Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Tribute to the Jim Henson Company

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Tribute to The Jim Henson Company
By: Brian Cotnoir

     When people look back and reflect on the television and movies that were such a large part of their childhood things like Disney’s Mickey Mouse & friends and the Warner Brothers “Looney Tunes” stick out as the two main cornerstones of everyone’s childhood, but there is another major player in the children’s entertainment company that is often overlooked; a company that spans through multiple generation’s.  I of course am talking about the one the only Jim Henson Company.     
     Jim Henson was a brilliant creator of puppets and a master puppeteer.  His family—along with other creative visionary Frank Oz—helped create some of the greatest and longest lasting shows of our childhood. Henson is responsible for creating some of the most beloved children’s television shows and movies such as “Sesame Street”, “The Muppets”, “The Dark Crystal”, “Labyrinth”, and “Bear in the Big Blue House”; just to name a few, and that’s just the tip of the ice berg.        

     In 1979 Jim Henson & Frank Oz founded the Jim Henson Creature Shop in Hampstead, England.  There Henson and Oz created the Puppets for and shot their first film together; “The Dark Crystal”.  After the “Dark Crystal” Henson and Oz went on to create even more elaborate puppets for the film “Labyrinth” which starred Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie (who also did the music for the film).                               
     The Jim Henson Creature Shop wasn’t limited to only films, though, and they began creating puppets for television shows too.  Jim Henson’s “The StoryTeller” debuted in 1987 and was centered around old folklore and myths acted out on camera with live-action actors and custom puppets made in the Jim Henson Creature Shop.  Shortly after Henson’s tragic and untimely death in 1990, another show emerged to show off the Jim Henson Creature Shop’s new puppets combined with animatronics.  This show was called “Dinosaurs”; A show that featured actual full animatronic puppets that could be operated with a machine instead of human puppeteers.                                  
     The Jim Henson Creature Company is also responsible for creating all the talking animals/creatures in films such as “Babe”, The Live Action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990) film, “George of the Jungle” and “Dr. Dolittle”.  More recently the Jim Henson Creature Shop has done work such as creating the stolen tiger in 2009 Comedy “The Hangover”.   

    What I think is most great about Jim Henson and his film company is that even after all these years his creatures and creations have stood the test of time.  Pretty much everyone remembers watching “Sesame Street” as a child, and “The Muppets” have given us many beloved childhood characters such as Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.  Henson’s earliest films have become cult classics with a new generation of adults who remember fondly seeing “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth” for the first time in theatres when they were young children.  Henson was a great visionary who helped keep alive an almost lost art-form of puppeteering.  In a world today where films are dominated with green screen effects and CGI, the Jim Henson Company reminds of a simpler time when all it took was a person (or in some cases a whole team of puppeteers) and a puppet to create magic.  Click the Link Below to see some of the amazing work that had to be put in to create parts of “Labyrinth”

     The Jim Henson Company still exists today.  The Company is actually located at the old Chaplin Studios (a site founded and made famous by silent film star/writer/director Charlie Chaplin).  Henson’s family still works on creating films.  Henson’s son, Brian, has kept his father’s puppeteering legacy going with such films as “The Witches”, “A Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”.                
     Jim Henson really was a one-of-a-kind creative visionary.  The legacy he left behind is kept alive by his family, the film Company & the Creature Shop he founded, and shall go on hopefully forever.      


  1. Hats off to a heartfelt tribute!

    1. Thanks! It was one of the first reviews I wrote once I started up the blog back up again. You know I honestly believe that there's a little magic left over by Charlie Chaplin at the Jim Henson Studios (seeing as they are both on the same property and used the same buildings), and that actually helped add to the success of Jim Henson :)