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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. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Maybe it's just me, but reading through the Big Ideas and The Mucking Fuppets chapters, it seems as if the Hensons went on more vacations than the Obamas. Just reading about how busy and hectic Jim's work schedule became in the mid-70s, it's a wonder he was able to find the time to go on vacations with Jane and the kids.
     
  2. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Just finished The Mucking Fuppets character, and I have to say, I experienced something really odd: reading about David Lazer, him working for IBM, and being a native of NYC didn't register with me, because in watching HENSON'S PLACE, I rememberd Lazer speaking with a British accent; so saying, I broke out my HENSON'S PLACE DVD, popped it in, watched it again... and Lazer didn't have a British accent... I swear he did, and I'm not mixing him up with Lord Grade, I couldn't get those two mixed up. I think maybe what it was is Lazer seemed to have particularly articulate and proper way of speaking and pronouncing certain words and vowels that made it seem like he had a British accent.
     
  3. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Looks like I'm pretty much halfway through the book now, lol.

    After reading Muppet Mania, there's just one little thing... maybe I overlooked it or something, but wasn't CBS (the actual network, not the CBS O&O stations) actually on board with TMS at one point before the deal with Lord Grade and the O&Os? Again, I recall from Caroll's interview with the Archive of American Television, him saying that Jim came into work (SST) one day, relating to him the news that CBS picked up TMS and was going to put it on the air in the fall, to Caroll's delight and excitement, but then the very next day, when Jim came in, before Caroll could even finish asking him how he was doing that day, Jim defeatedly said, "They canceled already." Caroll was like, "They canceled? After one day?"

    Aside from that, it was a nice little read behind the work that went into establishing TMS (and Emmet Otter too) - I see more of the Frank being an intimidating figure stigma written in the chapter, but then again, Frank is a pretty complicated person... always has been, and probably always will be.
     
  4. Oscarfan

    Oscarfan Well-Known Member

    I really wish that when I die, I get a biography as in-depth as this one.
     
  5. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Said the guy who said my 5-year retrospective years ago was "too long." :p
     
  6. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I'm pretty sure I am, indeed, fer shure, halfway through the book now.

    I just finished reading the chapter on TMM, and once again, I find myself in just a little bit of confusion. In the book, it says Jim approached Lord Grade, wanting to do not only a Muppet movie, but also a movie that would eventually become DC; however, in the HENSON'S PLACE documentary, Lord Grade tells a different story, saying that he heard a rumor that Jim was wanting to make a Muppet movie, and then gave him a deal for two Muppet movies (TMM, and presumably GMC).

    Other than that, I think my favorite part of the chapter was the little "bad cop/good cop" anecdote of Richard Hunt bad-mouthing a TMS guest, it being spread in the tabloids, and David Lazer verbally punishing him for his gaffe to the point of tears, then sending him in to see Jim about the matter, and all Jim could do was hug him because that's how much he hated confrontations.

    I think it's also interesting in reading about some of the bruised egos, and slight jealousy that stemmed from Frank receiving "special treatment", such as receiving special billing among other performers during the titles, receiving a Creative Consultant credit, his own dressing room, among other things... I've often wondered how other performers felt about those kinds of things, such as later on, the like of Kevin Clash and Bill Baretta becoming Muppet Captains, in spite of the fact that other performers have been with the Muppets longer than they have.
     
  7. pileobunnies

    pileobunnies New Member

    I am very curious who it was Hunt badmouthed but my internet search turned up no leads.
     
  8. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I also forgot to mention another thing about the chapter that hits close to home with me, in that Jim didn't like when people would compare him to, or say that he was the next Walt Disney, because I, from time to time, get similar things from people telling me I'm going to be the next Jim Henson, which I think is incredibly unfair: I'm nowhere near the person Jim was... just because he's my biggest hero, and my passion for puppetry and being a puppeteer is largely attributed to what he gave us with the Muppets (among other things), doesn't mean I'm trying to be like him, or try to do any of the things he did... I wouldn't even begin to try to any of that: what Jim did was change the art of puppetry as we know it, all I'm doing is doing my part to help keep the art of puppetry alive for generations to come; and I seriously doubt I'm ever going to be even moderately successful at it, so I can also do without some of the, "You're going to be rich and famous one of these days" comments as well. To compare me to Jim Henson, there is no comparison, and again, I just think it's unfair for people to do that. Besides, I'm not the only one out there who was influenced by Jim as a puppeteer, and I'm sure there are others out there who may also hear people tell them, "You're going to be the next Jim Henson", but the fact of the matter is, Jim Henson was one-of-a-kind - there will never be another Jim Henson.
     
  9. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member


    I wonder why puppeteers would need dressing rooms. It's not like the home audience is going to see how they are dressed. Well, unless they were performing full-body characters. I would think maybe there'd be a special room for the performers to relax if needed, but a dressing room would be just as appropriate for a puppeteer as it woul a crew member.
     
  10. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member


    I thought it was said in that chapter that CBS was interested in airing it during the 7PM hour, but then the FCC made rules that each individual station air local or syndicated programming during that hour, and apparently CBS didn't want to air the show at a later hour.
     
  11. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    In finishing, "The World in His Head", it was somewhat difficult to really invest in the chapter, mainly because I still haven't had the chance to actually watch THE DARK CRYSTAL, and it's been so long since I've seen FRAGGLE ROCK (since I was a toddler in fact) that I just don't remember much of what I saw.

    I could sense, however, the frustrations behind the production of DC. I can certainly understand Jim had a specific vision (as the chapter kept repeating, he saw this whole movie in his head) and wanted to make it happen as well as do it his own way, though from what I've read, I suppose that he really should have tried to figure out the actual story he was wanting to tell, rather than just let the visual aspect of the production carry the movie. I remember back when I was starting up my VAMPIRE GIRL webcomic miniseries: I had the characters, and I basically had the premise, but I didn't quite have the elements to help tell the actual story, so I consulted with a friend of mine who really has an interest in that kind of whimsical yet dark fantasy (she's actually founded her own animation company and is working on a series for Canadian television) for input on how the story could be told to make sense within the context of what the premise was. And I suppose having two directors on the movie may have been a mistake, especially since most of the time, people working on the movie kept coming to Jim for input, and basically brushing Frank off... not to mention, even Frank didn't really know just what was going on. I still really want to see DC to see how it turned out in the end, even though Jim was forced to change quite a bit. I totally agree with a point that Kathy Mullen made, and it's something I've been complaining about for quite sometime now (and surprisingly, both SST and the Classic Muppets have become big offenders of this in recent years) in that what made DC so unique is that everything (the characters, the effects, and all) were done traditionally and by hand, as opposed to today, where just about everything would have just been done with CGI. Again, if you ask me, the believability and realism in things we see on the screen stem from actually being there, in that world, and things happen in that time as the camera rolls... CGI seems to only enhance the artificiality of what you're seeing... I mean, really? Scooter had to be chromakeyed leaving Google headquarters? They couldn't have gotten a permit to film Scooter leaving Google's actual headquarters, or they couldn't just recycled set pieces and dress it to look like it would be Google's headquarters? Now I'm reminded of the SUPER MARIO BROS. movie with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo... yeah, it bombed and people hated it, however, I loved how imaginative it was and visually, they accomplished an awesome universe, and they managed to accomplish it all in an abandoned cement factory... if they did that movie today, you can bet the grass the surroundings would be CGI.

    Well, I ended up saying more than I thought I would, so I guess I'll stop now. I will that this chapter will crush more than a few people who want to believe that the idea that Jim was a bit of a womanizer was just a rumor.
     
  12. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Still working on "Twists and Turns".

    All I can say, so far, is that I wasn't aware that Jim disliked the term "Muppeteer", but that kind of explain why, even though we basically refer to them as "Muppeteers", they are always credited on-screen as "Muppet Performers".
     
  13. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    It's odd in the Muppet Show chapter when it says that Jerry Nelson once asked why he didn't do more. He performed more characters than any other performer on The Muppet Show, had the biggest number of recurring characters, and performed almost every major one-shot character.
     
  14. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    Muppeteer sounds too much like Mouseketeer, I can kinda understand a grown man not wanting to be called that, hehe.
     
  15. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I didn't think I was ever going to finish "Twists and Turns", but I finally did... boy, that was a doozy of a chapter.

    I haven't seen LABYRINTH in years, but I've noticed one criticism the movie kept getting is something that kind of got me as well when I watched it; granted, the movie itself is something to behold, I really liked it (my older sister loves it, but then again, I know she's often wished I would be kidnapped and taken away by goblins), but I too noticed that Sarah really had no personality to her whatsoever... I mean no personality. She's exactly the same character from the beginning of the movie to the end of the movie, she doesn't evolve, grow, or develop, she's just so bland and uninteresting.

    Other than that, didn't really learn much that I didn't already know from this chapter, though it was interesting to read about not only the increasing friction and sibling rivalry between the Muppet Workshop in New York and the Creature Shop in London, but it seemed just about everybody working for Jim were basically all in bouts of siblingly rivalry, as if Jim was the father of all of them, and each of them were desperate for his attention.
     
  16. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    All I'll say now is "Storyteller" was certainly a breather or a chapter, heh.
     
  17. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    After finishing "A Kind of Craziness", like THE DARK CRYSTAL, I never really got a chance to see THE JIM HENSON HOUR (though I have seen a GORILLA TELEVISION segment on YouTube, and that looked really interest - that Ubu is one wicked-looking puppet), but in reading this chapter, as well as, "The World in His Head", I really got the sense that perhaps, maybe, storytelling just really wasn't quite Jim's forte, and I can totally see why that would cause problems for a project, if it doesn't have a steady plot for people to follow.

    Other than that, the rumor that Jim and Daryl Hannah were dating has been put to rest.

    Now I'm not really looking forward to the rest of the book, but I can't stop now, I'm finally like almost 3/4 done with it.
     
  18. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Finished reading, "So Much on a Handshake", and I got to thinking... I know Jim changed the name of his company from Muppets, Inc. to Henson Associates, to Jim Henson Productions... but why was it that up till the JHP renaming, the Muppets on SST were always copyrighted under Muppets, Inc. instead of Henson Associates?
     
  19. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    Finished the book this afternoon (I see that it's not so much 600 pages, because the last hundred of pages or so are basically just notes and acknowledgements).

    The last chapter was really difficult to read, especially when it went into the details of Jim's symptoms, as well as the details of what went on during his final hours in the hospital. Very hard to read, very saddening.

    It was such an incredible book, I'm really surprised at how quickly I got through it (well, quicker than I thought: a month and a half, considering it seems like practically everyone else got through it in days).
     
  20. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member


    I've seen images from some of the Atari Sesame Street games which have copyrights for both Muppets, Inc. and Henson Associates.

    And also, it seems like the book says that the company changed it's name to Jim Henson Productions after Jim Henson decided to sell to Disney, which was after The Jim Henson Hour was canceled, but the Jim Henson Productions logo appears at the end of Sesame Street: 20 and Still Counting and The Jim Henson Hour (I think the Jim Henson Productions logo also appeared at the end of the Play-Along Videos).

    It seems like Jim Henson didn't actually write a lot of stuff in the 1980s. He might have came up with the ideas, but he wasn't credited as a writer very often. I think The Dark Crystal is the only movie he got a writing credit for (the book does say that he contributed to the writing on Labyrinth, but the book also says it had too many writers). So it could have been the fault of the other writers, not neccessarily Jim's.

    And a lot of the stuff the company did during Henson's lifetime were either really short stuff (Sam and Friends episodes, commercials, variety show sketches) or productions that didn't really focus on a plot (or at least where plot wasn't the most important thing). Things like Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and the various Muppet specials were full of songs and sketches. During Jim's lifetime A Muppet Family Christmas and The Muppets at Walt Disney World were really the only Muppet specials to have a plot (and even then those specials focused more on music numbers, running gags, subplots, and scenes with very little to do with the story). The various Muppet movies focused on plots, as did the various non-Muppet Show, non-Sesame Street specials (and some of the Sesame Street specials had more plot focus), Fraggle Rock, and Muppet Babies. And Jim's involvement with Sesame Street specials, Fraggle Rock, and Muppet Babies was limited.

    When it mentions that Jim had pitched a Sesame Street documentary that Sesame Workshop rejected, I wonder if that's what all the early 1980s behind-the-scenes/interview footage was shot for. Though when I read the book say the documentary was rejected, I get the feeling that it was rejected before shooting. And if it was Jim's idea, I would think it would have been done by Jim Henson Productions instead of CTW (much like the 20th anniversary special was), and Sesame Workshop was able to put that footage on two Sesame Street DVDs.
     

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