that because violence "is interesting and a great dramatic plight," it's a tool often reached for by scriptwriters.

    "You can't keep doing this," he adds. "You know, toilet jokes are funny but you don't keep telling toilet jokes all the time. It's the easy way out."

    With streaks of grey in his beard, Henson is still a young success. As a mid-1950s high school student in Washington, he wanted to break into television — answered a television station's want-ad for puppeteers.

    "Puppetry was something I didn't know anything about ... so I went to the library and got a book on puppets."

    Pierre the French Rat got Henson his first job and put him through college. He took his mother's cast-off spring coat and fashioned a character named Kermit, at first a formless, hand-operated android who didn't become a frog until years later. As "Sesame Street" started in 1968, both Henson and Kermit became famous worldwide.

    Now Kermit came out of Henson's tennis bag, complaining of being jetlagged as he postured for cameras and said he wanted to meet Japanese frogs. Henson used a hand to work Kermit's jowls and pulled wires to move him around. Kermit's voice was Henson's — always has been.

    IN TOKYO, HENSON gave box-office figures for his movie, "Labyrinth," a nod of satisfaction. It has limped badly in the United States but grossed easy millions in a month-old run in Japan.

    He also opened, on the seventh floor of the Yurakucho Seibu Department Store at Marion Building, Nishi Ginza, a museum full of fabled characters from his Creature Shop — everyone from long-billed, flatfooted Big Bird to Lado, a great, horned haystack of a creature who helps the hapless teen-ager heroine of "Labyrinth."

    The exhibit closes Aug. 18.


    Jim Henson brings his Muppets to Frankfurt

    By Ed Reavis, S&S staff writer
    European edition, December 17, 1987

    Muppets, Fraggles and other fuzzy inhabitants of the world of puppeteer Jim Henson are on exhibit at Frankfurt's film museum until Jan. 10.

    The "Muppets, Monster & Magic" exhibit is being shown outside the United States for the first time.

    In a recent half-day visit to Frankfurt, Henson said the exhibit has existed in various forms since 1979, when it opened in New York's Lincoln Center.

    "The Art of the Muppets" toured the finest museums in the United States, consistently delighting audiences and breaking attendance records.

    The exhibit traces the history of the Muppets from their creation by Henson in 1954 for "Sam and Friends," a local television show in Washington, D.C., to their present worldwide television and movie house fame with "The Muppet Show" and "Sesame Street" on TV, plus such movies as "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth."

    The Frankfurt show features a "touch wall" of materials used to make Muppets; videotape for each display showing scenes from "Sesame Street" and "Fraggle Rock" in different languages; and behind-the-scenes views of "The Muppet Show," "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth."

    Henson said he expects more technologically refined animation films in the future.

    "The idea of totally creating puppets on the computer is fascinating to me, and we'll be moving in that direction next," Henson said. "But at the same time, there will always be the classic puppetry. In fact, some of the Muppets are just as expressive, and sometimes more so, than the most complicated ones.

    "But I don't think we'll be making any big, complicated films in the future, because it doesn't seem possible to find the money for them."

    Henson said the best-known Muppets are those of "The Muppet Show."

    "They're seen by more than 235 million adults and kids in more than 100 countries. 'Sesame Street' is also shown in 100 countries and the 'Fraggles' is seen in 90 countries and is translated into 13 languages.

    "I can only remember having trouble with the Muppets show in one country," he said. "In Morocco during, Ramadan, the Moslem fasting period, they took it off the air because of Miss Piggy — the pork connection!"

    Henson has come a long way from the construction of his first green hand puppet, made from his mother's old coat, to the incredible creatures of his fantasy films.

    He said his fascination for the art of the visual media began as a child, when his family bought their first television set. He began working in television when he was still in high school when he was hired by a local station looking for young puppeteers.

    Henson progressed in his art through college, making films and shorts for television, but it wasn't until the advent of "Sesame Street" and his collaboration with the Children's Television Workshop in 1969 that the Muppets became a household word.

    Henson captivated adult audiences in 1976 when Lord Lew Grade, one of England's major entertainment figures, offered Henson the chance to produce "The Muppet Show" at his London studios. Its success was phenomenal. Time magazine called it "the most popular television entertainment now being produced on Earth."

    The show won numerous international awards, including three Emmy Awards, during its five years of production.

    Henson said his wife, Jane, and five children were kind of a testing ground for his ideas. Jane is an integral and inseparable part of the Muppets for as long as they have existed, Henson said, They met when they were both students and found they shared an interest in puppetry. She is still active in many facets of Henson Associates, Inc.

    "But now the children are grown up. One son is a performer in our team and the one daughter works for Warner Brothers. I sometimes consult. But. kids have always been at the heart of my work.

    "I'm sometimes asked if my monsters don't frighten children. I create good, loveable monsters, and the kids soon recognize them for what they are, Like Miss Piggy, for example. People love going along with the idea of a beautiful pig. It's like a conspiracy."

    Kermit the frog is not only one of Henson's favorite creations and a survivor of the original "Sam and Friends" show.

    "Some people claim Kermit is my alter-ego. I'm; not sure I know what that means. I like to work Kermit because there's a lot of leeway for ad-libbing, which I don't have with most other characters but I'm not sure that I'm not Kermit."

    Henson now runs a large company of puppeteers and specialists who share his philosophy: "Life is basically good and people are basically good. That's the message I'd like to express."

    The story and pictures are on the Stars & Stripes website The first story can be read on this page, and the second on this page.
  2. Kimp the Shrimp

    Kimp the Shrimp Active Member

    i wonder how i missed these
  3. gfarkwort

    gfarkwort Member

    Those Were Great, very interesting...it seems this year that more stuff about Jim is coming out to the public...or I guys I'm just coming across it more frequently...I dunno, But I Enjoyed the articles, Thanks for Posting!
  4. JoeyMuppet

    JoeyMuppet New Member

    I read them last year.
  5. Ilikemuppets

    Ilikemuppets New Member

    That's cool!
  6. Nostalic

    Nostalic New Member


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