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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. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    Those two movies have ended up meaning so much to a lot of people. I am so grateful to have grown up with Labyrinth. Sometimes it takes awhile for your work to be recognized but you can't give up. :)
     
  2. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I'm only into chapter three now (yeah, I'm slow), so I haven't really gotten too deep into Jim's career just yet, but something just crossed my mind... fast-foward to 1990, Michael Eisner was so eager to get his hands on the Muppets, it got me to thinking... Eisner was also a big supporter of the Kroffts, and green-lit a lot of their projects in the 70s... so, maybe Eisner could have green-lit TMS and put it on ABC? Hmm?
     
  3. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member


    Not to spoil anything, but you're assumptions are near correct.
     
  4. RedPiggy

    RedPiggy Well-Known Member

    I just finished it. Had to try to avoid crying at the end since I still have to go to work and all. :)

    I had more in common with him than I realized. I first discovered this when I got the FR box set, since the replica of his notebook made me realize that our handwriting is similar. It was creepy, LOL.

    I'm also a big peanut butter sandwich fanatic, LOL.

    But though I realize that I try to model my life after Jim (to a certain extent, since there are flaws I'd like to avoid), if you read about Jim's worldview, it's pretty much my own, just better stated. :)
     
    heralde likes this.
  5. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I will say that I find it amusing that Brian Jay Jones frequently compares amounts of money back in those days to what their equivilent amounts today would be.
     
    minor muppetz likes this.
  6. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    So I'm into chapter five now (shut up), and there's something that strikes me odd.

    Okay, so when did Jim end up losing said whole business side? That's one of the same things that Sid & Marty Krofft learned early in their career: never sell what you create... yet, from beginning to today, the Kroffts have always owned everything they created... with Henson on the other hand, Lord Grade owned TMS, TMM, GMC, among other things, TriStar owned (and still does?) MTM. Caroll even said Jim was thrilled when he was able to buy back TMS and everything else when Lord Grade went bankrupt... so... I mean... I'm confused...
     
  7. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    One thing that's great is that this book briefly confirms why Caroll Spinney stopped performing Anything Muppets after the first two seasons (the book says he stopped after the first season.... Technically, that's not incorrect, since after the second season is still after the first).
     
  8. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Okay, now I'm really interested in reading about that, because that's always been a question lingering in my mind... my two assumptions were either Jim felt Caroll being Big Bird and Oscar (essentially the original two Muppet leads of SST) may have jeopardized his credibility of performing other characters, or perhaps being Big Bird and Oscar were demanding enough parts that didn't leave Caroll time to perform other characters.

    Either way, we have to remember too, that first year, it was just Jim, Frank, and Caroll: Jim and Frank couldn't have done everything for SST themselves.
     
  9. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    Well sometimes these things are out of your hands. If you want a bigger company to publish your work a lot of times the catch is that the bigger company ends up with ownership.
     
  10. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Then you look elsewhere instead of settling.
     
  11. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Finally finishing chapter five, I just have to say... that response Jim wrote to this so-called, "Mr. Dionne" cracked me up! :laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
     
  12. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    As annoying as it is, settling is part of any career on occasion. You have to take your knocks for a long time before being able to fully take control of your destiny.
     
  13. BoyRaisin2

    BoyRaisin2 Active Member


    First off, my 1st post on this forum in God-knows-how-many years. '07 I guess it was. Been gone so long I'm a "New Member." Anyway!

    Jim and Lord Grade were friends. They got along splendidly. It was after the big 3 American networks passed on The Muppet Show that Lord Grade, impressed with the Muppets, gave Jim the order of 24 episodes based in London, and TMS went to be an international success. And when Jim wanted to make a movie, Grade said yes, and according to the book, agreed to Jim's high budget requests. Lord Lew Grade probably had more faith in the potential of the Muppets and the creative possibilities of Jim Henson more than anyone else at the time.

    Remember at the time, Jim was a small, independent producer. He couldn't afford to fund The Muppet Show himself. Of course Grade's company would probably own the show and the movie; he was the one putting up the money for them and syndicating it around the world. Jim owned the Muppets themselves, just not necessarily the shows and the movies (yet). And Jim seemingly didn't have a problem with any of this until Grade was forced out of his company and this Robert Holmes a Court stepped in. Grade was a kindred spirit, Holmes a Court didn't seem to give a crap. Jim got The Dark Crystal, his passion project, from Holmes a Court first. And then eventually, in 1984, Jim found the opportunity to get his Muppet properties from ACC as well. And that don't happen everyday, especially for independent producers, and that just makes me more admiring of Jim's business skills. Not every creative person, especially in film and TV, gets to actually own his or her work. They're always owned--and most importantly, financed--by larger entities. Heck, I think he was lucky to even own the Sesame Street characters, considering that that show was produced by a completely separate company.

    I know it's mentioned in the book of Jim saying "Never sell anything I own." Well, at this point, they're at least HIS to sell! Disney initially passed on a Muppet merger in '84, 'cause this was just around the time Jim was buying some of his Muppet properties back, and Disney apparently saw Henson's earning potential as "soft." In 1989, however, Henson was in a better state. They got the Muppets, The Muppet Show, the movies, Fraggles, Muppet Babies, not to mention Jim himself. And of course, EM.TV in 2000 got the entire Henson catalogue. Who knows what kind of company Henson would be then and now if Jim didn't buy his stuff back in '84. At least they have enough funds to own their characters and television series (movies are a different animal).

    And no offense to the Kroffts, legends in their own right, I'm sure, but I'd put the scope and ambition of Henson and the Muppets above anything they were or may be doing.
     
  14. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Well, a big difference between Henson and the Kroffts was Jim did, indeed, pour his heart and soul into just about everything project he came up with, and his were pretty much genuine creative endeavors that he did for the artistic value; the Kroffts, on the other hand, were admittedly very commercial and always went for the mass, which is why Marty Krofft admits that other puppeteers or puppet troupes were never big fans of them, because they were always cashing in on what they created, without necessarily doing it for creativity or artistic value. On that same note, Marty even confesses that Jim was a much better puppeteer; Lisa Henson even told him, point blank, she hated them as a kid because they were the ones who had all these different shows on TV, while her father only had TMS, which she didn't understand how that could be, and thought it was really unfair. Again, it was all mostly because Jim really did do his projects out of creativity and artisticness, whereas the Kroffts really did it to make money, and as such, the Kroffts ultimately were far more commercially successful that Henson or others, but at the same time, as fun as the Kroffts' stuff can be as well, they really can't hold a candle to what Jim created.

    But anyway, back to the topic at hand, I'm finally well into the chapter about SST (I was kind of surprised there wasn't more detail or insight on all of those regular Ed Sullivan appearances in the previous chapter... and I'm also surprised that the SST chapter didn't include Joan Ganz Cooney's initial reaction to seeing Jim for the first time, and thinking he was one of those hippy terrorist bombers who was going to kill all of them), and as MM previously pointed out, it does suddenly make sense as to why Caroll pretty much stopped performing AMs. It's interesting, because in watching his lengthily Archive of American Television interview, he mentioned that one of the reasons why he didn't join the others to work on TMS was because he was, "Never a good team player with the Muppets". In a sense, I can kind of understand how he feels that way, though you have to admit, he did really improve in a short time, though. You can look at something, like say, "Everyone Likes Ice Cream", and can clearly see he had difficulty staying in time and rhythm with Jim and Frank, but then you look at something like, "Goin' for a Ride", and see quite a major difference (though that one really had none of those synchronized dances).
     
  15. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Sorry to double-post, but I just finished the chapter on SST (boy, that was a breeze, lol), and came across a minor little error, that may or may not be worth mentioning (I thought I had seen a thread on possible errors and mistakes in this book, but I can't find it): anyway, it mentions that those unscripted inserts with live children conversing with Muppet characters on certain different little subjects came about from idleness on the writers' part, however, Caroll mentions in his own book that he presented the idea of having kids have unscripted chats with the Muppets.

    I also have to wonder, reading about the disagreement about Oscar's overall character between Caroll and Jon Stone, if maybe that, somehow, played some kind of a factor in the two men not getting along with each other. I'm well aware that they treated each with professional respect when the cameras were rolling, however, when they stopped, Stone would want nothing to do with Caroll, and if they were in a situation together, Stone would be really hard on Caroll for seemingly no reason.
     
  16. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I read that the first draft of this book was 700 pages long, before it was shortened to 585 (and that's counting the notes and indexes, which the original draft probably didn't have). It makes me wonder what all was cut... I wonder if the original draft covered everything Jim did, or what all was missing.

    Also, Muppet Wiki recently added a page on Brian Jay Jones, which mentions the biography was "unauthorized" despite getting involvement from Jim Henson's family and unlimited access to The Jim Henson Company Archives. I wonder if it really was unauthorized.... I didn't see anything in the book that says so, and I would think that if the Henson family and company approved then it shouldn't be considered unauthorized.
     
  17. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Well, first of all, an autobiography is where the subject writes his/her own biography him/herself.

    Secondly, I think in most cases, authors or publishers slap the word "unauthorized" on the cover to grab people's attention.
     
  18. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member


    Oops. I didn't realize I wrote "autobiography", but corrected it in my past post.
     
  19. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Yes, I just now finally gotten up to that part.
     
  20. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member


    It's interesting when I read about Jon Stone not liking Caroll Spinney. In Spinney's autobiography, it was written like Spinney could never figure out why he didn't like him. But then in Street Gang, it says that Stone thought Spinney was unprofessional, preferring to not read his scripts until he performs as opposed to studying and rehearsing. But then that's how most of the Muppet performers do their work (reading their lines as they perform, though they also tend to improvise, especially Jim and Frank for the Ernie and Bert skits), and it seems like Jon Stone didn't have a problem with any of the other performers, except for Michael Earl.

    Though now I wonder if maybe Caroll was told not to talk about the details in his book. Or if maybe Jon Stone wrote about it in his unpublished memoir, which was used as a source in Street Gang, and that's how they found out. Or maybe other people had known why Stone was the way he was towards Spinney.
     


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