Out of cloth and thread, Henson created a world of characters as rich and diverse as our own.
Who Was Jim Henson?
They think he sounds Norwegian. Henson died in , at the age of 53, from a virulent infection. Yet more than two decades later, his influence has hardly waned. After a successful reboot in , the Muppet movie franchise is back, with a new, star-studded installment due in the spring.
Jim Henson: The Biography
Henson was born in and grew up mostly in the Maryland suburbs. His father worked for the Agriculture Department as an agronomist, but his maternal grandmother was artistically inclined and taught her grandson to draw and sew. By the time Henson earned his degree from the University of Maryland in home economics, which offered a puppetry course , he was making his own puppets and performing on the local NBC affiliate.
He was earning enough money to drive to graduation in a newly purchased Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud.
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Jones is especially sharp in his account of these early successes. Henson understood that television presented an opportunity to reinvent the art of puppetry. By , he finally got the primetime show he dreamed of, but it was a syndicated show -- one of the first to take advantage of new FCC rules to encourage primetime syndication.
The Muppet Show was an instant hit, one of the first truly global shows. By its second season, it had attracted million viewers in countries, including several behind the Iron Curtain.
The late '70s and early '80s were an incredibly hectic time in Henson's life that saw him moving nonstop between London to make the TV show, New York to work on Sesame Street and California to work on the movies. But Henson's unexpected death unraveled the deal before it could be completed and the company stumbled until Disney finally bought it in The section on Henson's death and funeral is one of the best parts of the book -- moving and elegiac.
I dare you not to cry. Jim Henson is an authorized biography, and everyone from Oz to his estranged wife to his children participated. If it isn't quite a warts-and-all look at the man, its certainly a scabs-and-all peek that balances a flattering look at him as an artist and boss with a sometimes unlikable picture of his relationship with Jane.
His proposal to her sounds more like a business deal than an offer of marriage, and his handling of his divorce is clumsy at best, callous at worst -- though to be fair, he seems to have been a good father, despite his workaholic hours. The book falters in two major ways. It lacks a keen analysis of Henson's creativity. Author Brain Jay Jones , whose only previous book was a well-respected bio of Washington Irving, gets bogged down in the nitty gritty of making the shows. Henson and his Muppets are important contributors to the sophisticated subversive children's comedy of the '50s and '60s think Peanuts , Rocky and Bullwinkle and Mad.
- Jim Henson: The Biography?
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But exactly where and how they fit in remains unexplored, beyond an aside about Henson's love of Pogo. Also, the business of the Muppets is frustratingly opaque.
Jim Henson Biography - Biography
After getting a good sense of how lucrative his early success was, the numbers disappear. Henson was a canny businessman who was an early pioneer in owning his characters and who reaped a fortune in merchandising. Yet that Henson remains a peripheral figure in the story.
Still, even if the book stumbles some, on balance, Jim Henson works. As he wrote to his five children in a posthumous letter read at his funeral, "It's a good life, enjoy it. Star Wars Interviews Comics Watch. September 21, am by Andy Lewis.