pyrajane’s review #33: Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

Jim HensonWhen 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.


Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #164: Tale of Sand by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl

henson_tale_of_sand_cover_5Prior to beginning reading, I attempted to flip to the last page to see how many pages there were and landed, instead, on a page near the end on which a naked woman unzips her skin to reveal a man underneath. After the initial feeling of shock subsided, I got to wanting to read it that much more. Jim Henson wrote this? Based on that quick teaser, I was expecting easily his most adult (which is to say, graphic) output yet; however, unfortunately, outside of that page, Tale of Sand has nothing more risque than The Dark Crystal.

That doesn’t mean it’s not an outlier for Henson, much like The Dark Crystalwas, when you consider what his body of work mainly consisted of (i.e., children’s programs). You have to laugh at Henson thinking someone was going to invest in this screenplay; there’s barely enough material there for a short film, and it would require an extensive budget to fully realize, meaning anyone who bought it would be almost certain to take a loss on it. Moreover, where’s the audience? I’m sure Henson fans would be intrigued, but who else would want to watch what plays out like a story set entirely within a dream and written through some form of word association.

Anytime it starts to return to some type of normalcy, he mixes it up with what was probably the most out-there and unexpected change of pace he could think up at that point in time. This is moderately amusing, but it left me asking myself at the end what the takeaway was supposed to be. I got hints of a deeper meaning, yet I can’t even hazard a guess at what it might be. Perhaps it’s just an exercise in frivolity, meant merely to amuse, not to be taken seriously and picked apart. I had hoped the discussion that was included of the screenplay would reveal which it was, though I had no such luck.

If you want to see Henson as you never saw him before, read Tale of Sand. But if you’re not a fan, or that doesn’t necessarily pique your interest, you wouldn’t be missing out on much if you were to just skip it.