Tucked away a couple of stories underground at the "International Gallery" at the Smithsonian is a quirky and tiny exhibit on the life and works of master puppeteer and visionary Jim Henson. Entitled "Jim Henson’s Fantastic World" the three room exhibit gives you a quick snapshot of what must have been a remarkable human being.
Most well known as the creator of "Sesame Street" and the "Muppets," Jim Henson was an artist, filmmaker, cartoonist, and musician. But most of all, he was a really big nerd. Introverted and shy in person, he expressed himself best through the characters he created, notably Kermit the Frog, who was his alter-ego more than any other character.
I love how Henson’s interests in special effects, music and humor come through in this short piece:
More comments and video after the jump…
I got to visit the Jim Henson exhibit on Monday, which everyone should
do if they have 45 minutes to spare in DC. There was hardly enough
memorabilia to satisfy this die-hard Muppets fan. You get to see an early version of Kermit, Bert and Ernie, Rolf the dog, some "Dark Crystal" clothing and set pieces, and the fabulous "mahna mahna" puppets. And that’s about it.
But the films,
sketchbooks, and storyboards on view are super interesting. I had no
idea Jim Henson first forays into television puppeteering were for
commercials, like this hilarious series of Wilkin’s coffee ads.
This La Choy dragon commercial almost makes fun of itself more than it actually sells the product. Are we actually supposed to believe that La Choy cooks their noodles in dragon fire? I think not.
Henson was all about pushing the envelope on the technology that he had available to him at the time to bring to life the visions he had in his head. Whether it was through puppetry, crude television special effects, actors in elaborate costumes, sped up or slowed down film, or whatever else he could get his hands on, Henson just mashed it all up to tell his story he wanted told.
One has to wonder what he would think about all the CGI effects of today.
If you can’t get to DC, the exhibit is going to be travelling around the country starting in October. So check the schedule online to see if it’s coming to your town.