We have recently started a new unit. It’s definitely interesting. It is called…
Cray Cray Yay! Yay!
What a name, right? Anyways. The driving question for the unit, well, this project in particular, is ‘Why was this person thought of as crazy and how did they change the world?’ This mini project was a fun one, and I learned a lot.
From the people in the campaign, we each chose someone to do a keynote presentation. But this wasn’t a regular keynote, oh no. This was a pecha kucha. A pecha kucha presentation is a presentation where the slides change only every 20 seconds, and usually last for about 7 minutes. For us, we had 9 slides, 20 seconds each, the whole thing lasting only 3 minutes. Now, that was really hard. To fit a person’s entire life into a 3 minute presentation is hard. But, we did it.
The person I chose for this was Jim Henson. Jim Henson was an amazing man, who completely altered the film industry. This is his story.
Jim Henson was born in Greenville, Mississippi on September 24, 1936. From a young age, he had an interest in puppets. He was heavily influenced by radio ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, Burr Tillstrom with his puppets Kukla and Ollie, and other puppeteers. While attending high school, he made puppets for a television program called the Junior Morning Show.
He followed his passion into university, where he created Sam and Friends with his future wife. These characters were the forerunners for the muppets, and even included a prototype of Kermit the frog. Did you know that the word Muppet is a combination of marionette and puppet?
As his work with puppets progressed, he started to experiment with puppetry on television. He worked with having the performer off camera, using rods to control the puppets, and precise mouth movements. He even changed what puppets were made of. Instead of wood, he started working with foam rubber and different fabrics.
As he developed his Muppets, he started to get more recognition. He began making commercials with his muppets. In 1958, he and his wife created Muppets Inc. in New York City. There, he hired Jerry Juhl and Frank Oz, who became critical to the latter years of the muppets.
In 1969, the Children’s Television Workshop had an idea for a show with puppets. They acquired Henson and his muppets, and through that, Sesame Street was born. Characters like Grover, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar and Big Bird were first featured. Even Kermit was on Sesame Street.
Once Sesame Street took off, Henson started to see where his muppets could go. He tried to start a television program in America, but the producers thought it was crazy. So he pitched it to Lew Grade, who loved it. They moved to England and started the Muppet Show.
3 years into the muppet show, Henson and his team created The Muppet Movie. This was a huge success. Once they realized the success that the movies could have, they stopped making the TV show and focused on films. Muppet movies, like Muppets Take Manhattan, or the animated show Muppet Babies, were plentiful. He worked on other things as well, including Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, and The Storyteller. He even worked on The Empire Strikes Back, with the creation of Yoda.
In the 1980s, he entered into discussions with Disney about acquiring the Muppets. Nothing came of these first talks, because of Henson’s unexpected death in 1990. His children took over the company, and ran it for some time until the Disney discussion began again. In 2004, it was official. The Muppets were Disney.
Jim Henson’s legacy is still seen today. As well as the many muppet movies produced recently, the Jim Henson Creature Shop has continued making muppets for other films. Farscape, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and MirrorMask are a few.
Jim Henson changed the world of puppets, and had a huge part in the introduction of them into the media, so for that he was crazy.
All of the people who changed the world were different. They had an idea, one that wasn’t normal. An idea that didn’t fit into the societal norms. Something that had never been thought of before. To ignore all that, and change the world, well, that’s crazy.