When I heard there was a massive biography of Jim Henson coming out, I was excited and worried. I wanted to know more about the man who created so many things that I’ve enjoyed throughout my life, but I knew I was going to cry when they talked about his funeral. I was also worried that he might turn out to be a jerk, even though I had no reason to worry about this. But still, what if the guy who brought Kermit to life ended up being kind of a dick? I don’t want that knowledge in my head.
Happily and not surprisingly, Jim Henson was lovely.
Brian Jay Jones spent several years with those close to Jim and the result is a wonderful book. Reading it was pure pleasure because of Jones’ writing style. It’s conversational, emotional, smart and incredibly informative and was extremely satisfying. The combination of Jim Henson and Jones is magic and I’m so glad that Jim’s life was handed to Jones to be documented and told so carefully.
Reading Jim’s life and watching him grow from a creative child into a creative powerhouse is exhausting and impressive. The man never stopped making things. While he was in the middle of a massive project, he’d start thinking about how to do things better and how to improve the technology and techniques that they were currently using. He was often a few steps ahead of what hadn’t even been made yet. He knew that things could be done and had to wait for the technology to catch up. He was fascinated by television and how it could be used, and later when hand held cameras began appearing, he knew it would change everything. He didn’t live to see it, but he predicted YouTube some twenty years before it became popular.
Jim’s goal was to improve the world by learning and teaching. He was constantly seeing what could be and was rarely satisfied with what currently was. Pages and pages of notes were waiting to be realized. He would have to shelve projects that proved too massive for his current budget and schedule. He would exhaust and inspire his crew into performances and creations that no one had dreamed could be possible. Simply by being, he created. His employees were committed to his projects, even if they didn’t fully understand them, because they were Jim’s ideas. They’d go on crazy journeys with him through the workshop to put together new creatures. Even if they weren’t designing for a specific project, they’d work on the art and development because at some point, Jim would want it. By then, they’d need to make it better, always trying to catch up to him.
I adored this book and wrote more about it on my blog. I highly recommend it.