Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jim Henson's Fantastic World

Jim Henson's Fantastic World is a touring display that will remain in DC until October 5. You can see the rest of their itinerary at http://www.sites.si.edu/exhibitions/exhibits/henson/main.htm#itinerary
The exhibit starts with some old videos. There's a weak animation of a cat stalking a mouse set to music. That's mostly there to keep the crowd from building up around a video of Kermit the Lizard. Jim got his start making 5 minute shows, Sam and Friends, for a TV station in the Washington, DC area. Kermit was made from one of Jim's mom's old coats for this show.

WARNING: YouTube contains days worth of Muppet video. You can easily get lost in there. Proceed at your own risk. Last time I went in my parrot learned to say "Bork! Bork! Bork!"

Visual Thinking from Sam and Friends

A bunch of Wilkins Coffee commercials. This launched The Muppets commercial streak which helped them get the recognition they needed to get on the Steve Allen Show, later The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and then onto SNL and assorted variety shows.

One of the LaChoy Dragon commercials. Pulling this off is what led to Big Bird.

Rolf the Dog became the first nationally known Muppet on the Jimmy Dean show.

Muppets of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Jerry Nelson performing one of my favorite sketches.

Jim Henson dabbled in experimental film for awhile, too. I haven't watched these yet but I will.
Time Piece - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfULBej_qRc
The Cube - http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6203080879952576646

There's a podcast you can download to listen to as you tour the exhibit. But you don't need to be in the museum to enjoy listening to it.
Podcast - http://www.sites.si.edu/podcasts/henson/hensonPodcast.mp3

The exhibit shows these videos and more along with the conceptual drawings, storyboards, full size Muppets in cases, some of Henson's non-Muppet work, and a stage for kids to perform their own show in a manner similar to how real puppeteers do.

But I think the greatest thing was just seeing all those grown people bonding with their kids over something that spans so many generations. It's something my parents probably watched, I know I did, and my friends kids do, too. No matter what Disney may do to The Muppets they can't take away what Jim Henson did.

The exhibit is on display in the third sub-level of the Ripley Center. Right, I didn't know where that was either. Go to the Smithsonian Castle and head toward the Washington Monument. As you clear the castle look to the left and you'll see a small, round building. I rarely see anyone go in and out of there so I didn't think it was something for tourists. Go in there and down the stairs clear to the bottom. Then down the hall and to the right. It also opens to a couple of other lesser known museums.

1 comment:

michelle said...

i saw an add on the metro for this. now i really want to check it out.