Pop Culture

From the mind of Jim Henson: A look back at the man behind The Muppets

Primarily known as the genius behind such characters as Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Jim Henson was a creative genius and a true American original. Brian Jay Jones’ new book, “Jim Henson: The Biography,” (Ballantine Books) takes an in-depth look at the extraordinary life of the “gentle dreamer” whose imagination touched the world.

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The magic of the gentle dreamer

Primarily known as the creative genius behind such beloved characters as Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Jim Henson was a creative genius and a true American original. Brian Jay Jones’ new book, “Jim Henson: The Biography,” (Ballantine Books) takes an in-depth look at the extraordinary life of the “gentle dreamer” whose imagination touched the world.
A manic Muppet monster devours a machine in one of Jim Henson’s short films for IBM from the late 1960’s. The monster would be defanged and used again as Sesame Street’s ravenous Cookie Monster.

1996-98 Accusoft Inc., All Right
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The Henson family in the late 1970’s. Left to right: Cheryl, Jane, Brian, Jim (with Heather on shoulders), John, and Lisa.

Nancy Moran
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Frank Oz and Jim Henson at the premiere party for The Dark Crystal. (Courtesy of The Jim Henson Company)

Frank Oz and Jim Henson at the premiere party for "The Dark Crystal" in 1982.

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"The Dark Crystal" (1982) was Jim’s most ambitious project to date, a richly designed universe requiring complicated and physically demanding puppetry. Here Jim and performer Kathy Mullen bend and squeeze themselves out of camerashot as they perform Jen and Kira, the film’s heroes.

Murray Close
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Jim Henson with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly on the set of "Labyrinth" in 1985. The movie was, according to Jane Henson, “absolutely the closest project to him,” and he was devastated by its failure at the box office.

John Brown
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Twenty-three-year-old Brian Henson performed the dog on "The Storyteller," one of many projects in which Jim and the Henson children would perform or participate in 1988. “One of the best ways for us to be around him,” said daughter Cheryl, “was to work with him.”

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Jim Henson and the cast of "Fraggle Rock." Airing on HBO from 1983 to 1987, the show was the network’s first original series—the colorful ancestor to shows like "The Sopranos" and "Game of Thrones."

John E. Barrett
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