Time-travel dramedy SPEED OF LIFE makes its Texas Premiere with Other Worlds Orbiter on Wednesday, August 28th (7:30pm) at Galaxy Highland Theatre. Tickets available now!
Coming up with a personal celebrity idol was a bit tricky at first, as I try not to put people on such a high pedestal because at the end of the day, we are all human and idol worship kind of wigs me out. Lots of people likely pick athletes or pop stars for their physical prowess or vocal talent, but I picked someone who managed to make anthropomorphic animal puppets make beautiful music together rather than hog the spotlight himself. This person taught valuable lessons about self-worth, family, and friendship. So after a bit of thought, the obvious choice for me was Jim Henson.
I grew up on SESAME STREET (not literally), FRAGGLE ROCK, THE MUPPET SHOW, THE STORY TELLER series, THE LABYRINTH, and THE DARK CRYSTAL (so excited about the Netflix series!) Henson Studios had their hand in many other films’ special effects, puppets, and animatronics as well. A big one was being consultants on STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK for the Yoda puppet designed by Stuart Freeborn with Frank Oz voicing him. Another favorite of mine were the original, live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ suits. Those suits were just top of the line at the time and still hold up. As a kid I could tell from the style of puppet or animatronic whether Jim and his crew had any hand in it and loved any footage I could get of them working on set.
As a broke college student with a cache of fabric scraps, stuffed animal making was a fun and easy choice for gifts for friends at Christmas for me. Originally my major in college was sculpture and then printmaking, but I ended up focusing my art post-college on fiber art and puppets. When some friends needed a spider puppet for their YouTube show, I was like, “SURE, I can do that.” After watching hours of MOVIE MAGIC in middle school, DVD extras and behind-the-scenes footage, and various other PBS specials on how things are made, I felt like I could. And that’s what Jim did, he made you believe in yourself and that anything was possible.
Jim Henson was born in small-town Mississippi in 1936. 10 years later his family moved to Maryland, where he grew up and went to college and met his future wife and business partner, Jane Nebel. They went on to create iconic worlds full of memorable music, scenes, comedy bits, and characters. Their humor was wholesome, silly, and full of word play. If you ever want any insight to what Jim Henson was like, just look to Kermit the Frog: Kermit was Jim. Kermit is loyal, kind, hardworking, a natural comedian who loves a good joke, a bit of a goofball, and is pretty good with rolling with the punches when he and his friends get into a pickle.
I was fairly young when Jim Henson passed away in 1990, but I still remember it hitting me hard. I could go on and on about Jim’s legacy, as he appears to be a lovely soul up there with the likes of Bob Ross and Mr. Rogers in kindness and creativity. Take an evening to check out a piece from his extensive catalogue of works and see for yourself.