Muppets, Music & Magic at the Mar del Plata Film Festival

Muppets, Music & Magic: Jim Henson's Legacy, the touring screening series collaboration between The Jim Henson Legacy and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, made its way down to the Mar del Plata Film Festival in Mar del Plata, Argentina in November 2009.  The festival hosted screenings of Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, the first three Muppet movies, and the compilation programs "The Art of Puppetry and Storytelling", "Muppet History 101", "Commercials & Experiments" and "Muppets Music Moments".  Bonnie Erickson was on hand as a guest presenter for some of the screenings, and John Kennedy led a puppetry workshop.

 

Mar del Plata Film Festival
November 7-14, 2009

 

Press Excerpts:

Pagina 12
November 11, 2009, page 16

“[The Muppet Show was] full of a great sense of humor, capable of satirizing almost everything –not least its protagonists and their delusions of artistic grandeur.  Henson and his collaborators, the writer Jerry Juhl and the puppeteer and future film director Frank Oz, created a program that reflected the counterculture of the time…..Although the Muppet Show lasted only five years, its characters continued to reach audiences through films and other television programs, and even though people might remember it as a children’s program, the show was created for a broader audience and has fans of all ages.”

“It all started with an old piece of cloth and a ping-pong ball cut in half to make the eyes.  It might not sound like a lot, but it was this simplicity that helped the Muppets become the most famous puppets in the world.  This economy of form helped Henson and his puppeteers create a myriad of expressions and gestures for the Muppet characters.”


La Capital
November 11, 2009, page 4-5

“Sitting in the auditorium of the Provincial Hotel, [Bonnie Erickson reflected on the success of the Muppet Show and Sesame Street] and recognized that this achievement was based in part on Henson’s effort to learn about other cultures and familiarize himself with the educational needs of the countries where his shows were being broadcast, many of them in Latin America.  Jim customized the content of many of the programs he created to reflect the realities of each country.  Both the Muppet Shows and Sesame Street, as well as many of the movies he directed, were based on the idea of creating something that was not only educational but also entertaining.”


Rio Negro
November 11, 2009

“We had a great time working together.  Jim was truly a genius, not only was he able to come up with great ideas, but he was able to make them a reality.....Jim was fascinated by television and technology and was determined to make the world a better place, recalled [Bonnie Erickson] who went on to describe Jim Henson’s first incursion into the world of puppetry….”


Pagina 12
November 12, 2009, page 30-31

“It’s well-known that the Muppets revolutionized the role of puppetry in the entertainment industry, they influenced the way that characters and stories were developed and contributed to the advancement of new technologies.”

“Do puppets have an ideology? Erickson believed that their creator had one.  ‘Jim Henson was a gentle anarchist.  He was a very positive person and always believed that things could be achieved.  His goal was wanting to make the world a better place.  In both film and television he was able to follow his own path and send a message that things could always be better.  Through his characters he wanted to sing, play music, save the world and help people be kinder to one another.”


La Gaceta
November 12, 2009

“…in the early years, Henson’s puppets were featured in television commercials; during this phase Jim discovered that young children were able to remember and repeat the jingles sung by the Muppets, this discovery later became a tool to teach children the alphabet and other educational concepts.  This was the basis for the phenomenon that became known as Sesame Street, a show that broke national and linguistic barriers to become a world-wide success.”


Critica de la Argentina
November 14, 2009
[Excerpt/transcription from a discussion with Bonnie Erickson and John Kennedy]

Part of Jim’s legacy is the work that was created for adults…

Bonnie Erickson: - “I believe the most important part of Jim’s work was his thought process, how he generated concepts and ideas, which precedes his work as a puppeteer.  It was his interest in technology as a means of expression what led him to begin working with puppets.  When one examines Jim’s body of work, from Sesame Street, to the Muppet Show, to the more adult films like Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, you see a connection with regards to the use of technology.  Jim was always interested in experimenting with new technologies, to see how it could help bring these inanimate objects to life in ways that were different, depending on the needs of the character, yet always very ahead of his time.”

How do you bring an inanimate object to life?

John Kennedy: - “From my perspective, it begins with giving a puppet a personality, creating a character that belongs to you and is an expression of who you are.  I have made films in order to experiment with this idea and see how a small puppet can transform itself and come alive and make a connection with the audience.  This connection with the audience is the key to why the Muppets worked so well in both television and film.”

Bonnie Erickson: - “…What set Jim apart from other creative people was the importance he placed on character development.  He allowed the people that worked with him to experiment and really take their time creating a character and developing its personality.  This was a collaborative process: beginning with Jim’s idea, adding the puppet or character design, developing the storyline, and finally giving the puppeteers enough room to experiment in order to develop the personality of the character and bring it to life.”

Sesame Street has just turned 40, how do you explain the global impact of the show, even today?

Bonnie Erickson: - “…Sesame Street has had an enormous impact all over the world and there are many reasons for this:  First of all, the characters have an international appeal that translates very well to other cultures.  Second, in many countries where the show is aired, the program is customized to reflect the values, issues and culture of a particular country or region.  Furthermore, I think it speaks to Jim’s basic idea; he always wanted people to be able to get along, collaborate, live and work together.  This is the message behind Sesame Street and this idea was also intrinsic to the success of the Muppet Show.”


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