"That’s the message of these curiously sadistic TV commercials produced by Jim Henson between 1957 and 1961. Henson made 179 ten-second spots for Wilkins Coffee, a regional company with distribution in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. market, according to the Muppets Wiki: “The local stations only had ten seconds for station identification, so the Muppet commercials had to be lightning-fast–essentially, eight seconds for the commercial pitch and a two-second shot of the product.”" --from OpenCulture.com
Jim Henson's early journals reveal some surprising back stories.
Grover the Waiter, or, why does he keep going to that restaurant: [more inside]
On the Other Hand Steve Whitmire's been playing Kermit the Frog for 25 years. And on prime time television again real soon now.
In the pilot episode... Welles goes beard to mustache with Burt Reynolds on the Constipation School of Acting, does magic tricks with Angie Dickinson and discusses the cosmic importance of puppetry with Jim Henson. It’s all coated with Welles’ eccentricities and indecipherable profundity. Once again, it’s impossible to know whether he’s genuinely bizarre or wholly self-aware of the display he’s putting on. My money is always on the latter.To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, please enjoy the bizarre and wonderful never-aired 1979 pilot of The Orson Welles Show. (Via)
Earl Sinclair performs "Hypnotize". SLYT, NSFW
Song for an old-fashioned Christmas: "'Twas the night before Christmas on Sesame Street/And the people were sleeping, ‘cause the people were beat/The snow had been falling for most of the day/And it lay over everything, sooty and grey..." -- as performed by Sesame's own David (lyrics) for the 1975 album "Merry Christmas from Sesame Street" (cover; inside artwork; back cover). Please join me (and Bert and Ernie and Oscar and Big Bird and others) in revisiting a holiday classic. [more inside]
For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving today (and anyone else), here's Dick Cavett's 1971 Thanksgiving Special. [more inside]
What's the intersection between Star Wars and the Muppets? Chances are you'll think of Yoda. Maybe you knew that Jim Henson & his creature-makers had nothing to do with the original Star Wars movie. And sure, you probably knew that some of the Star Wars cast were featured on the Muppet Show (watch on YouTube). But wait, there's more. [more inside]
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."
A YouTube user has uploaded an earlier cut of Jim Henson and Frank Oz's The Dark Crystal (with characters designed by Brian Froud). Some scenes are re-ordered, there is some different dialogue and the narration has been removed. It didn't perform well in testing, so changes were made to the version we all know and love. A threatened sequel, to be directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, is on hold. [more inside]
"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]
Hey guys, remember that old show "Fraggle Rock?" And, and you know that recently-released movie The Hobbit? Well, why not combine the two?
Ayn Rand, Jim Henson, Sidney Nolan, and Yoko Ono in Conversation on ARPNET. 17 April 1976 – The transcript presented here records a conversation between four figures from the broad spectrum of culture: puppeteer Jim Henson; Russian-American writer, philosopher and playwright Ayn Rand; painter Sidney Nolan; and artist and musician Yoko Ono. A few months after the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, The Agency’s tests with the ARPANET convened these four individuals, each with a distinct sense of, as well as the potential means for, a competing world-view.
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]
In 1975, a half-hour variety show titled The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence piloted on ABC television but it was going after an older audience.
Between February 1989 and May 1990, there were three significant deaths in the Sesame Street world. The first was Joe Raposo, a significant musician for Sesame Street and Electric Company. The last was Jim Henson, mourned by Big Bird, remembered by Frank Oz, and celebrated in song by many (from the St. John's Memorial, detailed here). The second person to die in this time period was Northern Calloway, Sesame Street's David. Unlike Joe and Jim, there were no television tribute to Northern's life and career on Sesame Street or Broadway. Instead, David, once a young, cool, urban guy, who was studying to be a lawyer while working at Mr. Hooper's storeand the initial romantic interest of Maria, left the show through a letter, read by Gordon. The story behind David is told below the fold. [more inside]
In honor of Jim Henson's 75th birthday, let's celebrate bein' green: Kermit. Ray Charles. Kermit and Ray Charles. The Boston Pops. Lena Horne and Kermit. Lena Horne. Oscar the Grouch. Bob McGrath. Audra McDonald. Chuck Findley and the Metropole Orchestra. Shirley Horn. Cibelle. Frank Sinatra. Thurl Ravenscroft. Van Morrison. Sophie Milman. Andrew Bird. Big Bird.
Google's at it again! Less than one month after saluting Freddie Mercury with an interactive doodle on his 65 Birthday (Previously), today's Doodle is another interactive salute, to Jim Henson, who would have been 75 on Saturday the 24th. Google kicked things off a bit early on Friday night, and will leave the Doodle up through the 24th. An art director at Henson's company reports that it's especially apt as Henson was prone to doodling in idle moments.
Henson & Oz: A tribute to one of the great comedy teams of the 20th century. [12m13s] They worked together for 27 years, from 1963 until Henson's untimely death in 1990, and their friendship and professional association spanned several TV shows and a series of feature films. This video essay sums up their excellence, and their significance.
The World of Jim Henson: 1 :: 2 :: 3 :: 4 :: 5 :: 6 :: 7 :: 8 :: 9 :: "An excellent biography of the Muppet master, this 85-minute film from the PBS show Great Performances mixes the history of Henson's projects with plenty of sketches that any fan age 6 and older should enjoy. The film shows the incredible range of Henson's creations, starting in 1955 with "Sam and Friends" then moving on to Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and beyond. It illustrates the breadth of his genius, from creating entirely new worlds in film (The Dark Crystal) to pithy '60s TV commercials that achieved branding and a laugh in less than six seconds. There's footage that most fans haven't seen in years, or at all: a regular bit from The Jimmy Dean Show; tantalizing bits of his 1965 Oscar-nominated short, Time Piece; appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show; his explanation of Wall Street on Nightline; and Miss Piggy's hilarious deconstruction of Morley Safer on 60 Minutes."
The Muppets in Thor is NOT another fake trailer for the upcoming movie. It's a 24-page mostly-24-hour comic by the guy who does Max Overacts. Note: contains discrete male nudity, pig-on-Norse-God violence, obscure references (Junior Woodchucks!), sentimental time travel and IMO very good use of a lot of familiar characters, including Rowlf (MY favorite Muppet) putting it all in perspective.
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]
In the summer of 1968, Jim Henson met Johnny Hart, the co-creator The Wizard of Id. The comic had been syndicated in US papers since 1964, and Henson and Hart discussed making a TV show based on the comic, featuring puppets by Henson and co. In early 1969, a short test pilot was shot and shopped around the TV networks. Over a year later, ABC supported the idea of a feature-length film, but by this time, Henson was busy with Sesame Street and other Muppet productions, so the program was scrapped. Earlier this month, the Henson Company posted the short test pilot on YouTube. [more inside]
Amanda Palmer and a sock puppet stage a meticulous re-enactment of a scene from Jim Henson's Labyrinth (see the original scene here), with a special guest appearance by a very famous writer as David Bowie's mullet. Happy Boxing Day!
While elusive on broadcast or cable television, YouTube has the holiday specials you're looking for. John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together (Part 1 2 3 4 5 6). The Christmas Toy (Part 1 2 3 4 5). A Muppet Family Christmas (Part 1 2 3 4 5).
The Muppets at Walt Disney World is a television special starring Jim Henson's Muppets at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. This was the last Muppets project that Jim Henson worked on before his death. parts: intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 [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]
Sexy Sesame Street costumes for people who want to dress like exposed-thigh versions of Sesame Street characters
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]
As you may have noticed from Google this morning, today is the 40th Anniversary of Sesame Street! New seasons are in production including the newest muppet, Abby Cadaby, but today is a day for our old friends. Videos a plenty to fuel your nostalgia.
Surprising stories behind 20 Muppet characters. Example: "Miss Piggy is apparently from Iowa".
"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]
Pulp Muppets. The title says it all.
The Computer Monster (YouTube, approx. 4 minutes). Also known as "The Coffee Break Machine," the original version was created for IBM, in 1967, by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, as part of the Muppet Meeting Films series. The posted version is a remake that was performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Via The Presurfer.
Kermit has not done well since the death of Jim Henson...He's covered some sad songs , poured his heart out on myspace and picked up a new addiction.
Happy Birthday Jim. Today, Sunday the 24th 2006 would have been Jim Henson's 70th Birthday. (and is the 46th birthday of current Kermit Muppitter Steve Whitmire) Rarely has one person had such a impact with their vision for the world. From Sam and Friends, Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, The Dark Crystal, and on and on and on. Lots of Muppets on Youtube, lots of muppets on Metafilter. Henson died on May 16th 1990 of pneumonia. A Boy and his Frog (mp3) Happy Birthday, and thanks.
Muppet Wiki. It's like Wikipedia, except, y'know, about the Muppets.
42. I had always wondered why Jim Henson did The Muppet Show in England, after years of successful collaboration with The Children's Television Network in NYC. As a then 9-year old, I felt a kind of betrayal that I couldn't exactly put my finger on. As some little punk kid, what did I know about the financing of entertainment?This analysis of The Jim Henson Co. as a globe-trotting band of gypsies goes a long way to explain the oddness of The Muppet Show and the change in tone that resulted when the puppets moved from Sesame Street to Lew Grade's London soundstages.
Are Ernie and Bert gay? What is Gonzo? Find out the answers (question 19 and 10, respectively) and more at the Muppet FAQ. Read the profiles of your favorite Muppets like Zoot or Animal. Or maybe you'd be interested in one of the Henson feature creatures and its background. Read about it. Explore the fascinating world of Jim Henson and muppets in general.