The Fantastic World of Jim Henson

Curiosities, Illustration

The best thing about living in Chicago is all the museums we have. Yes, I said “we,” because even though I’m a transplant from Detroit, I call Chicago my home.

My favorite museum is The Museum of Science and Industry. It’s amazing, and we’re members, so we try to get a look in as often as possible! Today I was so excited to go see The Fantastic World of Jim Henson with my family! It was primarily my 8yo and me, we watched his bio, looked at his little notes, his doodles, storyboards, commercials, and of course his muppets (which are phenomenal)!! I loved looking at how they were constructed: foam, fleece, fur, and ping pong balls…seriously. Even the Mahna Mahna puppet was on display, and his eyes were constructed just how I thought when I was a kid!! What an amazing writer, storyteller and artist. I wish I had a tenth of his right brain…Did you know Kermit was originally made from one of his mom’s old coats? : )

They didn’t allow photography, which, like with the Harry Potter exhibit, I didn’t complain. Sometimes I think it helps us experience it more fully when we know we won’t have a digital memory of it. I take photos of exhibits sometimes and then don’t really know what I’m looking at later, because I don’t really remember it. But today we spent over an hour pouring over everything (not including the video), and we loved every minute! My son is a huge fan of The Dark Crystal, and when he saw the handwritten diagrams and the props up close, he had a whole new appreciation : )

I was able to get a few photos that were outside of the exhibit: some of Henson’s Christmas images. He enjoyed sending them to his friends all over the world, I just needed a couple little keepsakes. I also went to YouTube and added a few of the commercials that were shown in the exhibit. He started as a puppeteer on television, doing commercials. He had two default endings as well, when his team couldn’t come up with alternative: one character would eat the other, or, one character would blow up the other. In one of his interviews, he explained that he knew that children were very attracted to commercials. He wanted to use this technique for education, and utilized it on Sesame Street. In between the main characters’ stories, there were “commercials” for the letter D or the number 8 (we saw the storyboard and character sketches for The King of Eight, it made so much more of a connection)!

I remember that goofy LaChoy dragon! ; )


2 thoughts on “The Fantastic World of Jim Henson

  1. I saw this exhibit when it was in Massachusetts, and it was great! And so inspiring to see all the work behind the scenes, and how he didn’t always succeed the first time, but kept on trying.

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