Saturday, October 22, 2011

REPORT BACK FROM MOMI'S JIM HENSON: FRIENDS AND FAMILY

What an amazing treat and honor to get to hear about the life of Jim Henson from the perspective of people who were part of his nuclear and work family.

Six folks gathered onstage of the Museum of the Moving Image to show and talk about film clips which reflected some part of Jim's body of work.

Jim Henson Legacy president Craig Shemin, who put together all of the film compilations for the entire Jim Henson's Fantastic World exhibit, moderated the event with his usual fun and engaging humor.

He first introduced Cheryl Henson, who spoke to an often-asked question about what it was like for her to be one of Jim's children. Cheryl shared that her father was fond of having his children be a part of his work projects and would go out of his way to make that happen. She chose to show the clip Run, Run, which Jim filmed at his family's home in Connecticut and depicts his daughters Cheryl and Lisa running into the arms of their mother. The lovely music was composed by Joe Raposo. Cheryl also showed Two Little Dolls. (Check out this interesting piece about Two Little Dolls in Jim Henson's The Red Book.)

Next, Craig introduced Bonnie Erickson, the current Executive Director of The Jim Henson Legacy who created, amongst other creatures, Ms. Piggy, Statler, Waldorf, and Zoot. (See my interview with Bonnie HERE.) Reflecting on her work as a colleague with Jim Henson, Bonnie asked "How could you ever find [another] job where you spent most of your time laughing?"

She talked about how various Muppet characters either fell by the wayside or "found fame and fortune," as well as about how characters evolved both in terms of appearance and personality. One interesting tidbit from Ms. Erickson: Ms. Piggy was designed as an homage to Peggy Lee. (More on that topic HERE.) Bonnie chose a clip about a behind-the-scenes workshop look at the making of Emmett Otter characters.

Fran Brill, a long-time Muppeteer of characters such as Prairie Dawn and Zoe, presented a film clip depicting the hard physical work that goes into being a Muppeteer.

Aurthur Novell, who did public relations for Henson, talked about how Jim's work reflected what was happening in the culture at that time. Novell chose to share a hilarious clip of Piggy and Kermit hosting the Emmy Awards in 1979.

Toward the end of the program, Craig Shemin described the period of time that Muppet characters appeared on Saturday Night Live and how one of the SNL writers declared "I don't write for felt." He also let the audience in on the fact that there's a script for a Fraggle Rock movie that has not yet been made.

For more information about the current MOMI exhibit Jim Henson's Fantastic World, click HERE.
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