Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Review: "Jim Henson: The Biography"

I just finished reading Jim Henson: The Biography. The book tells the story of Henson's lasting influence as creator and performer of the Muppets.

Biographer Brian Jay Jones interviewed the Henson family and his creative colleagues, and carefully went through the archives to create a very carefully researched and readable account of his short life (he died in 1990 of a lung infection at age 53.) Henson's kind, generous, restless, and inventive spirit, as well as some of his human foibles, come shining through the book.

Now with so many of Henson's shows available on YouTube, you can enhance the experience of reading the book by watching videos of everything from his hilarious early TV commercials for Wilkins Coffee, the gig with Rowlf on the Jimmy Dean Show, his documentary on the art and history of puppetry, the Muppet Show pitch, and clips of the big-screen Muppet movies and the '80s fantasy films "Dark Crystal" and "Labryrinth."

Book on Amazon: Jim Henson: The Biography
Wikipedia about Jim Henson (1936-1990)
Thanks to blog reader ROTM for recommending it.


7 comments:

Daroo said...

Wow - I knew Jimmy Dean's career predated his gig as sausage spokesman but I didn't know Rowlf predated the muppet show. Thanks for posting.

ROTM said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the book as much as I did, one can only imagine the things he would have done had he lived longer.

I know you've worked with Henson's Creature Shop for your Dinotopia models (after Henson's death), but did you ever have a chance to meet him?

Bjorn Nelissen said...

I highly recommend watching the documentary about Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who gave Elmo his voice. The movie is called ''Being Elmo'.

James Gurney said...

ROTM, no, I regret I never met Jim Henson. I met some of the guys from the LA and London creature shops, and toured the shop in London, which was very impressive. They also made the animatronic young dino named "26" for the Dinotopia TV series, and I got to hold that radio controlled puppet.

Diane Dawson Hearn said...

I had the honor of working on a project with Jim Henson in 1985 called The Tale of the Bunny Picnic, a TV special. I designed the characters for the show (which were later "muppetized" a bit). One of my fondest memories was meeting Jim Henson in London to talk over my designs. He was so gracious, and gentle in his criticism. He had a gift of letting you know things weren't quite right yet without making you feel bad about it. I was so shocked the day I heard he had passed on. The world lost a truly generous and gifted soul that day.

colleen caubin said...

The book mentions Bunny Picnic, and says the same you did about his working style...Oddly I just finished the audio book yesterday before this post...and now all the youtube links have really made it come alive...the one with Hall is well described at the end...I wont spoil it but I looked hard to see if I could match up what the book describes with what is shown,,,,so sad he passed on so early...

Simone said...

Didn't know Henson did Labyrinth. That was on my radar back then because I was fan of David Bowie who was in the film. Don't think you could quantify the enormous influence Henson had on our culture. Just the Muppets alone were (and probably still are) in every household in America, I'm sure.