Jim Henson's early journals reveal some surprising back stories.
Five years ago, Alfred Weisberg-Roberts, aka Alfred Darlington (more widely known as Daedelus) finally released an album with his wife, Laura Darlington, under the group name The Long Lost. And it's beautiful, light and airy orchestral pop that owes a greater debt to Caetano Veloso than Coldcut, the style of music that might not out of place being played live in a knitting shop, which could seem a bit strange for a group releasing their music on Ninja Tune. For further fond words, The Gaslamp Killer considered their album one of his top picks for 2009, and here's a nice interview with Alfred and Laura. But we're really here for the music, so here's their self-titled album, streaming on Grooveshark. [more inside]
"We all have our nostalgia. But, at least for me, my love of Henson’s work goes beyond that. I don’t think we love the Muppets simply because they came from our childhood. We love the Muppets because they gave us a worldview – a profoundly idealistic, yet profoundly realistic worldview – that many of us carry into our adulthoods. It is only rarely that we take the time to consider where we picked up such ideas."
It remains one of the best science-fiction shows of the last 20 cycles: Farscape. It has been 15 years since the first episode aired. So why not enjoy the 15 best frelling moments from Farscape? Or the 10 must-watch Farscape episodes (or are they?). Or ponder what the cast members think since the show was cancelled? Because, with no space shows on TV anymore, the show with the muppets, shot in Australia, still matters. And Farscape isn't dead. Or is it?
John Paul Henson, who has been playing beloved Muppet Sweetums since 1991, has died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 48.
"Gentlemen: I have a story that may be of interest to you. It is not widely known who invented the circuitry concept for the automatic sequential performance of musical pitches - now well known as a sequencer. I, however, do know who the inventor was - for it was I who first conceived and built the sequencer." This is the opening to an undated, unaddressed letter, found in Raymond Scott's personal papers (yes, the same fellow whose kooky soundtracks scored everything from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies to Ren & Stimpy, The Simpson, and Animaniacs). You can read the rest of Scott's letter, along with Bob Moog's recollections of visiting Raymond's electronics laboratory in the mid-1950s. Or you could jump ahead to the mid-1960s, when Jim Henson was in his late 20s to early 30s, and he was working on a variety of odd projects after a successful run with Sam and Friends, but before he it it big with Sesame Street. It was at this point that he teamed up with Scott on a few short, experimental films. [more inside]
Let's think back to the 1960s, when more people were writing surreal, paranoid themes. Now place Jim Henson in that context, and you get Time Piece (YouTube, excerpt; behind the scenes clip, YT). Add in collaboration with writer (and puppeteer) Jerry Juhl and you have The Cube (YT, full film), as well as the setting for the hypnagogic story of a man pursued in the desert, called Tale of Sand. This was first written up as a screenplay and pitched as a movie in the late 1960s, then revised and re-pitched in 1974. But no one bit, so the screenplay was shelved, and then Jim gained fame for Sesame Street and The Muppets. Elements of Tale of Sand appeared in The Muppet Movie (YT, full movie) and other places since then, but the work was largely unseen and forgotten. Jump ahead three decades, and the Henson Company teams up with Archaia, first releasing Fraggle Rock and Dark Crystal comics, then digging in the Henson Company vault to bring Tale of Sand to light with cartoonist Ramón Pérez. You can see a preview of the graphic novel on Graphicly (including a nice dynamic display) and Amazon (static images, but more pages in the preview). [more inside]
On the passing of Jane Nebel Henson, who was, as this piece from a Muppets fansite explains, more than Jim's widow, she was the original Second Muppeteer. [more inside]
Henson Alternative's Miskreant Puppets bring you The Twelve Awkward Days Of Christmas. (Possibly not suitable for all ages.)
The Swedish Chef (Muppet Wiki) is the incomprehensible preparer of foodstuffs for The Muppet Show. A rather literal variation of the Live-Hand Muppet concept, the Swedish Chef is a humanoid character, with human hands rather than gloves. An annotated list of every televised appearance of the Swedish Chef is after the fold... Børk! Børk! Børk! [Click here to view the thread translated fully into Mock Swedish] [more inside]
Jim Henson's Red Book "In June 1965, 28-year-old Jim Henson started a written log of his activities in what became known as “The Red Book.” He noted what had happened up until that point (deemed “Ancient History”) and then recorded anything that he felt was worth recording as single line journal entries until the end of 1988." via retroist.
The Chicago Reader's current cover story, "The Color of His Skin," (parts 1 and 2,) revisits the murder of a black man on Chicago's South Side in 1970 by a gang of white teens. Last September, a similar article by the same author, "The Price of Intolerance," (parts 1 and 2,) examined an incident from 1971, in which a twelve year old boy and thirteen year old girl were killed.
"Jim Henson made this film in 1963 for The Bell System. Specifically, it was made for an elite seminar given for business owners, on the then-brand-new topic — Data Communications." - SLYT, from AT&T's Archives YouTube channel.
Weekend At Kermie's: The Muppets' Strange Life After Death. Elizabeth Stevens asks:
What if, in 1990, instead of recasting Kermit—something that had been done to Mickey and Bugs Bunny before him—the Muppets had continued on Kermit-less, as "The Simpsons" did after Phil Hartman died. Recall Susan’s words on "Seasame Street" about Mr. Hooper in 1982: “Big Bird, when people die, they don’t come back.” Let’s say Robin showed up saying his uncle Kermit had passed away? Or, if that was too dark for Disney, what if Kermit had left show business to go off to start a family with Piggy? Someone else could lead the gang of weirdoes..
It would’ve made more artistic sense than what happened
Network Awesome has compiled a short history of some of Jim Henson's early muppet work, including his infamously dark Wilson's Coffee commercials: (on YouTube) 1, 2, 3 and the IBM Muppet Show. (Who among us hasn't woken up in the morning and wanted to eat their coffee machine? (Previously) (Via) [more inside]
The Proposal. "After a decade of being together, I finally proposed to my long time love Sara. [This] movie trailer was shown on December 12th, 2010 at 4pm at the Red River Theater in Concord, NH. Sara had no idea." [more inside]
In a wonderful 15-minute video from 1969, a young Jim Henson shows you how to make puppets out of ordinary things. Yes, it's SLYT, but it's a really good SLYT, so I beg forgiveness.
In 1964, a group of men were bored,in their dressing room waiting for several hours between the dress rehearsal and recording of "The Jack Paar Program". Noticing a collection of odd steam pipes, their leader suggested they decorate the pipes to pass the time. Painting them and attaching fur and googly eyes, they signed the piece "With Love, From the Muppets". [more inside]
December 9, 2001, at a singular event called Muppet Fest, Muppet performers and special guests came together to perform a very special edition of The Muppet Show - a live performance. Until now, those of us who could not attend were only able to read the script, but recently a (slightly edited) video of this unique performance has turned up on YouTube: Part 1 [more inside]
Something of a rarity on film, Jim Henson and Frank Oz get a chance to "ham" it up without a script, when The Muppet Movie director James Frawley requests some camera tests to see how the puppets look when filmed on location. The hilarious result: Part One | Part Two
In the 1980s, the creative team of Jim Henson and Brian Froud, together with Frank Oz and George Lucas, collaborated on two ambitious film projects: The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. While Labyrinth (incredibly exhaustive fan site here) was more lively and featured actors as well as puppets, The Dark Crystal embodied a darker vision and featured only puppets. Rumors have circulated in the last few years that a sequel to The Dark Crystal, entitled The Power of the Dark Crytal, is in production. While the status of the film is still up in the air, there is a blog for the project that contains a video of new concept art. [more inside]
Ask Henson. Quality questions and excellent answers to Muppet related questions.
"Some day we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me." In 1979, Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher composed "The Rainbow Connection" [midi] which served as a radio hit and song for the The Muppet Movie. It was nominated for an Academy Award and reviewed in the allmusic guide as a song in which "Kermit the Frog sings with all the dreamy wistfulness of a short green Judy Garland." Enclosed are some performances of it I hope you enjoy. [more inside]
Photographs of esteemed Sydney artist Bill Henson have been removed by police from the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, and the debate over art vs pornography vs pedophilia heats up in Sydney this week. Some of the debate is quite measured and intelligent while other sides are descending to unruly levels. [more inside]
Sesame Street video archive from Sesame Workshop itself, searchable and keyword-tagged. It's not quite comprehensive (yet), but includes many Monsterpiece Theatre, Kermit's News Flashes, and Ernie & Bert sketches. [more inside]
Of Muppets and Men. [1 2 3 4 5 6] Excellent behind-the-scenes documentary showing the mental, verbal and physical athleticism of putting together The Muppet Show. Also, a TMBG video mashup with excerpts from the doc. [All YouTube, Previously]
Mah num ah num (Google Video) - The Muppets debut their first music video in 1976.
The newist book from the world of Jim Henson about the man who spoke through puppets, I mean muppets.