Yesterday the Jim Henson Company announced the passing of Jane Henson, widow of Jim Henson and, perhaps more importantly, his longtime professional partner. We vividly recall as a third grader reading a biography of Jim Henson, a slim paperback with a green cover (naturally aimed at young readers, and being captivated by black-and-white photos of a fresh-faced, clean-shaven Jim Henson. At his side in many of these photos was another young puppeteer by the name of Jane Nebel, and it wasn’t long before the two began dating in addition to collaborating professionally. We still remember finding these photos particularly striking, something classic and timeless about their look, and something special in the way they turned their passion for their work into passion for each other.
Jane worked with Jim on many commercials and helped him produce the local Washington, DC program Sam and Friends, which featured a very young, embryonic Kermit the Frog. Through their early work Jane assisted Jim in the creation of the Muppets, becoming a key architect in their development. Eventually Jim and Jane married and gave birth to five young Hensons, and Jane focused more on raising the brood while Jim found other professional partners like Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson, lovers and dreamers who shared the unique Henson vision. While Jane’s contribution could no longer tangibly be seen on-screen, her influence is undeniable and impact unquestionable. And even though she and Jim separated in 1986 she remained an important part of the Henson family, and continued to carry on the Henson spirit after Jim’s untimely death in 1993.
We always found it moving and significant he called her to his side when he fell ill, and she was with him in his last hours. It showed to us, even at ten-years-old, that Jane and Jim were bound by something other than romantic love for each other, perhaps something even greater than that. In that moment, and in her commitment to the Jim Henson Legacy, both literally and figuratively, she showed that whether or not they were in love she and Jim were eternally bound by a shared vision and a desire to bring good into the world. It wasn’t really Jim’s legacy that Jane had been working to preserve and promote all these years. It was their legacy.
When this blog first began, nearly three years ago, a new Muppet movie was just a dream, a boogeyman whose existence was whispered about at camp fires and sleepovers. But since that time the hope materialized into a serious possibility, thanks to Jason Segel, and then a reality, and then a living, breathing motion picture that we saw twice in theaters. And now it’s available for home consumption on both DVD and Blu-Ray (and we assume digital download). What was once a mere figment of our imagination, a fantasy, is now something that we can and will have on our bookshelf, taking its place in the Muppets movie cannon next to The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan. And the production of The Muppets, its critical appreciation and relative commercial success, did equal a comeback for Kermit and friends. Maybe not quite a phoenix rising from the ashes, but a legitimate return to the public consciousness, and, more importantly, proof enough that Jim Henson’s creations are once again a viable commodity. Which means, then, that a sequel is the natural next step. That was the plan all along.
Read on: Why a Jason Segel-less sequel is no reason to panic.
In two days The Muppets will return to theaters after more than a decade away from the big screen. It seems like just yesterday that we were salivating over the whispers of a Muppet resurrection orchestrated by Jason Segel (yes, that Jason Segel). After spending years on the brink of obsolescence – thanks to bad business deals, changing tastes, the boom of CGI, and general Hollywood bureaucracy – it began to seem like the Muppets would never be given the opportunity to recapture the glory they once possessed, that they would forever be relegated to an aging, evermore antiquated attraction at Disneyland, and truly exist only on DVD and in the hearts and memories of people over 25. We yearned for their return, and while we never imagined their savior would be a geek in shining armor like Segel, we were thrilled when the rumors began to circulate that someone who grew up on the Muppets, someone who loved and cherished them as much as we did, was going to resuscitate them. Not some out of touch, graying puppeteers, or even the Henson family, but someone with a fresh, relevant perspective whose primary hope was to honor the spirit and style of Jim Henson. We could not have been more excited.
And now, with The Muppets about to unspool at theaters across the country, what we feel is not excitement, but trepidation. Why? Because of this:
You were a fucking genius. Thanks again.
(and thanks for Google for rightly recognizing said genius).
GO TO THIS!!!
Jim Henson’s concepts for Muppet theme park rides, as indicated in the Red Book, his journal of single line entries. Genius. What should have been.
A relatively broad term today, simply: “muppets.” It’s actually quite interesting, and encouraging, that someone ostensibly found our blog via the term “muppets.” That must mean (we guess) that due to our vast library of Muppet-related posts we’re becoming one of the top results for that search. Which is something to be proud of (right? Please say yes).
Since the search term was so wide open we’re going to give you two clips today, that way everyone goes home happy. First, we have this mash-up of the Muppets performing Kanye West’s “Monster,” which is all the rage today:
[sidebar: Is the Muppet remix becoming something of a tired art? How many times can we see some kind of Muppet mash-up until it feels derivative, devaluing both the Muppets and whatever work they are paired with? Only time will tell.]
And, secondly, we’re happy to counter that “Monster” with the original Muppet Monsters, Little Muppet Monsters, the extremely short-lived series that was briefly paired with Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies in 1985. Shelved after airing just three episodes, it remains when of the great Muppet oddities:
Well take the latter any day of the week.
Merry Happy, Everyone! The clock struck midnight and we’ve arrived at C-Day. Let’s finish off Christmas 2010 with a bang.
First, let’s get the festivities going with a little Full House holiday party. Steve has gone off to Junior College in Florida and DJ is super bummed; meanwhile Danny is carrying on a long-distance relationship with Vicky, Becky misses the snow and no one seems to find it creepy that unmarried, unrelated “Uncle” Joey lives in the house with three young girls. It’s a very Tanner Christmas and DJ is on the rebound. WHAT WILL HAPPEN?
Yayyyy! (Part 1 here)
And it wouldn’t be a Jumped the Snark Christmas without a contribution from Jim Henson. We already covered the basic Muppet Christmas staples, so for Christmas Day we’re going outside the John Denver classics and proudly gift to you the 1986 TV special, Toy Story before there was a Toy Story, The Christmas Toy:
If you’re not watching Community, you’re stupid. If you haven’t seen their Christmas special, you’re silly. If you’ve seen it and weren’t moved to tears, well, then you’re completely dead inside, and we both pity and despise you. But if you’re in one of the first two camps (or just want to relive its greatness), please enjoy “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” just the latest example of how Community has been the most inventive, most ambitious, smartest, warmest and just flat-out best show on television this year.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
That’s it for us this Christmas (we think)! Hope you got that Magic Bullet you wanted!
(and remember to recycle your wrapping paper. Or reuse!)
At the production offices of The Empire Strikes Back. Magic happens.
He would have been 74 years young today. Wonder what it he would have thought of all this hoopla over Katy Perry’s breasts. My guess is he wouldn’t have objected. It’s a shame it has to mar his day.
(sidenote: never thought I’d be able to tag a post with “Jim Henson” and “breasts.” Just goes to show that anything is possible).
And, come to think of it, if you didn’t love Jim Henson already then you probably hate this blog (and we hate you).
Everyone’s favorite PBS affiliate, Iowa Public Television, has unearthed a charming video from 1969 featuring Jim Henson teaching local Ioawans how to craft their own homemade Muppets. Watching this little gem, it’s no wonder that the Muppets just years later make Henson a household name. I’d like to attempt one of these little guys, but I think there’s just something special about Henson that brings the creatures to life. Just as soon as he slips his hand in they seem to become living, breathing entities. Also, eyes really help.
This reminds me, if you’re still looking for a birthday gift for me (only 2 months left!), I’m still hoping for one of these.
Vulture via BoingBoing