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Your Thoughts: "Jim Henson: The Biography" by Brian Jay Jones

Discussion in 'Henson People' started by Phillip, Sep 23, 2013.

  1. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    You can't expect it to get in EVERYTHING Jim did. Things like the development of TMS or the Dark Crystal are far more important to his life story than the Play-House videos.
  2. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Sure, and I find it interesting how they talk about some of the ideas that Jim had that where only ideas. Some of them I would still love to see done.
  3. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I just finished the first chapter, and already, I'm really impressed: I can't recall ever reading a biography of someone that not only delved into the subject's childhood, but practically went into something of a family tree as well.
    dwayne1115 likes this.
  4. LouisTheOtter

    LouisTheOtter Well-Known Member

    I've basically reached 1985 and the Labyrinth filming (I was shocked to learn that Ally Sheedy, Jane Krakowski, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mia Sara were among the actresses up for Jennifer Connolly's role) and I'm still enjoying the book.

    The tone is bright and breezy, not unlike much of Jim's work, and it's refreshing that Jones doesn't gloss over any of the missteps or negative reviews that occasionally arose throughout Jim's career. (The Frank Oz multiple retakes on TMTM and the stunned silences at test screenings for The Dark Crystal stand out for me in this regard.)

    I'm surprised to read some of these posts and learn that the book doesn't mention Follow That Bird, Little Muppet Monsters (which is given its own two-page section in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal) or The Christmas Toy, which Mrs. Otter and I enjoyed for the first time this year on DVD. I was already a little put off at the omission of The Muppets Go To The Movies (arguably my favourite non-Christmas special featuring the TMS characters) and the edgy, hit-and-miss but still memorable 1982 effort The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show.

    That being said, I'm still loving the book and I know I will be grateful for it for a long time. Jones dove deep into the most significant projects of Jim's life and he presents a marvelous treasure trove of details and analysis.
  5. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    It's interesting how many chapters focus more on certain projects than others, while also talking about what else was going on at the time, and those projects that do get most of the focus in a given chapter still get talked about a bit in future chapters (mainly TV shows that were still in production), though it seems Sesame Street isn't brought up as much in the same way after the Sesame Street chapter.

    Sesame Street is brought up every now and then after its own chapter, and there are parts that talk about Julie on Sesame Street and 20 and Still Counting. But considering that, one thing that surprised me is that, in a later chapter, it briefly acknowledges when work was done on Barkly, without really talking more about it. I think Barkley is the only Sesame Street character whose development was mentioned outside of the Sesame Street chapter (Elmo doesn't even get such treatment, though it does at one point mention that Richard Hunt handed over - or actually threw over - the role to Kevin Clash).

    I wonder how many of the quotes were from interviews conducted for this book and how many were taken from other sources. I've read that Jane Henson was interviewed, I assume most of Jim's children's were interviewed, and I think Frank Oz was interviewed for this. But many of the quotes are quotes I've already read in the past. I assume most of Bernie Brillstein's quotes come from his autobiography, and Jerry Juhl's quotes must have come from somewhere (I've read that this book has been in the works for awhile, but I doubt it was in the works as far back as when Juhl was alive). In the section that sources quotes, it seems like for the most part it only lists the names of those being quoted, as opposed to listing where the quotes come from.
  6. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I also forgot to mention that the photo on the cover has always been one of my favorites of Jim.

    In fact, I like how the jacket itself is designed: the front is simple, yet is clear and to the point that this is a book abot Jim Henson (and of course, his name is printed on the front, in Kermit Green); while the back the spine offers a nice contrast with a full-color shot of Jim surround by TMS characters (clearly from before Season One).
  7. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Well, I just finished the book.

    Turns out some of the productions that I thought weren't mentioned do end up being mentioned, mostly in the "notes" section acknowledging various sources. There's one note about the properties Jim Henson had purchased back from ITC, listing all productions (including those that weren't mentioned). I was surprised to see that ITC originally owned The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show.
  8. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    That's really the only unfortunate aspect of doing business with Lord Grade; yes, Lord Grade was the one who finally helped turn Jim's dreams into realities, but Lord Grade was the one who owned said realities, not Jim. Then again, the sad thing is, with the exception of his contributions to SST, practically everything else Jim did in his career was owned by other companies, which isn't a good thing. As I've said before, with all due respect to Jim's vision, creativity, and artistic genius, I just really don't believe he was quite as savvy a businessman as people say he was; heck, his first attempt to sell to Disney was his way of trying to relieve himself of the business aspect of running a company so he could put more focus into the creative aspect.
  9. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    Part of the Disney thing was also he'd never have to worry about going to people like Grade for funding, which was always the hardest part for Jim.
  10. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    True. True. The more I think about it, Drtooth does kind of have a point, as much trouble as Jim had in getting any kind of interest in most of his projects, such as TMS, the Muppets in general may have been a complete failure if Jim's were an independent company, because (SST aside), nobody really offered him a chance at anything, especially since his sights were on primetime, and basically anything outside of kiddy fare.
  11. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Actually, Sesame Workshop owned the rights to his Sesame Street contributions (just not the Muppet characters, until 2000).

    Of course there were things Henson did that the company had always owned the distribution rights to (before the 2004 Disney sale). As far as I know, Henson had originally owned the distribution rights to the Tales from Muppetland specials, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, and Fraggle Rock. I'm not sure if Henson always owned the distribution rights to Time Piece (I think another company held the distribution rights at first) or the two NBC Experiments in Television specials.

    There's a few points in the book where the quote "never sell anything I create" appears. At first I thought that was referring to characters, as a few of the companies Henson did commercials for tried to get the rights to characters Henson created for those commercials. And of course two of Henson's earliest characters, Longhorn and Shorthorn, are partially owned by Joe Campbell (but in that case Jim didn't actually create the characters, and he still owned a percent of the characters). And at one point Jimmy Dean's producer or manager told him that he thought he could get him partial ownership of Muppets Inc. but Dean turned it down, but I wonder if Jim Henson ever actually said anything on the subject or if the person who told Dean was just overly-confident that he could get Jim to sell part of his company.

    But then when it comes to getting back the ACC properties, it seems that "never sell anything I own" attitude extended to distribution rights of his productions. Though at that point it seems like Jim was retaining the distribution rights to all his TV projects (but still needed bigger companies to distribute his films). I wonder if Jim ever tried to obtain the rights to The Muppets Take Manhattan or Labyrinth from Tri-Star Pictures.

    It is a shame the book doesn't talk much about Tri-Star distributing those films. There's a lot of talk about ACC's ownership of Henson properties and Jim getting the rights to those, but barely anything about Tri-Star. At one point when discussing Jim buying properties from ACC, it says that The Muppets Take Manhattan was produced independently, without mentioning Tri-Star. Not sure if that meant it was produced without the involvement of ACC, or if it was a mistake, or if maybe the film was finished before Tri-Star committed to distributing it. Tri-Star is only briefly mentioned once, as distributor of Labyrinth.

    It also would have been great to have learned a bit more about Universal's American distribution of The Great Muppet Caper and The Dark Crystal. It's said that after Henson bought the distribution rights to The Dark Crystal he'd still have to deal with Universal, but how and when did Universal stop distributing it? I've read recently that Universal was the American distributor of ITV/ACC properties when GMC and TDC were produced, and every TV broadcast I've seen of The Great Muppet Caper (the last of which was in 1994) began with the Universal logo, while every video release I've seen of those movies feature the Jim Henson Productions or Jim Henson Pictures logo and no Universal Pictures logo.
  12. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure, but I think HBO may have owned FR.
  13. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    I have not finished the book, but I have gotten at least half way through it, and just finished the chapter on Sesame Street. What seems clear to me thus far is that Jim was in a never ending battle with ownership. It also seems that everyone knew at least that the Muppets where hot, but they never gave Jim the respect, and the chances that he so desperately wanted.

    I also like Minor Mppetz is saying wonder about that quote "never sell anything I own." I would think that is something that the Henson children would have tied not to do. instead they have sold, and bought them, and sold the Muppets a few times. I just wonder why they didn't fight harder to keep everything Jim owned. Now his properties are all over the place, and it takes high end lawyers to figure out who really owns what.
  14. MuppetGuy75

    MuppetGuy75 Well-Known Member

    Just started reading it this past week... Love it. :):jim:
  15. pileobunnies

    pileobunnies Member

    Fantastic book. I wasn't really aware of how distracted Jim was by technology. I kind of wish that drive had been a little less powerful since I think it worked against him a bit too much, leading to some of Jason Segel's complaints of even the Muppets getting gimmicky.
  16. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    I don't think they Muppets where getting gimmicky at all. The Muppets take Manhattan was the last big screen movie that the "Muppets and Jim" worked on. Even though it did push the envelop with it's advances in puppetry it was still a very spot on story and one of the best.
    I think with the Jim Henson hour the Muppet Central parts worked really well, with the storyteller parts being kind of flat or out there. Which is sad because I think that in today's media the Jim Henson Hour with both Muppet Central and storyteller parts would really work.
  17. pileobunnies

    pileobunnies Member

    I'm the reverse on the Jim Henson Hour. I loved the Storyteller bits but found the overuse of tech and green screen and computers kinda killed the joy in the Muppet parts of it. Instead of getting good story and compelling character relationships, we got flashy bits and a CGI puppet who didn't do much for me.
  18. CensoredAlso

    CensoredAlso Well-Known Member

    I'm right there with you. Explaining special effects can only be interesting for so long and unless you're really into it. There weren't really stories to latch on to.
  19. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    I just finished the portion about the Dark Crystal. I haven't seen it yet, and I don't really want to (but I'll do it eventually, for Jim), but it's really sad how much heart and soul he poured into that and the so-so response he got.
  20. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Same with LABYRINTH, he poured his heart and soul into that one too, and it tanked, Caroll even said Jim went into a deep depression over that for quite sometime.

    Not sure about DARK CRYSTAL (likewise I still haven't seen it yet either, and I know it's been on cable quite a bit lately), but Caroll seemed to think the reason why LABYRINTH bombed was because it came out shortly after another dark fantasy movie was released with Tom Cruise and Tim Curry called LEGEND, and apparently that movie wasn't very successful either, so perhaps, moviegoers were getting the two movies mixed up (dark fantasy movie with a one-word title with the letter 'L'...)

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