Sunday, November 20, 2011


Photo by John E. Barrett. Mahna Mahna and back-up singers © The Muppets Studio, LLC

Many of you know that Jim Henson created the Muppets - those lovable creatures who have appeared on Sesame Street and in Muppet movies for decades now. But did you know that Jim was also a legendary pioneer in film and television, creating Muppets inititally as a vehicle to enter into those medium?

A trip - or two - or three - to the
Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) in Queens to experience Jim Henson's Fantastic World will give you and your students or your family members a chance to further appreciate the creative processes behind Jim's voluminous and astounding body of work.

The exhibit runs rom July 16, 2011 - January 16, 2012 and features the following: 120 artifacts which include drawings, storyboards, and props from The Muppet Show, The Muppet Movie, Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street, and Sam and Friends; 15 iconic puppets, including Miss Piggy, Bert, Ernie, and Kermit the Frog; photographs of Henson and his collaborators at work; and excerpts from Jim's early projects and experimental films, including his pioneering work in commercials.

A bit of Q and A with MOMI's Deputy Director for Education, Christopher Wisniewski, reveals additional reasons to go and see the exhibit:

Eleanor: What makes Jim Henson's Fantastic World special?

Christopher: Jim Henson is indisputably a singular creative figure in the history of film and television. When one thinks of the legacy he's left--the Muppets, his characters for Sesame Street, the Fraggles, and his films--one is immediately impressed by how singular they are and how they continue to occupy a special place in popular culture and collective memory. This show is extraordinary in the breadth of its approach. It gives a wide-ranging overview of Henson's career, his creative process, and his unique artistic sensibility. I think everyone who visits it comes away feeling they've learned something new about Henson and his work.

Eleanor: What is the educational value of taking a child or a group of children to this exhibit?

Christopher: For young people, there is great educational value in Jim Henson's Fantastic World. It gives insight into the creative process, to be certain, and so it helps to teach not only about puppetry specifically but also about how television and films are made and marketed. Also, Henson got his start in advertising, and he very shrewdly adapted what he learned about marketing and branding to projects that were educational and artistic. I think that is a valuable lesson. I also think that in creating characters who appeared across media, Henson anticipated the phenomenon we now refer to as trans-media, and it is valuable for young people to think about that innovation and to see it in a broader historical context.

Additional Information about MOMI and Jim Henson's Fantastic World:

There's good news for those of you who would like to get out and see the exhibit with your students and young family members: In the remaining eight weeks of Jim Henson's Fantastic World, there are plenty more screenings, discussions, and workshops to attend. For a list of those special events, CLICK HERE.

Also: MOMI's education department provides curriculum-based educational experiences to about 60,000 students every year. These offerings include school group visits, tours, talks, workshops and screenings. If you would like information about MOMI's educational opportunities, CLICK HERE.

To see more
Creative Times posts about the Jim Henson exhibit at MOMI:
All Kinds of Crazy Cool Stuff at Jim Henson's Fantastic World describes "Hands Up! Puppets Down!": An Inside Look at Puppetry for Television

* Jim Henson: Friends and Family documents the reflections of six folks gathered in of the museum's auditorium to show and talk about film clips from Jim's body of work.

* The Wonderful World of (Frank) Oz reports back on a live interview with Henson's right hand man and the Muppeteer for Miss Piggy, Bert, Animal, Cookie Monster, and more

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