Of Sunny Days, Rainbow Connections and Miss Piggy
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve spent a portion of your life with a muppet (significant others and offspring excluded). You remember them: in a time before X-Box, Pixar films and every other “youth” show leading you to believe kids break out in song at their lockers, there were these simple, hand-guided, voice-off-camera muppets. No elaborate special effects, no 3D glasses or handheld devices required, just colorful foam, felt, feathers, fur, plastic googly eyes and some funny voices. We counted along with The Count, danced with Grover, sounded out words with Big Bird. As we got older, the muppets grew, too: with them, we “took” Manhattan, explored outer space and experienced literature through re-told classics like Treasure Island, A Christmas Carol and The Wizard of Oz. Later, we were introduced to a new muppet, the Gelfings of The Dark Crystal, wonderous elf-like creatures living in an enchanted world.
Jim Henson, the creative genius behind those moments and more iconic lovable characters such as Bert and Ernie, Miss Piggy and of course, Kermit (who Henson himself voiced) is the subject of a six month installation at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image entitled Jim Henson’s Fantastic World. A collaborative exhibit with the Smithsonian Institute, here Henson’s entire career is highlighted, starting with his early college drawings and ideas, on through his innumerable achievements in film and television, including the famous daily television show that pioneered not only puppetry, but also launched countless studies in children’s psychology, educational theory and the social affects of television on the family culture. (Sesame Street, by the way, is now broadcast in over 140 countries worldwide and produced in more than 20 languages.)
The exhibition features many of the working muppets on display (a word Henson created, meshing “marionette” and “puppet”), along with storyboards, costumes and other artifacts directly linked to the construction and operation of the colorful characters. In addition, every weekend, the museum will present various public programs including film screenings and hands-on workshops to celebrate the vast Henson legacy and make for a fun family experience. This is a don’t-miss documentation of American ingenuity and creativity come to life.
Jim Henson’s Fantastic World is on exhibit at The Museum of the Moving Image now through January 16th, 2012. Learn more about the museum, the exhibit and special programs and events here.